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South Shore Sermon Series: 2002
By Bernie Parsons May 14, 2002
South Shore church of Christ
Tonight I want to address a vital aspect of Christianity, and that is the knowledge of Gods will for us-that is, what He would have us to do with our lives. Jesus underlined the importance of knowing the will of God by several statements that He made. One that has struck a chord deep in my heart is the one He made to Satan:
Matthew 4: 4: "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
God has always expected His people to be extremely knowledgeable in His word.
Deuteronomy 11: 18: "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
19: And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
20: And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:"
We see that it is not enough to have a general knowledge of God, but that God expects us to have a thorough and intimate knowledge of His will and ways. And we have a promise, that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
What is diligence? It comes from words that literally mean to "choose apart", and refers to careful, constant attention. That means that our pursuit of Gods will is something that we must do constantly, giving attention to details. The Apostle Peter emphasized the crucial importance of diligence in our lives.
2 Peter 1:5 "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6: And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7: And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8: For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9: But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10: Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
We wont get to heaven by being half-hearted and lukewarm. We have to get very serious about serving the Lord, hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
We need a zeal for Gods word, and a keen desire to understand it.
Titus 2: 13: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
But zeal alone is not enough. Our zeal must be driven by knowledge of Gods will.
John 2: 13: "And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14: And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
16: And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
17: And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."
Romans 10:1: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2: For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3: For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
Our zeal must be according to Gods will. We must know how to channel our zeal. Unless we are knowledgeable of the will of God, our zeal produces self-righteousness.
Some claim confusion and an inability to understand what they read. However, Jesus made a promise, and I have a tendency to believe the promises of Jesus, dont you?
Matthew 7: 7: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9: Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10: Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Jesus assured us that when we ask, God will give; when we seek, we shall find; and when we knock, the door shall be opened. There was a time when God tolerated a certain amount of ignorance, according to the Apostle Paul in Acts 17: 23 and 30-31, but that time is past.
Acts 17: "23: For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
Acts 17: 30: "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
We will be held accountable for our knowledge, or a lack of the same. In fact, if you think that God wont tolerate the ignorance of those steeped in idol worship, how do you think that He will deal with those who profess Him to be their Father?
1 Peter 4: 17: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18: And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
What do we need to do in order to grow in the word of God? While spiritual infants, we must feed upon the milk of Gods word.
1 Peter 2: 1: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
As we grow in the Lord, the time comes when we must be able to digest a square meal from the word of the Lord. We need solid spiritual meals, not spiritual snacks.
Hebrews 5: 12: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13: For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14: But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
1 Corinthians 14:20: "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men."
What can we do to assure that we have full knowledge of the will of God? Like the Berean Jews, we need a steady diet of the Bible on a regular basis. How many of you like skipping meals, or want to go several days without one?
Acts 17: 10: "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11: These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
12: Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few."
The Berean Jews were praised because they daily searched the scriptures to see if the gospel of Jesus Christ was contained therein. This resulted in many of the Berean Jews becoming Christians, when they realized that the gospel was according to scripture.
We need to know how to study the Bible. I will talk about how to study the Bible, but let me first how not to study the Bible.
Dont play "poll the preachers"! Ive had people say to me, "I asked seven preachers, and five out of seven say " Folks, this is not a television commercial, like "9 out of 10 dentists surveyed recommend " When you stand before God to give account of yourself, majority wont rule. It is one on one, you and God. You had better understand what you believe, and why you believe it! You are personally accountable!
Dont read the Bible merely for bragging rights: "I read two chapters a day!" Do you understand what you read?
Dont study just to uphold and "prove" your traditional doctrines. You cannot grow in knowledge if you merely look for passages to support what you already believe.
Dont study just to pick a fight with someone, or just to raise a ruckus. You can check a lot of members Bibles, and they have the same verses underlined. These are their "fighting" passages.
How should we study the Bible? I always recommend a minimum of three books: the Holy Bible (I prefer the King James version, which, when studied correctly, is quite adequate.); a good concordance, such as Strongs; and a good Websters-like Merriam-Webster-dictionary that shows the root words and their language origins.
I also advise familiarity with both Old and New Testaments. There are some who advise you not to study the Old Testament-they say that it is too confusing. I say that the confusion is worse when you dont study the Old Testament. Do you realize that Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel from the Old Testament scriptures? Why do you think that your references in the margins, or in the center column, or at the bottom of the page, contain so many references to the Old Testament?
Jesus advised the Jewish leaders to study the Old Testament scriptures in order to discover the words of eternal life.
John 5: "39: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
Jesus preached the gospel from the Old Testament scriptures.
Luke 24: 25: "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
26: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27: And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."
Luke 24: 44: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45: Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46: And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48: And ye are witnesses of these things."
The Apostle Paul preached Jesus from the Old Testament scriptures.
Acts 17:1: "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
2: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
3: Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ."
Apollos preached Jesus from the Old Testament scriptures.
Acts 18: "27: And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
28: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ."
The Apostle Paul said that that which was written previously was written to educate us.
Romans15:4: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
You see, the New Testament is the fulfilling of the Old Testament writings.
Romans 16: 25: "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26: But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
27: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."
1 Corinthians 15: 1: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2: By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"
Paul urged Timothy to continue in the scriptures that he had learned as a child. He noted that all the scriptures were given by God, and were profitable.
2 Timothy 3:14: "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15: And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
As we study both Old and New Testaments, we see the whole plan of God revealed, from the beginning of the world until now.
To truly understand the scriptures, we need to ask certain basic questions: Who wrote the letter or "book" that we are studying? Was it Paul, Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, or Luke? To whom was it written? Christians, obviously, but was the audience primarily Jews or Gentiles? What topics were being covered? Why were these items being addressed? For instance, sometimes they were answering questions posed by the church, as the Corinthian church did to Paul regarding marriage. If it is possible to ascertain, we need to know when the letter or "book" was written. Sometimes the mention of a particular Roman emperor or governor, or an historical event, helps nail down the time period. This helps us to understand the political, economic, and social setting in which the writing took place, and in which the people lived.
We might ask, as well, what did the writer desire the readers to do? Sometimes he was expecting a change in the readers, such as putting sin out of their lives, or ironing out a sticky situation in a particular congregation. Sometimes there were words of comfort or encouragement in the face of suffering and tribulation.
It is not enough to read the scriptures-we also need to seek understanding. A beneficial activity is meditation. Meditate comes from the same base word as medical, and has as its meaning, to measure. We need to measure what we study, that is examine it carefully, turning it over in our minds, looking at it from various angles, or viewpoints. We get in trouble when we lock onto one thought about a scripture, maybe an explanation that our favorite preacher uses. That precludes any other examination of the meaning.
Meditation is a valuable tool in learning more of the will of Almighty God.
Psalms 1:1: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2: But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3: And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4: The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5: Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6: For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish."
For a really rousing reading on meditation of Gods will, read Davids Psalm 119.
If you still have trouble after meditating on what you read, dont rule out asking Gods help in understanding the word. We read earlier that God gives when we ask, opens when we knock, and reveals when we seek.
Colossians 1:9 "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;"
2 Timothy 2:7: "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
The early church was so excited over the gospel that they got together daily. What do you think they talked about when they got together?
Acts 2: 46: "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47: Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
I think it would help us if we got together as friends frequently to discuss the ways of God, and what He expects us to do. We can prod and provoke each other to understand and keep the will of God, as we study together.
Ecclesiastes 12:11 "The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
12: And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."
Finally, a warning to those who ignore Gods word, to their own detriment.
Proverbs 24:30 "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31: And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32: Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
33: Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
34: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man."
Let us understand the will of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, He died to take away sin, He was resurrected from the dead, and He ascended to sit at Gods right hand. If you are here, and not a Christian, and understand that much, then you know enough to be born again a Christian. If you will come believing, and repenting of your sinful life against God, confessing that Jesus is Lord, we will assist you by baptizing you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Once born into the family of God, we will further assist you in taking the milk of Gods word, that you may grow thereby. We will stand by you, as long as God blesses us to be able to do so, to help in your continued growth toward maturity in the Lord. Why dont you come?