Don’t rest on past reading. Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase.
Three reasons this is not legalism:
- You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
- You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.
- It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.
So lets give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible.
Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.
Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading. (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)
In Judges 17, we come across a young man named Micah. Micah’s name means, “Who is like God”. But Micah isn’t much like God. He steals silver from his mother and then when he ‘fesses up, his mother dedicates some of the silver for Micah to make into two idols. Micah hires out a Levite to be a father-figure and priest for his private shrine. He is convinced that God is pleased and will prosper him for having a Levite for a priest.
But is it?
Two things emerge as noteworthy.
1. A “man of God” allows himself to be bought to aid in someone’s sin.
2. A “believer” feels that God will bless him in his sin because he has a good luck charm in having a “man of God” assisting him.
A few questions:
What would cause a “man of God” to compromise his integrity and his calling? Perhaps he was burned out from the work of ministry. Perhaps he had been terminated from his previous position. Regardless, here was a man who needed work and Micah offered him a regular paycheck.
How could someone knowingly run headlong into sin, expecting God’s blessing?
In answering both of these questions, let me just say that it happens every day in the Twenty-first Century for the same reasons. As Solomon wisely said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
People see their vocation simply as an occupation rather than a calling. Since it’s merely a means to the end of putting food on the table, they don’t see anything wrong with using their God-given abilities to make a quick buck. The sad thing is that it is worse when the vocation is “ministry”.
As a case in point, in my lifetime we have seen an agenda emerge from a minority group in our society. We were told that 10% of our population is “gay”. Because we bought this lie, we were told that we needed to tolerate their existence. Next we were told that we needed to accept their lifestyle as normative. Currently, we are being told that we need to endorse homosexual unions by changing the centuries-held definition of marriage and promote adoption of children by these “loving couples”. After all, we are told, orphans are better off being raised by a loving homosexual couple than a dysfunctional heterosexual couple. The implication is that there are few non-dysfunctional heterosexual couples, and that because they have had to overcome society’s intolerances, homosexual couples are more committed in their love for each other. Some of the most outspoken supporters of “gay marriage” are members of the clergy in mainline denominations like the United Methodists and Episcopalians. These denominations have been rocked by division as they have begun ordaining/endorsing clergy who live openly as homosexuals. Somehow, homosexuals expect God’s blessing by having members of the clergy assisting in their pursuits toward legitimacy of sin. Like I said, Solomon was right: nothing is new. We just change the words.
People try to manipulate God all the time in an attempt to get His blessing. They would probably deny it, but people frequently try to make deals with God. “God, I’ll go to church, read my Bible, go to the mission field, etc. if You will bail me out, answer my prayer, etc.” And how much of this deal-making actually involves an expectation of God’s blessing of sin?
According to Joshua 1:9-11, God’s blessing comes through obedience to His written Word. So how can people expect God blessing when they actively oppose what is clearly taught in the Bible?
Application: In what areas are you compromising your integrity and calling? What lies have you believed? In what ways are you attempting to make deals with God?
There is grace, forgiveness, and blessing as we submit ourselves in obedience to God. And having experienced God’s grace, forgiveness and blessing, we can — and should — extend grace and forgiveness to others who live in disobedience, helping them to line up their lives with God’s plumb line.
We come to Acts 15 and find a group of believers who felt that grace wasn’t enough to save someone. They said that you must be circumcised in order to be saved.
This was a great concern to Paul and Barnabus, as well as the other disciples. After praying about the matter, the apostles decided that grace was enough; the brothers from Judea were wrong in requiring Gentiles to become Jews to be considered Christians.
What do you consider is required to be a “good Christian”? Church attendance? Baptism? Adherence to a code of conduct (prohibition of dancing, drinking, etc.)? Being a member of a particular denomination (or non-denomination)? Holding a particular theological position? Aligning with the teachings of specific group of teachers, preachers, writers, or denominational leaders? Aversion to the teachings of specific group of teachers, preachers, writers, or denominational leaders?
Application: Be careful. Be very careful as you view other believers through your personal preferences. Be careful what labels (“liberal”, “fundamentalist”, and especially “false prophet” and “heretic”) you apply to someone with whom you disagree. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:6 (NIV)
I just watched a great discussion on the importance of the covenant of marriage. It reminded me of a conversation I had between the time when Amy and I got engaged and married. My youth Sunday School teacher said that there would be times when you have to be committed to the marriage, as opposed to each other. I didn’t understand her statement. But through the years, I have come to understand what she was talking about.
The video is just over five minutes and well worth the time to watch.
What sustains the marital bond and affections over the long haul? Three men with a combined 116 years of marriage reflect on what they’ve learned from God’s Word and others along with their experience.
Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper offer insight on falling in love again and again and the ground of covenant in which the flower of love grows. In marriage, man and woman change but their promise does not, sustained by the God who enacted his covenant between Christ and the church.
Numbers 14 records a sad day in the life of the people of Israel. God judged them for their unbelief after hearing the spies’ report of the Promised Land. God says that for every day the spies explored, the people would wander in the desert. Joshua and Caleb would be the only ones able to go into the promised land.
The judgment of God is bad enough. But then the people decide that to demonstrate their repentance by taking matters into their own hands: “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.”
Repentance is a good thing to do when you’ve been confronted by God. But they presumed that God would bless their efforts. “But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. “ (Numbers 14:44)
The results? “Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.” (Numbers 14:45)
How frequently this happens in church. Instead of seeking God’s guidance in decision-making, oftentimes we make a hasty decision and ask God to bless our plans.
Even our repentance is to be according to God’s leading. I recently heard of a pastor who confessed a private sin from the pulpit and went into way too much detail. Several people were deeply hurt by the confession of his sin — one in which they were not personally involved. In an effort to obey James’ instruction to confess our sins to each other in order that we be healed (James 5:16), he wounded other people. Even in repenting from sin, we must not presume that God will bless our plans to “make things right”.
Application: Is there a decision you need to make or a sin you need to make right? Proceed with caution.