“Share” is the final session of our Hungry Bible Study. In this lesson we turn from “me” to “us.”
“Oh, yes,” we might nod, “I know I’m supposed to share my faith with others.” But do we know the importance of receiving our faith together, too? Shared listening leads to shared speaking; our common faith is first received and then passed on to others.
At our study I asked, “What has been the primary influence on your faith in Christ–your personal Bible reading/study or the preached Word?”
That question brought a flood of responses:
- My folks dropped me off at the Baptist church down the street. I guess what I heard there influenced me first.
- I became a Christian in my teens. The liberal church I went to preached sermons that left me hungry. I had to learn to feed myself.
- I tend to think of the sermon as the gourmet meal, prepared by an experienced chef. My own study is more ordinary, like weekday food.
Our experience shows us that God uses his Word both ways to draw us to Christ. I’m sure you have your own story about that. But though both are important, one is primary.
Scripture itself shows us the way, interpreting our experience by pointing us to the necessity of hearing the gospel through the preached Word about Christ (Romans 10:14-17). That’s what I mean by “share.”
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
God has given us not just his Word, but faithful preachers of that Word to us to protect us from two dangers.
What is a Shared Word?
With the flood of information that’s now available to us on the internet, we might think insisting we go to our own church to hear the Word is outdated. Can’t I just read blog posts or listen to podcasts? I mean, it’s not just “me and my Bible” anymore, I can google my confusion and find answers in an instant!
There are two problems with the individualized approach. The problem of:
- Becoming my own expert
- Living inside my own head
Let’s say I do an internet search on a biblical question. Who is curating the information that comes to me? Google or some other search engine. At that point I usually scan the first page of links, sometimes the second, but rarely more than that. Who picks which links to look at? I do. Scary thought. I–the one with the question, the one in need of guidance and knowledge– I am the one who decides which answer is the right one.
On the other hand, even if I ditch the internet and limit myself to personal Bible reading, I’m still having a conversation with only one person. The voice of God I’m trying to hear in his Word becomes muddled by the voice inside my head. The one that reminds me I forgot to call my mother. Or the one that boasts in my latest accomplishment.
God knows we need a sure word and an external word. In short we need the community of a church with which to share the feast of God’s truth.
A Sure Word
How can we know that the sermon we listen to is giving us “a sure word”? Paul traces a path of assurance for us in his last letter, written to Timothy.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Not all sermons are created equal. Is your pastor preaching the Word that was given by Christ to the apostles and then faithfully passed down through the centuries? Is your pastor a faithful man to that Word, set apart to this ministry by those who can commend his life and doctrine? If so, we share in a meal of Scripture that will truly point us to Christ.
Here’s what happens if that’s not the case:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (my emphasis)
Who is Paul Describing?
This isn’t a description of ax murderers, it’s a profile for false teachers. The kind you and I might be susceptible to, if we aren’t submitting ourselves to the ministry of a faithful pastor. God means us to “come to a knowledge of the truth” so that we become more discerning and can spot the counterfeit more quickly.
That’s why Paul charges Timothy to faithfully do the work God has called him to do:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2
This is the solemn charge that God gives to every pastor. Respect him for it and hold him to it.
This will keep us from becoming our own expert.
An External Word
God also protects us from the danger of “living inside my own head.” In the congregation I hear an external word coming from the pulpit. It drowns out the voice in my head.
That word is also a shared word. I get to listen to it with the congregation. I get to respond in worship with the congregation. And I get to pray for help with the congregation as I take that Word out into the world God has called me to serve during the week.
God knows I need that external Word.
“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him … The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
God is faithful. He will continue to sustain you and me with that Word until he brings us to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.
How has God’s Word about Christ fed you during this study? Share a nugget with us!