Teachers Study: "Practical Love"
One of the big signs of an unhealthy church is when the teaching centers on one aspect of truth or one aspect of love, but the two are not taught together as the Bible calls us too. Some churches center on preaching the truth, and do a very good job with it, but they do not have love to balance it out. Other churches model love but do not teach truth. These churches are not modeling the characteristics of God: that God is a God of justice; but also, mercy; the God of law is also a God of grace. We must have a healthy balance of the truth of God's Word and the love of our actions, without this balance the church becomes one-sided and ineffective.
There is a large church in Southern California with a great pastor who I admire very much, I attended this church many times and have had friends that were on staff at this church. But this church has a fatal flaw, it is legalistic. Even though their teaching is correct and "hits the nail on the head" so to speak, it is not practicing the love of Christ, thus many people leave hurt and disillusioned because nobody cared for them there.
The other extreme is another large church in Southern California that has very poor teaching; I would go so far as to label that church as a cult theologically speaking. About 12 years ago I interviewed there to be a youth Pastor, and I was appalled by the questions the senior pastor was giving, and how he was ridiculing me because of my views that Christ was God and Lord. But to be honest this was a very loving and caring church. I felt very comfortable there, and the people were wonderful, open, and accepting; characteristics that all Christians should have, but there is no truth being taught there.
We cannot be so concerned about offending people that we never give the truth, and we should never give the truth without the balance of love. If your church emphasizes love and never speaks of truth, it will collapse. If your church just teaches the truth without the companion of love; then, it will become legalistic and there's one thing a non-Christian cannot stand besides hypocrisy and gossip, its legalism! And you will never reach your community for Christ with a legalistic attitude. Don't get me wrong we are never to confuse legalism as correct theological teaching. Nor are we to compromise the gospel, absolutely not! We are to have a high view of Scripture and communicate God's Word with truth and conviction. What we do not do is boil God's truth down to a list of "dos and don'ts." What we are to do is live out God's love and God's Grace for this communicates the characteristics of Christ more powerfully than a how-to list.
This is God's plan because God loves us. So we must follow through with the principles of Scripture being lived out in our lives. Out of love, out of nurture, out of care, and not out of rules regulations and hatred. Yes we have a God of law as revealed to us throughout Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, and we are under a code, a covenant, a contract, and we need to communicate this effectively within the parameters of love. When we do this, we are teaching the truth. Christianity then becomes a big pill that can be swallowed and not a bad medicine to be avoided.
God's Word tells us, "instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together but every supported ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:15-16)
How? The solution is simple, follow God's Word. We need to take God's lead and do what He requires with truth, and do it with love. Otherwise, you build yourself a house of cards that will soon fall. The aspects of love and the gifts that God gives us are not for our own private benefit. They are to be shared with one another. God has not called us to be in isolation to each other, but has called us to be in relationship to each other. And the driving force of our relationships is the love that passes all understanding that Christ gives to us, because He is the head; thus, we are to take that love and let it infect those around us. The Christ affected Christian will model Christ and teach the truth in our actions, and our words, and in our deeds, because Christ first loved us.
God's love must be our model for life. It must flow into us by who Christ is, and in return flow out of us to those around us. God's love is the ultimate power for the Christian. We are to be fueled and empowered by love through all situations because Christian love is the turning of our backs to our self-concerns, and then facing forward to our neighbors. If love does not take you beyond your self-interest, then what you have is lust and not love! That love is a principal, that love is an action over against any emotion. That love is a choice, and a lifestyle, and a commitment, and is a trust, love is not a fuzzy feeling in our tummy. Out of true love, God the Father gave us His Son, the Son gave us His life in replacement of our own. The Son sent the Spirit to save us, and we should be literally overwhelmed, and be consumed with extreme joy by what God has done for us.
The Bible tells us in Mark, "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:30-32)
There is no commandment greater than these. Love must unveil our true gratitude and faithfulness to what Christ has done, and in turn let that gratitude flow to our friends, family, and neighbors. The Mark of the Christian life is love, the love that Christ gave us and should be overflowing in us so that it overflows to those around us. The task of love is how we live our lives with trust and obedience modeling the character Christ. And the manner of that love is how our neighbors view us and respond to us.
(Excerpt from the book, "Pew Sitting" by Richard J. Krejcir)
Remember to begin in prayer!
· Prayer 5 min
· Pick one of the options 5-10 min
· Read lesson and Bible passages 10-15min (you can do this and discussions together)
· Discussion groups 15-30 min
· Going deep 5-10 min
· End in prayer and repeat application. 5 min
Total lesson time 45 min- 1 hr
Have student's list there favorite foods, and have someone write them down on a piece of paper or chalkboard. Then ask them to list the food that they like but are hard to get, such as a fresh fish taco from Mexico, or freshly made "La Cream" chocolate only found in Belgium.
Say: "just as the food we crave may be hard to find or get, God's Word is easy to find and even more delicious. God desires us to desire Him, with passion and conviction, to have a hungry heart for His Word.
Read Psalm 130
(Gather together several things that smell from good to bad (no people) such as spoiled food, after-shave, blue cheese, coffee, dirty socks, road kill, etc.)
Have students either blind folded or have the smelly stuff in paper bags so they cannot see what they smell. Then take turns smelling and guessing the items.Read II Corinthians 2:14-15
Say: "There are all kinds of smells that are either repulsive or pleasing, these smells bring us the information about them and leaves us with memories to know them.
§ The Bible calls us to be a fragrance, so what does your fragrance smell like, is it pleasing or repulsive, or is there a smell at all?
Consider the aroma of the Word. As you read, let it touch you and your memories, to let you "know it" better!
Lesson "Step V:" KNOW IT!
Just as the Customs Officer asks you with a deep stern and convicting look when you enter a country, "do you have anything to declare," so must we declare Christ with even more passion and conviction! And we can only do it with knowing it, knowing Him and His Word.
This is the step that helps us "internalize" what we are learning. This is the process of interpretation, which is determining the meaning of the text. Not just what it says, but what we do with it. Thus when we ask what does it mean, we then need to determine how it's going to "fit into" our life.
You can easily know something without it ever effecting you. Such as watching a tragedy on the news, but never giving it a second thought. We must never allow God's Word to be in that category!!!
It is one thing to believe in the existence of cars, another thing to learn how to drive them. Step IV helps us how to know the existence of cars, or "God's decrees." Step V shows us that we need to take ownership of it, and we must do this before we can drive it. Thus the knowing and internalizing comes before the application. We have to be in tune with what and why we do something before we can do it effectively and grow from it.
It is like a circle, knowing it must precede doing, yet doing can open the door to knowing. And then the knowing will increase the doing…
"It is not enough to just know it. It must be rooted in our very hearts, minds and soul!"
We must ask ourselves, "How can the teaching about God's Word relate to my problems, feelings, values, attitudes, situation, ambitions, needs, desires, and relationships."
START LOOKING FOR THE ANSWERS:
"Interpretation" is the process of determining the meaning of the text.
You cannot make an application until you are a "new life" that is we must be the people of God to be able to do the work of God!
You will get into big trouble if you try to read into the text what is not there! A lot of Christians and even some pastors today like to find "secret meanings" from the text. Thus books like the "Bible Code" become popular. But there is no code other than the one made up by its authors by backward engineering a formula into the text. And their formula does not work or have any consistency.
· THERE ARE NO SECRET MEANINGS (except some apoplectic writings, but they are not a "secret" just temporally hidden, they will be plainly revealed in time)!!!!
· You are not to dig out what is not there. You are not to send your "ferret" (a rodent that likes to hunt for things, similar to a mink) mind to bring back what is not there. Can I be any clearer?
WHAT YOU WANT TO DO IS:
Discover and understand what the divine author means.
Example: When Jesus says He is the bread of life, does this mean He is the loaf of bread?
Be Aware of the Context!
Like cutting a beautiful flower and studying it as if it were a whole plant and ignoring the stems, roots and leaves. The flower will wither and die without the nourishment from the rest of the plant. So it is when we take a verse out of its context!
Study the verses better and slowly. Are you taking something out of its context? The chapter and verses are not inspired. The publisher, to make reading easier, has added them in.
"Discussion:" THINGS TO VIEW, ASK, AND TO APPLY:
Take your passage, (choose a short book like II or III John or Jude or…) and go through it together or in small groups with these steps.
1. Ask WHAT DOES SOMETHING MEAN AND WHY IS IT THERE?
· Discover the historical and cultural background.
· Be sure your information is correct! Use good commentaries, Study Bibles, and Bible
2. Digging Personally:
· How are you encouraged and strengthened?
· Where have you fallen short, and how can you improve?
· What do you now intend to do with the information given to you by the Holy Spirit
through God's Word?
Remember: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching…" We must never substitute doctrine for personal beliefs! (II Timothy 3:16)
· How can you guard yourself from finding things in the Bible that are not there?
· Read, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)
· Ask how can you do this?
Read (or have someone else read) the following, have students close their eyes:
When you look at a gourmet cooking magazine, you will notice all kinds of adjectives such as "The Best, Favorite, Fine, Superb, Blissful, Great, Fantastic, Incredible, Perfect, Pleasingly," and I could go on and on! These adjectives are describing and expressing the enthusiasm and quality of the food. From the way it is prepared to the way it is presented to the guest. All centering around the experience coming from the work, effort and quality put into it by the chef.
When we are reading God's Word, we are a chef preparing a marvelous and fantastic feast, what we get will be what we put into it, from the quality of the ingredients to the time it takes to cook will determine how transformed you will be!
To receive any true benefit from scripture we have to be in it deeply and earnestly. Plunging ourselves into the depths of the words and details.
To receive our profit from our investment, we must seize the adjectives with enthusiasm and vigor, like partaking in your favorite meal, from its aroma to its taste and consumption!
Taking the aroma of the words and keep at it until the taste and meaning are enveloping and transforming your life!
· Getting into God's Word must affect our every day life. How we think, how we feel. This is where our values come from.
· We are to be active in God's Word even when we are not reading it.
· A life based on analysis, synthesis, valuing, organizing, and comprehending our Lord Jesus Christ.
· To our very "existential core" that is the soul and being of who we are to Christ!
· We must have the confidence that the Bible is truth, and the truth is living within us.
Without such confidence, we can no way transform ourselves, let alone infect others with the Gospel message! This is Knowing It!
· WE must allow God's Word to bend and break our will and desires over to His!
What did God say to you today?
What did God nourish with you today?
Are you appreciating it?
Are you not only receiving the great benefits, but practicing them to others around you?
Are you a changed person as a result of receiving the Word?
· Service is who we are in Christ, and not so much what we do for Christ!
Do not skip your meals in God's Word!