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Running a Non-Profit Bible Study
Learning to trust the scriptures and how to fend off wolves
Having taken a couple of weeks of, we are now back in our series on 2 Tim 3:16-17, focussing on the word ‘profitable’:
“All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 CSB
A few weeks ago I spoke about that first word ‘All’ and about a functional rejection of Sola Scriptura, the authority of scripture for believers, in the church today. It’s a sad phenomenon and one I sincerely hope dies out over the next few years. I stressed this point in that article:
“Get stuck in and keep on the lookout for people in your life who can encourage you in faith, in reading the word. Don’t be swept up in the temptation to exercise functional rejection of chunks of the bible, instead take the opportunity to feast on everything, including genealogies, especially genealogies (I love those things.)”
Having argued for that, I now have to turn my sights away from the functional rejection to the real, alive, and vehement rejection of not only Sola Scriptura, but Scripture as a whole.
About a week back I sat listening as some people I know engaged in a conversation which consisted entirely of taking passages of scripture and then tearing them apart, laughing at them, and then talking about why we shouldn’t take the Bible seriously. It was all I could do not to release myself from the conversation I was in at the other end of the table and let loose. I restrained myself, this would not have been the best course of action for a number of reasons. That conversation wrapped itself up and they began to do the same for church history and doctrine and so I stopped listening. My ears perked up again though when about ten minutes later they mentioned that later that day, they were going to lead a youth group in… a bible study!
A BIBLE STUDY…
I sat dumbfounded. It was as if I’d heard a group of people talk for half an hour about how bread was poisonous and should never be consumed and then exclaim that they were going to town to hand out bread to the needy. It’s been a while since I’ve been so profoundly shocked. The only good news was that I had to leave shortly after that revelation and didn’t have to hear about how they intended to carry out this supposed ‘bible study’.
You may have been privy to similar conversations over the years, I remember going to meet with a state-funded pastor in Germany a few years ago who openly admitted his atheism and his happiness about having managed to get his hands on such an easy job. This is unfortunately all too common. I’m not saying any of this to poke fun at those who do such things, but to give context for this diagnosis:
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears.” Acts 20:29-31 CSB
We are not to forget this. We know about those outside of our churches who hate the bible and want nothing more than to see it gone from society and that is an issue for sure, but the much greater danger is that wolves have, as throughout all of the church history, made their way into the flock, dressing themselves in wool to feast on the weak. Speaking of these false teachers John exhorts us:
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. Everyone speaks well of Demetrius—even the truth itself. And we also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.” 3 John 11-12 CSB
Do good, not evil, and speak well and honourably of those who preach and teach the true word of God. If you take nothing else away from this, that’s the message I most want you to hear today. With that said, if we are to be able to keep doing that, we need to ensure that the Church is flooded with those who can preach and teach the gospel well, leading others, discipling others, teaching others how to read the bible. Before anyone can do this though, they must first enjoy and absorb the bible for themselves. Learning and experiencing the great profit that it brings to our lives and living on that profit.
We’ll talk in coming weeks about how that profit presents itself, namely:
4. Training in Righteousness
5. Completing the man of God
6. Equipping us for every good work
What good is that though if we cannot trust the bible itself?
Good News, Bad News
One of the reasons people most mistrust the bible is because though it contains the gospel, good news, it also delivers a huge amount of bad news. The bible isn’t for the faint-hearted, it talks about all manner of sin, depravity, and destruction. Due to gross mishandling of the scriptures, we have turned some of these into children’s stories and metaphors, not to mention just discarding bits we don’t like. This cannot be our response.
The bad news in the bible doesn’t make it untrustworthy but proves that it can be trusted. Imagine if tomorrow you switched on the news and the anchor looks you in the eye and says, “All is bright and sunny today and thankfully no one caught COVID! There has been no crime and we only have positive stories for you.” You wait for the punchline, but it doesn’t come. Lightning has struck 500 times in the same place somewhere in the world and it still wasn’t the most unlikely occurrence that day. You go to bed and wake up the next day to the same thing. It happens again, then again, then again. The problem is that you are seeing bad things happen in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Where is all the bad news! You’d start to think something fishy was going on.
Why then, when we read the bible, do we expect perfectly moral leaders, wonderful examples of charity, and steadfastness in the people of God when that’s not what we see in the world around us. The bible isn’t fiction, it’s history and prophecy, it talks about what was and what is and what is to come and if that’s the case, we should expect some dirt.
That said, when we come across the bad news, we must pair it with the good. Though depravity plagues us all, it is not our destination. We are justified by faith if we believe in Christ, which we know by the Scriptures by grace alone to the Glory of God alone. If we believe that we can trust in the plan laid out by God. We can trust that he can take the worst of the sins of the people of Israel, the worst of judges, of kings, of priests, he can take the most unbelievable of tragedies, even Jesus’ death on a cross, and redeem them all. Impossible for us, nature for God. If he can redeem them, he can redeem us. If he can redeem us, he can sanctify us. If he can sanctify us, he can use even us for the good of his kingdom. If he can use us for the good of his kingdom, we should dig into his word and use it as the sword of truth, fighting for that kingdom with the strength he has given us.
A profitable Bible Study
There is a saying that I have used to teach on prayer over and over for almost two years in a prayer group we run on a Friday morning. It goes, “Private prayer leads into corporate prayer, which leads into private prayer which leads into corporate prayer, which leads into…” and so on and so forth. Essentially, we must pray privately in order to come to a group and pray there and that group setting will encourage our private prayer and so on. The same is true of studying the word. If you intend to help others to read the bible, do not just read the bible for the sake of others, your own private times of studying to the word and indispensable to both yourself and those whom you serve. Though one is personal and the other public, you should not be doing the one without the other. If people are to trust the bible, they should see that you trust it too. There is no greater weapon you have against the lies of the enemy than the word of God and that includes when it comes to the lies he whispers regarding the use of the Bible.
As I’ve said before, read, read, read, read, read and read more. Once you’ve finished, start again.
Grace and Peace,
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