With two children, ages of 14 and 10; and 21 years of youth ministry now under my belt, I have been to more birthday parties and youth events than I can remember. In all those parties and events, my mind often goes to the time when the food and cake were brought out. I can already hear the hecklers saying, “No surprise there Sean”. Parties and events where pizza was the main course are of particular interest to me. Wanting to be a gentleman, most times, I would wait for everyone else to go first before I would take my turn and it was always funny to find what was left in the box. It never failed that the only pieces left most times were the outer edges. The opposite was true when the cake would be cut as all the kids would be clamoring for the pieces on the end, or the prized corner piece. Can’t say I blame them either as who wouldn’t want the piece with the most frosting … right? Whether it is a pizza or a cake, we instinctively gravitate to what we perceive to be the best part, as if what is left was of no value, or of less valuable.
Gravity seems to work the same way with regards to the Bible, creating problems for some when it comes to God’s word. Problems that I have dealt with myself as well as discussed with family members, friends, peers and strangers.
One issue deals with those areas of scripture that leave us uncomfortable, insecure or shamed. Those areas we would wish were not in God’s word for one reason or another. Scalpel in hand, there are those in society today who daily operate on the body scripture in an effort to remove what they deem cancerous, threatening or of no use; an issue seen and dealt with by early believers in Jesus’s day.
Another problem for some is in the area of the Old Testament. For some it is intentional but for others it is more complicated than that. Complicated may be the best word to describe the issue for many. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the question of “Where should I start?” when it comes to the Bible; as if it is some big meal to eat or massive problem to solve. The reality for us is that the Bible is complete and in consuming Genesis to Revelation we see the entire gospel of our savior; God’s hand of grace working throughout the course of our history to present day. It is in solving this problem that I believe we can see the church, the bride of Christ grow and for his glory.
In D.A Carson’s book “The Scriptures Testify About Me”, a compilation of messages from pastors, including D.A, focus on preaching Christ from the Old Testament; an ability that seems to be lost in many a pulpit today. Of particular interest to me is the breakdown of 1st Timothy 4 by Pastor James MacDonald. He expounds the scripture with a focus on verse 13 which reads:
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
With the New Testament not in existence, where would one think Paul would be referring too? It was the knowledge he along with the early believers had of Old Testament scripture that enabled them to understand the times they were living and ministering in. This sheds new light on my understanding of what Jesus meant when he told his disciples not worry when the time came for them to speak. For reference on this see, Matthew 10, Luke 12 and Mark 13.
For me it is clear that the knowledge and command of scripture was not a burden to the early church. As they immersed themselves in its truth, they were in fact deepening and strengthening their relationship with their creator. 1st John 1 v 1 states:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The book of Acts also reveals that the power to command and interpret is from the Lord, in the Spirit. Acts 4 v 13 states the following regarding Peter and John’s encounter with religious leaders when defending their actions in the name of Jesus.
“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Never being a strong student and a self-perceived slow learner growing up, I’ve always been encouraged with what God can and often does with those whose hearts turn to him. It delights the Lord to raise up the humble and to humble the prideful; a power manifested in Moses and Aaron as well as the early believers all the way up to the present day church.
When it comes to the scriptures, losing sight of or veering away from the truth of the gospel, could in affect punch the ticket of an earnest seeker to a destination of judgment, or worse see a professing believer fall away from the truth that leads to salvation, to the lie of a false gospel and its result; if that could even happen.
With all the noise and perceived variability in the world today, truth and wisdom appear to be needed now more than ever. For the seeker who finds themselves asking the questions of, “Is there a true gospel?” and if there is, “Where can it be found?” the answer is a resounding yes. With the word gospel translating to mean good news, it is found in the receiving of the word in its entirety; and in that receiving the fullness of Christ himself. For the believer today we need to, as Paul warned Timothy, guard our lives and the truth we live by closely if we are to under to understand the times we are living and ministering in today. 1 Timothy 4 v 16
In closing I refer Paul Harvey’s famous radio show quote, “The rest of the story”. After taking time to intro a particular subject, he would share with his listeners the vital information needed to complete their understanding; always finishing with his famous quote of “And now you know the rest of the story”. When it comes to the gospel, the opposite is true. John 17 v 3 states the following:
“Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
It is in the knowledge of the scriptures, Old Testament scriptures to be specific, that we see and know him and whom he sent. As said by Jesus in John 5, these scriptures testify to who he is. You can’t know the rest of the story without knowing the beginning, the history that lead to the cross that then lead to the resurrection and will finish with the work of the Holy Spirit. From there we see the birth of the church that lead us to the present day and will lead to our glorious future. We just need to know the first of the story.
God Bless – Sean Bosse