Encouraging the disheartened is important for a body of Christians. Enduring tough times is too. And worshipping is equally essential. A church needs all three…but a ministry is incomplete unless there is also the presence of learning. Healthy, vibrant flocks are kept in that condition by a continual emphasis on the discovery of new truth as well as the review of old truths. Such emphases give our faith stability and substance.
Growing Deep in the Christian Life: Returning to Our Roots
What words come to mind when you hear the term, theology?
Really? Then prepare to be surprised!
In this no-nonsense study, Chuck Swindoll blows the dust off the dull doctrines and breathes life into the practical side of theology. Filled with humorous stories and down-to-earth applications, Chuck’s study reveals how the practical side of theology is what helps us grow deeper in the Christian Life.
Without love, knowledge can be a source of pride. Without humility, knowledge can lead us into a judgmental attitude. Without wisdom, knowledge can result in idealism and a perfectionist spirit. Knowledge needs a buffer…something to soften it, to give it perspective, to make it workable and real. Perhaps the very best companion for knowledge is discernment.
Have you ever stopped to think about the benefits of having a copy of the Scriptures in your own language? Have you pondered the thought: What if the Bible never existed? In our overabundant, more-than-enough world, such thoughts are foreign…too impossible to imagine.
“You can prove anything you want to from the Bible!” Have you ever heard someone make that claim? Probably so. For the most part, it is true. If a person really wants to find biblical “justification” for some belief or activity and is willing to use half-verses, to take passages out of context, and to twist the meaning of various terms, then he or she can “prove” just about anything from Scripture.
Puritans used to speak of “following hard after God” and “setting our faces like a flint toward God.”—Strange-sounding phrases in today’s fast-paced world! But these words need to be remembered, especially in our generation.
Knowing God calls for a response that includes trusting Him, relying on Him, worshipping Him—in a word, loving Him. Scripture is filled with accounts of the God of heaven, reaching out to His people in grace and mercy, showing Himself to be strong and compassionate. Each one is a reason to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Very few people cared about the tiny town of Bethlehem—much less the birth of a Jewish infant named Jesus. However, God saw things differently. This small baby would one day die on a cross for the sins of all humankind. So God inspired a physician named Luke to record the facts about Jesus' birth and His purposes for coming to earth.
The second member of the Godhead came to earth as a tiny baby in Bethlehem. God became man. This is commonly referred to as the doctrine of the incarnation. In the words of the Apostle John, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Think about that for a while. Imagine what it must have been like to see Him, walk with Him, watch Him work, and hear His words.
We’ve learned that Jesus is the God-Man. Such a study could leave us with the erroneous idea that His life was merely a theoretical (or theological) phenomenon with little practical value. Not so! He touched people where they were and changed their lives.
“I believe in the Holy Ghost….” These are familiar words to those who have ever attended a church where the Apostles’ Creed is recited during the service. Six words commonly heard yet seldom thought through. What, exactly, do they mean?
Do we believe the Spirit is a person? But the creed calls Him a ghost. Do we believe the Spirit is present today?
Instead of obeying the clear warnings of their Creator, Adam and Eve deliberately and willfully chose to rebel. And we’ve been living with the consequences ever since—humanity is mentally confused, emotionally afraid, and spiritually dead. However, the good news is God didn’t abandon us in our rebellion. In mercy and grace He provided the way out of our self-made mess through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The path of humanity is littered with the trash of depravity. Instead of being shining examples of beauty, righteousness, and perfection, we have darkened the world with hostility, hatred, and unrest. War and brutality score the history of humankind. Deceit and wickedness make up our story. Even our best—courageous warriors, heroes of humanity, graceful artists—fall embarrassingly short of perfection.
A substitute is someone who takes the place of or acts instead of another. In education substitute teachers stand before a class usually taught by someone else. In the game of baseball a substitute hitter or runner is commonly used to take another player's place. Even the prime minister, if necessary, appoints a substitute and gives him or her the full authority of leadership. What is true in the classroom, sports, and politics is also true in our relationship with the living God.
In earlier times the slaughter of animals, the presence of blood, and the connection between these symbols, the sinner, and deliverance from that sin were common scenes…everyday affairs. Because we are so removed from all that, words and phrases like “sacrifice,” “shedding of blood,” and “altar” need to be explained and understood. By doing so, our appreciation for the cross where God’s Lamb was slain will be enhanced.
Few things are clearer in Scripture than Christ’s return. Once He revealed the news of His death and departure from this earth, He wasted no time in reassuring His followers that He would indeed be coming back. Again and again, God’s Word includes statements, hints, symbols, implications, and undeniable predictions of the promise of Christ’s return. Cynics may sneer and doubters may laugh, but our Lord keeps His promises.
With all our daily activities and responsibilities, we tend to push the central doctrines of the Bible onto the back burner. But these truths are vital to our daily Christian walk. Consider the doctrine of the return of Christ—what we believe about this important doctrine affects the way we live our lives. And if there’s one thing we can know for sure, it’s that Jesus will come back to earth one day! But what do we do until then?
Where do we go from here? What will happen to us when life is over? What lies ahead…in the misty, shadowy, fuzzy world beyond the grave? What will be our final destiny? Many will say, “Death. Death ends everything.” Popular answer, but it’s wrong. Death may be the last stop in our earthly journey, but it cannot be considered our ultimate destination.
Paranormal phenomena and speculation about the afterlife usually draw immediate attention. Everyone, it seems, looks with interest when the curtain of death is lifted. Books, seminars, and television programs abound with claims of out-of-body death experiences, speaking with the dead, and so on. Are these illusions or reality? In Luke’s gospel, Jesus recounts an intriguing story of one who spoke from the grave.
We have examined the Scriptures to find out what we are to be involved in between now and when Christ returns. But what is the Lord doing? What is He concerned about during this present time? The answer is clear, according to the New Testament. It’s the same project He’s been working on since the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18), and that is what He has been doing.
Out of every continent, country, and nation, He is reaching out to build His body, the church. But the church is not only universal in scope; it is local as well. In these places, music and message mingle to refresh sagging spirits, confront wrong, point the way, model the truth, help the hurting, hold out hope to the discouraged, rescue the perishing, and care for the dying.
Few things steal a church’s joy like discouragement…especially if that discouragement comes not from outside circumstances but from inside instigators. Scripture tells us that we are to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). But far too often we choose instead to speak words that dishearten, hinder, and deter each other from living the life God intends.
Desiring to get the job done or meet other expectations, a congregation can lose its primary objective: to ascribe supreme worth to our supreme Lord. Worship is more than meditative contemplation, the passive enjoyment of great music, or listening to a well-delivered sermon. Worship requires participation…a response…praise and service, celebration and action.