Thursdays With Oswald—How To Understand And Apply The Scriptures

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

How To Understand And Apply The Scriptures

     In order to understand the Sermon on the Mount, it is necessary to have the mind of the Preacher, and this knowledge can be gained by anyone who will receive the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13; John 20:22; Acts 19:2). The Holy Ghost alone can expound the teachings of Jesus Christ. The one abiding method of interpretation of the teachings of Jesus is the Spirit of Jesus in the heart of the believer applying His principles to the particular circumstances in which he is placed. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” says Paul, “that you may prove,” i.e. make out, “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” [Romans 12:2]. …

     Every mind has two compartments—conscious and subconscious. We say that the things we hear and read slip away from memory; they do not really, they pass into the subconscious mind. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring back into the conscious mind the things that are stored in the subconscious. In studying the Bible never think that because you do not understand it, therefore it is of no use. A truth may be of no use to you just now, but when the circumstances arise in which that truth is needed, the Holy Spirit will bring it back to your remembrance [John 14:26]. … 

     We do not hunt through the Bible for some precept to obey…but we live so in touch with God that the Holy Spirit can continually bring some word of His and apply it to the circumstances we are in. … The teaching of Jesus Christ comes with astonishing discomfort to begin with, because it is out of all proportion to our natural way of looking at things; but Jesus puts in a new sense of proportion, and slowly we form our way of walking and our conversation on the line of His precepts: Remember that our Lord’s teaching applies only to those who are His disciples.

From Studies On The Sermon On The Mount

What Chambers says about the Sermon on the Mount is true of any biblical passage we read: we need to have the Holy Spirit’s help to understand it and apply it to our unique life setting. 

Think of this—the same Holy Spirit who inspired the biblical writers is the exact same Spirit who will assist you in understanding that Word! Before I read the Bible I often pray: May the Spirit who inspired this Word now illuminate my mind to understand it and obey it. 

Try that prayer yourself and see how God’s Word is opened up to you. 

Alien Friendships

As Peter wraps up his letter, he reminds us of his purpose in writing to us aliens and strangers

    • encouraging you = speaking encouraging words to your heart.  
    • testifying that this is the truth = speaking thoughtful words to your head. 

But Peter also says that he wrote this letter “with the help of Silas”—some translations even say “by Silas”—indicating that Peter needed someone to come alongside him with words of encouragement and strength, as much as he needed to deliver those words to fellow Christians. 

Peter mentions three people that were alongside him. These folks are instructive for us too:

  1. Silas 

Peter called Silas a faithful brother. The Greek word he uses for brother is adelphos, a word which usually meant someone who shared the same parents. But Peter modifies this to mean a Christian brother whose heartbeat with the love of Jesus the way his did; someone who shared the same Heavenly Father.  

Silas was a recognized church leader and a companion of Paul (Act 15:22, 30-32, 40). He had quite an extensive and impressive resume, and he also had the full endorsement for such notable people as James, Paul, and Peter. 

  1. She who is in Babylon

Babylon is a code word almost universally agreed to be Rome, but there is some debate as to whom the “she” is. Some think this is the church-in-exile in Rome, and some think this is Peter’s wife (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). 

Whether the church or Peter’s wife, they/she are anonymous servants of God, but never for a moment forgotten by God, nor is their reward going to be lacking (Matthew 6:1, 4). 

  1. Mark

Peter calls Mark my son. Again, he takes a word that originally meant “my offspring” and changes it to mean Mark was his protegé. 

Mark had traveled with Paul, then left Paul mid-journey, and was eventually reconciled to Paul (Acts 13:5, 13; 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). 

Mark listened to and recorded Peter’s accounts of Christ’s earthly ministry and wrote the first Gospel that was produced. His Gospel became one of the main reference documents that Matthew and Luke referred to in writing their Gospels. 

Here’s the point—There are no dispensable people in the Church! 

You may be like Silas with many talents and an impressive resume and references. Or you may be like the “she” who is an anonymous helper to others. Or you may even by like Mark who made mistakes but was given a second chance to make good on your commitment. 

You need a Silas, a she, and a Mark in your life. And you just may need to be one of those to someone else. 

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.” —Andrew Murray 

So let me ask you to consider something vital: Are you remaining faithful to your Christian family? 

A Leader’s Sincere Apology

…I’m sorry, brothers… (Acts 23:5). 

It started off innocently enough. Paul was addressing the Jewish high counsel and simply said, “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” 

That doesn’t seem too controversial nor insensitive, but the next move does—Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. What?! That seems like a bit of an over-reaction on the part of the high priest, or maybe a bit of show of force to let Paul know who was really in charge here. 

If you were Paul and got slapped in the face for a pretty simple and true statement, how would you respond? Paul responded like I think I may have, with a little verbal “slap” of his own: “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” 

Yeah, take that, you big meanie! 

Those standing closest to Paul must have gasped in horror as they said, “Do you realize who you’re talking to?” 

Paul is an old man by this time. He’s been through shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, without food, traveled more miles than he can count, preached more sermons than he can remember. His body was giving out on him, and his eyesight was especially weak. Clearly, Paul didn’t realize to whom we was addressing his remarks. 

But Paul immediately owned up to his mistake. “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest, for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’” 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is quick to apologize.

Paul could have made excuses. He could have justified what he said by explaining, “He deserved it because of how he spoke to me!” or “He started it!” 

But Paul offered no excuses or justifications, just a quick, simple, sincere apology. 

Oh, that all Christian leaders were as sensitive as Paul and as quick to apologize!

This is part 26 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

What Is Church?

All across the world on Sunday morning, people met for church? But what exactly is church? Is it a place we go to? Is it something that only happens on Sundays? 

The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It meant an assembly of citizens. Luke used the term when he recorded a government official saying, “If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (Acts 19:39). But in the New Testament, it came to mean “a community based on a special religious idea and established in a special way” (Dr. Marvin Vincent). It can also mean either a local group of Christians or “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Dr. James Strong). 

Church never means a building. Nowhere does the phrase “go to church” appear in the New Testament. Instead, church carried the idea of a living, growing organism because church was wherever a follower of Jesus was. Sometimes the church met collectively in one location, and sometimes individual believers were out in the community. But wherever the Spirit of God went, church was happening. 

If church is not something we go to, it’s also not something that takes place only one day per week. Look at what Jesus did on the Sabbath day: 

But we also see Jesus doing all of these things EVERY day of the week. 

For Jesus, neither the day of the week nor the location determined the way He lived. Peter summed it up this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). 

In fact, before they were called Christians the church was simply called “the Way” letting us know that the church was a way of life, not a day of the week. 

Based on how Jesus lived and how the Apostle taught, I think we can see the Church Way like this: 

In other words, EVERY day and in EVERY place the followers of Jesus were being enriched in their own lives so that they could reach out to the hurting so that they could come to know Jesus personally so that their lives could be enriched so that they too could reach out to others, and on, and on, and on it goes! 

Limiting “church” to a specific location or to a specific day of the week is way too small-minded. Church as Jesus intended it was a powerful force that would set people free EVERY day and in EVERY place from the power of the devil and introduce them to God’s eternal life! 

Do People Know That You Know That God Is Good?

If you’ve been reading my series on God’s favor the last few weeks, I hope you truly know this: God is for you! 

But the key question for Christians comes down to this—Do others know that you know that God is for you? 

You see, God is for you because God is joyful and happy, and He wants you to not only know this but to radiate this joy and happiness to those around you. 

Here’s how it works:

(1) Joy is an inside job. The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great delight caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” When we know by our personal experience with Him how good God is, joy is birthed in our heart as we see Him as All-Good and All-Satisfying. 

(2) Joy is regardless of my external circumstances. Some people try to pursue happiness apart from joy. Trying to get happy without having the foundation of joy is like having a flower that has been picked from the plant. Happiness may be pretty for a short while, but it is already fading because it is completely dependent on the environment around it. True happiness isn’t dependent on external circumstances because it is rooted in something far greater. 

(3) Knowing God’s favor fuels our joy. There is a Hebrew word for know which means “knowledge through intimate, personal experience.” Psalm 100 describes happy people and their joyful praise. Their joy comes from this: They know that their Lord is God and that He is good. This joy comes from seeing and savoring God’s favor.  

(4) Our internal joy should bubble up into external happiness. All throughout the Bible we read how those who are filled with joy as they get to know this exceptionally good, all-satisfying God cannot help but burst out in songs of happy praise (see Psalm 28:7 and Luke 10:21).

(5) Our external happiness becomes our testimony. In Psalm 126 we read that God’s people who were full of God’s joy burst out into happy praise. When they did the people around them recognized that God had done great things for them. 

Check this out—

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be unhappy is a sin. An unhappy Christian gives God no praise, robs His glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. The happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too!” —Craig T. Owens 

So let me ask you again: If you call yourself a Christian, do people know that you know that God is for you? Are you making God look All-Good and All-Satisfying by your deeply fueled joy and your face-brightening happiness? 

What a testimony it is when God’s people are happy in Him! 

If you have missed any of my other teachings about God’s favor, be sure to check them out:

Pentecost Shows That God Is For Us

I have been trumpeting this truth: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. 

Yesterday we remembered Pentecost. In Jewish history, Pentecost is simply a celebration that took place fifty (pente) days after the Passover. But the first Pentecost celebration after Christ’s resurrection became the launching point for the Church. On this Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit. This baptism is primarily for two things: 

  1. Christians are empowered to know more clearly that “God is for me.” 
  2. Christians are empowered to tell others more persuasively that “God is for you.” 

We only continue to grow in our understanding of God’s favor by believing what Jesus did for us on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Spirit helps us to know this—

Now we have not received the spirit that belongs to the world, but the Holy Spirit Who is from God, given to us that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly bestowed on us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12 AMP) 

Check this out…

(1) The baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers me to know more clearly that God is for meFor you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing—in that though He was so very rich, yet for your sakes He became so very poor, in order that by His poverty you might become abundantly supplied (2 Corinthians 8:9 AMP). 

(2) The baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers me to tell others more persuasively that God is for them—You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses (Acts 1:8). All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). 

Because God is for you, He wants to baptize you in His Holy Spirit!

If you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit, ask for that gift that God wants to give you. The more of the Holy Spirit there is in your life, the more you will recognize God’s favor and be equipped to be His witness. 

We will be continuing to explore this topic of God’s favor on Sunday. I hope you can join me either in person or on Facebook Live.

A.L.I.V.E.—The “L” Is For Lives Changed

A man named Paul was visiting Athens. While he was in the marketplace, he began to talk with people about Jesus Christ, specifically how Jesus had been crucified and then raised back to life.

His comments caught the attention of two groups of philosophers: the Epicureans who thought all religions were made up and were simply a crutch for the weak-minded and superstitious, and the Stoics who said that a divine power was in everything but wasn’t a Person that could be personally known. These groups said to Paul, “You are presenting some new teachings and strange ideas that we have never heard before! Would you come and address our next meeting?”

In 2004, renowned atheist Anthony Flew announced something that was a “strange idea” to the ears of his followers. Flew presented one of his first papers on atheism at the Socratic Club at Magdalen College, where the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis served as the chairman. Over the years Flew had sharpened his rhetoric to become one of the best known and most outspoken atheists on the worldwide stage.

Yet in 2004, an 81-year-old Anthony Flew remarked, “I simply had to go where the evidence led,” as Flew announced to the world: there IS a God.

“My discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” wrote Flew in his book There Is A God, which is why last week I shared the first way we can know Jesus is alive in “A” is for apologetics. Today I submit to you the second way one can know that Jesus is A.L.I.V.E.: Lives changed.

Paul, who was asked to speak to the philosophers in Athens about his “strange ideas,” had been given the name Saul by his parents. When it came to religion, Saul took a backseat to no one! He was a purebred Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (which gave Israel its very first king, who was also named Saul). Saul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” because he kept the Law of Moses and the strict rules of the Pharisees absolutely faultlessly.

When he heard about Jesus (who claimed to be God), and about the followers of Jesus who claimed He had been resurrected from the dead, Saul persecuted these Christians so vehemently that he not only had many of them thrown into prison, but he had many of them killed as well.

That all came to a complete stop when Saul met Jesus for himself! You can read how Saul retold this story in Acts 22:1-16. After this encounter, Saul’s life was 180-degrees different! He even changed his name to Paul to signify his new outlook. Now he was just as adamant to tell people about Jesus as he was previously to harass and persecute Christians.

Paul’s conversion came at a steep price. The Jews with whom he used to associate now turned violently against him. Numerous times they attempted to kill him. In addition, Paul’s newfound faith in Jesus caused him to be persecuted by the Romans as well. The Roman Emperors wanted people to say, “Caesar is lord” but Paul and the other Christians were declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul ended up being executed under Emperor Nero.

Paul had numerous opportunities to recant, but he never came close to doing so. His life was one that was under constant duress and distress and danger preciously because he refused to back down from his claim that Jesus was alive!

Paul isn’t alone. Millions of people around the globe have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many, like Paul, have been harassed for their faith and some even violently persecuted and martyred, and yet they so firmly believed that Jesus is alive that they were willing to go to their early grave with “Jesus is my Lord” still on their lips!

What about you? Have you met Jesus for yourself?

Check out this video where my friend Scott tells his personal story of how an encounter with Jesus has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

Join me next Sunday as we continue with our 5-part series I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of… where we will be looking at the letter “I.” You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. If you missed the previous lesson, check out “A” is for apologetics by clicking here.

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