Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Life-Changing Power In The Bible

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

The Life-Changing Power In The Bible

     When the Spirit came with His divine life and quickened the entire Book to my newly enlightened soul, the inner meaning shone forth with wondrous glory. … Whatever I found to be in His Word, I received with intense joy. … Moreover, I have found that those points of my character that were most weak have been strengthened, while strong passions have been subdued, evil propensities have been kept under, and new principles have been implanted. I am changed; I am as different from what I was as a man could be who had been annihilated and had then been made over again. Nor do I claim any of the credit for this change—far from it. God has done great things for me, but He has done the same for others and is willing to do it for any soul who seeks His face through Jesus Christ and His great atoning sacrifice. …  

     An idea has long possessed the public mind that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talk of infidels, atheists, and deists as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect, and to tremble for the Christian controversialist as if he must surely fall by the hand of his enemy. But this is purely a mistake, for the gospel is the sum of wisdom, an epitome of knowledge, a treasure house of truth, and a revelation of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be married; here we behold inexorable law entirely satisfied and sovereign love bearing away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind, and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it.

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

As Spurgeon experienced, all Christians can experience. Think about this—the same Holy Spirit that inspired the written words of the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in you that can illuminate and apply the words of the Bible to your life! 

Bible-reading, Spirit-empowered Christians should be the most informed, creative, wise people you will ever meet. Not because they have studied nature, but because they are getting to know Nature’s God intimately. The Creator can open up the mysteries of creation better than any scientist or philosopher. 

But we don’t read the Bible just to know God’s Word, but we read the Bible to get to know the God revealed in the Word. He said He would reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, your mind, your heart as you read your Bible. 

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. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 23

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.

Jeremiah 23

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 23.] 

     If the preaching of a servant of God does not make me brace myself up and watch my feet and my ways, one of two things is the reason—either the preacher is unreal, or I hate being better. At sometime or other all of us have had a detestation of being better. The rage produced by being faced with a life which in reality is better than our own, awakens either a desire to be like it, or else hatred without cause against that life. “They hated Me without a cause,” said Jesus. …  

     God makes His Word living by speaking it to you. There is a feeling of deep settled peace when the Holy Ghost brings a word, full of light and illumination, you know better than you can express, “The Lord said that to me.” …

     The Bible student must be careful to distinguish between the speculations of his own heart and the Word of God. … Be simple and obedient, and the Word of God will open to you as naturally as breathing. …  

     In reading God’s Word be careful of being guided by affinities instead of by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes us face facts for which we have no affinity. …

     Never ridicule the way in which people say God guides them; all you know is that God does not guide you like that, but never ridicule. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

In this chapter of Jeremiah, God is contrasting true and false prophets. In order for us to distinguish the true from the false today, we must be students of God’s Word ourselves. Don’t get God’s Word solely from a man’s or woman’s preaching (although that does have its place), but be a student of the Word for yourself. 

God wants to speak to you through His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the biblical authors wants to illuminate that Word to your specific life and situation. Get into the Word and let the Word get into you.  

11 Quotes From “Interpretation Of The Scriptures”

In my review of A.W. Pink’s book Interpretation Of The Scriptures, I noted that any student of the Bible will benefit from reading this exceptional book. The quotes I want to share today are for that universal audience, but I will also be sharing some additional quotes soon that are specifically aimed at those who are Bible teachers or pastors.

“God does not ask for blind credence from us, but an intelligent faith, and for that three things are indispensable: that His Word should be read (or heard), understood, and personally appropriated.”

“Moreover, the obscurity is not in them [the Scripture], but in the depravity of our nature which resists the holy requirements of God, and the pride of our hearts which disdains seeking enlightenment from Him.”

“It has pleased God to furnish His people with gifted instructors, and instead of haughtily ignoring them we ought (while testing their teaching—Acts 17:11) to accept thankfully whatever help they can afford us.”

“Methods of Bible study are only of relative importance; but the spirit in which it is studied is all-important. It calls for no argument to prove that a spiritual book calls for a spiritually minded reader. … Only where there is honesty of soul and spirituality of heart will there be clearness of vision to perceive the Truth; only then will the mind be capable of discerning the full import of what is read. … None but the Spirit of Truth can write God’s Law on my heart. Here, then, is the first and most essential qualification for understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, namely a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit.”

“That which conflicts with what is taught, plainly and uniformly, in the Scriptures as a whole, and which whole is set before us as the alone rule of our faith and obedience. This requires from the expositor not only a knowledge of the general sense of the Bible, but also that he takes the trouble to collect and compare all the passages which treat of or have a definite bearing upon the immediate point before him, so that he may obtain the full mind of the Spirit thereon. Having done that, any passage which is still obscure or doubtful to him must be interpreted by those which are clear. No doctrine is to be founded on a single passage.”

“By divorcing a verse from its setting or singling out a single clause, one may ‘prove’ not only absurdities but real falsities by the very words of Scripture.”

“The word for ‘search the Scriptures’ (John 5:39) signifies diligently to track out, as the hunter does the spoor of animals. The interpreter’s job is to bring out the sense and not merely the sound of the Word.”

“To a very large extent, and far more so than any uninspired book, the Bible is a self-explaining volume: not only because it records the performance of its promises and the fulfillment of its prophecies, not only because its types and antitypes mutually unfold each other, but because all its fundamental truths may be discovered by means of its own contents, without reference to anything extra or outside itself.”

“Assuredly God has not subordinated His Word to our reason for us to accept only what commends itself to our judgment. Nevertheless, He has furnished His people with this faculty, and though insufficient of itself it is a valuable aid in the understanding of Truth. While reason is not to be made the measurer of our belief, yet it is to be used as the handmaid of faith, by comparing passage with passage, deducing inferences and drawing consequences according to the legitimate laws of logic.”

“The concordance will stand [the Bible reader] in far better stead than the best dictionary.”

“There is a middle ground between hastily condemning or accepting, namely to weigh carefully and prayerfully what is presented, testing it by other passages and by our own experience.”

Handling Tough Texts

How do you handle a hard passage in the Bible? Peter wrote this about Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….” But if we don’t take the time to wrestle with that passage, Peter says this is what happens next: “…which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

So here’s a 5-step plan I use when I am working through a challenging passage of Scripture.

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you

All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), and the same Holy Spirit lives in a Christian (1 John 2:20). Think about that: the same Holy Spirit that inspired an author to write the words of Scripture is the same Spirit that will illuminate them to you!

  1. Read the difficult passage in context

We will make our task much easier when we “zoom out” from the difficult text and read the whole passage surrounding the difficult verse/phrase. Perhaps we need to “zoom out” even farther to understand why the whole chapter or book was written.

  1. Identify the parts that are clear

Start off by identifying the parts that you do understand, and then see what light that shines on the tricky text.

  1. Cross reference with other Scriptures

Never, ever, ever draw a conclusion from just one passage of Scripture. Paul reminded his audience that he used the “whole counsel of God’s Word” (Acts 20:27) in forming his sermons. If the challenging passage contains an Old Testament passage, look it up; if it references an historical event, read that history. I also like to use biblegateway.com’s excellent search feature to find cross references.

  1. Draw conclusions on what appears to be the main point

Only after you have done step #1-4 should you attempt to draw some conclusions. You will set yourself up for error if you draw a conclusion first, and then try to find other texts in the Bible that agree with you.

The Apostle Peter writes something rather challenging in his first letter. In fact, Martin Luther said this about 1 Peter 3:18-22: “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” If you would like to see how I walk through the 5-step plan on this “obscure passage,” please check out the video below.

3 Steps To Better Bible Studies

Inspired WordThe Bible is God’s inspired Word—literally, that means it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If the Holy Spirit inspired the Word to the biblical writers, He can best illuminate the same Word to you as you read and study it.

This is how Jesus said the Holy Spirit would help us handle God’s Word:

Teach (John 14:26a). This word means to teach by holding a discourse with someone (or in this case, with Someone). Reading the Bible is meant to be a dialogue, not a monologue.

Remind (John 14:26b). The Holy Spirit is actively involved in us recalling and applying the Word to the situations in which we find ourselves. The Bible tells us to study to be prepared (1 Peter 3:15) and to handle God’s Word like a good worker (2 Timothy 2:15). We are also told not to pre-plan what to say if we are put on the spot, but that words would be given us (Matthew 10:19) as the Holy Spirit recalls to our memory which we have studied.

Convict (John 16:8). This word means both to refute and to confute. Confute simply means proving something is wrong. Refute means to show us we’ve reached a false or illogical conclusion, perhaps a conclusion we reached without giving it very much thought.

Guide (John 16:13). We get a good idea of the meaning of this word from the negative use of the same word—Can a blind man lead [the same word for “guide” in John 16:13] a blind man? Will they not both fall in a pit? (Luke 6:39). We can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us to the truth in the Scriptures that we can apply to our lives.

Quite simply better Bible studies come from:

  1. Praying for the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture to you as your read it.
  2. Reading the Bible.
  3. Obeying what the Holy Spirit illuminates to your heart and mind.

Try it and see what happens. I think you’ll like the results!

Links & Quotes

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Some readable reading from today.

I find the science driving “global warming” or “climate change” to be more philosophy than science. A new report notes, “Even if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gas emissions entirely, we would not moderate the Earth’s temperature more than a few tenths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century.” Read more in this post: Obama Hasn’t Healed The Planet.

I love the Bible Overview Project. Here is a cool infographic on the least popular book of the Bible.

“How could it [the Bible], assailed so strongly from every side, have resisted if it had relied upon human protection alone? Rather, by this very fact it is proved to be from God, because, with all human efforts striving against it, still it has of its own power thus far prevailed. Besides this, it is not one state, not one people, that has agreed to receive and embrace it; but, as far and as wide as the earth extends, it has obtained its authority by the holy concord of divers peoples, who otherwise had nothing in common among themselves. Such agreement of minds, so disparate and otherwise disagreeing in everything among themselves, ought to move us greatly, since it is clear that this agreement is brought about by nothing else than the divine will.” —John Calvin

I don’t agree with everything in this post ‘The Idol Of Church Growth,’ but I definitely agree with this statement: “The question churches should be asking is not ‘How do we grow our church?’ but ‘How do we grow His kingdom?’ Sadly, those interests are often kingdoms apart.” 

Ask to summarize his theology, Karl Barth said, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

“There must be illumination before revelation can get to a person’s soul. It is not enough that I hold an inspired Book in my hands. I must have an inspired heart.” —A.W. Tozer

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