Yesterday, I got to teach the kids class at church, and the section we were in was Mark 11:25–26 where Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiving others. Below are some of the main points and ideas from this passage.
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.Mark 11:25–26
It’s no surprise that this passage on forgiveness ends the story of Jesus calling people in the temple out on having the appearance of godliness, but having no fruit or substance of a relationship with God.
Jesus finishes this section with a reminder of what the fruit of godliness looks like. It’s not just outward actions, but inward heart change.
Specifically, Jesus tells us that a true disciple of His will forgive others.
Simply put, people who are forgiven by God will, in turn, forgive others.
The Importance (And Necessity Of) Forgiving Others
Jesus pulls no punches in this verse. He starts out by saying that forgiving others is so important that you should even pause your prayer to do so.
And then He goes as far to say that “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.“
But what does He mean by that?
We see throughout scripture that God was the first to act on our need for forgiveness and salvation, and that He did so in spite of all we did and who we once were…
God saved us when we were still enemies of God (Romans 5:10)
We only love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)
None of us were even seeking God to begin with (Romans 3:11)
So, what does it mean that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others?
To answer that, it’s best to look at another parable from Jesus in Matthew 18:21-35.
Here’s the general story…
A man owed a VERY great debt and his lender forgave him of that debt.Read the full story in Matthew 18:21-35
Shortly after, this man refuses to forgive someone else’s much smaller debt and threatens him with his life.
The previous lender finds out how cruelly this man treated the other and renounces his forgiven debt as a consequence for treating the other man so poorly.
What we learn from this parable is that God takes our life change very seriously. We are not saved by our works, but God’s grace and forgiveness is purposed to bring about a heart change.
God’s plan is to save us from the punishment for our sins (Romans 6:23), to give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), to fill us with new motives (1 Corinthians 10:31), and new empowerment (2 Timothy 1:7) to live a new life that He has called us to (Titus 2:11–14).
And, this new life is not an option. It flows supernaturally from our forgiveness.
Which leads us back to the question:
Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Does God forgive us because we forgive others? Or do we forgive others because God forgives us?
What we can learn from Jesus’ parable and the rest of scripture, is that God forgives us and empowers us to forgive others.
But, if we are not actively trying and asking God to help us to forgive others… then, how can we possibly say we’ve been forgiven by God and love Him? (1 John 4:20)
Or, to put it another way:
Forgiving others is a sign that we’ve been forgiven by God.
And a lack of forgiveness towards others is a sign that we have not experienced God’s forgiveness.
(Also, check out Luke 7:36–50 for a real life version of the parable described above).
Forgiveness vs Reconciliation
Forgiveness is always possible,
But reconciliation is not.
It’s important to note that Jesus calls us to forgive others, but that doesn’t mean things will always work out.
Simply looking at Jesus’ life will tell us that we won’t be on good terms with everyone, but we can still forgive everyone.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18 that we are to “live peaceably with all” but only “so far as it depends on you” recognizing that sometimes the issues we have with others are simply on their end and there is nothing we can do about it.
This doesn’t give us freedom to ever write someone off as a lost cause, as we are called to love generously and especially those who hate us, but we also shouldn’t bear the weight of a two-way relationship all on ourselves.
We can forgive others and still not receive reconciliation between ourselves and the other person, if they refuse.
Empowered To Forgive
Although we talk about our empowerment coming from God, we often constrain ourselves to only self-help methods and motivational talks which is the exact opposite of “empowered by God”.
And, as a side note, not only does self-help and self motivation only last temporarily, but God also tells us that nothing we do can be pleasing to Him without our actions coming out of our of faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6). If our motivation is one of self attainment and simply doing better, we’ve completely missed the point.
In regards to forgiveness, I’ve heard people encouraged to think about how much God loves the person you ought to forgive and that if God can forgive them, then so should you.
But this is nothing more than hype and motivational talk (and also not found in scripture).
Of course God loves them, He’s perfect!
But how does that help me to love them?
Here’s what the Bible tells us to do:
Instead of focusing on the people you ought to forgive,
You need to focus on the God who has forgiven you.
Scripture tells us that our forgiveness doesn’t come from seeing God forgive others, but as an overflow of God forgiving us, as we talked about above.
But there’s one more piece.
And that’s God’s Spirit.
When God forgives us, He doesn’t simply wipe our slate clean and then tell us to try harder.
God gives us His Spirit to teach us (John 14:26), help us (John 14:26), encourage us (Acts9.31) and empower us to follow Jesus (2 Timothy 1:7).
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to all believers, when we are saved. And it is through Him that we become more like Jesus – including our growth in forgiving others (Acts 2:38).
There’s no better application than this:
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Do it now.
Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness from?
Because Jesus said pretty much the same thing about that (Matthew 5:23–24)
Go ask for forgiveness.
Do your best to bring reconciliation, as much as it depends on you.
Love others like Jesus.
If you’re interested in more on this topic, below are links to my series on the fruits of the Holy Spirit:
We Need God’s Spirit to Bear the Fruit of the Spirit
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Love
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Joy
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Peace
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Patience
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Kindness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Goodness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Faithfulness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Gentleness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Self-Control
You may have heard the saying: “If a person is breathing, he needs encouragement,” and that can’t be more true.
If you Google “words of encouragement”, you’ll find dozens of websites that offer encouraging words and shareable quotes… but the reality is that most of the encouraging words you’ll find (and what most of what we say to encourage others) are simply skin-deep phrases that give empty hope.
They can be encouraging for a moment, but they don’t last, because they are built on emotions and ideas that easily come and go.
Even the ones that promise more are nothing more than hopeful thoughts because they come from someone who cannot give you more than simply wishing the best for you; they can’t actually do anything about it.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to encourage people by saying “it’s ok, things will turn around” but think about what we’re saying: what if it doesn’t “turn around”?
We live in the present, and none of us can foresee the future.
So, what can bring us a permanent and solid foundation for encouragement?
Or better asked: Who can do this?
The simple answer is: God.
The One Who created everything (Genesis 1:1),
Who breathed stars into existence (Psalm 33:6),
Who holds our very breath in our hands (Job 12:10),
And Who loves us more than we can imagine.
God has the ability to give true encouragement.
So, if you are looking for something to keep your head up,
To get you through a difficult time
To have something in your back pocket (because difficult times will come)
Or you simply want to have encouraging words ready for others…
The Bible is full of truths that we are called to rest in and so there are many more, but here’s just a few of my favorites for you to reflect on.
I’ve broken them into a couple sections based on topic.
God Has A Plan
Sometimes, it’s simply comforting enough to know that none of this is random, but that God (Who loves you very much) sees the pain you’re going through, can relate to it, and has a plan in mind.
This first verse is one of my favorites because it spells out the two most important things:
- Our plans, thoughts, and ideas are different from God’s
- God’s plan is better (just in case we thought our, different plan was better)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8–9
Your Suffering Isn’t Wasted, God Will Use It
Difficult times and suffering are hard enough, but suffering without a worthwhile purpose or result is even worse.
Think about it this way: If you saved a child from being run over by a car, but you broke your arm in the process, most of us would say it’s worth it. But if you suddenly woke up one day with a broken arm, that would be much harder to deal with. It’s the same pain and inconvenience, but one of them felt worth it.
In the same way, when we suffer in life, God tells us that everything we go through will be worth it in the end. We don’t see how now, but He tells us to trust Him, and that in the light of eternity we will see Him use everything we suffered as part of a worthwhile plan…
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”James 1:2–4
“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”2 Corinthians 1:6
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”2 Corinthians 4:17
Don’t Give Up, Keep Trusting God
The most important thing is to simply keep going. Emotions and feelings will come and go and discouraging times are temporary. As the saying goes, “Don’t trade what you know about God for what you don’t know about what He’s doing.” Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. I’ve personally been through some extremely discouraging times but have seen the worthwhile result of continuing to do what I know is right even when that’s the last thing I want to do.
This first verse was actually sent to us by 2 different people in the same day during a time when my wife and I were going through a very difficult season in our lives (thankfully, not difficult towards each-other, but outside factors) and so it has remained particularly encouraging to me and I hope it is to you as well.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”Galatians 6:9
These next verses form one of my favorite passages of scripture to look to when I need encouragement. It is such a beautifully sounding verse and so inspiring, but when you look at the situation he’s describing, it’s terrible.
Habakkuk is painting a picture of starvation and hopelessness. There is no food for today (no “fruit on the vines”), there is no harvest on the horizon (fig trees would blossom before producing their fruit), and there’s not any hope of new animals being born for food either (no herds in the stalls and the flocks are gone).
Yet, in this “it’s bad, and there’s no chance it will get better” situation, Habakkuk finds it possible to trust God and even find joy in Him. And so can we.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”Habakkuk 3:17–19
God Wants You To Go To Him With Your Problems
This one is most important. We can believe everything correctly, but we can still miss the most important part: God Himself. He wants a relationship with you and you can know everything I’ve written above without ever going to Him or talking to Him about your situation. He is the “God of all comfort” and wants you to come to Him with all your problems.
He might not fix everything going on, but He wants you to go to Him for comfort, strength and provision in the mist of every difficultly and problem in life. He is the Giver of all life and can sustain you even in difficult times.
But you can’t simply know that to receive His grace,
You have to go to Him to receive it.
And He’s waiting for you to do just that.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”Isaiah 26:3
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”Isaiah 40:31
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:6–7
May you rest in God and go to Him in the good times and the bad, so that we might live like the “man who trusts in the Lord” that Jeremiah described:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17:7–8
A couple weeks ago, I got to teach the older kids class at our church, and as you might guess, our text was Mark 10:17–27 about the Rich Young Ruler. I thought I’d share it with you, so below I’ve put the highlights from our study that we had together…
What must I do?
And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Mark 10:17
It’s pretty obvious that the Rich Young Ruler wants to get to heaven on his own merit. Even his question “what must I do” implies he wants a task to accomplish.
And, he’s not alone, we all like the idea of earning things, and wanting to earn our way to heaven is no exception.
But there’s a major problem: none of us are perfect (Romans 3:23).
And as the young man is going to find out, he can’t get enteral life on his own…
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ”
And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.Mark 10:18–22
As we read what Jesus tells him, we realize that was Jesus is telling the young man is that he must be perfect to attain eternal life. Jesus begins by reminding him of a few of the 10 commandments listing the standard given by God for perfection.
The young man tells Jesus that he has kept all of the outward commandments and so Jesus then proceeds to remind him of the inward ones.
Notice that Jesus says “You lack one thing”. He goes from the general laws to the specific issue that this man faces.
And here’s why: Money had become this young man’s functional god. He had broken the first commandment: “you shall have no other gods before me”.
In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, his love of money was at least one of the many things that kept him from God’s perfection (and let’s be honest, how many of us would be willing to give up everything we have if Jesus told us to).
But Money Isn’t Even the Real Issue
Jesus never asks anyone else in scripture to completely give up their money (even more on that later). And because of that, we can infer that He was trying to make a point: We can’t earn our way to heaven because we’re all imperfect.
Jesus chose the thing that He knew the man would not give up, and we all have those things, don’t we? We all hold imperfections in our character and hearts that keep us from the perfection that eternal life with God requires.
In fact, money is simply a tangible asset that enables us to hold on to things as our functional savior instead of surrendering to God.
Here’s a few examples of things that money can “give” us so that we hold onto money instead of holding onto God…
The list goes on…
Obviously, money cannot provide any of these things perfectly (that’s kind of the point), but they can become false substitutes for what only God can give us.
We don’t know what the Rich Young Ruler struggled with most, but it’s no denying that money can take on many different roles in our lives and it can easily keep us from having God be our only and first love.
So, What Did Jesus Really Want From The Young Man?
Ultimately, God doesn’t care about our money, possessions or skills. We are imperfect sinners and so the best we can offer is still tainted with sin.
Jesus wanted him to humbly surrender.
He wanted the young man to stop
To realize he couldn’t measure up to God’s perfection
And for him to accept God’s grace.
The young man was created to enjoy a complete and whole relationship with God and to live in a way that reflected God as a result.
Unfortunately, his (and our) sin gets in the way and we become disconnected from God, Who is the Giver of life. And we cannot be reconnected to Him without becoming perfect.
In this passage, Jesus is essentially telling the Rich Young Ruler that he needs to be perfect to “inherit eternal life”. And so Jesus points out an area of imperfection in his life and says it has to be corrected in order for him to earn his way to heaven, all the while knowing that it would be too much for the man to do.
Unfortunately, it’s not even that simple.
In order to earn our relationship back with God, we must be perfect our entire lives: so even if you “clean up” now, it’s already too late!
What Jesus really wanted from this conversation was for the Rich Young Ruler to realize he wasn’t good enough to inherit eternal life and that what he really needed a Savior, just like everyone else.
“Then Who Can Be Saved?”
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”Mark 10:23-26
After the Rich Young Ruler determines he cannot go to heaven on his own merit, he walks away sorrowful.
Have you ever considered this problem before?
God’s requirement is perfection, and there is no way that you or I are meeting that.
For many of us, just like him, this is the end of the story.
If only he had stayed a little longer.
Because after he left, Jesus told His disciples that it is extremely difficult for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of heaven. And He then follows it up with comparing it to a camel going through the eye of a needle (which is not going to happen).
Their response is what we should all ask: “then who can be saved?”
And that is a very good question.
**Please note that when Jesus said it’s difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, He is not saying that it’s wrong to be rich. What I believe Jesus was getting at is that when you are rich, you are all the more able to hide behind and hold onto the things in your heart that separate you from relying on God. It’s simply harder to choose to surrender and trust God as first in your life when you have such a tangible ability to “trust in yourself” for all of life’s needs and problems. Jesus is merely saying that it is a natural roadblock to salvation, not that it is wrong to be rich.**
What Jesus Offers Us (And The Rich Young Ruler)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27
If only the young man had stuck around.
He had finally come to the end of himself.
He had finally realized that he could not earn eternal life.
He had tried his hardest,
And when he realized that wasn’t good enough,
He figured that was the end of it.
(After all, he was rich and probably didn’t ask for help often)
But he had forgotten about the only One Who could really help.
He Had Forgotten About God.
The Rich Young Ruler, unfortunately, left before Jesus had a chance to remind Him that God’s grace is an option for Him to inherit eternal life.
What’s a little ironic, is that the Rich Young Ruler wanted to know what he could do to “inherit eternal life” when an inheritance is far from earned.
To inherit eternal life, you merely have to become an heir. In this case, an heir of God.
And we once were heirs,
Until sin entered the world and our hearts.
From then on out we were separated from God,
And removed from His inheritance.
There is nothing we can do,
as the Rich Young Ruler found out.
We can’t offer God a complete and perfect heart and life.
But what the Rich Young Ruler missed was this:
There was something God could, and would, do.
To give us the inheritance we could not earn ourselves.
And He was standing right in front of him.
As part of His Salvation plan,
Jesus would take His rightful inheritance,
And would trade it for our lack of inheritance.
The Rich Young Ruler (and all of us as well) wanted to earn his way, but as Paul wrote in Romans “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And that’s not a good wage.
But in that same verse we learn that “the grace of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
You want to earn eternal life?
Sorry, that ship has sailed.
That’s not going to happen.
But are you willing to receive it?
Are you willing to accept God’s free gift through His Son?
That Jesus paid your price,
That Jesus accepted the wages for your sin,
And that Jesus gave you His rightful inheritance?
Then you can receive, you can inherit, eternal life.
What Happens If We Receive This Free Gift?
If you accept Jesus’ free gift of life, there’s a few things that happen.
- He gives His Spirit to be inside of you (and every receiver), to be with you, and to transform you to be more like Him. Remember, we were created to worship God, be in relationship with Him, and reflect Him in our lives. By receiving Jesus’ free gift of eternal life, your eternal life starts now. Instead of waiting for eternity, God wants to start now. He wants you to be close to Him, now.
- As you continue to rely on His grace for your inheritance, and on His Spirit for your daily life, you will supernaturally become more like Him. These changes will take place in personal inward thoughts and desires, and also in your outward actions and words. This is a continuation of the first part as mentioned earlier that our relationship and closeness to God is what continues to transform us to be more like Him.
And there is no better example for this story than the rich man who was saved shortly after this passage.
In Luke 19:1-10, we meet Zacchaeus who is not only a rich person, but clearly an unethical one as he was a chief tax collector. To spare you the details, he essentially gets saved and tells Jesus he’s going to repay everyone back what he has stolen from them and essentially obey the Hebrew law that God put in place.
He’s not giving away all his wealth. He’ll actually probably still be fairly wealthy when he’s done.
Yet he is saved, while the other wasn’t.
It’s because his salvation didn’t come from his work,
It came from receiving Jesus’ grace.
Zacchaeus received Jesus’ message of repentance and forgiveness and was transformed because of it.
Is he perfect?
But he was saved, has been given eternal life and now is being transformed by God from the inside out.
Did he give away all he had?
But he joyfully gave back what he had stolen, and I am sure that if he remained in Jesus’ grace and love, he continued to joyfully give, love and surrender in many areas of life, including his finances.
The Difference Between The Two Rich Men
In these passages we saw two rich men.
The first wanted to earn his eternal life.
The second realized it was a free gift.
The first desired to earn an inheritance by being perfect himself.
The second was given an inheritance through Jesus’ perfection.
The first could not be perfect and walked away to continue earning his wage of death.
The second received eternal life and began living a generous and love filled life that reflected the great gift he had been given.
The first left feeling like his life was probably over.
The second left feeling like his life was just beginning.
Which do you feel like today?
Which do you want to be like?
The Prayer Of Salvation
To close this post, I wanted to remind you of another rich man who found eternal life in one of Jesus’ parables. In the chapter previous in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells of a tax collector who went to the temple to pray and left righteous. Here is all he prayed:
“…the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’Luke 18:13
Do you have that same prayer of repentance and humility?
Do you hold to that same mercy that God offers us through Jesus?
It’s your only way to eternal life.
If you already know Jesus, then reflect back on His grace and come back to those first joys of salvation. We all tend to drift away from that feeling and mindset, and it is important to draw near again.
If you don’t already know Jesus, please contact me with any questions you have about what it means to be forgiven for sins, have enteral life, and to know and follow Jesus.
Last week, we covered the attitude we need to have when approaching the Bible to study it. If you haven’t read that yet, I encourage you to at THIS LINK.
Now that we’ve prepared our hearts to receive from God’s Word, we’re going to cover the simple three step process and tools for you to study the Bible with.
All good study begins with observation. This takes the form of noticing key characters, events, locations, etc.
Sometimes this means looking at a book of the Bible as a whole to know more about the context, such as who was the author and who was the original reader, but oftentimes we can gain enough to understand a passage by reading a few verses beforehand and a few after in order to see what the author was trying to communicate.
Remember that the original writing wasn’t broken up by chapters and verses (except for the Psalms and some of Proverbs) and so consider reading a previous chapter to gain more context. By observing, we can learn the context for something that was said or done.
One helpful tip for this section is to use the 5 W’s and an H.
Look at the text and ask yourself, who is this about, what is happening, when is this happening, where did it take place and how is it happening or how is God working in this situation, etc.
But save the last “w" (why) for the next section…
Observing words and actions without interpretation is meaningless.
After observing the passage, we are confronted with a big "so what?”
What truth is God communicating to us through this passage?
Why is this important or valuable?
And the primary way we can learn to interpret scripture well is through other verses in the Bible.
Imagine that someone wrote a very detailed explanation of the reason for life and how to live it well.
That book would be riddled with references to other sections within the same book to help gain clarity and context without rewriting all of the same content.
Now imagine that book was written thousands of years ago in another language and culture and has now been brought to your native language but has kept all of it’s cultural references.
That would be very much like the Bible we have today.
So, what do we do with all of these internal references and explanations and having cultural references that are not our own?
A big piece of interpretation is bridging the gap between how the original readers would understand a passage and how our western and modern eyes read it.
This gap, thankfully, is something we can learn to adjust to, and as we learn more scripture, it become increasingly easier.
To start, however, there are many resources at our disposal. We have many specific books, podcasts, and online helps listed on my “Bible Study Resources Page”, but here are a few ideas:
Sermons – Many great pastors have broken down parts of the Bible and explained interpretation for any of us to be able to listen to at our leisure online.
Verse References – Many Bibles include verse references to show passages that relate to the passage you’re reading. Not every verse will seem applicable, but many have obvious connections that help bring understanding to the meaning of the passage. Blue Letter Bible in particular has a great section for each verse in the Bible called their "treasury of scripture" feature that lists related verses.
Concordances – Similar to verse references, concordances show each place a specific word is used. Keep in mind that because the Bible was originally written in different languages, we are reading translated versions which means that sometimes you could look up a word and have it point to sections that use other words, but they were the same word in the original language. This also helps bring clarity to the meaning the purpose of a passage of scripture. The Strongs and Vines concordances are the most common, and both can be found for free on Blue Letter Bible as well.
Commentaries – Much like sermons, commentaries break down sections of scripture and normally are more in depth and focused on simply interpretation rather than application (depending on the commentary). I personally use many commentaries, but I think the Warren Wiersbe Commentaries set listed on my RESOURCES PAGE is one of the most helpful if you only have time for one. As another great suggestion, and my wife’s favorite, is by David Guzik which can be found on Blue Letter Bible for free.
After we interpret the meaning of a passage, we are left with a complete waste of time unless we apply the passage to our lives.
This means that we need to connect the information we’ve received to a direct and practical response that can be lived out in our own lives.
I, like many others, believe that there is only one interpretation of scripture, but that there can be many applications.
For example, let’s take 1 Timothy 1:15 which states that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst."
The interpretation, of this passage is that Jesus came into the world as our Savior with the purpose of saving everyone and anyone is is willing to receive His salvation.
Furthermore, we recognize that all sin is extremely devastating to our relationship with God and therefore we cannot judge others as worse than ourselves in order to gain a status above them or become judgmental on them, as demonstrated by Paul in this passage.
- One application we could take is to remember how much we personally need the grace of God, and that we are never too far from God for His grace to save, redeem, and transform us. So we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to forgive us for sins and to transform us to be more like Him.
- A second way we could apply this passage is to focus on the part where it reminds us that Christ Jesus came to save sinners. This was His whole purpose, and He has called us to share this Gospel. Not only is it our calling to share Jesus’ grace with others, but the latter part of the verse reminds us that He can save anyone, and because of that we are to take any opportunity we are given to share His Gospel.
These are just two ways we could apply this passage, but notice that we never deviated from the basic interpretation of the message. Its truth remained the same wherever we applied it.
Similar to a bandage that can be applied to any part of the body, God’s Word is meant to be applied in many areas of our lives.
To conclude these big ideas, I want to leave you with an analogy from everyday life that will hopefully take away some of the intimidation of studying the Bible.
Imagine you’re in your kitchen and you notice that the light on your dishwasher is on (OBSERVATION).
Because the light is on, you’re aware that the dishwasher is currently running (INTERPRETATION)
And since the dishwasher is running, you decide to put the dish in the sink rather than inside the dishwasher, since then you’d end up with water all over your floor (APPLICATION).
That example may seem simplistic, but that’s really all that is happening when we read the Bible.
Yes, you may need to look at the dishwasher’s manual in order to understand what that light means just as we go to commentaries and other parts of scripture, but the concept is still the same.
I hope this has helped diffuse any fear of reading the Bible that you may have, and that it has equipped you to study it better.
Please remember that no matter what the cost of understanding the Bible, this is the most important and valuable thing you will ever do.
Without studying and submitting to God’s Word, we cannot hope to see God Himself and have a transformed life with Him. When we study and apply God’s Word well, we can say, like the Psalmist:
"I rejoice at Your Word like one who finds great spoil.” Psalm 119:162
The Bible is much more than just a book.
Even more than a compilation of 66 books.
The Bible has been described as "God lowering Himself to the status of an author," and since He has, we should read and respond to it as though it must be the most valuable piece ever written.
But where do we start?
How do we begin reading the Bible?
People attend seminaries and various schools and study the Bible for their entire life, while still claiming there’s more to learn – and I believe them. If God truly wrote a book, I’d expect it’s entire depth and teaching to be beyond anything I could grasp in my lifetime.
At the same time, the Bible is simple enough for any of us to gain all that we need to have a full and vibrant life and relationship God.
It’s been said that the Bible is shallow enough for the youngest child to splash in its water, yet deep enough for the most studious scholar to never reach its bottom. It is this Word that we have the pleasure, benefit, and duty to ready, study, and apply.
Because of the depth of God’s Word, we can’t go into all aspects of studying it, but I think part of the problem most people face is that they let the depth of the Bible paralyze them from gleaning anything. If this describes you, I want to help you.
The simple inductive Bible method we’ll go over is:
We’re going to look at this three step process next week, in a way that will help us study any passage of scripture, but before we do, there’s an attitude and approach to reading God’s Word that we need to clarify:
1. The purpose of studying the Bible is to know Jesus better
Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39, “you study the scriptures, for in them you think you have life, but it is they that speak of Me.”
Jesus was telling the Bible scholars of His day that they missed the entire point of the scriptures they devoted their lives to studying. They had studied the Bible in hopes that they could be saved because of their religious activity, while God’s purpose in His Word is for us to find our salvation in a life-giving and life-changing relationship with Jesus.
Whenever we read the Bible simply as a self-help book or tips to a better life, we miss the entire point of drawing nearer to Jesus.
2. This is a supernatural endeavor
I don’t mean to say that studying the Bible is not also a scholarly endeavor, it is actually both.
However, I think too often we try to boil down the Bible to merely a really amazing piece of writing and not the actual Word of God which requires our spiritual eyes to be open and not merely our physical ones.
In order to truly understand and apply God’s Word to our lives, we need to come before God humbly, knowing that only He can teach us spiritual things and give us life. I encourage everyone to begin their time in God’s Word with prayer, asking Him to speak to them and work in their lives through His Word.
3. Are we the teacher, or God?
I know this seems silly to even say, but so often we can come to God’s Word with our own agenda and want God to simply enforce our current beliefs.
If there are never truths in God’s Word that require you to change your belief or submit to it even though you naturally disagree, then you are not letting God be your teacher, but you are instead trying to read your predetermined beliefs into the Bible.
As one pastor recalled, when someone had asked him what he should do if he disagreed with something the Bible said, the pastor told the man, “Then you must be wrong, and you should change your belief.”
Sometimes we try to be God’s teacher rather than letting God teach us. If you come to the Bible with this perspective, you will not receive from the Bible what God would desire you to have.
4. None of this matters if we don’t apply it
Although the third step in this inductive Bible method (Application) is simply applying what we read in scripture, it’s important to come to God’s Word with a desire to have change in our hearts and lives.
The book of James warns us that we can become hard to the Word and that our faith is not true faith if it doesn’t affect our lives (James 1:22-25). We should always be on guard of hearing God’s truth and not acting on it because as we begin that cycle it becomes easier and easier to not obey and follow Jesus.
It’s only after we have prepared our heart and mind for God’s Word that we are ready to study the Bible. Next week, we’ll cover some different tools and methods you can use to study the Bible for yourself.
Since we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday, I wanted to write some encouragement to the fathers in my life as well as anyone who has struggled with the “father figure” in their life.
If you missed (or would like a refresher) on what I wrote for Mother’s Day, I’m going to be be building off of that same foundation. You can check out my post on that at this link: Mothers: Reflecting God’s Image.
Mother’s Day Recap
God Is Seen In Every Person And Position and it is important to realize that God is revealing different parts of His character and giving us different ways to relate to Him when He compares Himself to a king, a mother, a shepherd, or even a father.
Unfortunately, We (As Examples Of God) Are Broken And Imperfect and that means that regardless of how “good” of an example we have in those ways, we do not know of a single perfect example besides God Himself – and this includes the father’s we’ve known.
Regardless of the Examples We’ve Seen (Good or Bad), God Desires All Of Them to Point to Him and His Perfection, which brings us to the context of Father’s Day.
(again, you can check out my Mothers: Reflecting God’s Image post for more details on the above points).
Fatherhood Displayed In Today’s Culture
Out of all the analogies the Bible uses to explain God’s relationship to us, God as our “Heavenly Father” is one of the most common, and I believe holds a special place in the Bible.
We read that even Jesus Himself taught us to relate to God as “our Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9) which can be difficult for many of us to understand and appreciate in today’s culture.
Unfortunately, fathers have become the ridicule of movies, TV shows, and general storytelling. Fathers are generally shown to be absent, overly harsh, or completely incompetent – and these descriptions sadly represent what many have personally experienced.
Because of these poor examples, we have become completely ignorant of what a “God Who is our Father” is like – and what our own fathers ought to be like.
Our Heavenly (And Perfect) Father
Whether you are a father, or want to be able to see God’s Fatherhood in your life more clearly, the Bible is always the best place to go. Below is a small list of attributes that tells us how God displays His Fatherhood in our lives.
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” – Psalm 68:5
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” – Psalm 103:13
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11–12
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:7–11
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’” – Hebrews 12:5–6
God is our perfect Father…
The Standard For Fatherhood Has Been Set (And Unmet)
As a father of two, I can tell you that I fall short of God’s fatherly perfection, as described above, on a daily basis.
And if you too look at the list above and feel completely lacking or insufficient, that’s completely normal and even good. When comparing ourselves to God, we should see areas we lack and come up short.
But it shouldn’t leave us there.
The Bible continually tells us to strive for perfection, to be Holy as God is Holy and to live up to the standards we were created to be like… But we simply can’t on our own.
As Paul explains in the book of Romans, the law (the revealing of God’s standard of perfection) was NOT created so we could pull ourselves up to God’s level: to try harder and do better. No, God’s perfect standard was revealed to show us our imperfection and that we need Him.
So, where does that leave us?
Well, if you recognize your lack, it should point you to God, to ask for His help.
The Redeemer Of Imperfections
I don’t want anyone reading this to reflect on their imperfections and to feel like they’ve done, or experienced, irreversible damage.
Fortunately, God offers grace to cover all of our shortcomings: including in fatherhood.
We have all seen kids grow up incredibly well in spite of poor father figures and this should bring us comfort knowing that God can redeem any failings we have. Whether as the father, or as the child: God is our heavenly Father who brings beauty from ashes.
I hope that seeing God’s perfection in Fatherhood would serve you as a reminder that since we have imperfections, we ought to seek God for Him to make us into fathers more like Himself and to provide grace in our shortcomings.
The Ultimate Goal of Fatherhood (And Their Children)
Regardless of how well you parent or experienced parenting, there is certainly one thing that cannot be missed:
None of it has any eternal value without Jesus.
As a father, I know I have (and will) mess up.
Sometimes in small ways, other times in big ways.
But I also know my goal as a parent:
That, even in my imperfections
In my struggles
In my repentance
In my words
In my prayers
In my actions
In my life
That I would point my kids to Jesus and pray they follow Him as well.
And that is successful fatherhood.
Representing the loving God to your children
But making it clear to them at the same time:
There is a Father Who is their truest and ultimate Father.
That, just as the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was a shadow and picture of Jesus Who is our perfect Savior,
I want my fathering to them to be a shadow and picture of God who is their perfect Father.
That I am their father on earth
But God is their Father in heaven.
I am their father temporarily
But God is their Father for eternity.
That even in my imperfections
They can look to their Heavenly Father Who is perfect.
Everything else is good.
To teach them how to live wisely, act kindly, work hard and enjoy life:
But to teach them Who God is and His love for them surpasses all those other things.
What To Do Now
Whether you have experienced a godly example for a father
Or if you have even been one yourself,
We all can learn from our fathers.
But we can all take away that they are examples, guides, and shadows pointing to our heavenly Father Who is perfect.
So, celebrate Father’s Day.
For fathers, enjoy getting to be such an important example of God in your children’s lives,
And be comforted in your shortcomings knowing that we are all imperfect, and rejoice knowing your (and your child’s) heavenly Father is truly perfect.
And for children (kids and adults) on this special day, take some time to enjoy your father,
Thanking God for every part of them,
And for giving a role in your life that was made to point you to God.