As a believer in Jesus we never got to teach it. It is an immense responsibility and a high calling. And the question for any teacher—and I class myself among them, any of us as teachers—put our heads on the pillow at night, and we ask the question, Are my students learning anything? And each of us who teach us will be judged first not by the effectiveness of our teaching, but we will be judged for the motives of our teaching.
You learning anything? Correcting, teaching, rebuking. Rebuking. Oh, some people don't like the verb rebuking, do they?
But rebuking is important, isn't it? I've been with a lot of dogs this week. It just so happens, walking in the street, I met a Pyrenean mountain dog that weighed 165 pounds and was very lovely-looking, but I wouldn't like to bump into it on a dark night.
I met a number of dogs during the week, and one or two of them were just hopeless things, hopeless creatures. And I don't feel badly—I feel no animosity towards the dog. I'd like to shake the owner by the neck.
What is this jumping creature doing here? Rebuke the thing. Rebuke him.
Or live with the implications of the absence of rebuke. Standing like a clown in the middle of the street while this thing goes all over the place, and your Starbucks coffee goes everywhere, and the dog's slavering all over everything at all. You think that looks good? And what's the problem?
The same problem that produces the two-year-old tyrannizing the grocery store, riding in the chariot. I want one of those! I want two of those! I want out of here!
I'll give you something. See, we live in a culture where, in the teaching deal, everything is so bent towards positive reinforcement and affirmation that the notion of rebuke is regarded immediately as some intrusion into a person's life and is viewed almost immediately negatively. But in point of fact, it is vital in the teaching task to point out what is true, and also to point out what is not true—to refute what is wrong and to rebuke what is wrong so that people may then, in embracing truth, turn away from error. You have it in 1 Thessalonians 1, where Paul is able to commend the church in Thessalonica, because it says, You are commended amongst the communities because you turned away from idols to serve the living God. In other words, there was the turning from, because there was the turning to. There was the positive discovery of who Jesus was.
There was the rebuking of everything that went against that. Now, this morning, in the Murray-McShane readings—and I hope many of you use the McShane readings through the year, I know that many of you do, it's just a plug, as I'm going past, since we're talking about the Bible. Some of you have read through in a year, some of you, like me, it takes about two years to achieve it, because of how many times I failed, but anyway, I get through in the end. And today, some of you read 1 Kings chapter 22. And you will agree with me now how the Bible ties in when our hearts and minds are open to it.
I can't go through it. It's got tons of verses, fifty or sixty verses. But the kings of Judah and Israel are coming together to decide whether they should engage in a battle. And so they bring together the prophets. And the prophets, some four hundred men, are asked the question, Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?
The answer is, Let's go for it. Jehoshaphat says, You know, I wonder whether this is just right. He says, Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of? So we've got all these prophets telling him what to do. Isn't there a prophet of the LORD?
Interesting distinction, isn't it? It's because somebody calls themselves a prophet doesn't make them a prophet. The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he never prophesized anything good about me, but all was bad.
He is Micaiah, the son of Imlah. And you could go home and read 1 Kings 22, instead of The Plain Dealer, and you will discover the amazing unfolding of the story, which has to do with the necessity of rebuke. Four hundred fellows said, Yes, yes, yes.
One guy, in the most unpopular position, said, Mm-mm. And that, of course, was the task given to Micaiah, the prophet of God. Now, if it addresses what we're believing, it also addresses how we're behaving, doesn't it? And you will notice how it goes from the positive to the negative, correcting and rebuking, and then he goes from the negative to the positive.
It's not particularly important, but I thought I'd point it out. Correcting and training in righteousness. The word here for correcting, epanorthosen, is a word that is descriptive of mending or rebuilding something the way a ship would be brought into dry dock in order that it might be refitted for its journeys on the ocean.
It is ortho, which means straight, and doxa, which means opinion in view, to remind us that this is the same root which is given as orthopedics or orthodontics. Now, what Paul is saying to Timothy is this. If you want to be sound and healthy, then you will be sound and healthy as you are corrected and brought into line by the truth of God's Word.
Let me say that to you again, because it is precious important. If we would be sound and healthy in terms of our spiritual pilgrimage, the mechanism, the supreme mechanism which God employs to make us both sound and healthy is the correcting, the bringing into line by the truth of the Bible. And this, then, is how any of us ought to determine whether the counsel we are receiving from whatever source is counsel to which we should pay attention. Somebody says, Well, I think the course of action is X or Y. Are we then just to follow that out by dint of the letters after their name or the fact of their notoriety?
No. Every counsel that we receive should be brought and passed through the sieve of the Bible. And that which is truly biblical and is retainable, we may chew on and pursue, and that which falls through should be left completely alone. The Bible heals and cleanses our emotions and our affections. The Bible restores broken lives. The Bible produces spiritual health and vitality.
That's why we need to be corrected by it. And it also positively trains in righteousness. Righteousness. Simply doing the right thing.
Which is really the question that ought to be before us all the time. What is the right thing to do? Tomorrow morning, in business decisions, I ask, What is the right thing to do? Tomorrow morning, as the children get ready to go off on the bus, what is the right thing to do? In our relationships with the opposite sex, what is the right thing to do?
And how are we going to know what the right thing to do is? Well, the Scriptures have been given to us, in order that not only will we know what it is, but by God's Spirit we will be enabled to do what we ought to do. Paul has already told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 that spiritual fitness is a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this life and for the life to come.
And the word that he uses there is gumnadzo, which is the word that gives us gymnasium. He's saying, Timothy, come on, get into the gymnasium of the Bible and become fit for life. In between services, I've been listening to some of the children singing upstairs, lots of songs from hither and on, wonderfully reinforcing the truth of the Bible. And it made me think, as I was coming downstairs, of the songs of old, Read your Bible, pray every day, And you'll grow, grow, grow, And you'll grow, grow, grow, And read your Bible, And pray every day, And you'll grow, grow, grow. Well, here I am, all these years later, from the time that they taught me that in kindergarten, and I've never gone beyond it, there is no place to go beyond it.
What else am I supposed to do? So it is at once simple enough for the child in kindergarten, and it is once expansive enough for the most mature believer. What should I do this week, Jesus? Well, read your Bible and be in touch with me every day, and you'll grow. You see, if we hope in our Christian lives to overcome error, to grow in truth, to overcome evil, to grow in holiness, then it is to the Scriptures we must constantly be turning. Because it is only then that the person who belongs to God may be thoroughly equipped. It is only then that things will be as they should. It's only then that we will be, if you like, living the normal Christian life, as Watchman Nee put it. The Bible teaches, trains, mends, restores, until we're ready for useful service. And I think it's true to say that it will take a whole Bible to make a whole Christian.
And it will take a lot longer than most of us think. You know the story of the man who's refining silver, and he's removing all the extraneous elements from it, the impurities, and someone comes and watches him as he works with painstaking interest in this little vat of silver. And the man who's observing says to him, How long will you work at refining that silver? And the man said, I will work at it until I can see myself reflected in it. How long will God work in our lives through the Scriptures until he sees himself reflected in us?
Well, then, let's just wrap this up. The application is there for every person who belongs to God, begging the question, Do I belong to God? It certainly has a word for myself and for others like me who are involved in pastoral ministry. Timothy was surrounded by chaos. He was confronted by confusion. He was to take refuge in the Bible. And that's why throughout the generations—and I was reading this morning the life of Samuel Rutherford in between times—but that's why throughout generations, the call of God to pastoral ministry has always been directly related to the place of the Bible.
I'm quoting now from the sixteenth-century Anglican prayer book. And when a minister was set apart to the task of the gospel, he was asked whether he felt himself truly called of God, and when he replied in the affirmative, then the bishop would go on to ask as follows, Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of these same Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge?
Now, those are the two fundamental questions that need to be asked of all who stand in the position that is afforded me. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures are sufficient for the work of salvation in the life of God's people? And if you are, are you determined out of the Scriptures, then, to instruct the people committed to your charge? Now, God helping us, the answer to that is yes here at Parkside, isn't it? We're not presumptuous about it.
We are dependent entirely upon God week by week and Sunday by Sunday. But I think we're also aware of what will happen to a culture, to a church, and to an individual when they neglect the place of the Bible. First of all, men and women in a culture will be ignorant of the good news. Won't they? They'll be ignorant of the good news.
Why? Because all Scripture is God-breathed, and it is this Scripture which is able to make a woman or a man wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, so that the Bible doesn't save but the Bible points us to Jesus, who is the Savior of all who believe. So when a culture gives up on the Bible, as the American culture largely has, you will discover many men and women wandering around—you'll meet them in Starbucks and as you travel—who will tell you that they're not religious people, but they are spiritual people. They're people who are interested in spirituality.
And they may go into elaborate details as to the nature of their own particular little brand of me-ism. Now, what do we just say to such individuals? Well, how we speak and then what we say are interwoven, aren't they? We don't want to jump on top of people and give them—whack them!
It happened to us just yesterday. Sue and I were in conversation with a young man. He came to talk about something in relationship to our home. And in the course of conversation, he said, you know, I'm going at religion on my own way, and I like to go out in the woods. And I'm looking for God within. Now, in the moment that he said that, I said to myself—I honestly did—I said, I wonder if I could reach into the congregation of last Sunday morning, pick out any individual, and say, Okay, Joe, okay, Mary, answer that. And I wonder if he could, which is what I'm telling you. I lie in bed, and I say, Is anyone learning anything?
Now, we're all going, I hope he doesn't ask me. But there must be somebody who remembers last Sunday and who would be able to say to this young man, You know, that is an interesting idea. And certainly in the woods and in the autumn, there is so much that speaks of the glory of God and of the reality of his creative power. However we would have to say, all that we see of God in the woods is sufficient to render our unbelief inexcusable but is insufficient to save us. Because it is by means not of the forest but of the Bible that you, young man, may become wise for salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus. So I want to ask you, Do you have any interest in reading the Bible? Do you have a Bible?
Because I can see that you have a hunger for and an interest in God. That's not the normal answer in America. The normal answer in America is, Oh, I'm glad you found something somewhere. And if you can find it in the woods, that's fine. If you can find it in the mountains, that's fine.
Let me ask you a question. If you can find salvation in the mountains, why in the wide world are we expending such incredible effort—financial and life effort—in the translation of the Bible? Why are we translating the Bible into the Quechua dialect? If all the Quechua people have to do is go up into the Andes and meet God?
Answer! Because in the Andes they can see enough of God's creation to render their unbelief inexcusable, but they cannot find enough of God to save them. Therefore, we need the Bible. Now, don't you think if you were the evil one looking on a culture like this, that one of your approaches would be not to say, The Bible is naff, to say the Bible is bogus, to say the Bible is whatever it is, to attack it all the time? No, no, no, no, no. Far better simply to say, No, there's an idea, isn't it?
There's a possibility, isn't it? But whatever you do, don't listen to anybody who tells you that the Bible is the sole means whereby somebody comes to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. What happens to a culture when it rejects the Bible? It will be ignorant of the good news. What happens to a church when it rejects the Bible?
It will be utterly inept and fundamentally useless. Oh, it may fulfill social obligations, it can do a bunch of things, but in terms of that, making a dent for the kingdom of God? And what happens to the Christian when they're no longer being taught the Bible? And they run all around the place looking for teachers to tell them something that their itching ears want to hear. And some of you are here because of that. This is a stop on your journey.
Mr. and Mrs. Itch Ears. And the reason you're here—and I'm glad you're here—the reason you're here is because you're pretty well convinced that you need to run around and find a little bit from here and a little bit from there, and I can pretty well guarantee what I know about you, and this is what I know about you. You have never in the last while been sitting under the faithful, systematic exposition of the Bible in a way that it has not only stored truth in your mind but has touched your heart.
And hopefully you'll stay here for a while. Not because I and my colleagues are particularly able with the Bible, but because I, along with my colleagues, am absolutely convinced that all Scripture is God-breathed. And it answers the question, how can I be saved?
And what should I look like living as a saved person? That is, Alistair Begg on Truth for Life with the conclusion of a series titled, Why Bother With The Bible? Alistair returns in just a minute to close with prayer. As we've heard from Alistair in this series, God's Word is powerful. He uses it to convert unbelievers, to strengthen and establish believers, and to strengthen local churches. And that's why we teach from the Bible every day here at Truth for Life. As Alistair said, it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, The Bible reader is ever the Bible lover. Spurgeon's powerful sermons reflected his belief in the Bible as the Word of God. And today, when you give a gift of any amount to support our mission at Truth for Life, we want to invite you to request a copy of the book titled Spurgeon on the Power of Scripture. This is a book that presents seven of Spurgeon's sermons.
Each chapter begins with an overview and includes a summary and key quotes. The sermons have been edited for easier reading, and they'll increase your confidence in the certainty of the Bible. You can find the book on our website at truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And if there is someone on your Christmas list who you'd like to give God's Word to, don't miss out on the opportunity to purchase a study Bible from us here at Truth for Life. This is an English Standard Version Bible. Along with the text of Scripture, it contains thousands of study notes, hundreds of full color charts and maps. The Bible comes in a black leather cover. It truly makes for a very nice gift, and we're pleased to make it available to you for our cost of only $25.
You'll find it online at truthforlife.org slash features. And let me encourage you to purchase a copy today to be sure the Bible arrives in time for Christmas. Now, here is Alistair to close with prayer. Father, we thank you that your word abides and it guides our footsteps.
It teaches us, it rebukes us, calls us into line. Some of us have come in like vessels all barnacled up, smashed and crashed as a result of the waves and our inability to anchor safely or arrive in our destination without harm. And we're here this morning to say, Lord Jesus Christ, refit me, cleanse me, renew me, get me ready for the voyage this week. Hear our prayers, Lord Jesus, and may the grace of the Lord Jesus and the love of God our Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with all who believe. Today and forevermore. Amen.
I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church. As we anticipate Christmas, we want you to join us Monday as we'll dive into the good news of Isaiah's prophecy about the birth of Christ in a series titled, A Child is Born. A Child is Born. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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