Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: 2 Peter 1-2
"when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven..." (2 Peter 1.17-18)
I suspect this was among the most definitive events of faith Peter would experience. However, Peter doesn’t expect that to be the basis for our beliefs. As he recounts this event, he does so as a contrast.: “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…” (2 Peter 2.19). To Peter, scripture is a greater experience that more fully confirms God’s will (2 Peter 1.19-21). That is because Scripture is the documented expression of God’s words that is unchanging and unaltered by time and opinions (see Psalm 119.89; 2 Timothy 3.16-17; 1 Peter 1.25).
We exist in a time where truth is presented as relative. That has appeal to our selfish egos, but when played out over time, it only creates instability and chaos. Simply put if truth becomes subjective, based only on feelings and experiences, life becomes meaningless. Practically this means we must guard ourselves against wrong ways of thinking. In our post-Covid era we must be more aware than ever as we have access to information like never before. There are millions of opinions coming from seemingly convincing sources that can deceive us. None of them front as a threat but can cause serious damage to the body of Christ. As Peter continues his letter, he warns about how to identify wrong sources of truth and false teachers.
- They are subjective (2 Peter 2.1). Destructive heresies are more than just mistruths. They are opinions, propelled by conviction. They create distinction in ways that God does not. Subjectivity breeds division and discord – things not from God (James 3.13-18)
- They deny authority (2 Peter 2.1). The gospel message is that Jesus is King and Lord. Someone may talk about Jesus, but if their message is not making him famous, be careful. A false message results in glory for the man.
- They are bold and self-willed (2 Peter 2.10). False messages have no substance so they must rely on bullying techniques and exertion of power to prop them up. The gospel is powerful without our efforts. We must not be intimidated, but wise enough to see through any teaching that lives off bold assertions and strong personalities.
I’m not suggesting we get in the business of calling out false teachers. That is nothing to be flippant about. We must be thoughtful and deliberate before making any judgments. But we must not be naïve. False teachers are still a problem in our day. Establishing a true baseline for belief is more critical than ever. Thankfully God has made truth understandable and accessible for everyone (1 Corinthians 1.18-31). His word is unchanging and verifiable (Proverbs 30.5). Not only is that good news for us, but that is what everyone really wants: a solid place to stand. By God’s grace, we can know the truth and it can set us free even when the rest of the world is crashing around.
BIBLE READING: James 1
“Do not be deceived; every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
In the context he’s talking about trials and suffering. He wants us to remember that, regardless of what we’re going through, what God does is always good and for our good [Psalm 119.68]. But it’s important to note that he’s not teaching God’s goodness as a contrast to suffering. Instead, he’s talking about suffering as an exercise of God’s goodness. Now, how can suffering be good? That seems to be the age-old question for many. From a natural perspective, anything that does not create pleasure in the moment is not good. But we often lack the vision to see how things should be. We settle our hearts on the pleasure, comfort and enjoyment of this life and are discontent with anything but that.
But God wants us to live as we should. So, James tells us to count it as joy when we face suffering (1.2-4). Why? Because trials are a testing process that shows what will last and what will not. Sometimes we put our trust in temporary things without considering their outcome. This world is passing away, along with its desires (1 John 2.17), and suffering is God’s grace to point us towards things more permanent. So, we must see suffering as an opportunity to change our mind and elevate our thinking. Some of our suffering is just the nature of life. But other suffering is the result of our faith choices. Conforming to God’s will is completely opposed to my selfishness. Allowing Him to dictate my choices is a collision between two worlds. Without the right perspective, it makes no sense to endure suffering at all. But what James wants us to see is that all suffering, whether external or internal is an opportunity to become more conformed to the image of God.
The implication of all this is that we are not how we should be. We lack the ability to experience good on our own. We must never deceive ourselves into thinking that we are good, unless we are obedient and allowing God’s grace to change us. We need help to become good, and God does this through our sufferings.
Through suffering we become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1.4). This is referring to the transformation of our mind and not our physical self (Romans 12.1-2; 2 Corinthians 4.16). In this life we will experience physical limitations, but they are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory in the presence of God who gives everything we need (2 Corinthians 4.17). We know that difficult seasons will come, but by faith, we can enjoy the peace of God who is working all things together for our good in every season.
“…I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8.16-39)
BIBLE READING: Hebrews 8-10
“…the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17.11)
In Leviticus 17, God gave instructions regarding sacrifices and offerings, particularly on the proper slaughtering of animals. The people were to bring each animal to the tabernacle entrance for the priest to offer. The blood of the animal was never to be treated as common food; it belonged to God, who is the giver of life (Genesis 2.7; Job 33.4; Psalm 139.13). So, the blood of animals was drained and offered to God on the altar. Under the Old Law, this was God’s pattern for dealing with sin, and the shedding of blood was the most critical element (Leviticus 16.15; Hebrews 9.22).
The problem was this process was not permanent. It had to be repeated year after year for both the people and the priests (Hebrews 9.7, 25; 10.10). However, this process established a truth that would only be revealed in Jesus Christ: “when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me…” (Hebrews 10.5). It was always God’s will for humans to be made right with God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Hebrews 10.10). When Jesus offered up His life—pouring out His blood on the cross—the perfect sacrifice had finally been made: “Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9.14, NLT).
All those from times past, present, and future can now be made right with God by the blood of Jesus (Romans 3.23-26). The apostle John saw a future multitude of believers in heaven who “have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” They have been purified from sin by obedience through faith and “clothed in white” (Revelation 7.13–14).
Because of the Old Testament system, Christ’s followers can comprehend what Jesus was doing on the cross. He gave his perfect life as a ransom (Mark 10.45). Just as physical life is in the blood of animals, eternal life is in the blood of Jesus Christ. Physically, our existence depends on blood to sustain life. Spiritually, our lives depend on the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 5.10; 1 John 1.7; Ephesians 1.7; Colossians 1.14; Hebrews 9.22). Through the Old Covenant sacrifices, we are led to appreciate that death—the shedding of blood—has always been the cost of securing eternal life for sinful humans. But thanks be to God that, by the blood of Jesus, we can be assured of forgiveness by faith in him.
“…since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10.19-23)
BIBLE READING: Titus 1-2
“But as for you, [Titus], teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2.1)
There was trouble brewing in the early churches. At first glance, it seemed innocent enough – people wandering off into vain discussions about myths and genealogies (Titus 1.14). But Paul puts a finer point on the efforts of these vocal leaders: they are empty talkers, deceivers, and they must be silenced (Titus 1.11). I’m sure to those in their congregations, these men were kind, charismatic and charming. But Paul was not concerned with appearances. He saw right through their efforts to the effects: people were not only swerving from their faith (1 Timothy 1.7; Titus 1.11); they were wrecking it altogether (1 Timothy 1.19). To encourage these young preachers, Paul began his letters with specific instructions to teach sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1.3; Titus 2.1).
The idea of “sound” literally means “healthy” or “as it should be.” Paul uses it in contrast to those who “speculated” and “taught for shameful gain”, which defiled the mind and the conscience (1 Timothy 1.4; Titus 1.11, 15). This snapshot into the early church reveals that when people deviate from what is right and true, the church suffers. Opinions and personalities dominate where God’s glory should be, and we become something other than a body that honors God.
Sound doctrine is critical in aligning us with the will of God. Furthermore, it is clear that sound doctrine is the only tool capable of creating true harmony among God’s people. In his letters Paul identifies specific characteristics of sound doctrine to keep us from the deception of wrong thinking.
- Always points to Jesus. “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he… understands nothing.” (1 Timothy 6.3-4). Jesus is the foundation of sound doctrine because he illuminates the purpose of God’s plan in our lives and in the church (Ephesians 3.9).
- Develops stricter morality. “The grace of God has appeared… training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live soberly and upright in the present…” (Titus 2.11-12). Behavior is an extension of theology, and there is a direct relationship between what we think and how we act.
- Creates distinction. Paul emphasizes two distinct ways of thinking to these young men: Speculation versus stewardship. Personal agendas versus. God’s glory. The reality is not everyone is honest and sincere. (Philippians 1.15-17). When confronted with God’s standard it becomes evident who’s glory is being promoted.
- Produces vitality and life. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). This is an intangible element of sound doctrine, but it is undeniable. The gospel gives life.
In many ways, sound doctrine is a conservative and deliberate approach to God’s revealed will. But it is more than that. It is a way of thinking that relies on obvious truths that compel change and accountability. As our world becomes increasingly subjective, we need sound doctrine to have peace in our faith. And so, let us be sure we are investing ourselves in what is sure, evident, and sound.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 1
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1.10)
Paul had a history. Paul was once Saul, the persecutor of the church (Acts 8.1-3). He was a prominent member in the Jewish community. It was Saul who stood in approval while Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7.58). But then Saul met Jesus, and everything changed for him (Acts 9). The persecutor now became the preacher of the faith he once tried to destroy (Galatians 1.23).
Paul’s conversation made significant waves in the Jewish community. Overnight his friends became his enemies and his enemies became skeptics, at first (Acts 9.19-31). Had it not been for Barnabas, assimilation into the church would have been a much more difficult process. But Paul willingly accepted this lot because he learned something critical: Appearances and human approval don’t make us right before God. Bearing fruit of righteousness does.
Paul’s changed life is a witness, not just to what change looks like, but about what justifies us before God. Notice this emphasis as he recounts his story: We are NOT justified by…
- Wearing the right name (Galatians 1.13, 14). Paul was a Jew and proud of it. He was in the right places with the ‘right’ people doing the ‘right’ things. But just being called a Jew didn’t justify him.
- Being a top performer (Galatians 1.14). Paul went above and beyond most people. He was capable and using his talents. He worked harder than anyone, even after his conversation (1 Corinthians 15.10), but even that did not justify him to God.
- Zeal for traditions of men (Galatians 1.14b). Traditions have always been important to God and his people. But these processes didn’t increase his standing before God.
I’m not trying to minimize the import of working hard in our faith. Just like Paul, I want us to see that our efforts alone will always be lacking the grace and mercy needed to be justified. To find justification and peace we must shift our thinking and our trust. Paul’s life shows us that we are justified when we are…
- Going where God leads (Galatians 1.15a, 16b). His activities were now directed by God and his purposes. His think-sos were minimized because he knew his way was not best. To be justified we must let God be the leader.
- Prioritizing God’s revelation (Galatians 1.16-17). Paul immediately got away from other people of influence to consider the truths of God’s revelation. Even after he came back to Jerusalem to meet with Peter (Cephas), he made it a point to say he wasn’t allowing these people of influence to be the primary informant of his gospel (Galatians 1.19-20). We are easily swayed by impactful teachers, but they must never be the primary voice in our mind.
- Bearing fruit of repentance to God’s glory (Galatians 1.23-24). Change according to God’s direction aligns us with him and allows us to access justification by the blood of Jesus.
These lists are an important reminder for us not to get caught up in appearances or what other people think of us. It is God who justifies (Romans 8.33). Let us honor him with our efforts of obedience and faithfulness