As I reflect on 61 years of being a follower of Jesus, I can recall hearing numerous messages from the pulpit that greatly nourished my soul and opened my heart to truths I would otherwise have not known. There's nothing quite like a sermon that is given not from the canteen of Saturday night but from a reservoir of Bible knowledge. How blessed I am to have sat under some very gifted teachers, from the College Church in California to chapel services in the various schools in which I've had the privilege of serving.
In some circles, you would think that God designed the Sunday message to be the main conduit of biblical truth into our lives. The idea is that people desperately need to sit at the feet of the apostles, and what better way to do that than to listen attentively to what I've prepared. While I agree that it is both our privilege and responsibility to do just that, we must never confuse our need to know the Scriptures with the structure of a Sunday morning service. We sit at the apostles' feet every time we open our Bibles. For more than 44 years I have tried to cultivate a love for personal Bible study in my students and everyone else who will listen. For me, opening up God's word is like attending a feast. You, too, can confidently approach the word of God daily and know the excitement of reading what God has written. You can experience the joy of personal Bible study. But you must be committed to going deeper with God's word.
I love how Chuck Swindoll (truly one of America's outstanding Christian communicators) puts it in his book Church Awakening:
Our congregations need pastors who study hard, pray hard, and prepare well-balanced meals, then open the Scriptures and teach people how to study the Word for themselves.
What a profound statement! Are you a self-feeder of Scripture? Or do you expect others to feed you?
Another author I read said something to this effect: the more responsibility we take for our own spiritual development, the healthier we become and less dependent on church staff to feed our souls. Doesn't that sound like a wonderful goal? Don't do less Bible teaching, just empower more. Equip the saints!
When I was in high school a man named Jim Cook pastored the International Baptist Church on Nuuanu Ave. Today, more than 50 years later, I realize how much I owe that man. He took several of us teenage men under his wings and taught us some basic principles of Bible study. He knew that one of the most important ways he could build into our lives was by equipping us to read the Bible for ourselves. That began a habit of mine that has continued to this day.
Are you seeking God's will deliberately and passionately? If we are not careful, deadly passivity can characterize our lives. Before we know it, we're blaming the pastor for our lack of spiritual growth. In truth, our laziness is disconnecting us from what we can and should be doing. I challenge you to sit down with God's word today. It may be difficult, but it's not impossible. The Lord has given you his word. Don't wait for somebody to mediate its truth into your life.