Ways of Worship: Scripture & Study

For the next three Sundays we???ll be talking about ???Ways of Worship.???  There are several disciplines that Christianity has the privilege of enjoying for both our devotion and our growth.  These disciplines or ???ways??? are expressions of worship that nurture our faith and connect us to God.  They give us life and teach us how to live.  They are means of grace, tools that reveal the love and forgiveness of God.  Today we look at the importance of scripture and study.

SCRIPTURE
Above all things, we have the Word of God, Jesus who became flesh to witness to God and to be our redemption through his life, death, and resurrection.  Colossians 1.15???16 says, ???He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;  16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers???all things have been created through him and for him.???  Jesus??? is important for more reasons than we have time for today, but for our purposes this morning, it is crucial to emphasize that Jesus is scripture-lived-out.  If you want to know what it means to understand and practice the lifestyle of the scriptures, you must look to Jesus.  In him is the creation story, the call of Abraham, the Exodus of God???s people from slavery, the revelation of the law and the message of the prophets; all of the Bible is wrapped up in the life and times of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, to have the scriptures written down means that we can follow Jesus in his footsteps, keeping the holy book close to our hearts as we read it???s life-giving words and take within us the necessary knowledge for salvation.  The Bible is the story of God; how he designed, created, disciplined, sustained, warned, forgave, and redeemed his people.  And this story becomes our story through God???s loving decision to create and offer relationship to the lost children of the world.  Scripture is in fact a long invitation sent by God through Jesus.  Through that invitation in Jesus, we are invited into a way of living that forms our hearts and minds into what it means to truly live as God intended.

The apostle Paul wrote often of the importance of scripture.  His letters to young Timothy seem to be especially powerful as he encouraged him to set an example for the churches in his care.  Let???s let Paul teach us best with two particular passages.  The first from 1 Timothy 4.6-16, ???If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed.  7 Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives??? tales. Train yourself in godliness,  8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  9 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance.  10 For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. These are the things you must insist on and teach.  12 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  13 Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching.  14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.  15 Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.  16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

And now the second passage from 2 Timothy 3.14-17, ???But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,  15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.???

There is no way I can top that or say it any better.  Let these words to Timothy set the tone for the scriptures role in the success or failure of our Christian obedience.

STUDY
Now for study.  Study is key to everything we do because through study comes learning.  If we are to learn what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, then we must study his life and the lives of those who walked after him.  The lives of countless saints of God point to what life in the kingdom of God looks like.  Therefore, Scripture encourages our study of beautiful things as Paul says in Philippians 4.8???9, ???Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.???   

On this verse, Christian writer Richard Foster comments, ???What we study determines the kind of habits that are formed, which is why Paul urges us to focus on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious??? (Celebration of Discipline, ???Study???, pg. 64).  The forming of Christian habits is what leads to a sacred rhythm, a way of living that sets you apart from the world as you live along side it.  Study provides us with confidence and comfort as we give ourselves to it.  It gives us strength and invites understanding.  Christian habits are like workout routines???the things we do that train our bodies and build-up the muscles that we are trying to strengthen.

After the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in the upper room, those who heard Peter???s preaching devoted their lives to Christ.  Acts 2.42 says, ???They devoted themselves to the apostles??? teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.???  Life became all about proving to themselves and the world that God???s word transforms through living it out.  Most people miss the point of Christianity or fall away from the faith because they fail prepare through study and live it out through faith.  The success of the Christian experience rests up on our fellowship with the word of God, both Christ the Word and the word we call the scriptu
res.  Just as in fellowship we surround ourselves with people for support and encouragement, so in the same way, scripture and study is surrounding ourselves with the encouragement and support of God and his word.

So, as I encourage you in Christian study I want to ask you, what is the subject of your life?  What are you studying?  What do you study most often?  What are you becoming?  What do you live for?  Who do you live for?  To what end are you living?  Do you have a direction?  Paul, again, reminds us that we have an ???upward call???, that our lives are to be focused on higher pursuits; that we rise above the baser things and that we look to God who calls us upward, away from the worldly things that trap, tie, bind, and shackle.  Philippians 3.14 says, ???I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.???  

Pressing on, as Paul says, means that we must be diligent in our attempts to grow and be grown by God. Our attention to our studies is crucial to our understanding, therefore it is important that you are involved in Bible Study. We have 4 studies to be involved in and we’re about to add Sunday school in June. Do you need to study? Then come. Do you desire to teach or lead?  Then talk with me. Study the scriptures and engage in this way of worship.  Amen.
_______

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church
www.newlibertyumc.org

www.facebook.com/newlibertyumc

Devotional Blog ??? devoblog.posterous.com


Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church
www.newlibertyumc.org

www.facebook.com/newlibertyumc

Devotional Blog ??? devoblog.posterous.com

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