Killing two birds with one stone last night, I thought I’d combine a couple sermons into one. Here’s what I mean…
Our teens have a great spirit to serve, as evidenced by their helping out so much at the banquet last week. Also, our teens are often challenged to read their Bibles more, and many of them have made commitments to God to spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes reading, or 3 chapters a day, etc. Well, our Special Combo lesson (ONLY $3.95!… no, we didn’t charge them for the lesson) was on how to read your Bible, and we dissected a text on servanthood! Brilliant!
Bible reading should be more than mere reading. We read “God’s love letter to us” with the intent to find His mind and bend our wills to His. We should read to understand, and ultimately try to apply everything we study. So, last night we discussed the following steps, and looked at Luke 17:1-10 as we went through the list.
1. Read to understand. Simply read a passage. That’s level one. That might be a whole chapter and it might just be a couple verses. The Bible is broken into paragraphs, and a lot of Bibles will show those divisions with certain headings that the publisher has added. Often, the biblical author has a single thought going on in each paragraph, and only the first step is to read it.
2. Reread trouble spots. “Trouble spots” may mean the whole text again… that’s okay! You’re on a mission in your Bible reading, but the mission isn’t that check-box on the reading plan. The mission is application.
3. Flag question words. It might be good to read with a Strong’s Concordance or a Bible dictionary close by. In our passage, Jesus is teaching the disciples on offenses, on forgiveness, and on faith, but he uses words like millstone, offend, little ones, forgiveness, and repent. We’ve heard these words, but what do they mean in this passage? Other key words include thank, (V9) which does not mean simply having a thankful spirit. It means “bestowing extra grace upon,” or, basically, giving a cash bonus! For our example, Jesus was teaching his disciples all these different principles, but then he goes into this story about a relatable subject that they all understood: servants. A servant was expected to work for his wages and serve the master his meals. That’s what he’s paid to do! So, Jesus is saying that it seems a little crazy to think that we’d give all this praise and all these special cash bonuses to a guy who’s just doing his duty!
All this, so far, has only come through flagging and looking up question words. Sometimes you’ll discover a nugget of truth, like in the word thank.
4. Ask questions. Ask questions of the text. Who’s in it? Who’s in talking to? Where are they? What’s going on? Why is this written? When is this? How did God want this? Ultimately, you’re seeking two answers: 1) What’s going on in the text, and 2) What is the purpose? Basically, why did God make sure that this passage was carefully written down, preserved, translated, and passed on to me, today?! Why has God protected these 10 verses, and what’s its purpose for me right now? The cool thing about the Bible is that “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…” We can know God wants us to hear it, because every page has a message for you!
When we ask questions of Luke 17:1-10 we find that Jesus has just been teaching and teaching and teaching! His disciples are soaking it in and receiving the instruction, but Jesus kind of takes a turn from his teaching and says, “Remember… if you do all these things I’m teaching you about, all you are is unprofitable.” Unprofitable. Wow! The disciples?! They did SO much! (Remember, ask questions…) So why would God teach about offenses, and forgiveness, and faith, and service, and then follow up by saying they’re unprofitable? WHY? That’s the question here.
5. Find the intent. Discover the Central Idea of the Text (CIT). Think about it. What’s all this boiling down to? God knows their hearts. He was tempted just like all humans with gluttony, lust, and greed, yet without sin. But he was also tempted with pride. He knew that when disciples of Christ start to grow and obey, it can bring a sense of pride in thinking, “I’m really doing something big for God.” We all can get that way, and Jesus brought this story to simply remind his disciples (and us!) that service to God and obedience to His ways is to be done humbly. What profit do you bring to God through your service? Do you make him richer through your talents? Absolutely not. We ought to have the spirit that Christ is teaching and say, “God, I’m an unprofitable servant. I’ve just done that which was my duty to do.” (From V10)
6. Apply. Apply. Apply. Here’s the destination. You can know all the Bible stories in the Bible, but they’ll do you NO good unless you apply the truths that God wants for your life. Point the text back at you and ask yourself some hard questions. Have I been serving? I learn a lot about the Bible, but how’s my attitude been about doing it? Am I a know-it-all? Do I have a true servant’s spirit? Would I be okay with not being noticed for my work? I set up more tables and chairs than anyone else… was I doing it just to be seen? Do I think that I’m something really special because I spent time scooping ice cream last week?
Your daily Bible reading CAN be like a revival service! Take some time each day to really dissect a passage and put it through these steps. Sometimes I think of my Bible reading as a Bible lesson. “If I were to teach someone from this text, what would I say?” But then I teach it to myself and it’s not so fun any more! When you read, God will work; and when God works, his conviction often leads automatically to a state of prayer. Let God’s Word do its work, and you’ll never regret it.