Every winter, millions of Americans buy seeds. Then, they put the seeds in their cellar and never touch them again.
NOBODY DOES THAT! The millions of Americans buy seeds for their springtime gardens. Lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, peas, beans, watermelon, and broccoli all come from seeds. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather eat a big, juicy watermelon on a hot July day than a small, dry watermelon seed. There’s a difference.
So, what’s the point? What am I trying to get at? Salvation is fantastic and necessary. Last Sunday, however, we continued our study of 2 Thessalonians, specifically the topic of “salvation through sanctification.”
After pastor explained to us the concept of sanctification, I summarized it as this: salvation is the seed, and the seed is good; however, the blossoming fruit-yielding plant which grew from the seed is the product of “salvation through sanctification.” As I was taking my notes during the sermon, I couldn’t shake the thought that this is the major problem the modern church faces.
Think about it. One of the most common scenes in the church today is of reluctant individuals finally giving into the Holy Spirit and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. And if you’re wondering what happens next, join the club. Most Christians are led to believe, wrongly, that once you accept Christ as the Messiah, that’s it – you can wash your hands because the work is done.
Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Now, if you hear me saying that being saved isn’t enough, please clean your ears out (Speaking of – I need to do that before bed tonight). What I’m saying is that it’ll serve you well to study the Bible and engage in honest fellowship. In fact, in my opinion, you’re better off in the long run doing these things.
According to the Religion News Services, the average American household has about four bibles, yet 57% of Americans read their bibles four times or less in a year. On top of that, 26% of Americans said that they read their bibles on a regular basis, which was four or more times a week. Far less than 26%, however, have read their entire Bible, and I’m going to take a giant leap that even fewer than that have thoroughly studied it. So, where does that leave us? Heck if I know.
I can tell you though that studying your Bible is not only important but fulfilling. At First Baptist, we learn. We’re a teaching ministry, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of our bible studies include a roundtable discussion (the tables are square) and a billion references read to us from Pastor’s Latta insanely awesome book collection. Whenever pastor segues and says, “Here, let me read you something from Carson,” I get giddy. Is that bad? Does that make me a nerd? Yes and yes.
Now, some churches prefer something a little jazzier than a teaching ministry. The conversation starts out with somebody saying, “If we want to grow our church, we need to liven things up a bit.” Then, a large, influential group agrees with this assertion, and away they go. Next thing you know, the church has a light show that would rival AC/DC’s Back in Black tour. Oh, and they also probably have their own miniature AC/DC – a teenager-ran rock band whose music drowns out any reasonable thought rolling around in the sanctuary.
In this way (among many others), First Baptist is different than other churches. Even in our little town, we stand out. We do so because we don’t WANT to be a megachurch. We don’t WANT to steer our sermons and studies a certain way to elevate our numbers. We don’t WANT to grow at the expense of our own growth. Therefore, it leaves us with one important questions: What do we want?
We want to learn about the Word of God.
We want to help each other grow in their faiths.
We want to study Jesus, but we want to do so within the necessary historical context.
We want an unlimited supply of Pepsi. (Whoops. How did that get in there?)
We want others in our community to notice how we love each other.
We want to strengthen the familial bonds that comes with being a family in faith.
We want to grow closer to God.
We want to glorify God.
We just want to learn.
Going back to the beginning of this post, we want to be a church that values salvation through sanctification. Salvation is great, and at many churches, salvation is the end goal. Once members of the flock are saved, many churches wipe their hands clean. That’s fine, but let me ask you this: What happens when you plant a seed and withhold the water? The seed doesn’t grow. Our church (and I’m sure there are plenty of others) believes that once your saved – once the seed has been planted – it’s time to take out the water jug of sanctification and get to work.
It enriches the experience. It brings you closer to God. It really does. Personally, the more I study the Bible, the more emotional I become, and that’s a big deal for me, folks. I only cry for two things: the movie Bambi and videos of soldiers returning home; however, the more I read into the Bible, scurrying various reference books for additional context and theories, the more emotional I become with certain events in the Bible.
With further study of the Word, here are a few scenes that have become more meaningful for me:
The actual crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The moment Abraham accepts carrying out the sacrifice of his own son, Isaac. (Although God stops him before he consummates the sacrifice, it’s still an emotional event.)
Peter denying Christ three times.
Thomas gazing upon the wounds of his resurrected rabbi, Jesus.
The moment Saul becomes Paul. (Can you imagine what Paul must’ve felt? Don’t tell me that as a human man, Paul didn’t feel some type of guilt for the thousands of persecutions he carried out. No way.)
Mary staring upon the body of her son nailed to a cross.
Furthermore, God staring down from heaven upon the body of His son nailed to a cross. (It was His plan, but Jesus was still His son. Wow.)
Daniel being taken from Jerusalem.
There’s a bunch of other ones, but hey, it’s a good start. What I’m saying is the experience of reading the Bible is enhanced when you study it. Honestly, by the grace of God, we get to experience the Millennial Kingdom. I feel like the least we can do is read the thing and attempt to study it. Will we answer all the questions that arise from reading the Bible? No. Should that stop us from trying? No. From engaging the text? No.
I beseech you as a believer to become a blossom. If you believe in Jesus, if He is your Savior, your seed has been sown. Now, open the Word of God, study it, and watch yourself grow. Strangely, I’ve found it to be an intimate process. It’s worth it, though. And I want you to experience the wonderful things that come from studying the Bible. (Warning: you will also want to pull your hair out at times, so I suggest you wear your hair in a ponytail. If you’re a man? Good luck. You don’t need hair anyway!)
A Proud First Baptist Church Member