This week Graham continued the preaching series on the book Surprise the World by Michael Frost. We learned that the second L of the acronym B.E.L.L.S is Learn. The challenge for this week is to focus on building our own character and learning. As we grow in this we will move from being feed by others to a deeper understanding where we ourselves gain greater knowledge of the Lord.
You can listen again to the sermon here:
Learn, the second L of B.E.L.L.S.
2 Timothy 4:13
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.
Michael Frost: “I will spend at least one period of the week learning Christ.”
“Learning Christ” is an old way of speaking but it has a rich history. From the beginning of the early church the new believers were exposed to information about Jesus in order that they would grow beyond their initial encounter and move into an intelligent faith that would stand strong in the face of opposition. Why is it that the early Christians were willing to die rather that deny Christ yet in our day we know of people denying Christ rather than dying of embarrassment at confessing him?
Where do the new Christians of our time learn Christ? The franchise churches mostly depend upon gathering crowds to a performance based event. In some respects these apparently culturally relevant churches are really rather old fashioned. Congregations stood behind a screen and watched others participate in an event which was supposed to be a service to God. They did not need to know much about their faith, or about Christ himself, in order to turn up out of a sense of duty to watch others worship. In contemporary rock concert style churches the crowd is only expected to join in to some community singing, be entertained, and give. These sort of churches do not do well in our city, not because there are few venues that are suitable for their format. Without the performance or presentational style of meeting they are forced to question what else they offer. I believe a central component of relevant church life has to be the ministry of the Word of God enabling believers to learn Christ.
See Paul’s reference to his books. How do we read this? Do we think it is just Paul, that he likes books? I think we are being given a model.
See also Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
We are told to think! If we want to think the right things we need to feed our thoughts.
Can you put aside one study period per week to learn Jesus? I don’t mean the usual daily encounter, I mean deliberate applied study.
You can listen to sermons, go to God TV, or YouTube, but every new believer should know the difference between meat and milk. See Hebrews. Milk is second-hand nutrition. Meat is what we put between our teeth, pull apart, chew, process and absorb. Yes veggies can interpret this for themselves too.
An excellent book, a 20th century classic, is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Foster says of study that it has four steps: repetition, concentration, comprehension, understanding, and forthly, reflection.
To “learn Christ” requires a study of all the New Testament but in particular the Gospels for finding the words and works of Jesus.
Michael Frost refers to some writing of John Stackhouse and summarises Stackhouse’s comment this way (page 76 to 77):
- Even though the Gospels appear first in our New Testament, they are not the earliest written documents about Jesus. Paul’s early letters predate the four gospels; if we’re only interested in the earliest record, Paul’s writings would earn a higher priority.
- We shouldn’t be privileging only what we assume to be the oldest material, since all scripture is the Word of God.
- Privileging the Gospels might make sense if we believed the Gospels were written by Jesus himself, but of course they weren’t.
- Jesus, as part of the Triune Godhead, is the author of the whole Bible, not just the Gospels.
Yes, but surely, I look at scripture through the lens of Jesus, who he is, what he did and what he said? I have found it easy to end up reading a great deal of what people have said about what Jesus said and did without allowing myself to be soaked in the accounts of his words and actions.
Question: Why did Paul long for the return of his books?
Recommended: The Challenge of Jesus by N T Wright. Michael Frost has a list of recommended books at the end of “Surprise The World”. Frost suggests studying the Gospels and reading books about Jesus.