Tag Archives: practical

The Destructive Repercussions of Avoiding Theological Terms

Back a few months ago, I sat among hundreds of students at a summer camp while listening to a widely-known speaker teaching theology. You could tell this guy had been doing this for quite some time – he had us on the edge of our seats as we were gripped by his stories, illustrations, and hand gestures. He was the full package, even using diagrams and object lessons in an attempt to teach us deep theological truths. I leaned in to listen and grow in my faith just like everyone else in the room. Eventually however, I was leaning in with one eyebrow raised. Most of what he was saying was helpful and biblically sound, but as he continued to speak I began to notice a pattern in his teaching – and it made me sick to my stomach.

Once he would come to a five-syllable theological term in the Scriptures such as justification or sanctification, he would immediately diminish its significance by describing the term as such: “This is a term that theologians use – oh ho ho ho (with a French accent).” Everyone laughed as you’d expect. He would then replace the word with something “simpler” and “easier to understand,” without giving a definition of the word or explaining its meaning. When it came to justification, he referred to it as something that only theologians talk about and then said what he preferred to call it. In an attempt to make the truth “easier” to understand, he avoided the use of the term altogether and sidestepped from defining and explaining the term.

There were students in this room that had never heard of justification or sanctification before, and now they will go back to their churches, schools, and families with the impression that big theological terms really amount to nothing. And sometimes, it is near impossible to undo first impressions.

This practice of avoiding the use of theological terms in preaching and teaching is theologically destructive. When this practice is followed, whether by speakers, Bible teachers, or even pastors, it is done so in hopes that their audiences will not be confused. But when they do this, it completely backfires and it creates a ticking time bomb ready to explode at the next hearing or reading of that theological term.

Those who do this really have good intentions, I truly believe that. They don’t want people to be frightened or confused by big terms. But avoiding the use and explanation of theological terms is fundamentally avoiding explanation of the Bible. Any person who teaches the Bible should use and explain theological terms because the Bible uses these terms. When we fail to do so, it’s a ticking spiritual bomb, waiting to explode within the Christian’s mind when he comes to the term the next time he reads it in the Bible. If we don’t use and explain the theological terms that the Bible uses, Christians will not know what they mean when they read them in the Scriptures. They will regard the terms as unimportant, run over them, and turn the page. It’s never a good thing when people consider terms in Scripture to be unimportant. This leaves them with a poor and unbiblical view of the Scriptures.

Bible teachers and expositors should use and explain terms such as justification, sanctification, glorification, propitiation, salvation, preeminence, redemption, substitution and a host of others because the Bible uses these terms. With that I want to encourage you, whether you are a parent, Sunday school teacher, youth pastor, lead pastor, Bible teacher, or a widely known speaker – labor much in the use and explanation of the theological terms replete in the Scriptures. We need to know what they mean, and our people need to know what they mean. We need resources like Bible dictionaries to help us understand and grasp the meaning of these terms. We need to labor much to explain the meaning of theological terms to our people. If we want to be faithful teachers of the Scriptures, we must explain all the Scriptures – every term included.

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3 Things Essential to In-Home Church Groups

“. . . Teaching you in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20)

Let’s imagine for a moment that, since the birth of Christianity as recorded in the book of Acts, no one ever built a church building. Never. No one took into consideration that a large number of believers could meet in a large building for worship. But believers still need to meet for worship because it’s biblical . . . So where would they meet? The most convenient place would be in homes. That’s the next best thing to gathering for worship in a church building, isn’t it? Bible study and worship in your own home. Well, that’s exactly where the early church met for worship before there was ever one brick laid in construction of a church building (Acts 2:46; 20:20; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon 2).

Many churches are still following this model for “doing church” even today, and they should be because it is both biblical and strategic for reaching people for Jesus Christ with the gospel. First it is biblical. It is biblical because it is usually only a smaller version of our regular corporate worship gatherings at our own local church. The Bible commands and exhorts us to meet together with other believers (Psalm 150:1-6; Matt. 18:20; Heb. 10:25; 1 John 1:7). You cannot be a growing, thriving believer if you’re not attending and participating in a local church somewhere. So meeting in a home for worship and Bible study, or meeting in a community center or restaurant is only a condensed version of what you would normally do with more believers in a larger setting and building. Second it is strategic for reaching people for Christ. Most people today, especially today, have their preconceived assumptions about the church. With this in mind, people are far easier to reach with the gospel in your home or out in public, than they are in the church. When you think about it, that is actually essential to the way evangelism is supposed to be done. People will respond more positively to an invitation to your home than they will an invitation to a church they know nothing about. You can reach them with the gospel in your home, and then they are far more likely to attend your church and continue attending your church. We need to be reaching people with the gospel and bringing them into our churches in non-threatening ways. We’re not changing the message of the gospel, only the means through which we present it. We can have a bonfire at the house, a cookout, we can meet for lunch with a couple of friends, and the list goes on and on – there are several available options for meeting places, which makes it that much more strategic for reaching people for Christ.

So you want to start doing this. You want to get this thing going. You want to be biblical and you want to reach people for Christ through our own home and community. Well, there are at least three things essential to these “in-home” church groups. Three things that you need to keep in mind in order to start and sustain groups in your community or home:

1. Focus. You need a missions-focused church that is on board and ready to do smaller churches in homes. I believe we should excite our church members by sharing with them this model of doing church, and encouraging them to participate in and support it. If no one else in your church is concerned about outreach, you should be concerned about your church – they are destined to close their doors. Your entire church needs to be focused on reaching people with the gospel in this way. It might take some time to get members informed about this, and excited to participate, but your time will be well spent if you do so. This is something that should be consistently promoted in your local church. Both you and your church should have a continual focus on meeting in homes, so that members can participate and do the same thing you’re doing.

2. Training. You need people who are trained, at least in some way, to teach the Bible – leading those Bible studies, able to answer tough questions, able to lead others to Christ, and things of that nature. Someone in your church may have an earnest desire to be involved in small groups that meet in homes, but if they haven’t ever taught a Bible study, they need some type of training where they can learn how to do so. It doesn’t need to be formal Bible college training per se, but they need to know the basics because one day they will teach someone else to be a teacher of the word. You and your church should have people who are fully prepared.

3. Resources. Anytime something like this is done, you need resources. You need financial resources, literary resources, and a place to meet. Your home should be a place where you can meet for Bible studies. If it’s a one bedroom apartment, it’s probably not the best place to meet. Perhaps you can meet in your local park or in a restaurant or coffee shop. You also need literary resources: Bibles, Bible study booklets, books on the Bible, gospel tracts, etc. Those things will contribute to your overall outreach. Many people you will have in your home or meeting place do not have resources like this. All of this will require some type of financial support. Are you financially able to carry out a continuous small group Bible study? Are you financially able to have cookouts or snacks around the table when you meet for fellowship?

Those are a few things to keep in mind as you have “in-home” church groups. Is there anything else would you add?

QUESTION: How Can I Get the Most Use From My Bible?

A tool can be very valuable if we learn how to use it. The worker is never without his hammer, because of its many uses. If he believed that a hammer had only one use, say for driving nails, then he probably wouldn’t value it as much. But he can likely accomplish two-thirds of his daily tasks all by using a hammer – but he must know how to use it. In order to get the most use from it, he must know how to use it.

So it is with the word of God, the Bible. It is our theological toolkit for living the Christian life. We need it to grow in our faith and be the Christian that God has called us to be. No believer can be obedient to God without the Bible, so it is important that we use our Bibles effectively. The Scriptures are profitable to our Christian growth (2 Tim. 3:16), but we must know how to use them.  So how can we get the most use out of our Bibles? I believe there are five basic ways we can get the most use from our Bibles:

1. Read the Bible. This is the most basic way we can use the Bible. Do you read the Bible every day? Everyone reads and learns at a different pace, so it may take some time to adjust to reading the Bible regularly—but perhaps the best way to read it is by reading a few chapters a day, in the morning and the night. A good Bible reading plan is also very helpful—helps keep you accountable and track your progress. We must take time out of our busy schedules to read God’s word. If you’re too busy to read the Bible, you’re too busy. The good part about it is that the more we read it, the more we will want to read it, and the more we will be equipped with its teachings.

A while ago, I did a little math to calculate how long it would take someone to read through the entire Bible. The Old Testament, consisting of 929 chapters, would only take you 26.5 weeks to read all the way through if you read 5 chapters a day. That’s reading through the entire Old Testament in about 6 months. The New Testament, consisting of 260 chapters, would only take you 7.4 weeks to read all the way through if you read 5 chapters a day. That’s Matthew through Revelation in under 2 months. If you read 5 chapters of the Bible daily, you could read through the whole Bible once and read half of it over again. . . In a year. In a small 5 year period, you will have read through the entire Bible nearly 8 times.

2. Meditate on the Bible. This is not simply a suggestion, for the Bible implies that we should meditate on the Scriptures (Psalm 119:15, 48, 97). Do you remember the first Psalm about the godly man who was blessed in every way? How did he get blessed? How did he become so prosperous? It was because “his delight [was] in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Scripture meditation involves pondering and thinking deeply on what we’ve read. We think about what they mean for us, and ponder how to put them into action. Meditation involves allow the Scripture to dictate our thought lives—to let it swim and boil in our hearts and minds throughout our daily commute. Do you have some Scripture that you’ve been meditating on?

3. Pray the Bible. Many people do not realize the benefits of this or see that it’s even necessary, but praying the Bible helps us to align our prayers to God’s will. That’s the only kind of prayers God answers anyway—according to His will: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15). God’s will is revealed in the Bible, so if we want to pray according to God’s will, wouldn’t it make sense to pray the Scriptures? Sometimes we pray for the wrong things, but if we want to pray for the right things, we need to be praying the Scriptures. When you’ve read your Bible each day, let what you read compel you to prayer, and then pray about what you’ve read.

4. Memorize the Bible. This one, like the others, seems to be implied by the Bible itself as a command. We are familiar with Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist there says that his defense against sinning was that he had stored God’s word in his heart. Scripture memory involves not only getting into the Bible, but allowing the Bible to get into us. It is allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). Scripture memorization involves taking time to memorize the Bible, whether a few verses or a few chapters. It is very beneficial, for we can call to mind a Scripture that is especially helpful for us in a time of need or for someone else in a time of need. Because the Spirit of God can’t call to your memory a Scripture you’ve never read or memorized. Do you take time to memorize the Bible? You can write it out on paper until you have it memorized, or you can repeat it back to yourself time after time, or you can simply read it over and over again. I’ve put Bible verses on note cards and slipped them in my pocket as I go about my daily tasks. That way, when I get my keys or phone out, I can always look at that verse first.

5. Study the Bible. Studying the Bible is key. It involves the most effort, but yields the best results. Studying the Bible is observing it, interpreting it, and applying it to our daily lives. We might spend a while studying a verse of Scripture, a chapter, or a whole book of Scripture—but studying involves doing much work to excavate the deep truths of Scripture. A good study Bible helps with this, good commentaries, or other helpful books like Bible dictionaries and Bible handbooks. In studying the Bible, we focus on it—think through it intellectually and emotionally. We discover what the particular author is saying about his subject and what it means for us today. Do you study the Bible? How much time a week is spend studying the Bible?


For further study, see The Work of the Word.

5 Practical Ways to Use the Bible

The Bible is the most valuable book on the entire universe. It’s valuable because of what it is: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But how can we be equipped by the Scriptures? How can we get the most out of it, and what are some practical ways to use the Bible? I’ve offered five that I believe are most crucial:

1. Read the Bible

This is the most basic way we can be equipped by the Scriptures. Reading informs our mind and moves our heart. If we want to be equipped by the Bible, we must read it. We must take time out of our day and busy schedules to read the Bible. The more we read it, the more we will want to read it, and the more we will be equipped with its precepts and teachings. Perhaps the most beneficial way to read the Bible is by reading a few chapters a day, in the morning and the night. A good Bible reading plan can also be very helpful.¹ Do you read the Bible every day?

2. Meditate on the Bible

This is not simply a suggestion, but the Bible implies that we are to meditate upon it (Josh. 1:8; Psalm 119:15, 48, 97). Recall the first Psalm where the author says that the godly man was blessed in every way. The way he became blessed was because “his delight [was] in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2, emphasis mine). Scripture meditation involves pondering what we have read—perhaps a few verses or a few chapters. We think about what they mean for us, and ponder how to put them into action. Mediation involves allowing the Scripture to dictate our thought lives—to let it swim through our hearts and minds as we go about our daily tasks. Do you have some Scripture that you’ve been meditating on?

3. Pray the Bible

Many people do not realize the importance of this, but praying the Bible helps us to align our prayers to God’s will. Keep in mind that the prayer God answers it that prayer that is according to His will. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). His name is not a secret formula, but praying in His name means according to what would glorify, please, and honor Him. The right step to take in order to pray like this, is to pray the Bible. Because God’s will is revealed in the Bible, when we read of something that God commands us to do, we should learn to pray that God would help us with that specific command. Sometimes we can pray for the wrong things can’t we? If we want to pray the right things, wouldn’t it make sense to pray the Bible? You can’t go wrong there. When you read the Bible, let that compel you to prayer, and then pray about what you’ve read.

4. Memorize the Bible

This one, like Scripture mediation, is implied by the Bible as a command. We read in Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist says there that his defense against sinning was that he stored God’s word in his heart. Scripture memory entails not only getting into the Bible, but allowing the Bible to get into us. It is allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). Scripture memorization involves taking the time to memorize the Bible, whether it is a few verses or a few chapters. We can benefit from this by calling to mind a Scripture that is especially encouraging for a difficult time we are going through, or one that someone else is going through. We can encourage ourselves and others with those Scriptures that we have memorized. But the Spirit can’t call to your mind a Scripture you’ve never memorized or read. Do you take time to memorize the Bible? You can write it out on paper until you have it memorized, or you can repeat it back to yourself time after time, or you can simply read the Scriptures over and over again.² But we must make it a priority.

5. Study the Bible

Not only is it helpful to read, meditate, pray, and memorize the Bible, but we must study it. This is the most crucial of all five ways to use the Bible. If you read, meditate, pray, and even memorize the Bible without ever studying it, you’ve missed out. Studying the Bible involves observing it, interpreting it, and applying it to our daily lives. We might spend a while studying a verse of Scripture, a chapter, or a whole book of Scripture—studying involves doing much work to excavate the deep truths of Scripture. It is observing what the author of a text is saying, it is working to discover its meaning, and it is applying it to our contemporary situations. A good study Bible especially helps with this, as do many good commentaries, or other helpful tools like Bible dictionaries and handbooks.³ In studying the Bible, we focus on it—think it through both intellectually and emotionally. We discover what the particular author is saying about his subject, and what it means for us today. Do you study the Bible? How much time of your day is devoted to studying the Bible?

What other practical ways do you use the Bible?


1. The most helpful reading plans I’ve ever seen are found on this page: Bible Reading Plans for 2015
2. A crucial, yet practical and helpful book on memorizing Scripture is by Dr. Andrew Davis, titled An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture
3. I’ve used dozens of different study Bibles, but none have been as helpful and useful as The ESV Study Bible. Also the best Bible dictionary I’ve ever used is the Illustrated Bible Dictionary published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. For a general handbook on the Bible, see the bestseller Knowing Your Bible by Paul Kent.

You’ve Got Questions: How Do You Know if You’re Doing What God Desires/Wants?

You’ve Got Questions: How Do You Know if You’re Doing What God Desires/Wants?

There are a few practical questions you need to ask yourself in every situation that will help you determine whether or not you are doing what God wants. Here are a few:

1) What would be the best way to glorify God right now?
2) The classic: What would Jesus do?
3) Does the attitude or action please God?
4) Would God say it is good?
5) Would it cause me or someone else to lose touch with God?

While these are essential questions to ask yourself in every situation, I think there is a green-light indicator that shows whether or not you are doing what God desires. Fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is the evidence of our doing what God wants. Fruit is the direct result of whatever controls our hearts (Matthew 15:19). The fruit of a life not surrendered to Jesus includes “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,” and many more evil acts (Galatians 5:19–20). In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit of God is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). In addition, God the Father is the gardener (John 15:1), and He desires for us to be fruitful. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As branches cling to the vine, we cling to Christ, drawing our very life from Him. The goal is “much fruit,” as Christ uses us to bring about blessed, celestial results in a broken, fallen world.

The evidence that you are being obedient and doing what He desires is the fruitfulness of your Christian life. Are you producing fruit? Fruit-bearing isn’t always winning souls or gaining a greater number in your Sunday attendance, but your attitudes will be different, your desires will be different, and your actions will be different. So how do you know if you’re doing what God wants? It is helpful to ask the questions above in every situation, but we need not forget about fruitfulness in our Christian lives.