Discipleship: Studying with the Aim to Change

Dear BPCWAians, Every week and at almost every activity, we have the Word of God preached and taught to us in church. This is important, as it must be the focus of every church. Discipleship is not a magic zap that makes one holy. God’s way to sanctification is through the washing of water of the word (Eph 5:26). Discipleship begins with learning through the listening of God’s Word. We have Bible Studies for different groups in BPCWA. As your Pastor, I can only do my part to ensure that the teaching is sound and it is faithful. But how do you listen to the Word of God?

The wrong ways to listen to God’s Word. Some schools offer a subject that covers the study of the Bible. However, for the vast majority of those that take this course, the study of the Bible does very little good for them. They may know the Bible studies, be able to memorise the minutest facts, and even very accurately repeat what is taught. Those taking this course may even score an “A” for the subject. The church should be full of worshippers that love God’s Word, that love to attend Bible studies and listen more and more to God’s Word. A church with little interest in God’s Word is a church that is not interested in being the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15). But the study of the Bible is not to be pursued as an academic book. To listen and study it only for the accumulation of knowledge is insufficient.

Then, there are some who listen to God’s Word to use it for someone else. Sunday school teachers may be familiar with this situation. When you teach about a particular sin, the child will be happy to tell you about their sibling who has apparently sinned that sin and gloss over all mention of their own failings. Adults are often the same. We are often happy to have hard hitting messages – as long as it hits someone else. We love sin to be preached about – as long as it’s not my sin. We may even be echoing strongly in our hearts how the sermon is particularly fitting for our spouse, our children, our enemy or just simply for someone else. When we listen to a message, do we think self-righteously in our hearts “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are…” (Luke 18:11)? There is a very dangerous condition that God warns about when we do not respond to God’s prompting in His Word, where their “heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed” (Matt 13:15). We thank God for keeping BPCWA faithful to His truth. Reader, if you come week after week under God’s counsel in the preaching of the Word and walk away thinking that you have not sinned in any way and the sermon never applies to you, be very fearful for your spiritual state and condition. God tells us that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1John 1:8).

The right way to listen toG od’s Word. To truly benefit from God’s Word, we must first understand the purpose of preaching. Why do you come for Bible studies? Christians are expected to study the Bible not just to know facts, but to know God better. We must study to learn more about His Person and attributes that we may worship and serve Him better. Why is the sermon a key part of our Sunday Worship service? Because God has ordained preaching to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” (2 Tim 4:2). Our prayer then when we hear God’s Word is “show me my sins so that I can change”. If God’s Word is faithfully taught and preached, then it is indeed “thus saith the LORD”.

This means that the attitude of the heart that accompanies the listening of God’s Word must be that of humility. How do you know you have such a heart? When you listen with the purpose to change yourself. No one likes being reproved and rebuked, or being told what to or what not to do. One’s pride often gets in the way to reject that. God resists the proud (James 4:6). He hears those whose hearts are tender to His word, and humble themselves before Him (2 Chron 34:27). It means putting myself under the subjection of God’s authority and God’s Word. It means learning afresh and renewing my mind about what to think about things that I may have been accustomed to thinking or do just by being and walking around in the world. It means seeing things in a new light – God’s light.

The right response while listening to God’s Word.T his means relearning and allowing God to redefine in our lives what is right and what is wrong. What is worldly and what is holy. What is righteous and what is sin. What is encouraged and what must be avoided. In short, we must be willing to erase even what we have grown used to, and allow God to write afresh on our hearts, based on His Word, how we should think, live and choose. It must involve every aspect of our life – whether it is in our work, our families, or our personal lives. Is this what you look for and desire in the preaching of God’s Word? Unless you have such a heart, you are not hearing God’s Word rightly, and you are not following Him as you ought to be. God’s Word must be applied personally – and firstly – to “me”. This is a fundamental part of being a disciple. A disciple is a learner that goes away to do what he has learned.

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Perhaps you have grown calloused to God’s Word. Perhaps you have hardened your heart to not think of God’s repeated rebuke and warning. Let us repent, and come back to God. Start with the right listening of God’s Word. Pray as you read the Bible and listen to sermons every Sunday and at fellowships that the Holy Spirit will use His sword to probe into our innermost parts of our heart so that we may know more about how to please Him.

Yours in our Lord’s service