Learning and Living the God-centered life

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Bible Survey

Understanding the storyline of the Bible

What is the plot line or the story line of the Bible? It is a true story about the unfolding and progressive plan of God to redeem mankind. The story is not about how someone can have a better marriage, a more successful career, or even how to live a healthy lifestyle. But it is a story about mankind being at enmity with God so that the only reconciliation available is through Jesus Christ who died, was buried and three days later rose from the dead. The pronouncement of this event in history is called the good news. And it is good news because God has acted in the person and work of Jesus Christ to save people from their sins. The very sins that once kept them separated from God have been paid in full by the death of Christ on the cross. Also there has been a transferring of righteousness from Jesus to the account of every believer so that they now have the very righteousness of Christ. It is now that the believer can know with 100% confidence that God is for them and no longer is against them. This is really news, good news, the kind of news that makes an eternal difference in the lives of those who will receive it by faith.

The kingdom of God

“The kingdom of God is the new and final age that began with the coming of Jesus. His kingdom is not part of the present age — an age where the flesh reigns; where people are divided, relationships are broken, and suspicion and competition dominate; where money, sex, and power are abused; where leaders are first and servants are last; where behavior is controlled by laws, and identity is defined by race, gender, or social standing; and where gifts and resources are used for the advancement of oneself.

Rather, the kingdom of God is the new age. It is the age of the Spirit (Matt 12:28). It is the age of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). The kingdom of God is about the renewal, restoration, and reconciliation of all things, and God has made us a part of this great story of salvation.” - Neil H. Williams, Gospel Transformation (Jenkintown, Pa.; World Harvest Mission, 2006)

From the front burner

Last night at the men’s Bible study I emphasized that the organizing plan of the Bible is the unfolding and progressive redemption of mankind by God. Whenever I study the plan of the Bible it always brings me to the gospel. I heard a pastor once say:

Most people inside the church think the gospel is for those outside the church. They think the gospel is for non Christians so that when God saves us then we have done that so to speak and now we are ready to move into deeper things. But we need to remember once we get saved God doesn’t move us beyond the gospel but rather He moves us further into an understanding of the gospel.

And that is the very reason that I continue to teach the plan of the Bible to the men on Tuesday night. Because we never move beyond a need to understand it instead we need to move further into our understanding of it.

Bible Basics


1. ANTICIPATION - If you were to read through the Old Testament over and over it would leave you with a strong impression that someone is coming. And that would in fact be correct because the Old Testament is constantly pointing to the coming of Christ.
Do you remember what Jesus explained to the two men on the road to Emmaus? Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Therefore when we read the Old Testament we need to be aware that it speaks of the Jesus Himself.

2. MANIFESTATION - When we arrive at the books of Matthew-John we can see that He is here! The gospels in the New Testament record for us the birth, life, teaching, ministry, miracles, rejection, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
This means that Jesus is the unfolding or declaration of God the Father to us, to see the Son is to see the Father. Therefore as we read the Bible and pull out the truth from the text, to do so correctly means that we will see Jesus.

3. PROCLAMATION - In the book of Acts, we have the resurrected Jesus giving instructions to His disciples in Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” In Acts Chapter 2 the Spirit fills those at Pentecost and this begins the taking of the message to Jerusalem, Judea, Sumaria, and then to the outer most parts of the earth. Read More...

The unity of Scripture

If you are new to “how to study” the Bible, please be patient. This is a skill that needs to be developed over the years but it is so exciting and rewarding! One of the purposes of this class is to help those attending to have a system that they use when doing Bible study and devotion.

The following is an article from Wayne Grudem whose book on Systematic Theology is taught today in most seminaries. He has an excellent reputation and provides much helpful insight into the study of God's word.

Keeping the “Big Picture” in Mind: Some Observations about the Whole of Scripture

Big Picture 1

The Bible is a historical document. Therefore, always ask, “What did the author want the original readers to understand by this statement?”

Big Picture 2

The original authors wanted the original readers to respond in some ways. Therefore, always ask, “What application did the original author want the readers to make to their lives?” Read More...

How to best understand the Bible

From the blog site of Tullian Tchividjian

Contrary to what many Christians have concluded, the Bible DOES NOT tell two stories: the story of Israel in the OT and the story of the church in the NT. No, the Bible tells one story and points to one figure: it tells the story of how God rescues a broken world and points to Christ who accomplishes this. In the OT God revealed himself through types and shadows, through promises and prophecies. In the NT God reveals himself in Christ who is the substance of every shadow and the fulfillment of every promise and prophecy. In other words, the OT predicts God’s rescuer; the NT presents God’s rescuer. Therefore, the whole Bible–both the Old and New Testament–is all about God’s rescuer. READ MORE..

Back to Basics

Before I go on with this review let me mention something close to my heart. Most people that you come across in the church today have never read the Bible through one time. Therefore one of the first exhortations from our very first study was for the men to read through the entire Bible each and every year. How should we expect to learn "how to study the Bible" if we have never read the very book we are going to study? So I will continue to emphasize as I did last night the big picture approach before starting into a study of individual books of the Bible.

Last night, I again challenged us to know the purpose of the Bible. And the answer is "the glory of God." We have discussed this before, talked about the importance of God's glory and even made references to how this should apply to our life. But I am asking the question from a three-fold perspective. Once the answer comes from the mouth there are three additional essentials I want you to know.
1. How would you define the term or phrase?
2. Can you give an illustration?
3. Are you able to support the definition with Scripture?

Guys this is not a question on Bible jeopardy! This is a question about knowing the God of the Bible and to know Him is to know His word. Check out the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17:3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." When we are studying the purpose of the Bible which means we are studying the purpose of God. And the natural follow up question is if the "glory of God" is the theme of the Bible is this the theme of our lives. If you died tomorrow and your wife, children, extended family and friends were able to give a eulogy would they say "his life was dedicated to or lived out for the glory of God." What is the goal of our conversion while we are living here on planet earth? In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we read this "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." Each and every day as we read and have devotions in the word of God the Spirit of God is transforming us little by little into a Christ likeness. And should we ask "WHY?" The answer is so that when others watch you, hear you and put a telescope lens up to your life, what they see is the demonstration of the greatness of Jesus Christ!

Old Testament Chart

Here is an Old Testament Chart that will help in getting a handle on the timeline as it relates to the kings and the prophets.
Also it is a very simple way to remember which prophets spoke to which group of people.

Bible reading in Lamentations

Today the book of Lamentations. Whenever we get to the point of laying the foundation of doctrine and progressive line of redemption from Genesis to Revelation then we will be ready to study a book. Again my training was to go from the big picture and then travel to chapter, paragraphs, sentences and finally words. But always the first order of business involves things like date, theme and background. This is where critical and reference commentaries are very helpful to the study process. I will make suggestions on these things later but an excellent online resource is the ESV which I am using for the information below.

Lamentations describes the results of Babylon's destruction of Jerusalem in 587 b.c. in vivid (though stylized) detail. The book has the flavor of personal experience and eyewitness testimony, particularly in the descriptions of death and starvation in 4:1–22. Though it is possible that a long time passed between the destruction and the book's composition, there is no compelling reason to accept this conclusion. Since temple worship had begun again by 520–516 b.c. (during the time of Haggai and Zechariah), it is likely that the mourning for the city and temple had reached its height before then. The date of the writing of Lamentations probably falls between 587 and 516 b.c., with a time earlier in the era being more likely.

The key passage in Lamentations is 3:19–24, where the speaker affirms that belief in God's mercy and faithfulness is the key to a restored relationship with God. This fact is true even for people who have merited and received God's judgment (1:18). Hope, not despair, is the final word in Lamentations.

This theme becomes clear as the book unfolds. Lamentations presents five intricately interconnected poems. Together they describe a movement from horrible loss and personal shame, to restored hope and prayer for renewal.

Purpose, Occasion and Background
Lamentations was most likely written to be prayed or sung in worship services devoted to asking God's forgiveness and seeking restoration to a covenant relationship with God. Such observances began as early as the months after the temple's destruction in 587 b.c. (Jer. 41:4–5). They continued when the temple was rebuilt during Zechariah's time (c. 520 b.c.; see Zech. 7:3–5; 8:19). As time passed, Lamentations was read and sung as part of annual observances related to remembering the temple's destruction.

After this information is assimilated now start to think where Lamentations is on the overall Bible grid that we have laid out in the men's study. Well, it falls from Exodus to Malachi which means it must in some manner be a pre-figurement. So how does Lamentations prefigure what we see in the New Testament? It seems to have a significant pre-figurement as it points to the ultimate judgment that we see in the book of Revelation. But also points to how God is going to restore His promised seed into the kingdom.

The unity of Scripture

In our men’s Bible study the main focus right now is looking at the unity of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. How can you understand where to place the pieces in the puzzle if you don’t have a good picture of the puzzle? I continue to be amazed at the amount of Bible study that is taught without referral to the foundational pieces of Bible doctrine and Biblical theology. As I said at our retreat Bible doctrine is like the border of the jigsaw puzzle whereas understanding the progressive redemption of mankind by God is the box top. Also I gave away the following books to help us grasp these basics as we continue to read, study and have devotions in God’s word. The books I suggest to start with are:
  • “According to the Plan” by Graeme Goldsworthy
  • “God’s Big Picture” by Vaugh Roberts
  • “The Goldsworthy Trilogy” by Graeme Goldsworthy

When one learns the basics it prepares the way to have rich study with individual books of the Bible. The other day while perusing some of my favorite theological sites I came upon this sound clip. The gentlemen speaking is Dr. Michael Horton, professor at Westminster Seminary which is in California. But what grabbed my attention was the foundational groundwork he laid prior to the study of Galatians. This should be exciting for those who are regulars to this blog site, or especially for those who attended the retreat. Listen carefully to how Dr. Horton ties together a rich understanding of the entire Bible before launching into the study of a book within the Bible. This is in hermeneutics the “unity of Scripture” is so important. Because this is where we take the whole and then start to understand each of the pieces that make it up.

To hear this sound clip simply click on this LINK.

The redemption of mankind

There are two important questions I think one needs to ask when approaching the Bible. The first question has to do with the purpose and the second question has to do with the plan. I would argue that the purpose of the Bible is “the glory of God” whereas the plan of the Bible is the “unfolding and progressive redemption of mankind.” We need as Christians a sound hermeneutical grid that we can lay over the Bible. The word hermeneutics simply means a system to study by in order that we can properly determine what the author meant by what he wrote. My old sales boss used to say “if you don’t have a system to sell by you will automatically be part of the prospects system to buy by.” I think that is how many Christians approach the Bible. They don’t have a system to study by so they default to what others say and teach.

Again here is a plug for reading through the Bible time and time again. As you read there starts to form a unity of Scripture within the mind of the reader. It seems that most Bible preaching today deals with a few verses and then immediately to application. So people are trained to be selective in their personal reading, study and devotion. One of the key components of Retreat 2010 is to teach an organized plan from Genesis to Revelation. And the plan revolves around the redemptive history that we read from the Old to New Testament. The following is partial post of a blog article from Carl Gobelman on the redemption of mankind as brought out in the Bible.

"For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

Lately, I've been bothered that refer to the bible as "the owner's manual for life." To me, this is very dismissive of Scripture. It's as if the bible becomes the book to turn to when we're sad or happy or angry or lonely. Just go to the bible and get that 'pick me up' to keep going through life.

I don't want to deny the ability of the bible to provide hope to the discouraged or strength to the downtrodden. But that is not the bible's primary purpose. First and foremost, the bible is a story. It's a story of how God created the world and placed the man he created in his image in a paradise on earth. This man he created disobeyed God and fell from grace. From that point on, the bible tells the story of how God moved to redeem his fallen creation; culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Observing the "Big Picture"

One of the key learning tools for me has been the unity of Scripture. Let me use an illustration that you have read from me before. Suppose a friend of yours invited you to a house warming party. This is where people drop by to see someone's home and to take a tour. Can you imagine knocking on the door, walking immediately into the dining room with your magnifying glass to examine one of the legs of the dining room table? Well that is exactly how many people today come into their study of the Bible. First of all we need to come up to the house and observe landscaping, structure of the home, roof style and those things visible from the outside. And then when we enter get a tour that gives us an overall feel for the flow of the home, from foyer to kitchen to den to bedroom and so on. In other words we first look a the big picture of everything before we look at and study of any one thing.

If your involved in the Bible reading plan then you are coming into a section of Scriptures that can be quite confusing. You have Saul as the first king of Israel, then David and then Solomon. But after the problem with Solomon's son there is a division into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Then the reading talks about the king from the north and then a king from the south. As you read there is this king in the north that overlaps with the reign of kings in the south and vice versa. On top of all that you have the prophets appearing on the scene. Some are prophesying specifically to the northern kingdom and some to the southern kingdom. All in all the details here can be a bit overwhelming to the point you can get a bit bogged down. My solution is to bring you back to the "big picture" so that you can know where you are at any point and time.

So for your Bible reading ease and convenience I have attached a chart that hopefully can clear up confusion. I find that visual charts are very helpful when it comes to reading and understanding historical narratives. And as you know, the first 17 books of the Old Testament are historical narratives. The chart listed below will give you a "big picture" overview from 1 Samuel through Malachi. Just click on the words below and they will take you to the charts.

Chart #1

The chart above is in a file format that allows you to print this out