Today marks a fresh start for us in several ways. First, we begin our time of gathering in this new venue. Second, it’s the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend which means summer is technically over, school starts back, and the fall season is here (including college football — ‘row the boat!”). Third, today we begin a new sermon series that will take us up to Christmas. The sermon series is called "Abraham" and we plan, Lord willing, to look at and preach through Genesis 12 to 26.
To accompany this sermon series we have developed a Bible Study that follows the preaching schedule. I'd like to highlight a few things about this Bible Study, which we call "The Quarterly".
First, I want to say thanks to everyone who helped on this study. This was a team effort. We had several members contribute articles. Thank you very much for your contribution. Thanks especially to Ryan Leichty for doing the design and pulling it all together.
Fresh Start Bible Study
So today is a fresh start for us today in many ways, but it may be a good opportunity for you personally to have a fresh start when it comes to Bible Study.
Think with me – how has your personal Bible Study looked this summer? How about the last few weeks? What have you been studying? When have you been looking at the Scriptures? What new insights have been fueling you?
For me, August has been a crazy month. June and July included impactful Bible Study for me as I studied Genesis to write the questions for the quarterly. But then after that big project I had kind of a letdown after that and I kind of struggled to get into a new study. So a few weeks ago I decided I needed to come up with a new plan, to change it up, and try to get into a new part of Scripture. I often change up my plans to help me get back into a pattern of Bible Study. The fresh start that I gave myself a few weeks ago was helpful. I started doing my devotionals looking at Romans 10. Fresh starts are helpful.
And today, for you personally, this may be the time for a fresh start in regards to Bible Study. If you need a fresh start, please use The Quarterly. Study the passages, think about the questions, journal your answers.
Today can be another the fresh start for you. You know, in a race there is a beep or a gun that is used to start the race. I want to offer that "on your mark, get set, go" from Romans 10:1-4. These verses say: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them (that is Israel) is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
I want to focus in on two observations.
First, I find it interesting that Paul is referring to Israel here and showing us that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. Zeal for God is not the problem. The issue that Paul has is that they have a zeal for God, but they have a wrong understanding of the facts. For some of them they may not even have the facts straight. They have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge.
So, this prompts the question – how do you get the right knowledge? We believe that the Bible is the place to go to get the right knowledge, the right facts, and by letting scripture interpret scripture, come to the right understanding of knowing God. In a way, this starts with you. We need a fresh start to get back into our Bibles to let the facts and the truth about Jesus Christ transform our hearts.
Second, Paul says that they are ignorant. Ignorance means "lacking in knowledge or training, unlearned, especially in a certain subject or fact, uninformed." So what does Paul say that the Israelites ignorant about? They are ignorant about the righteousness of God. They come to God defending themselves saying, look at what I've done. They try to obtain a righteousness on their own. And often we do this as well. We try to manage our life apart from God. Bible Study is a critical way to humble yourself before God and let the Scriptures impact you, as you by faith, submit yourself to God and the gospel and the truth. Let's take a fresh start in submitting ourselves to God and coming to him covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and freely and joyfully let the Scriptures impact us.
Now to help launch us to the Abraham sermon series let me say this – When Paul wrote Romans he was speaking to a group of people that knew Genesis 12-26 very well. Yet from the verses I just read, they obviously didn't have a right understanding of it. Let this be a helpful challenge to us to look deeper into this sermon series and to study hard and to pray for right understanding of the passages so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is that righteousness comes to us as a free gift and that we cannot obtain right standing with God apart from Jesus, that gospel I pray will shine bright in this sermon series.
Father, thank you for your Bible. It is a lamp unto my feet. It is light in darkness. It is truth and a rock in the midst of a turbulent world. Every day we have trials and challenges and temptations. Your Bible is a rock for us, yet we often neglect it. We make excuses. Our hearts grow cold towards it. Our doubts creep up. We launch criticism in our hearts towards God.
Father, we confess that we often rely on our own understanding and efforts. We often live like we have the words of eternal life. Father we confess that we often neglect you in regards to learning more about you in Bible Study.
Father, this is a great evil, and we know that if we in the church regard sin in our midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now in a time of silent confession.
Father, we thank you that you have given us the gift of your son Jesus who is solid, and stable, and consistent to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to you. Jesus, thank you for sacrificially dying on our behalf so that we can have life. Thank you Jesus for being bigger than our life. Thank you for being in control of the world and all of its details. Thank you Jesus for being the Word. You are the Word. By your Spirit now, be pleased to bless our Bible Study efforts this fall. Please help the pastors preach the sermon series well. Please help us prioritize time in the day to study the passages. bless our time in your word. We believe in you and we know that your Bible is truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Please stand for the assurance of pardon.
Church, you have confessed your sins. Now, hear the good news! When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, to all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, in Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven.