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Monday, August 02, 2004

UPDATE AUGUST 2004

The value of expository Scripture studies. During these summer months at Ancona and in Matelica, the churches are studying 1 Corinthians. You probably already experience the healthy balance to be enjoyed in your book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter Bible meditations. So, what we are doing here in Italy is not new to you.

Years ago, however, an older Christian, during his morning devotions, would say regularly, "Let?s read a few choice passages of Scripture and pray." While this sounded good, it reflected a piece-meal approach, that culls out texts that seemed unpleasant, skirts around issues that are deemed controversial and misses a large segment of human problems that our Lord intended for us to face and deal with. Such texts seemed "unedifying," and so were left unread, unconsidered and ineffective.

Years ago, a homiletics professor warned his students against harping continually on topics that merely expose the audience's weaknesses, create more friction, and fail to bring healing. "Men," he insisted, "preach the whole counsel of God; teach all of Scripture, because the Bible touches every human need. Teaching through the Bible verse-by-verse, sooner or later raises these issues and deals with them. The audience can see themselves more objectively, because they understand that "we?re just going through the Bible, adding nothing and omitting nothing." They can identify with people in Bible times who faced duplicates of their own problems, and yet found their hope and healing in the Lord. The speaker cannot then be accused of hammering on a limited number of weaknesses and sins. Rather, the Scriptures, fully proclaimed, eventually resolve problems some teachers do not even know their people have!"

As we study 1 Corinthians at Ancona and in Matelica during these summer months, it never ceases to amaze how many of our own live problems the Holy Spirit has already dealt with over 2,000 years ago. As He exposes sins that concern someone in the group, the teacher/preacher is no longer "the accuser"; it is clear that God is at work on the hearts of the listeners.
In churches where pride and jealousy have exploded in disputes and division, in Italy where sexual sin is not merely a temptation but a national pastime, in cases where divorce is infecting the church, the message of 1 Corinthians is vital and so very timely. At the same time, for the people involved in these and other sins, this book still offers this joyous message of hope: "And that is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Co. 6:11) "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (1:9).

In such Bible classes, questions arise that bring to light the fundamental ignorance and unbelief of some church members, revealing the need to "get back to the basics."
So, if you are not yet engaged in Scripture meditation on every text of Scripture, let us encourage you to join your Italian brothers and sisters in this soul-satisfying, character-building activity.