Friday, March 16, 2012
TIME FOR SCHOOL
"when all Israel assembles in the presence of the Lord your God at the place He chooses, you are to read this law aloud before all Israel. Gather the people-men, women, children, and foreigners living within your gates-so that they may listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 31:11, 12 HCSB)
Three of the most dreaded words, a teenager ever hears, were just spoken to my son mere minutes ago: "Time for school!" I felt the same way. Now, of course, my perspective has changed. There is a recognition on my part of the necessity of education--the benefits that come to those who learn.
I suppose that's the way we feel sometimes when the clock goes off on Sunday mornings. Did you hear the story about a fellow who refused to get up, despite his wife's persistent pleas? "Get ready for church!" He rolled over and put the pillow over his head. She continued to yell up the steps, "Time for church!" Her voice was like fingernails raked across a chalkboard at that early hour. His grouchy response was, "I don't want to!" His wife said, "You have to!" He yelled, "Tell me one good reason!" She replied, "Because you are the pastor!"
Been there, done that! But, not often. Most of the time, I am eager to get to the house of God. I realize the blessings and the joys that come when I go to the house of the Lord. It is true that I have a job to do--the one day when some people think I have to work. But, I was going with eagerness to Sunday School before I became a pastor. It wasn't a job, but a joy. I had been born again--and I was like a baby craving for the milk of God's Word. His saving grace put a hunger in me that remains to this day. I must feed on the Word, and now I have matured to the place that I am privileged to feed others!
Sunday School, small groups, cell groups--whatever terminology you use and whenever or wherever you meet, this education in the Word of God is indispensable. One of the last things Moses did was to underscore this fact. When people know they are about to die, they dispense with the trivial and stress the essential. Listen up!
We need to ASSEMBLE. All Israel was to gather to be instructed in the Scripture. They gathered in the presence of the Lord. While it is true that God is everywhere, there is a particular expression of His presence that we can know when we meet with His people in anticipation of hearing from Him. Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20 HCSB) God reveals Himself in His Word. All ages were to gather for instruction. From the youngest child to the oldest member, we always need, and never outgrow, the instruction of Scripture. Fundamental truths are like seed sown in a youngster's heart, which will later bear fruit. It is cultivated as we grow, and there is constant weeding and pruning as long as we live. In later years, we may start to droop and need to be "staked up" with God's promises. What I have found is that in every season of life, there is a relevant message from the Bible. Even the foreigners were to come and learn. We might equate this to the evangelistic thrust of Sunday School and the need for invitation and assimilation of the lost into our Bible studies, prayerfully trusting the Holy Spirit to use the powerful Gospel to dispel spiritual darkness and bring conviction of sin.
We must be ATTENTIVE. Moses told the Jews to listen and learn. One may be physically present in the church building and yet be mentally "out to lunch." Listening is not an easy task. Learning is not automatic. It requires effort. There is the additional barrier in that our sinful hearts are resistant to the truth, our exposure to the world's deception clouds our thinking and Satan is like an evil bird ready to swoop in and devour the seed before it can germinate. So, we are trying to hear commands from the Captain of our Salvation, while surrounded by "the fog of war." Jesus exhorted us, "Therefore take care how you listen. For whoever has, more will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him." (Luke 8:18 HCSB) Be prayerful, asking God to open your eyes, and be prepared by expecting the Holy Spirit to speak. Have your Bible open, pen and paper in hand, with an open mind and heart. It should be added that the teacher and preacher have a responsibility in this also. We must be engaging and enthusiastic to be effective. If the communicator isn't excited about his or her subject, then we can hardly expect the audience to be. Moses prayed what every teacher needs to seek, "Let my teaching fall like rain and my word settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants." (Deuteronomy 32:2 HCSB)
We respond with AWE. Moses said the result of hearing the Word of God would be to learn to fear the Lord. This has to do with inward transformation and is a matter of attitude. The more we hear God's Word, the closer we are drawn to Him and in the light of His holiness we see the depth of our sinfulness. We are gripped by the majesty of God's nature, are captivated by the wonder of His person and are brought to brokenness before Him. If we do not learn to fear the Lord, then we may rest assured we have not encountered Him in the Word.
We respond with ACTION. This is the true test. We are not mere hearers of the Word, but become doers of it. Moses warned, "be careful to follow all the words of this law." This means that true inward transformation has occurred, for it yields outward application. You have not learned to drive by simply studying a driver's education manual, as important as that is. You have learned to drive when you can put that knowledge to work by getting behind the wheel and operating the vehicle. Some think that to have a head full of Bible facts is the sum total of Christianity (and we do want heads full of truth). It is hearts full of love and hands full of righteous deeds that are the product of real learning.
So, get ready teacher. Be prepared student. Study preacher! Plan to attend church member. In a few hours, the alarm will signal, "Time for school!"