It’s surprising how sometimes things come together as a challenge.
Actually, God’s sovereign so perhaps it isn’t.
We were looking at Matthew 10:17-42 last Sunday evening and the challenge to share the Gospel whatever the reaction, to devote our lives to Jesus rather than anything else. Jesus is pretty blunt in these words about the hostility Christians may face, but also tells Christians to look forward: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
I was challenged because I struggle to share the Gospel with others. Do I live upto Jesus’ words; can I really preach on this passage when I look at my life and don’t live it out as Jesus demands?
Yes I can because it is God’s word to me as well as all who are there. I’m “under the word” as much as anyone else, during the week in preparation, and as it is spoken.
But also, I mustn’t give the impression that I’ve got it all sorted. I need to be honest about my struggles and the need for me to do something about it. Preachers aren’t perfect, they struggle, and they need to admit their struggles (with caveats of course). To do otherwise would be hypocrisy.
That kind of honesty might well help people open up about their struggles, start encouraging each other to holiness, get people praying for each other, perhaps lead to more God-glorifying lives.
The other way to avoid hypocrisy is to do what God says in his word!
Why did this come back to me this week? Preparing a Bible study on Ezra 7-8 I read this about Ezra (7:9-10): “the gracious hand of God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself (set his heart) to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Ezra was devoted to studying God’s word, and, quite simply to do it.
As a minister I spend time studying God’s word. The challenge for me is to do it! If you’re a Christian, may you and I be devoted to studying God’s word – and doing it.
Footnote: Derek Kidner in his Tyndale commentary helpfully writes: Ezra “is a model reformer in that what he taught he had first lived, and what he lived he had first made sure of in the Scriptures. With study, conduct and teaching put deliberately in this right order, each of these was able to function properly at its best: study was saved from unreality, conduct from uncertainty, and teaching from insincerity and shallowness.”