A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””John 8:31-32 NIV1984
In order to hold on to the teachings of Jesus we have to spend time in the Word. Throughout history people hungry for power and influence have twisted the Word to their own advantage over the un-educated. I found this quote by Martin Luther who realized while studying the book of Romans that the "Church" had diverged a long long way from the truth of the Word. He was put on trial and pressured to re-cant his teachings. His response is this “Unless I am convinced by the Scripture and clear reasoning – I do not trust in popes and councils since they have often been wrong – my conscience is bound to the Word of God. I neither can nor will recant anything, for to act against conscience is wrong and dangerous. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”
In Act 17:11 a group of believers is commended."Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
At the time John 8:31-32 was spoken by Jesus the Gideon's were not handing out bibles, and you couldn't go to the local book store and pick up a copy. There were no copies to be found in the drawer beside the bed in your local inn. There were the Jewish scriptures that told one what God expected even that was not readily available for the average family to take home to study. They had to go to the local Synagoge to study the scriptures. The Jews of that day who believed Jesus were searching the scriptures to see if what he was saying went along with what God had already told them. As they searched they were convinced that He was indeed the promised Messiah they had been waiting for. Jesus when he taught would start with the words "It is written" and the it says often that the the people were amazed. Jesus taught with a different kind of authority than they were accustomed to hearing. Here's and example from Luke 4:31-36
31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice,34 “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
At the time of Act 17 people still had the Jewish scriptures but there also began to be a body of trusted letters and eye witness accounts from those who had walked closely with Jesus. Paul is a bit late to the party and had been known for persecuting the followers of Jesus. He was a guy that was on the fast track towards being a high, high leader in the Synagoge and perhaps even being groomed to one day be the high priest. He gave up a lot to follow Jesus. He took his vast learning of the scriptures and the revelations of Jesus and helped many others to connect the dots.
He writes in Philippians 3 "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
You should be able to take your beliefs and answer the question "Where is it written." We might even find that we are like blind men trying to describe different sides of an elephant. Often we need to dig deeper and be careful not to pull things out of context. The place to start is in the written word. What did Jesus say? How did he live? How did he treat others? What did his closest followers have to say about him?
My challenge for you today is that you spend some time digging a bit deeper in to the Word. Do more than just skim over it. Take the time to find other supporting verses. Spend time thinking and praying about what it means and how it applies to your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you and help you. I'm not saying that you need to spend hours and hours every day but find some time each day to spend getting to know the Lord through His written Word.
Prayer: Lord, I pray that you will go before each reader and help them to know you more and more. Help them to grow up in you to begin to be fed on more than milk. Weather they are infants or great thinkers who know your word well, take each one a bit deeper in their knowledge of you and the great revelation of your love for each of us.