Sermon 02/07/21: Power Tool #5: Searching the Scriptures (Epiphany V)

At this time, due to surging Coronavirus rates, many are not quite ready to return to face to face worship. If this includes you, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/509321619

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crniVzRPjQ

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition: 

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

HYMN Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou My Vision – Selah (worship song with lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG7hIny0QdU

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Breathe on Me, Breath of God
“Breathe On Me Breath Of God” – Acoustic guitar and vocals by Nathan Drake
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-2AOW1ZgW0

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Power Tool #5: Searching the Scriptures.
Text John 5:36-39, John 7:37-53
Series: Those Methodist Tools (Attend Upon All The Ordinances of God)

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

John 5:36 But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. 39 You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. 38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 

40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really the prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Are you led astray, you also? 48 Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, who do not know the law, are accursed.” 50 Nicode’mus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee.” 53 They went each to his own house,

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HYMN Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Selah (Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrsfCZvqGxQ

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

We are looking at power tools for the Christian faith. John Wesley’s third rule was to attend upon all the ordinances of God. And my interpretation of the meaning of that is we need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to grow in faith, to power up our faith to deal with what we need to deal with. There are six of these, and we are now at number five, which John Wesley called Searching the Scriptures.

Whenever we have a meeting, whenever we are about to make a decision, whatever we are thinking to ourselves, what do we do now? … there are lot of ways you can answer that question. But whatever the topic is, whatever the decision involves, searching the scriptures means asking a question. And the question is simply this, what did Jesus say about this?

Now, there’re people who want to jump into action and go racing off to get things done. They don’t want to slow down and have a Bible study. They don’t want to stop and answer this question. But frankly, it’s a very important question. What did Jesus say about this?

Now, we’ve already talked about the value of you beginning your day with a prayer of surrender. That’s the heart of worship. We already talked about what follows that is for you to read some scripture, for you to read perhaps a chapter because you’re looking for a verse that is your verse for today. I call that verse your rebar, which is that metal framework that holds the foundation together – because as you go through the day, you’re going to meditate on that one verse. Maybe on a day, there might be two or three or several that go together, but one chapter because you’re looking for one verse, and that’s your day.

And then, of course, the rest of the day, you seek to be obedient, to do no harm, to do all the good you can. Last week we talked about the reality that Holy Communion is energy and nutrition for us to do God’s will.

But searching the scriptures is a little bit deeper than that. In searching the scriptures, John Wesley talked about a lifestyle of being guided and supported by Bible study, a lifestyle to where you ask yourself what we call the soul questions.

What did Jesus say?
What would Jesus do?

The other question, of course, is to the extent that I can understand why God does what God does, the extent that I can understand why Jesus chose to do what he chose to do, I need to ask the question, why did Jesus say that? Why did Jesus do that?

And I need to let myself be surrounded by the presence of the words of Jesus in the same way that a teabag in hot water makes tea. You may be in hot water today, but a tea bag will release its aromas, its flavor, its gift into the hot water and make it better. Searching the scriptures is a lifestyle of being surrounded and guided by the words of Jesus.

And especially a lifestyle to where you are considering that in the presence of other people. You know why? Because other people will ask questions, other people will raise issues, other people might disagree with you. They might challenge your opinion. They might ask you to look closer at what the Bible verse is saying. And you know something? That helps you to grow. That helps me to grow.

Searching the scriptures is something that we do with great benefit when we do it with other people. It’s been over nine months now since I’ve been a part of a Bible study, I miss it. I miss the questions of other people. I miss being challenged. I miss having to dig deeper into the scripture in order to explain it. John Wesley felt that we should be surrounded as we go through life with learning from what the scripture says.

And it’s also important for another reason. Some people ask the question, is the Bible inerrant? Is everything in the Bible correct?

And here’s my answer to that, I’m quoting Mark Twain here although some people say someone else said it first. Here’s what Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so that gets you into trouble.” It’s what you are absolutely convinced is the truth that gets you into trouble. Because – guess what? Whether or not the Bible is inerrant, you and I are not inerrant.

And I listen to pastors talk. And most of the time when they claim that the Bible is inerrant, you know what they’re doing? They’re claiming that their opinion is inerrant about what a verse says. You can’t challenge them on that because they say you’re challenging the Bible. Guess what, friends, no human being is inerrant.

Consequently, it’s very polite to say, “Please show me where that is in the Bible.” It’s very polite to request this whenever somebody says, “Well, I know it’s in there somewhere.” Don’t be willing to accept that! Ask them to look it up and show you! And while you’re at it, ask them to find five or six other scriptures that say the same thing. Ask them if there are any scriptures that contradict what they just said. Because – you know something? You cannot have enough of the truth of the Bible in your life. Unfortunately, when this inerrant question comes up, it tends to always come up at a place where people take the Bible out of context and where people haven’t done their homework. And the phrase – the Bible said it; I believe it, and that settles it – is something that people say not to increase the amount of Bible study, but people say it to stop Bible study. In fact, people say it as a way to say, “Shut up,” if you dared to ask them a question.

So here’s what I say to all those preachers, here’s what I say to myself: “If you think you’re absolutely right, you’re probably wrong,” at least in some small way where you can learn, and Jesus Christ can help you toward a deeper understanding. Because for preachers, for Christians, for all of us, when we say we don’t know, we find that we’re willing to keep learning. But it’s when we say that we know for sure, it’s when we claim that we could not possibly be wrong, that’s when we find out all too often that what we know for certain is just not true. And because the Bible is holy, we need to be careful what we say is true when we speak from the Bible.

Here are a couple of examples from Scripture.
John 5:37, “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard. His form you have never seen. And you,” Jesus goes on to say, “do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent.” Verse 38, Jesus says, “You do not have the Father’s word abiding in you,” because you don’t believe in Jesus, because Jesus is the one whom God has said to explain God’s word. Jesus goes on to say in verse 39, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness to me,” Jesus says, “yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Friends, we need to respect the scriptures. But we also need to understand that every scripture, and especially those in the Gospels and the New Testament, they refer to Jesus. They bear witness to Jesus. Every one of them teaches us something about Jesus. And if we let them do their work inside our souls, if we let them have their way with us, if we let them change what we think is true, to be closer to what they say, we will find ourselves being encouraged by every one of these words to come to Jesus so that we might have life.

So here’s the reality, Jesus was the word of God, but he was speaking to people who claimed that the scripture said that he was not who he claimed to be. Here’s another very specific example. This is from two chapters later, John, chapter seven, verse 40. Jesus interrupted the worship service in the temple and cried out. Verse 40, when they heard these words, the words that Jesus said, some of the people said, this is really the prophet. Others said, this is the Christ. But some said — these are the people who knew in their minds the truth, who thought that their opinion was inerrant. But some said, is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?

Every single one of us who knows the Christmas story knows the truth of that. Not only that, David’s descendants were spread throughout the nation of Israel. But some said, is the Christ to come from Galilee? Of course not, they said in their arrogance, and they quoted, “Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem?” Of course, it couldn’t be this man from Galilee they said, and they were wrong. Verse 43, So there was a division among the people over him. Why? Because people were misquoting the scripture. They had formed a mistaken impression that they were not willing to carefully consider. They were stirring the pot. And so there was a division among the people, over him. Verse 47, the Pharisees answered them, “Are you led astray, you also? have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd who does not know the law, who is not an expert on scripture like we are, is accursed.” Immediately, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, a leader in the Pharisees, stood up. Nicodemus, who had gone to him before and who was one of them, secretly, said to them all, verse 51, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” Verse 52, they replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee.”

Search the scriptures, they said. You will not find one that says that there will be a prophet that comes from Galilee. They were absolutely certain. They were absolutely wrong. Verse 53 says they went each to his own house. In other words, they each went their own way, believing what they wanted to believe and not being willing to consider, not even that they were wrong, but not being willing to look more deeply into the meaning of scripture because they already had their proof text, they had already taken it out of context, and they knew without any shadow of a doubt that they were right. But what they didn’t know was that they were wrong. They each went on to their own house, doing their own thing, going their own way, and not even considering what would be the truth from the scripture.

Friends, rather than lift a verse out of context and interpret it by what we want to make it say, we need to let the scripture influence us. We need to ask questions. We need to question these inerrant prophets and preachers. And we need to ask questions of the word not because we don’t believe but because we desire to believe in a deeper way, in a more informed way.

The Missionary movement known as CPM (church planting movement), teaches Bible study in countries overseas to where people can’t read. How do you do a Bible study when no one can read? Well, here’s how they do it. They use questions. Someone is there – sometimes it’s a little child who goes to school – someone is there who can read. And they will read one verse. And then they’ll go around the circle and each one says the question, “What does it say?” and they give their interpretation of what the verse is saying. And of course, if you have 12 people in the circle, you’ll get 12 slightly different answers. What does it say?

The second question is, What does it say that I should obey? Because some scripture verses give us information but some scripture verses give us instructions. Things that we need to do.

The third question is, Who needs to hear this? Because sometimes when the Bible verse gives us an instruction, it isn’t actually for us. It’s for us to bring to a third person so that their belief can deepen, so that they can know Jesus Christ in a more clear way. Who needs to hear this? Sometimes we do. But sometimes we’re the person who brings the word of God to another person to help them.

2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is inspired by God and profitable, even one verse. If you carefully think it over, if other people help you to realize, even one verse can have a very deep and rich meaning as you go through a chapter one verse at a time. Searching the scripture involves asking questions like these so that we can understand every verse with a greater sense of depth. And also by dwelling on one verse at a time gives the Holy Spirit an opportunity to speak to our hearts, to draw our attention to details that we might otherwise have missed. This is what it is like to be surrounded by the truth of scripture. Searching the Scriptures means that we read the Bible. We ask questions whether it’s about a single verse or a whole chapter, and we ponder and listen to Jesus for the answers. We think out loud and we listen to each other. And sometimes one person, sometimes the most insignificant, uneducated, most humble person in the room will say the most wisest and profound truth about the meaning of a verse.

And then because, being faulty human beings, we tend to forget things, take a moment to write down what is important, to have a notebook, to make a journal of what God is telling you through the scripture, because as with the questions, there may be something that you need to obey. You’ll want to make a list of how you might try to do that. There will be the question as to who else needs to know this, and you will figure out who it is and how to approach them because you are a bearer of a truth from God’s word to help someone else. So take time to write it down.

One of the worst things we can do with Bible study, one of the worst things that we can do if it’s our goal to be surrounded by scripture as a lifestyle is to be in too much of a hurry. You’ll always know you’re in too much of a hurry if you don’t have time to write anything down. It’s a clear indication.

I was thinking the other day about what it’s like to own a bakery. Early in the morning, the baker comes because the people want fresh bread. Early in the morning, the baker gets to work because the doughnuts, the rolls, the bread, whatever it is that need to be made, they are made early that morning because when people come to the bakery, they want fresh bread.

It’s been almost 2,000 years since Jesus Christ walked on this earth, but the meaning of scripture that nurtures us is a fresh meaning of scripture. It may be thate Saint Francis said it centuries ago. It may be that Martin Luther wrote it down centuries ago. It may be that John Wesley put it in his journal. But what you and I really want is for God to serve us fresh bread.

And so when we open up the Bible, it’s a little bit like walking through the door into the bakery. In the words of the Bible are fresh bread for you to meet the hungers of your heart, to give you strength for what you need this day because Jesus lives today in your life and my life. And when we open up the Bible, Jesus provides us with fresh words for today. John Wesley’s words are still good, so are Martin Luther’s and so are Saint Francis’s. But Jesus gives you a fresh word for today because he is the Word that has become flesh and dwells among us. (John 1)

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we want fresh bread on our table. Dried up, leftover truth might still have nourishment in it. But Lord, the fresh bread, the fresh word, the new thing that you are ready to tell us, it is such a wonderful and a delicious blessing. Help us, Lord, to understand that what we need to know about God, about the truth, we can find in the Word. When we open up the Bible, we will meet Jesus there and Jesus will give us a fresh word for a new day. Jesus will help us to understand what it means to do no harm. Jesus will help us to understand what we should do in order to do all the good that we can. Jesus will feed our souls and we will grow spiritually because he is ready, right here right now in our lives today to be both Savior and Lord and the Shepherd who guides us on the path of this life. And so, Lord, we open the Bible and we are willing and ready to hear from you about this day.
Lord, we pray and ask for a fresh word from you for exactly what our life needs in this moment, this day. And we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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