“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1st John 2:28)
Treasures sounds good to me, and avoiding shame sounds even better. How do we do both? First, of course, there’s salvation, because the Bible says, “… without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
The Bible is the key to getting to know what God wants of us:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17)
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15)
Both of those quotes were written to a young preacher, but they are good advice for every believer in Jesus. And the Bible was written for every believer. We only have to study it to learn what God wants of us. There are lifetimes worth of study involved, but we aren’t expected to know it all.
A military comparison fits here. Not every soldier needs to reach the fitness and combat skill level of a Navy SEAL or Delta Force operator. In Christian faith, those would be the ones who study the original languages and cultures of the Bible intensively and extensively, and missionaries who dedicate years of their lives first to training generally and then to studying a language and culture until they can accurately translate the Bible and teach in that language.
But every soldier needs to know the basics: to take orders, how to use his weapon, how to take care of himself physically in combat conditions, how to fight as part of a team. The Bible teaches us the equivalent of those things. We need the “Special Forces” to show us the application of the basics.
In this time in history, there are few “Special Forces” Christians we can trust. I won’t go into all the actual depravity we’ve seen being taught as Biblical from so many pulpits and seminaries, and that doesn’t even count the lazy, luke-warm church leaders snoozing their way to ruin and condemnation on the Judgment Day. We know enough to be very suspicious of Christian “leaders”.
We do have an incredibly powerful ally to take up the slack, however: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is so important to us that King Jesus mentioned Him four times in His last recorded conversation with the Twelve disciples:
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 16:25-26)
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26)
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)
Here is just part of what Paul wrote about the Holy Spirit in Christians’ lives:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good … All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” (Selected from 1st Corinthians 12:4-11)
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose … The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’ … On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable! ” (Selected from 1st Corinthians 12:12-21)
No one has NO gifts from God. Every single one of us has something given to us by God which we can use to earn those treasure, to be a witness to God’s salvation, to bring honor to His name and to the name of Jesus.
With the Written Word and the Holy Spirit to teach us, John said, “… the anointing that you received from Him remains in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” (1st John2:27)
A concordance and some kind of study Bible will help you find topics that are of concern to you at any particular time. Reading regularly in the Bible and reading the entire Bible through word for word will expose you to every topic in the Bible, and enable the Holy Spirit to more easily bring to your attention matters you need to consider.
Other believers who have studied the Bible should list in the comments those study aids they have found helpful. I have found these three tools to be the greatest help to me in understanding the Bible:
1) Thompson Chain Reference Bible (available in at least King James Version and New International Version)
2) Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
3) George Ricker Berry’s Interlinear Greek English New Testament.
Remember when you study a topic to read everything the Bible has to say on that topic. In a sense, the Bible is in code. Part of a message may be found in the Gospels, part in Paul’s or Peter’s letters, part in the Old Testament. Missing part of the message may leave you with a serious misunderstanding. A topical Bible is a great help in finding the entire message.
To get you started, here are some ideas: Christian faith involves:
1) our relationship to God
2) our relationship to other Christians
3) our relationship to those who are not believers in Jesus
4) our place in and attitude toward the world
Go forth and study! And try to get into a Bible study that is led by a mature Christian who follows what the Bible teaches and doesn’t add anything to it. Fellowship with other Christians is vital.