Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
The Bible is chock full of God’s great promises. We can take them to heart and meditate on them and treasure them and grow in personal piety. But if we think that means the Christian life is only “Jesus and me” then we are in trouble. Because there’s so much in today’s world that gives knockdown punches !
When I fall down, I need the help of others to be able to get back up. One of the great things about Christian life in community is how God gives us each other to give and receive encouragement.
Here’s a recent example : Awakening in the middle of the night, something from years ago started to infect my mind. I was replaying a very futile time in my life when my career hopes were getting dismantled; I was stuck about what my next step should be; and I had no one I could confide in for help. I felt heart palpitations start as those old thoughts combined with an ongoing fight with the cable company over billing errors and an intractable conflict in our small group.
In the middle of the night I knew that what God says is true, and that there were Bible verses available for me, but at that time, being able to quote Bible verses was not helping. Bible truth seemed elusive, abstract, and far away.
God provided the antidote : In the morning I requested prayer in my Thursday men’s group. A good friend and brother in Christ prayed that my physical heartbeats would be calm while at the same time I’d have more of a loving heart for the Lord and for people.
Are you stumbling and discouraged ? Is a friend stumbling and discouraged ? God loves it when we help each other back up !
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)
What’s the difference between life and killing as we read our Bibles ?
I recently was stunned by something hurtful an individual who loved “Bible Knowledge” did.
One of my first reactions was to say of course I would never do something like that–but then I was caught up short —- I must admit that my own life is not always consistent with my Bible knowledge !
So with that in mind here’s a scripture that has good guidance :
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. (1 Corinthians 8:1b, NASB)
Here are a few questions we can ask to see whether we are using our Bible knowledge wisely:
- Do you not only read the Bible, but also allow the Bible to read you ?
- The ESV study bible deliberately has its bible study notes in much tinier print than the Bible verses themselves…to remind people the difference between God’s word and man’s interpretation ! In a Bible study group, do you like to show your Bible knowledge by quoting from bible study notes or do you interact directly with what God is saying in the Bible text ?
- Does your Bible knowledge fill people’s heads with Bible trivia that has little or no connection to the trials of real life or does it provide shelter for them when they are facing the heat of tough situations?
- The Spirit knows when to lovingly rebuke when someone is on their high horse and when to compassionately encourage someone who has fallen down. Does your Bible knowledge do this ?
Paul put today’s admonitions there for a purpose, knowing how easy it is to drift from the Spirit into the Letter. We need a fresh reminder of this every day. Let’s ask the Spirit to continually make our Bible knowledge life giving !
“‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction[ between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’” (Exodus 8:22-23)
Because the Egyptians would not let God’s people go, they faced a series of God-sent plagues.
Today’s plague on the Egyptians : A plague of flies throughout your land. With one big exception : In the part of your land called Goshen, where the Jews lived, there will not be flies.
Imagine if you were an Egyptian being eaten up by mosquitos in your yard and your Hebrew next-door neighbors are going scot-free. That’s quite a sharp distinction between God’s people and those who were not his people.
Is there still a distinction like that for God’s people today ? If so, what does it look like? Are we protected from disasters and layoffs and bugs ?
First, I will warn against a bad distinction. That’s when our distinction is being known mainly for what we are against. We become culture war fighters whose chief weapon is condemnation. Given how much anger is in the land today, it is easy to get caught up into it.
Jesus makes a much better distinction :
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
There surely will always be some things we are against. But a much better way to stand out is to live by showing what we are for: spreading the love of Jesus.