bible study

Listen… Worship… Live (Part 3)

mask

In my sermon this past Sunday I closed with three words: Listen, Worship, Live. This week I will be taking time to write an individual post for each one of these disciplines to help you apply the Bible to your life.
Listen… Worship… Live (Part 1)

Listen… Worship… Live (Part 2)


When I was 16 years old I was arrested for drug possession and drug paraphernalia. Leading up to my arrest, I was writing and performing Christian music as well as speaking to youth groups about the Gospel. I literally got arrested one week after performing a song in a church that warned against the dangers of drug use!

In other words – I was a hypocrite.

My lifestyle did not match my confession of faith. Unfortunately this is far too common in our churches. Many of us confess that Jesus is Lord on Sunday but live as if He does not exist Monday through Saturday. We only follow the teachings of Jesus when it’s convenient for us.

This is not a modern problem. James, one of the leaders in the early church, exhorted people with the following instruction:

James 1:22-25
22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

Pay special attention to verse 25 (I have underlined it). James does not say that the one who looks intently at behavior modification will then be a “doer who works.” Rather, it is the one who looks intently into the “perfect law of freedom.” He is speaking about the Scriptures – the 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament that God uses to encourage, correct, rebuke, and train His people for righteousness.

What steps can we take to make sure our lives match our confessions? How do we truly LIVE as followers of Christ?

1. Look intently at the Scriptures.
What James is describing is a far deeper reading of the Bible than we generally practice. For most of us, we spend a few minutes each day reading a passage or a chapter from the Bible. At the most, we spend a few minutes reflecting on the passage and considering its application for our lives. This is good – do not misunderstand me – but it is not enough to sustain us.

One good way to do this is to study a new book of the Bible every month. Read commentaries on the book, study the historical context, read/listen to sermons preached from the book. If you are part of Renovation Church, I encourage you to study the Gospel of John deeply. We are walking through it verse-by-verse on Sunday mornings so it would be a great way to “look intently” at the Scriptures!

2. Takes notes when you read the Bible!
James describes two kinds of people who read the Bible – the first is a “forgetful hearer” and the second is a “doer who works.” Friends, we are far too guilty of being forgetful hearers! We study a passage in the morning and by lunch time we cannot even recall what we read a few hours before.

The best way to transition from forgetfulness to memory is to write down what you learn in your Bible reading. I utilize the CSB Notetaking Bible. This is a special Bible that has large margins for the reader to take notes and write prayers. After studying a passage I try to respond to what God is saying by writing out my prayer to Him in this Bible. Another added benefit is I hope to give this Bible as a gift to Ava when she graduates high school. It will (Lord Willing) be marked up by personal prayer and reflections of mine from my daily Bible reading!

3. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
This third point does not come from the text above but is a major theme throughout all of the Scriptures. When Jesus ascended to be with the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to fill His people. He promised that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).”

Please understand that you cannot make this transition through sheer will power. The ability to live out the Scriptures is a supernatural gift – it is the result of the Holy Spirit leading you daily to the River of Life. We should continually be pleading with the Holy Spirit to fill us so that we might treasure Christ over the meaningless distractions of this world.

If you are interested in learning more about studying the Bible in an effective way, I recommend the following book:
Reading The Bible Supernaturally – John Piper 

Listen. Worship. Live.

If you have found these blog posts helpful, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail (tyler@renovationchurchsd.com)

 

How to Read: Book of Revelation

Revelation

This is the final part of a series of posts based on the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. To see the previous posts in this series, click below:
Are You Reading the Bible Wrong?
How to Read: New Testament Letters
How to Read: Old Testament Narrative

How to Read: The Gospels
How to Read: Parables
How to Read: Jewish Law
How to Read: Prophetic Books
How to Read: Psalms
How to Read: Wisdom Literature


He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! – Revelation 22:20

For modern readers, the book of Revelation feels like entering a science fiction novel. From the vivid imagery to the strange obsession with numbers, Revelation can definitively leave you puzzled when you read through it. Anyone who offers you “Three Keys to Revelation” and claims to have all of the details figured out, needs to return to reality. If you have an end-time chart that identifies everything in the book with modern occurrences, please quit spreading conspiracy theories and read Revelation as it is meant to be read!

The difficulty in interpreting Revelation is that it is an incredible mix of three types of literature: apocalypse, prophecy, and letter. In order to understand the book of Revelation as a whole, there are a few things to keep in mind. Remember, these three ideas are only bare essentials to having a proper understanding of Revelation. I highly recommend picking up the book this series is based on in order to gain a greater grasp on this puzzling book.

1. Remember John’s Original Purpose.

As with the other types of literature we have looked at, we need to remember this fact: The primary meaning and purpose of Revelation is how it was originally received by the church. The primary purpose of Revelation is not to offer clues for you to figure out dates on when the world is going to end. It is not for you to try to plug your patriotic feelings for the United States into the grand scheme of God’s story.

John wrote Revelation to churches that were facing severe persecution. John himself is writing from the island of Patmos which he was exiled to for his faith. It is into this deeply painful season that John offers words of hope that are found in Christ.

Revelation is about Jesus – his rule, reign, judgment, and hope He offers to the world.

Revelation was a prophetic word for the early church. That does not mean it does not apply today (as it does) but the primary purpose was for the immediate future of the churches in question. Now, this can be puzzling since Revelation ends with Christ returning to earth in order to demolish evil. That brings us to the next point.

2. Remember the “Already But Not Yet” Concept Discussed HERE.

Due to the interpretive difficulty of Revelation, we need to be sure to not press images beyond what they are meant to be. One of the reasons we do this is we want Revelation to follow a linear path so that it makes more sense to our minds. Unfortunately for us, this is not how God speaks through Revelation.

Many of the images and concepts mentioned have already happened but are yet to happen. For example, the fall of Rome in chapter 18 seems to coincide with the final return of Christ. As some of you may know, the last Roman emperor was killed in 476 A.D. and it is now 2016 A.D. – Was John wrong? No.

As you study the book of Revelation, you need to have a solid grasp on the temporal and eternal functions of Scripture. Rather than trying to map out every detail and attach certain dates to them, allow your mind to be caught up in the drama of Scripture. You will NOT figure out every detail. This does not mean you cannot have a solid understanding of how the book is structured which will give you the ability to figure out what Revelation is NOT saying.

3. Understand the Structure of Revelation

Whenever you are deeply studying a book or subject, it is best to write out the structure. The structure will serve you as a map and allow you to meditate upon the different truths throughout Revelation. As stated above, the structure will also give you the ability to dismiss wrong interpretations of Revelation.

  • Setting the Stage (Revelation 1-3)
    • The first three chapters set the stage for the reader. We are introduced to some of the main characters (John, Christ, and the Church).
  • Setting the Heavenly Stage (Revelation 4-5)
    • These two chapters continue to set the stage but in a different way. We get a glimpse of the beauty and power of God. As readers, we enter into the throne room of God and hear a vast multitude sing in worship of Him.
  • Unfolding of the Drama (Revelation 6-7)
    • These chapters unfold what is actually happening. Three times throughout the book, visions are presented in sets of 7. This works out in chapter 6 and 7 through the different horsemen that are mentioned.
  • Judgments on Rome (Revelation 8-11)
    • Here we are given a glimpse into the temporal judgments that God enacts on Rome. This culminate in a great war in which the kingdom of the world becomes the Kingdom of our God.
  • Details of the Judgment (Revelation 12-22)
    • Although we see the final judgment happening in chapter 11, John continues to provide specific details on the events in chapters 12-22. This is one of the reasons many readers get frustrated by the lack of linear progression in the book.

The book of Revelation is incredibly complex. With that being said, it is God’s Word to His Church and we should seek to understand it. As you study Revelation, ask the Spirit of God to lead you into all truth. Allow your heart to be in awe at the glory, power, and majesty of God revealed throughout the judgments and establishment of His Kingdom.

Although we do not understand how all the details will work out in our day, we know this: Jesus will return to earth to rescue His Church from death and destruction. There will be a final judgment and God will renew heaven and earth and we will dwell in his presence for all eternity. Come Lord Jesus, come!


Have you ever read the book of Revelation? What is the hardest thing for you to understand? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Practical Steps for Spiritual Growth

The past year has been absolutely incredible. I have had the amazing privilege of pioneering and launching the Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church. One of the primary reasons we launch new campuses is to reach those who are far from God. Specifically, we do not seek transfer growth (growing via members of other churches coming). We intentionally seek to preach Christ to those who are currently separated from Him.

As a result, we have seen many people either commit their lives to Jesus for the first time or re-commit their lives to Him. Practically, this calls for discipleship in the church. We have to purposely develop these new Christians so that they are firmly rooted in the Gospel.

Whether you are a new Christian or have been following Jesus for decades, below are some practical steps for YOU to grow in your faith:

Set apart a time for Bible reading and prayer DAILY!
If you do NOT want to grow as a Christian, do not open the Bible on your own! Unfortunately, this is the route many Christians take. We have a tendency to believe going to church once a week and having a pastor teach us the Bible is sufficient enough for spiritual growth.

YOU NEED TO READ THE BIBLE ON YOUR OWN!!

Yes, I know it can be intimidating but there are many tools to help you along the way. I would recommend the following –

As you figure out a reading process that works best for you, you also need to set apart a specific time each day. You need to MAKE time to be in the Word of God. Make it as an appointment and keep it as strictly as you would anything else – It is INFINITELY more important than any human meeting you could possibly have!

Be INVOLVED with a local church!
I am disgusted with arrogant Christians who claim they do not need the local church. They cloak their pride behind slick spiritual phrases and use the imperfections of the church to excuse their disobedience. No, the church is not perfect which is EXACTLY why you would fit right in!

The following activities do NOT replace the local church:

  • Having coffee (or lunch, or bible study, etc.) with your Christian friends.
  • Watching church online or on your television.
  • Reading the Bible and worshiping on your own.

All of those things mentioned above are GOOD but they are NOT a replacement for your local church. In the future I will write a post on why those things are not a biblical church. Suffice it to say, Paul makes it abundantly clear in the pastoral epistles that the church has an organized structure consisting of ordained elders, qualified deacons, and the sacraments (communion, baptism).

DISCLAIMER: If you live in a community that is hostile towards Christianity and the only way for you to meet is outside of a church structure, that is a different scenario. If you live in the West (which most reading this do) BE OBEDIENT to Hebrews 10:25 by committing to an imperfect, local church.

Share what you are learning!
As Christians we are similar to sponges. As we study Scripture, spend time in prayer, and learn from qualified teachers, we absorb information and application. As we practice these spiritual disciplines daily, we need to “squeeze” ourselves and, like a sponge, allow the information to flow out of us. This does not mean you need to become a preacher; you simply need to encourage others by sharing what you are learning.

This happens informally as you talk with your family and friends. Ask your friends what they have been learning lately through God’s Word and listen to what they have to say. Afterwards, you can share with them what God is teaching you. This process of mutual teaching and encouragement will enable you to grow both in your faith and love for others.

One of the ways I do this is by writing blog posts! Heck, if you have the gift of writing it would be an honor to have YOU feature on tylerramsbey.com! 


These are only a few of the ways you can grow in your faith. What are some of the disciplines YOU practice in your own life that God has used to shape you? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Why We Sin

Why We Sin

Often when I am talking to a Christian who is struggling with a certain sin in his or her life, the argument is made that their desires are simply too strong. Our focus is on how delightful the temptation first appears. We blame our cravings for dragging us to the broken cisterns of sin.

What if I told you that your sin is a result of desires that are too WEAK, not too strong?

Friends, you and I sin because we are far too easily satisfied.

Think about this for a moment: Every time we sin, we are choosing a temporal pleasure over eternal pleasure. We decide that it is worth more in our lives to sever our relationship with God during our time of rebellion than it is to “taste and see that the Lord is good”.

We are enticed by our weak appetites because we fail to see that there are “pleasures forevermore” at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11).

Do not try to fight sin with sheer will power and guilt; sin can only be defeated when you experience the surpassing value and worth of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:8). In view of the glory of God, your sin will appear as disgusting and hideous as it truly is.

Sin gains power when your appetite for pleasure is too weak.

Curious as to what I am talking about? Watch this short clip by John Piper –


Today, I want to encourage you to be a Christian Hedonist. There is far superior and lasting pleasure found in pursuing God than in ANYTHING this world has to offer you.

Killed Or Be Killed

KillOrBe Killed

If you are a Christian, you are at war.

The battle is one with eternal consequences. You wage war not against mere humans but against powerful forces of evil in a realm that you cannot see. There is an unholy trinity – the world, your flesh, and the devil – which seeks to plunge your soul into ruin and destruction.

This unholy trinity speaks the ancient language of lies, taking orders from the “Father of Lies”. Their objective is to pierce your spirit with an array of arrows set ablaze by the fires of Hell.

And many of us are being slaughtered.

John Owen, a theologian from the 17th century, put it this way – “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” Owen was not the first person to express this idea. He is simply paraphrasing what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

There is NO alternative. Either you are being crushed and sacrificed over the demonic altar of sin, or you are brutally murdering the fleshly impulses which reside inside you.

When it comes to our faith, it is either kill or be killed. Choosing to do nothing is offering up your entire being to Satan who promises to steal, kill, and destroy EVERYTHING you are and have.

The Battle Begins in Your Mind
Paul is describing this war to a church in Corinth and he instructs them to take EVERY thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Either YOU will rule over your thoughts or your thoughts will rule over you.

“Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” – Colossians 3:2

Practically, this can only be done by immersing your mind in Scripture. Throughout Paul’s writings we can see that this process must be intentional. Hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, we need to CAPTURE every thought and SET our mind on the things of God.

You Need to Starve Your Sinful Nature
So often we forget how deceitful our hearts are. We entertain thoughts of pride, lust, envy, jealousy, and greed. In essence, we are encouraging the beast which resides within us to feast upon the members of our body. Whether it is through looking at certain images or going to specific places, you CANNOT feed your flesh and expect to live victoriously over sin.

We MUST destroy our sinful nature by subduing it under discipline, ripping its demonic food from its mouth, and starving it by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not optional if you are a Christian. You literally cannot afford to NOT do it.

Begin Today
Much can be said on this topic but knowledge only matters if there is application. I want to exhort you to take every thought captive and hold it accountable to the standard laid out in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

Ask yourself the following questions EVERY time a thought comes into you mind:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it worthy of honor?
  • Does it bring justice to those who are hurting?
  • Is it pure of all fleshly contamination?
  • Does it reflect the beauty of Christ?
  • Would I be able to commend this thought to my friends and church?

Memorize and meditate over Philippians 4:8. Let it soak into your entire being. This battle is far too costly to take lightly.


Friends, be killing sin or sin will be killing you.

Ladder of Humility (Part Three)

Ladder of Humility - 3

If you have not read the first two parts in this series, you can find them below –
The Ladder of Humility (Part One)
The Ladder of Humility (Part Two)


ladderofhumility

Step 3: Willing to Subject Ourselves to Direction of Others

As we embark deeper into the journey of humility, the third step deals with our response to authority. In the beginning, when Adam and Eve decided to disregard the authority of God, our nature was seared with rebellion.

All those who are IN authority should be UNDER authority.

Specifically, as you ascend the ladder of humility, you should subject yourself to the following three authorities:

  1. Be subject to God.

“Submit yourselves to God.” – James 4:7

First and foremost, you must live a life of active submission to the Living God. All other submission is an overflow and application of submission to God. The vast majority of Christians today would CLAIM they are living obedient lives – they go to Church, read the Bible, and pray often.

Unfortunately, many of us have followed in the steps of Eve and been deceived by the Serpent.

Below are some symptoms that will be evident if you are NOT submitting yourself to God:

You talk yourself out of obedience.
If the Holy Spirit nudges you to take a specific action and you rationalize yourself out of doing so, you are living in rebellion to God. OBEY IMMEDIATELY!

You do not allow the Word of God to DWELL in you richly.
Reading the Bible does not cause transformation; allowing the Living Word to shape, mold, and transform your entire being does. Practically, this means filling your life with the study, meditation, and memorization of Scripture so that it overflows into the rest of your life.

You rebel against the other authorities in your life.
If you have trouble obeying authority, it is more than likely a spiritual issue. Ask God what you need to deal with in your submission to HIM so that you are able to obey the other authorities in your life.

  1. Be subject to Spiritual Leaders.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief.” – Hebrews 13:17

The second authority in your life you must submit to is spiritual leadership. This would be people such as pastors, elders, deacons, and the various other leaders in your local church. (On a side note, this presumes you are part of a local church – No, meeting for coffee with your Christian friends or watching a sermon at home is NOT a local church, I will explain why in a future post.)

First of all, we need to remember that there is a difference between Godly obedience and blind following. Those who shepherd the flock of God are NOT above accountability. Pastors are part of the community of believers – they may be in a place of leadership but they need the nurturing love and care of the Body as much as everyone else!

Below are some symptoms that will be evident if you are NOT submitting to your spiritual leaders:

You are constantly speaking negative about your leaders.
If your Sunday routine consists of critiquing the message and bashing the leadership of the church, YOU need to quit being arrogant and work towards humility in this area.

You are regularly gossiping about other members in your church.
One of Satan’s schemes is to get the church to expense all its energy on one another so that it is no longer effective in storming the gates of Hell.

Friends, we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes.

  1. Be subject to Civil Leaders.

“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.” – Romans 13:1

Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians are ignorant of Romans 13 – especially in the United States. We wield our freedom as a weapon to wage a war of rebellion against our government.

The ONLY time it is okay to blatantly disobey civil authority is when it is calling you to commit an action that is in direct contradiction to the Word of God. This happens far less often than the hyper-conservative Christians would like you to believe.

Below are some symptoms that will be evident if you are NOT submitting to the civil leaders in your life:

You never pray for those in authority.
When was the last time you asked God to grant salvation, peace, and rest to those in leadership (both nationally and locally) And Yes, President Obama fits into this group.

You demonize and/or deify political parties.
Friends, I can promise you that a new president will not bring lasting change to this country. If you put more hope in your political party than in the Church, you are living in grave ignorance of the Word of God.


A life of submission will speak volumes to the community around you and enable you to progress further up the Ladder of Humility.

Why do YOU think it is hard for people to submit to authority? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Ladder of Humility (Part Two)

Ladder of Humility - Part Two

This is part two of a series on the Ladder of Humility by Saint Benedict. If you have not read the first post, be sure to read it first by clicking below:

Ladder of Humility (Part One)


Step 2: Doing God’s Will (Not Our Own or Other People’s)

ladderofhumility

This second step of humility holds three assumptions we need to understand:

  1. God has a Will.

This is a basic teaching with radical implications. We live in the midst of a post-modern world. Essentially, there is no such thing as right or wrong. As long as it works for you, it is true for you. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me.

God has a will and your fruitfulness in your Christian life depends on obedience to it.

You do not need to have a mystical experience or visit a psychic (or even a pastor!) to understand God’s will. This subject is far more in-depth then I am going to take the time to explain here, and I highly recommend THIS POST from Pastor Jon Sanders. In essence, we can discover God’s will through seven different mediums:

  1. God’s Word
  2. Prayer
  3. Your spouse
  4. Seeking Godly council from others
  5. Circumstances (Open/Closed Doors)
  6. The viewpoints of others
  7. Feeling of peace
    (CREDIT: “How Can I Know God’s Will for My Life” @ www.jonsanders.org – Be sure to go there and read more in-depth how these seven mediums enable you to find God’s will)
  1. We can be led astray by our own will.

Solomon, one of the wisest people that has ever lived, wrote profound advice for us in Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death.”

An obsession with our will clouds our vision, ruins our future, and ultimately does not satisfy.

This debased desire has plunged even our spiritual lives into destruction. Our prayer times are filled with wish lists we want God to grant. Essentially, He has become the servant and we have become gods, expecting Him to bow down to our every whim and desire.

Instead of conforming our will to the Father in Heaven, we have attempted to manipulate and command God to adhere to our man-made plans.

  1. We can be led astray by the will of others.

By nature, we are slaves languishing under the cold chains of people-pleasing. We have allowed subtle contamination by the desires of other people to dictate how we live our lives.

I promise that you will not give an account before God on how you lived your life in light of the expectations of those around you. No, you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and have to explain how you were too much of a coward to boldly stand for God’s will.

Why is it that we are terrified of displeasing mere mortals but flippantly disobey and ignore God’s Spirit when it comes to decisions in our lives?


Friends, seek God’s will and do not allow yourself to be led astray by “the way that seems right to man” because its end is death and destruction.