by Dr. Ken Matto

Well today is Super Bowl Sunday and millions of people are going to park themselves in front of the TV to watch this annual event. They will be at Super Bowl parties in homes, in bars, in hotels, and even in churches. Many churches reschedule their services and a few cancel them so their people can view this spectacle. Some churches even sponsor Super Bowl parties in concert with this event thus keeping the folks at the church to watch this event in "holy convocation" while putting on a nice food spread. It is a strange effect this event has on people because it seems that almost everybody is talking about it. I hear some people talk about the Super Bowl as if their life depends on it and they try to prognosticate in such detailing analyses the projected winner. Sports has become such a god in our society that it seems to hold enough power to even push the worship of God aside for it.
What does this say about the commitment of many church leaders and many Christians in general? Jesus gave us a major admonishment concerning our commitment to Him. (Luke 9:62 KJV) And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. This verse tells us that our Christian walk needs to be a continuum in our march forward and if we allow certain things in this life to continually throw us back, then we are not fit for the kingdom of God. The word fit may also be translated "suitable or usable." Many Christians and churches desire to live in and for the world and that is probably the reason many churches and Christians are not suitable for the Kingdom of God. God needs His soldiers moving on, pressing toward the mark. In World War 2, General Patton gave orders that there is to be no retreat and no holding of positions. This principle must be realized in the Christian walk also. You cannot win a physical war by retreating or remaining in one place. A war is won by advancing the troops to overcome enemy positions.
As a Christian, can we look at our walk and see a definite advance in our life or do we see a stagnant pattern? How about a retreat? Sometimes as we go on in our Christian walk for a few years, we tend to start building a comfort zone and then later on once our comfort zone is established we start building walls around it and refuse to lower the bridge and cross the moat. My daily job as a Fleet Dispatcher for Avis reveals this principle. Many times I will hire a driver and they will be enthusiastic to do the job properly and make a good showing. Then in a few weeks they are trained by the veterans on the job and they begin to show that evil association by cutting corners, taking longer to do the runs, putting down longer mileage than the run takes so they can pump up their pay. In other words, they become infected with American worker apathy and their job performance shows it. After about a year, they know and do less than when they were there a month. All because their priorities have changed. When they took on the job, their priority was to learn the job and do it well but after being infected with group apathy, their priority is to get away with what they can and get paid for it.
Are they any different than us? When we first became Christians we were desirous to know more about God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We thirsted for God and the things associated with Him. We studied the Bible and wanted to learn it from cover to cover. Our priority was to know God and to make Him known to others. Then it happened! We joined a church and met those who have been Christians for long periods of time. They doused our fire with water, they abated our zeal, they quenched our spirit, silenced our knowledge, and told us we were going to get rewards for this. The priority of the Christian should always be the furtherance of the gospel and to never retreat. It is to the glory of God there are still Christians who are willing to progress in their Christian walk despite the de-prioritizing of the modern church.
I wish to offer four basic priorities which the believer needs to implant into their Christian walk which should never be diminished as we get older in the faith. As we get older in the body, we may not be able to do as much as we did when we were younger but we do as much as we physically can. God knows all about your physical limitations and the abilities to deal with them. He is not a cruel taskmaster expecting you to do more than you are physically able. If the only thing you can do is place tracts in your mail, then do it and happily be doing the work of the evangelist.
Search the Scriptures
(Prov 25:2 KJV) It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
The primary priority in the life of the believer is to search the Scriptures. Many do a cursory study of the Scriptures and think they have done much to evoke the deeper truths of Scripture. This verse tells us that God has concealed many truths in the depths of Scripture. The word "concealed" means "hid." God did not to do this to play games with us but He has hidden the great truths of Scripture from the unbeliever. (Mat 11:25 KJV) At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. There are times when we seek an answer to something we have been looking for and when we do a search in the Scriptures, it opens more to us than we could have expected. This is because there is no end or bottom to the well of truths hidden in the Bible. If it was a book written by man, its truths could be exhausted quickly but the Bible has been searched for millennia and cannot be depleted of its rich spiritual truths. Each generation studies the Bible and brings forth many deep truths preceding generations have not found. I am not speaking of cultic teachings but true Biblical teachings.
As individual Christians we should be diligently searching the Scriptures to find the pearls which God has hidden in His field. If we search anywhere else for answers to our spiritual problems and even the daily problems which we encounter, we will be going off the track and endangering our Christian maturity. It is fine to have a favorite preacher, a favorite author, or a favorite bible teacher but none of these can nor should take the place of personal bible study. If it does, then we are following men and not Christ.
Learn from the Scriptures
(Psa 119:73 KJV) Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
It is possible to study the Scriptures for the purpose of uncovering a doctrine or just for a lesson. One of the primary reasons that God gave us the Bible was to learn about the Lord Jesus Christ. (Mat 11:29 KJV) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. We learn of Him through many characters in the Old Testament and the lessons that surround them. David was a type of Christ as was Moses. The believer is also portrayed in pictures in the Old Testament especially through the nation of Israel plus there is one picture of the believer which defines us beautifully. (Exo 13:13 KJV) And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.
This verse tells us that the firstling of a donkey must be redeemed by a lamb and if it is not then it is to die. The picture is that if a person is not redeemed by THE lamb, then they will face the second death. Doesn’t the donkey describe us perfectly as how rebellious and stubborn we can be to the things of God. The Bible is replete with teachings that can simplify your life. For example: (Prov 26:20 KJV) Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. The first part of this verse gives a good lesson. Many times I am called names or someone is just looking to tweak me and see if I get mad. When they call me names I agree with them instantly and they can’t say anymore since I have taken the wood out of the fire. So learning the lessons of Scripture will be to our benefit.
Apply the Lessons Learned
(2 Ki 22:10-13 KJV) And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. {11} And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. {12} And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying, {13} Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
When King Josiah heard the words of the book, he immediately had his High Priest inquire of the Lord. The Fathers before them knew the Scriptures but did not apply them to their lives and the lives of the people. Therefore, God’s wrath was kindled against the people of Judah but the King was wise and wanted to know about the writing which concerned Judah. His desire was to apply the Scriptural knowledge so Judah may be revived to worship and serve the God of their fathers.
It is the same with us that if we just search the Scriptures and learn the truths but fail to apply them, we can make shipwreck out of our lives. Knowledge without application is dead. It is like the body without the spirit, it is dead. Application of the Scripture to the believer’s life is a prerequisite for living the Christian life as God intended us to. How else can we live and be examples to the world if we do not apply the Scriptures to our lives. The Scriptures deal with every problem known to mankind and is sufficient to direct a person’s life. Just think if every person in the world applied the Ten Commandments to their lives, there would be peace on earth, not universal salvation, but peace.
Grow with what You Know
(1 Pet 2:2 KJV) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Growth in the Christian walk is one principle at a time. You need not wait till you learn a hundred things before you try to put them all in your life. As God leads you in your studies and teaches you a principle here or a principle there, then as you apply what you learn, you will grow in the faith and slow, steady growth is a more desirable growth pattern than a sudden burst of knowledge.
As a Christian it is incumbent upon us to keep growing and if we somehow get entangled with a bunch of Christians who are not growing, then we must exit that group. It is far better to be obedient to God alone than to be disobedient in a group. Set your spiritual priorities and live by faith. Do not even allow your church to come between you and your God. If they do, then it is safer to leave a church than to continue in mutiny against God.  (1/28/01)