The following is an excerpt from Karen Ehman’s new study, What Matters Most. Order your copy or see a free sample today at LifeWay.com/WhatMattersMost. You can also pick up a copy at your local LifeWay Store. We’ve also included some fun, free downloads at the end of this post to celebrate this new study!
Do you remember your very first job? Your first bona fide, legit employment gig, complete with a paycheck made out in your name?
In my teens and early twenties, I performed many different tasks to earn some pocket change. I nannied children. Washed dishes. Waited tables. Answered phones. But perhaps my favorite job was when I spent two summers at a nature center teaching classes for four-year-olds.
I learned how to identify critters in the pond, how to tell a chipmunk from a thirteen-lined ground squirrel, and—of utmost importance—how to spot poison ivy. (Leaves of three? Then, let it be!)
My poison ivy identification skills have come in handy over the years. One time, a friend suspected she had it growing all over her shed. Upon inspection, I discovered she was right. So, her family took care to remove it, wearing long sleeves and gloves for protection. However, she mentioned a frightening fact to me about their removal process. She said they’d burned all the ivy in a giant bonfire while they stood over it roasting marshmallows. While my friend knew the danger of touching the ivy itself, it hadn’t occurred to her that burning the plant—emitting smoke that had the plant’s oils mingled in it—would cause a worse reaction than just touching the leaves.
Sure enough, her whole family acquired blistering rashes, especially on their faces. And their eyes became sorely bloodshot and painfully itchy. One son even developed a serious respiratory reaction. All this occurred because she only knew half the truth about poison ivy—touching it is bad. She didn’t know that burning it while standing nearby is even worse.
John 8:31-32 states, “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” Here we see mentioned Jews who “had believed” Jesus. This doesn’t mean they had fully committed to Him. Authentic faith is continued and constant. The beginning of our walk with God is only half of the story. We can’t stop there. We must continue to allow God to grow our faith.
While our faith’s start is crucial, we must know and live the rest of the story. We must keep growing in Christ, continually walking in God’s Word in a way that sets us free and keeps sin from poisoning our lives and causing a mighty—even painful—mess. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, just as Philippians 2:12-13 urges us to. Continuing in God’s Word doesn’t mean just learning religious concepts. It means experiencing the actual truth of God’s Word in a totally transformational way. In fact, the original Greek word for know in John 8:32 doesn’t suggest tucking away ideas in our minds. It constitutes genuine action on our part. It means to recognize, realize, ascertain, and to come to properly understand a truth through personal, firsthand experience. We don’t properly understand by skimming the Bible, but by intentionally internalizing its truths, applying them to real-life situations, and forging our faith solidly as we continually experience Jesus and His saving grace firsthand.
Like the old saying goes, we need to get into God’s Word so His Word can get into us. Determine today not just to rely on the fact of a past salvation experience, but forge ahead in your faith. Continue to grow in His Word. We need the whole truth of the gospel. Jesus saved us (past tense), but He is continually perfecting us too (present tense), if only we will cooperate.
Dig into the truth of the Scriptures for yourself, rather than just relying on assumptions and someone’s stories. When you really know the truth—in the true biblical sense—you can live it out in a way that ushers in authentic freedom.
Want to learn more about this new study? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at LifeWay.com/WhatMattersMost.
And here are some fun wallpapers for your computer and phone! Click the images or links below to download!