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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Walking in the Spirit - Part 3 (Spirit and the Flesh)

Our Old Nature Lives On

An enormous mistake Christians make in trying to live the Christian Life is a failure to understand that when we accept scripture's invitation to faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we still carry around our old nature; the nature that  was "conceived in sin" (Ps 51:5). Paul likens it to being shackled to a corpse.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death.
-Romans 7:24

This body, this old nature, craves the things of the world and its system. Some of these things are deemed good in the eyes of men (and too often even in the eyes of Christians). We can see the works of the flesh in things like murder or thievery or hatred or lust. But we sometimes fail to see the wickedness is things such as pride, envy, and religious fervor. Remember, Satan is in the religion business. Paul warns us in 2 Cor 11 that he presents himself as "an angel of Light" and his messengers are "ministers of righteousness." 

In our daily struggle to "walk in the spirit," we must understand that scripture points us to our new nature. Unfortunately, many translations miss the distinction between "the Spirit" (The Holy Spirit) and simply our new nature, "spirit" (the other "holy spirit"). 

Consider Galatians 5:17:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Note, I have crossed out the definite article "the" as the idea is not mandated in the Greek. We must understand the the "spirit" [new nature] here is what is contrary to the "flesh" [old nature].  This is where we start to find victory; the recognition of this war. This is why we started this series clarifying oft-used verses in regard to the "heart of flesh" or the "new covenant" and why we need to be careful with randomly applying all scripture to ourselves. We even see this in the "dry bones" of Ezekiel being used as a metaphor for regeneration in this age. These are all errors which may seem innocuous, but they can lead to defeat and despair as we recognize that we are not "perfect." Truth be told, the more we walk in the spirit, the more we realize how wretched our old nature really is.

We do not discount the glorious ministry and help of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God, in recognizing our new "holy spirit" nature. We clearly recognize that all good things originate with the Godhead. Oscar Baker puts it this way:

Sealed? Yes, sealed with that holy spirit of promise, Not by, but with. So this promised holy spirit is the seal. A few other names by which it may be known are: everlasting life, the new man, nature, (in Rom. 8, spirit of life, spiritually minded, spirit of God, spirit of Christ, spirit of Him, His spirit, spirit of adoption), and the inward man. The One Who affixes this seal is the Holy Spirit Himself (Eph. 4:30). So then, the Holy Spirit seals us with the holy spirit. 
[Emphasis mine] 
-Oscar M. Baker (Excerpt - The Promise in Eph 3:6)

Step One: Learn to Hate What God Hates

Your old nature will desire the things of the world. It will gravitate towards those things it sought when you were "dead in trespasses and sins." If you lusted, it will lust. If you were lazy, it will seek comfort. If you reveled in religious ritual, it will seek ritual. Here is where we need to go before the Lord with an open heart and allow him to reveal our weaknesses. He knows our sins of the flesh. No use trying to pretend otherwise. Let us pray with the Psalmist:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

The first step, then, is learning to hate what He hates. The new nature will naturally hate what He hates, but the old nature will lust after its own desires. We must start by truly appreciating how ugly sin and the works of the flesh really are. This is the beginning, but remember, simply hating those things will not bring victory by itself.

For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
-Romans 7:15

Remember Our New Nature is Only Found "In Christ"

As we have noted in previous studies, our greatest enemy is "self." The idol of "self" is not only in the world, it is in the church. From the "self-esteem" movement of the 1980s and 1990s to the glorification of men and ministries in this hour.

God thoroughly hates pride. We must remember that the God of all eternity sees us "in Christ." Apart from Christ, all our works are filthy rags. Apart from Christ, we are dead in trespasses and sin. Apart from Christ, we are the enemies of God by wicked works. No amount of religious fervor or outward acts of self-denial can be presented to Him as payment for sin as all we do is tainted with sin. That is not to say volunteering at a homeless shelter is the same as murder; it only means that all works fall short of the glory of God. While "good" it is insufficient as a path to God. (We will revisit this example in another study.)

The old nature suffers from some form of self. It is more obvious in some acts than in others, but surely it is there.

Imagine the one who lives a life denying worldly greed. A life given to helping the less fortunate. Even a life of religious devotion. But this same one believes his or her life or works serve as a complement to work of the Savior in his perfect work on Calvary and his resurrection out from among all the dead. Even if they say Christ did 99% of the work, or that Christ's work was perfect, but there is still payment required after death, they are saying God is in some way their debtor. He is required, to whatever degree, to forgive sin or grant them eternal life in part because of what they have done. Grace and works do not coexist in the granting of life (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; Rom 4:5; 11:6).

That is gross wickedness and the height of pride.

Recognize Your Own Body of Death

Stop. Take a moment to meditate that you, Christian, are shackled to a body of death. You carry around a deceptive and selfish nature which wars against the new, divine nature God has granted you as a free gift because of Christ alone. In Christ, in light of what we shall one day be because of him, God sees us as beloved. In Christ, we are granted the right to become the children of God (John 1:12).

In Christ. This is where we will find victory. In feeding the new nature ["spirit"] and learning to deny the old nature ["flesh"]. Locking yourself up in monastery may help remove some immediate temptations, but you still carry the flesh into that facility; you carry around the stench of death. I don't need to physically see a woman or be around those with more earthly goods to suffer from lust or envy. My old nature is quite capable is harboring wicked thoughts even in solitude.

As we go forward, I will offer a practical example of how this knowledge may help us. And we will look at the eternal ramifications of our service and life now to further motivate us. I will say this as a starter: the greatest motivator is a love for the Savior who died for us while we still ungodly, and rose again that we might have life (now in the new nature and in resurrection perfection in the future). We also love the Father who graciously sees the Savior when he sees us.

So let love motivate us today. Remember, we cannot change yesterday, but we can confess our weaknesses and fall at the feet of a loving Great God and Savior who desire to fellowship with us. he is ever anxious to forgive and restore. For some, however, you must be sure you are in Christ. Without complete faith in his death, burial and resurrection on your behalf, all your righteous acts are as filthy rags to God.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. -Romans 8:10

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Walk Worthy - Part 1 - Ephesians 4

Walk worthy of the calling to which you were called

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling to which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. - Ephesian 4:1-6
As part of our series on Walking in the Spirit, I thought I'd lay out the instructions and teachings of this age. There has been a recent dust-up in Christendom over a popular teacher stating we are no longer under the Ten Commandments. I disagree. I was NEVER under the Ten Commandments.

As we have covered many times before, the Law and the Ten Commandments, as profitable as they are, were not given to anyone but to Israel as part of her covenant (Ex 19-20). But just as murder and adultery were wrong before Moses, so they are still wrong today. But God has not left his Gentile church of this age without instruction. We will look at Philippians in our Walking in the Spirit series, but the rubber meets the road in the Post-Acts books of Ephesians and Colossians.

There are some weighty instructions for this age. It is by these commands that our service will be judged.

We start with the practical section of Ephesians (chapters 4-6) and bullet point chapter 4 here:

  • we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting
  • speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ
  • you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness
  • put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts
  • be renewed in the spirit of your mind
  • put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness
  • Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” 
  • “Be angry, and do not sin”
  • do not let the sun go down on your wrath 
  • nor give place to the devil
  • Let him who stole steal no longer
  • let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need
  • Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers
  • do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption
  • Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice
  • be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you

Pretty strong meat there, and we're just getting started.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Walking in the Spirit - Part 2 (Evil Is With Me)

We stared this journey by noting in Part 1 the misuse of the passage in Ezekiel 36 in regard to God replacing a heart of stone with a new heart of flesh. Not only is the passage (and the entire book) clearly given to Israel in its specifics (dealing with here as a nation with a promised land and kingdom), we know from experience in the Christian life that, as Paul groaned, "evil is with me."

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. -Romans 7:21-25

Paul speaks of the "war" within. This war is between the old nature and the new nature (the divine nature as Peter calls it in 2 Peter 1:4). This leads Paul to "groan" in this body as he longs for his new, resurrection body. In the passage above we see that this is the only hope for relief from this struggle. I

The body we inhabit is "subject to death." It carries with it the "sin nature" of Adam. Let us look at the verses wherein Paul references this "groaning" (agonizing over the conflict).We will see that the only final solution is found in resurrection.
we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. -Romans 8:23
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. -2 Cor 5:4
We have covered previously the ubiquitous misquoting of 2 Cor 5:8, but in looking at the context of 2 Cor 4 and the opening verses of chapter 5, we can see clearly that Paul's ultimate hope lies in resurrection. In 1 Cor 15, Paul tells us that only in resurrection will "the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality."

It is in resurrection that anyone is truly given a "new heart" as the flesh of dust (terrestrial body) is replaced with an immortal body (celestial body). If we believe the old stony heart was done away with at salvation, we my begin to doubt if we have eternal life at all. We can become trapped in misery, failure, doubt, and shame.

But what about living in the new nature in this life?

That is where we will venture in our next short study. What we have established thus far, which is central to finding victory, is that when we come to faith in Christ and find the new and the living way in Him (that moment we are given the free gift of life we will experience in resurrection)... at THAT moment, we STILL have our old nature. Therein lies the conflict.

You have come to faith in Christ and you still struggle with sin? Your experience is common to all before you (it just may take a different form). You will carry that struggle with you to the grave, but we can find victories along the way and free ourselves from the slavery of the flesh.

We will examine these ways as we press forward. And we will go humbly and with fear and trembling knowing that the way may not be smooth or comfortable. In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian and Hopeful follow Vain-Confidence down the smooth path and end up in Doubting Castle as slaves of Giant Despair. Let us not despair. We can start where we are and prayfully seek the path of righteousness, no matter how hard it may appear from our limited view.

We serve a gracious, loving, and forgiving God who wants us to succeed.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Deconstructing Don Perkins' Introduction to "Hell" - Part 3

Unfortunately, HisChannel doesn't have an archive (that I can find) of previously aired messages and they are currently offering a more recent series from Don Perkins. So, let's take a quick look at the statement of faith at Don Perkins' ministry site and use it to practice rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15) and remember why we need to be careful with God's word and God's words.

We could use any of countless ministries here, Don Perkins is not unique, but since we started with his previous messages, I believe there are some parallels with those studies.

The full statement from his site (What We Believe) can be found HERE

We believe in the immortality of our souls and the resurrection of our bodies.

As we have seen in our studies on "immortality," the scripture is very clear. We only become immortal in resurrection. We must "put on immortality" (1 Cor 15). Before that, all men are mortal. As God stated to Adam (our representative) "you shall surely die" and in Adam "death passed on to all men." The lie of Satan is "you shall NOT surely die." God ALONE is immortal teaches Paul.

We believe in the resurrection of the Just and the Unjust.

Here is where we need to define our terms biblically and in context. This one might be news to some, but Christians can be "unjust." The "unjust" servant was still a servant. Since unbelievers have no "life" in them, they cannot be "resurrected." Resurrection life is a free gift for whosoever believes; all others "perish." (John 3:16; cf Rom 6:23)

We believe in the eternal rest of the righteous with God on the New Earth.

The question here is "which righteous?" The blessings of the One New Man in Ephesians for those who understand the dispensation of the Mystery" are "spiritual" and experienced in "the far above the heavens." The earth, the kingdom, paradise, the New Jerusalem are all promises, hopes, and rewards for other "righteous" peoples and groups. The righteous make of the "family" of God (Eph 3:15). Just from an earthly perspective (and noted in Perkins' list of beliefs), Israel is separate and has separate hopes and rewards than the Body. One day in eternity future all the families of God will come together, but we need to keep specific hopes with specific people .

We believe in the eternal punishment of the Wicked in the Lake of Fire.

If someone perishes, that punishment is eternal. What he means is "being tortured by fire by God without hope of relief." We have covered the "Lake of Fire [Gehenna]" before. It is a pagan doctrine which teaches both the immortality of souls and God as vengeful torturer. We reject this strongly on both counts.

We believe according to the Signs of the Times, that we are living in the last days.

I also hold that we are in the Last Days, facing the end of the current age. We would agree on certain aspects of the end times, but with certainly not on everything.

Walking in the Spirit - Part 1 (No More Heart of Stone?)

Ezekiel 36:26 Is Not For This Age

We've discussed the New Covenant in several previous posts. To cut to the end, it is not the gospel of grace. It is not the story of our gift of life. Here are links to two related studies if you are interested in a review (for more just search the blog for New Covenant): 

The New Covenant in Bullet Form (click on title)

The Law, the Conscience, Sin and Salvation (click on title)

But there is another passage in the Prophets which is often claimed as being part of the current age's good news, Ezekiel 36, the replacing the "heart of stone" with a "heart of flesh" (v.26). But just as with the New Covenant, and as we saw in our comments on Jeremiah 29, this verse and passage are specific to Israel. Yes, we can learn "principles" from the passage (all scripture is profitable), but if we want to rightly divide it, we must look at the specifics.

As with many prophecies, we may have a short term and a long term application (as with the prophecy of a young girl / virgin giving birth in Isaiah 7:14, for example), but both applications in Ezek 36 are specific to Israel. We read this as future as it surely has never been fully fulfilled.

The whole chapter must be read for the full context (really the whole last section of the book), but let us just look at the immediate context for this study. As with the New Covenant passages in Jer 31 and Heb 8, it is clearly given to the nation of Israel and clearly in the future.

I'm going to quote verse 22 through the end of the chapter. Over and over we see this is not a promise to anyone but to Israel and the specifics should further dissuade us from applying it to all believers or in this age:

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel! 
33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’ 
37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

 How can we take out that one verse and ignore the enormous amount of promises and conditions specific to Israel and the land attached to it? The next verse is often quoted with it, but do we believe this is true of Christians?

I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Let's think about this. If the "heart of stone" is gone and there is now a "new heart," who is doing all this Christian sinning? The robbing of this verse leads to the heresy of "sinless perfection" before our resurrection.

We've already noted that the entire passage (let alone the whole chapter) is filled with very specific promise and conditions which pertain only to Israel, but here in the very next verse we read:

 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

How do we possibly apply that to the present age or to a gentile church?

How about verse 33? Did this happen upon your profession of faith (how about all the promises in this passage)?

On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.

The purpose of this short study is the set the framework for "walking in the spirit [new nature]." That is, when we are regenerated by faith, we are given a new nature, but we still have an old nature. Our conflict is between walking in our new nature versus walking in the old nature (the fleshly, carnal man). It is not between a "heart of flesh" and a now absent "heart of stone." That makes no sense.

If we are to understand how to "walk in the spirit" and even to "worship in spirit" (John 4:24), we must not rest on Ezekiel 36. If we do, we may end up questioning our own salvation or questioning the reality of eternal life when we discover the "heart of stone" (as it were) is still with us. The flesh is still with us. We do not always follow the decrees of the Lord. Sometimes we do very wicked things or have very wicked, selfish thoughts.

The wicked doctrines of Replacement Theology have infected our pulpits, our hymnals, our books, and our doctrines. Let us forsake these things and claim the glorious truths of the dispensation of the Mystery! Our hope is not in the New Covenant and the restoration of a "land," our great hope (for those who will embrace it) is blessing is in the far above the heavens where Christ is seated! We look for him to revealed there, not in his coming in the clouds to his nation, Israel.

This is where we must start our study, emptying ourselves of doctrines and promises given to another people for another purpose. We must follow what God has give for us in this present age.

If you are in Christ, you have a new, eternal nature and an old, carnal nature. If you think the old nature is gone, you are headed for disaster or you are simply deluded by pride. If you know you still struggle in your flesh, then you have understood the first step and should now see that Ezekiel 36 does not apply in this age.
So that let him that thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
-1 Cor 10:12

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Don't Find Yourself Disapproved

I, therefore, thus run, not as uncertainly, thus I fight, as not beating air; but I chastise my body, and bring [it] into servitude, lest by any means, having preached to others -- I myself may become disapproved. -1 Cor 9:26-27 (Young's Literal)
I am working on a short study of walking in the new nature (spirit). I wanted to give a little context to help us see the importance of the warnings and  encouragements surrounding such an endeavor.

The greatest motivators should be love of the Lord and a peaceful heart and mind. The carnal Christian will experience misery in this life and loss in the next. We want to avoid both of these, and thankfully, there is a remedy. But more details about the remedy in another study.

Today, I just want to quickly look at Paul's warning and guidance in 1 Corinthians (quoted above).

The Christian life is a race.
have ye not known that those running in a race -- all indeed run, but one doth receive the prize? so run ye, that ye may obtain; and every one who is striving, is in all things temperate; these, indeed, then, that a corruptible crown they may receive, but we an incorruptible -1 Cor 9:25 (YL)
We are to run this race with all the effort we would give in striving to win a temporal race. There are rewards and crowns and prizes which await the Christian who learns to fully walk in his new nature. To be sure, the gift of resurrection (eternal) life is free. It requires faith alone (John 3:16; 5:24, Rom 6:23, etc.), but we will all still stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ.
For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of the Christ, that each may receive the things [done] in the body, according to those he has done, whether [it be] good or evil. -2 Cor 5:10 (Darby)
Christians can do evil things. Christian do do evil things when we walk in the flesh. We will look at walking in the new nature and not in the flesh next time, but here let us see what Paul instructs in our opening verse:

We must not "fight" the flesh with great outward swings for the world to see, We must actually "land blows" as it were. Our striving must have consequences. The old nature (carnal, fleshly) must be dealt with personally and in concrete terms.

How many of us chastise the world for its wickedness as we ignore the carnality in our own lives? The world has not the new nature. Our message to the world is John 3:16 and 2 Cor 5:19. God has already been reconciled to man. Their sins are already forgiven. Yet they do not have "life" without faith. We are the ambassadors of that message of reconciliation.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. - 2 Cor 5:18-20 (ESV)
 We do not have the ministry of condemnation. The world is condemned to death already (John 3:18). We who have found life through His name (John 20:31), have a message of reconciliation for the world, and a message of walking in the new nature for the church. Let's not confuse the two ministries. Both involve forgiveness and patience (which is hard because of our old nature).

One last thought related to hymnology. Here are just a couple of really awful hymns about the Judgement Seat of Christ. One of which is in the 1860 Hymnal "Sabbath School Bell No. 2" (lots of problems there as well). But, hey, they didn't use drums, right?

Remember the three most important things in discerning what music we should be using:

  • Doctrine
  • Doctrine
  • Doctrine

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Christian Journey - Don't Find Yourself Stuck

Having come into Christianity from a Roman Catholic background including formal Catholic education and immersion in a very conservative diocese and parish, I've learned that the learning never stops. I spent my first year as a new creature in Christ unlearning much of my former theology. I was a Religious Education teacher at the time and suddenly I found myself in disagreement with the curriculum I was using.

After confessing my faith to my Director, I was asked not to return. From there I continued my journey of learning and unlearning. Unfortunately, my mindset was a mix of trying to prove things for myself while also looking for a "system" I could join.

My first experiences as part of a Christian community was through Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at the university where I worked. I then went through the Charismatic movement to A form of Calvinistic legalism, and on from there. At no point did I fully claim or embrace any denomination. As noted, I was in the in-between world of self-responsibility and a desire to claim a formal community.

It was not until 12 years into my journey that I discovered the words of E.W. Bullinger in the conclusion of his book "How To Enjoy the Bible":

All Bible study must in the end be individual. As with ordinary bodily food: others may prepare the food and serve it up in various forms: they may cook it in more senses than one: they may present it in "made dishes": they may carve it, and cut it up, and even put it in the mouth, as with babes; but, after all, there is no more that they can do. They cannot eat it or digest it for us; they cannot assimilate it for us; even so it is with the spiritual food of the Word of God. 
Notwithstanding all that has been said in the foregoing pages, the great necessity remains: the work of Bible study must be, to the end, intensely personal and individual.

Each one must look out the reference for himself. He must trace the words through all their occurrences where these are given; he must consider their usages; he must read the contexts; he must make his lists and tables, and do his countings for himself: for so only can he feed upon the Word and the words, and be nourished, and be strengthened himself, and grow thereby: so only will he be able to say with Jeremiah: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; And thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart."

To this day, I continue to grow and study and "mark things that differ." As I look back over some of these posts over the last couple of years, I see studies for which I now feel as though I have greater insight. What was somewhat foggy is slightly more clear. What I had to use what I understood to tray to explain a passage is now more refined.

Never rest. Continue to build upon a sure foundation. Compare scripture with scripture, rightly divide the Word of Truth, and trust no man as your authority.

I will never forget the old pastor with whom I exchanged posts who told me he hadn't wrestled with any verse in scripture since leaving seminary 58 years before. Sad. He was handed an answer key (as I was when I was educated in the Roman Church) and never questioned it.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -2 Tim 2:15
When the day comes in which we stand before the Lord, there are some who will be "ashamed." We need to work to be sure we are not counted in that number.