Beliefs about Jesus determine entire worldview, Akin says at Bible study conference

Communications Staff — November 9, 2006

Believing and living out the truth of Jesus should be the central fixture of every Christian’s life, Daniel Akin said Oct. 23 at a conference on the New Testament letters of John at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., is the author of the 2007 January Bible Study curriculum on the letters of John published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Akin surveyed the content of the January Bible Study for conference attendees along with William Cook, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern.

Speaking from 2 John, Akin said believers must love the truth. Part of loving the truth is listening to people who are godly and mature in their faith and ignoring those who do not have a track record of godliness and righteousness, he said. Akin is the author of a commentary on the Epistles of John in the New American Commentary series published by Broadman & Holman.

“Those who are spiritually mature, godly men, who have lived the godly life over many years—do they have a right to a more significant voice than the neophyte convert? You better believe it. Where would you get the idea that the children would have the same right as the young men and as the fathers? No, give me the fathers,” Akin said.

“I learn from the men and women who have walked with God for decades. Now that’s who I am going to listen to,” he said.

One reason Christians should love the truth is because truth is enjoyable, bringing with it grace, mercy and peace from God, Akin said.

But Christians must not stop with loving the truth, he said, noting that believers must live the truth as well.

“You probably would say, ‘Truth is something we believe,’” Akin said. “And John says, ‘No, truth is something you live all the time.’”

Believers must also look for the truth, Akin said.

Part of looking for the truth is learning to recognize people and ideas that attempt to deceive us, he said. Akin noted that determining what a person believes about Jesus can often help to determine whether he is a deceiver in other areas.

“If you get it wrong about Jesus, everything else unravels and you’re going to be all over the map (theologically),” he said. “If you know that I believe in the full deity, perfect humanity, sinless life, vicarious atonement, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven and second coming, you can pretty much begin to track what I think about just about everything.”

When believers recognize deceptive ideas, they must resist the deceivers and correct them, Akin said. He added that those who drift away from Christ and do not respond to correction will miss out on God’s blessings. Such people may even be giving evidence that they were never true followers of Jesus to begin with, he said.

“If you don’t stay with Christ, and stay with Christ truly and completely and wholly, you will run the risk of missing out on God’s best,” he said. “And it could be that you’ll miss out on it to the extent that you don’t get it at all.”

As they search out the truth, believers must long for the truth, Akin said. In 2 John there is a dual emphasis on truth and love, and believers can live out this emphasis because the Holy Spirit lives in them, he said.

“The truth abides in us and will be with us forever,” Akin said.

Cook told attendees how to prepare an exegetical sermon series from the letters of John. He urged preachers to do significant study on a book before they ever begin writing their first sermon.

“I think that one mistake that many make is just launching into a book … without giving preparation and thought to actually thinking through, maybe over a period of several weeks or even months, how you’re going to approach the book and what’s going to be your primary thrust,” Cook said.

Preachers should begin a sermon series by reading through the biblical book they are preaching several times in many different translations, he said.

“If you don’t plan this out several weeks or months ahead of time, you’re just going to launch right into the book,” Cook said. “And you’ll be preaching 1:1-4 without having a full grasp of the book and a good understanding of the flow of the argument. And I think that hinders your individual sermons, and I think it stifles the power of the Holy Spirit somewhat too.”

After reading the book several times, a preacher should seek to understand the occasion of the book and summarize each paragraph of the book in a single sentence, he said. The preacher can then use his summary statements to construct an outline of the book and use the outline to determine how many sermons will be required to get through the book, Cook noted.

Preparation for a sermon series should also include noting unusually difficult verses that will require extra study and reflection and determining which commentaries to use, he said, adding that a preacher only needs a few reliable commentaries for a sermon series.

The final step before beginning work on individual sermons is to develop a title for the series that both reflects the content of the book and addresses the needs of the congregation, Cook said.

“You ought to try and find a title that accurately reflects the content of the book and speaks at the same time directly to your congregation so that they will be interested in hearing what you have to say as you preach and not listen as if you’re just giving another lecture on the Bible like they may hear in a seminary classroom,” he said.

Study time in advance of individual sermon preparation can be a powerful tool for making a series convicting and relevant, he said.

“Before you ever begin exegeting a single passage for an individual sermon, I would suggest that you do all of these things. And often that will take maybe several weeks. And if you’re very busy, you might ought to give yourself several months,” Cook said.

“We have got to stretch out our sermon preparation so that the best juices within us are able to come to the surface.”

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