Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Falling in Love with God’s Word

Episode Resources

Watch Jen teach this message.

Leslie Basham: Jen Wilkin knows it's tempting for a lot of us to spend more time reading books about the Bible rather than the Bible itself.

Jen Wilkin: But God help us if we become content to become curators of other people's opinions about a book that we cannot trouble to read. This is where the words of life live.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Wednesday, February 20, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If you've listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that we often talk about the importance of women teaching women as we're instructed in Titus 2. But how?

In fact, that’s a major theme in my book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. But you might wonder, “How? How can I learn to effectively teach other women?”

Leslie: Great question. At one of the Revive conferences, hosted by Revive Our Hearts, Jen Wilkin did a masterful job of showing us how to grow as effective teachers. This week we'll be hearing some of Jen's teaching from that conference.

Nancy: Now, if you're not a teacher at this point, don't go anywhere, okay? As you listen to Jen, you'll learn a whole lot about studying the Bible for yourself. And who knows? Perhaps God will put you in a position of sharing His Word with other women—something I believe we all ought to be doing in some fashion—if not in smaller or larger groups, at least one-on-one, life-to-life.

Leslie: I can't wait to hear it. Let's listen as Jen shows us how to help other women get into God's Word.

Jen: I was thinking as I was preparing for this, where do we need to go in the Scriptures? And I immediately thought of 2 Timothy 2. Paul's second letter to Timothy. Timothy who was probably his ten-year-younger twin separated at birth. He's giving him wisdom on how he ought to dispense of this task that has been entrusted to him.

And he says, "You take what is entrusted to you and you pass it on to others who can help teach as well" (2 Tim. 2:2). Then he goes on to talk about what that would look like. And then in verse 15 of chapter 2 he says what are probably familiar words to you. He says, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

Today, I want us to think about what it means to be a shameless truth-teller. A shameless truth-teller. We talked yesterday about the sober and joyful, compulsion-filled calling of the teacher. And now I want us to ask ourselves, "How is it that we can be shameless teachers in the best way? Because our methods matter."

We want to rightly handle the word of truth. Did you get the implication there? That there are right ways and that there are wrong ways that we can handle this. I don't know about you, but I want to be able to be a worker who says, "As far as it was able with me and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I rightly handled the word of truth."

Now, in order for us to think soberly about this, I need to pull the fire alarm a little bit. I was on a plane recently returning from speaking at a conference, and it's the nature of a conference like this that I spend a lot of time talking up here and then I spend a lot of time talking to people when I'm not up here. And I love it.

Nancy and I were talking about this and what a precious thing it is and how it really is fuel for us to get to interact with women at something like this and hear their stories and hear how the Word is impacting their lives. But I will be honest. When I get on the airplane, I'm done.

Have you ever been on a flight where the person sits down next to you and they're trying to catch your eyes, and you're thinking, I can't. I can't do this for two hours. Because they want to be Chatty Cathy all the way home. And like it's loud on the plane, so they're talking loudly at you the whole time. I'm not against divine appointments and all that. I try to be available for those. But I'm telling you, I was done after this conference I had been at. It was late. It was a late flight.

And so I get on the plane, and I'm trying to keep my head down. Here comes this guy. He's about fifteen years younger than me, probably. And it becomes immediately apparent that he has been spending his time waiting for the flight to leave in the airport bar. He is quite relaxed. He is chatting with everyone. I'm thinking, Dear Lord, no, no, no, no, no. As he works his way down and sits right next to me.

Plane takes off. He begins a conversation with me. He continues to avail himself of the drink cart, and I just keep thinking sooner or later this is not going to look good. It becomes more and more apparent that should the cabin lose air pressure, it will be necessary for me to secure his mask before I secure my own. (laughter)

So I get his whole life story, right? I've gotten the whole download. He's in sales. He's going to a golf tournament. I mean, I knew it all. He'd been married for three years. I get the whole story, right? And sooner or later he gets around to asking me the awkward question, "What do you do?"

So I thought, Well, this ought to kill it. I said, "I teach women the Bible." And there's the pause that I'm expecting. Then he gets this really thoughtful look on his face, and he says, "Huh, I bet you know all twelve commandments." (laughter) No, I can't say that I do, actually. Can't say that I do.

But here's the thing about that story that makes the laughter die away. One of the things that he divulged to me during his time talking to me was that he had grown up in the church—not just grown up in the church but he was the product of a Christian school education. 

I have to tell you, I don't expect everybody to know who Zelophehad's daughters are, but come on, there's ten of them. There are Ten Commandments. Something is wrong. Something is wrong in the church today when someone can grow up . . . He was not in the church anymore, but when you can grow up in the church and grow up in a Christian environments and emerge from them and not know even the most foundational things about our sacred text.

I want to read to you from an article that was written by Albert Mohler at Southern Seminary. It's called "The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It's Our Problem." He says this:

Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: "Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates." How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it's worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments. . . .

Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, "God helps those who help themselves," is a Bible verse. [It's not.] Those identified as born-again Christians did better—by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble. . . .

This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans—Christians included—will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.

I'm going to read you the date on this article. This was written June 29, 2004. That's eleven years ago. In the intervening eleven years, what do you think? Do you think the problem has gotten better? Or has the problem gotten worse? I suspect that you are right.

So I am here today to pull the fire alarm on this room full of women who are asking the question, "Should I teach other women?" Dear Lord in heaven, teach them and teach them well. The modern church cannot afford for its women to be biblically illiterate.

As we squint into the glaring dawn of post-Christian America, we must learn to treasure and teach our sacred text as recent generations have not. When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel.

Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible.

So why is there so little interest on the part of women? Why does it feel so hard to get them to do this good work? I believe that a woman who loses interest in her Bible has not been equipped to love it as she should because the God of the Bible is too lovely to abandon for lesser pursuits.

How do we get them there? How can we as teachers cultivate a deep and enduring adoration of God in ourselves and in those that we teach? Well, it may not be the way that we intuitively think that it is.

There's a man named Paul Bloom who does research out of MIT, and his research area is in how we find pleasure in things. He's a pleasure researcher. And what he has found in his research is that pleasure doesn't simply occur; pleasure develops. And the way that it develops is extremely interesting. He has found that pleasure develops not by having repeated experiences of something, but by learning about the certain thing in which we take pleasure.

So, for example, if you are a lover of art, you did not become someone who loves art so much because you viewed art over and over and over again but because you began to learn about art. And the more you learned about it, the more your pleasure in it increased. He has found specifically that our pleasure increases in something as we learn about its history, its origin, and its deeper nature.

So I'm listening to this on an NPR podcast, and I'm thinking there is spiritual truth here to be mined. There is spiritual truth here to be mined, because the same is true about God. So often I hear women say, "I just don't feel close to the Lord. I wish that I felt deeper for Him. I just want to enjoy Him. I want to feel those feelings again." And their solution is to turn the knob a little higher on the praise music or to go and have an experience of the Lord somewhere hoping that that is what is going to refill their spiritual tank.

But where does the answer to this lie? How does our pleasure increase in the Lord? To know Him is to love Him, and where do we know Him? We know Him as He is declared to us in His Word. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about Him. This means that we must ask the women who we teach to be more than just consumers. We must ask them to be students in the true sense of the word—not passive, but active in the way that they approach the Scriptures.

And then we must teach them in such a way that they become just that. So today, I want you to consider teaching your students three skills—how to think, how to learn, and how to work. Because what did 2 Timothy tell us? That we are to be workers.

Okay, so first teach your students how to think. Now, this is a hard thing for women. Why? Because typically we're in touch with our emotions. Can I say that? Like it doesn't take us long to access that. We can go there, and it's good. I don't mean to tell you that it is not a good thing to have readily available emotions.

I have this televangelist thing that happens when I read Scripture. It's terrible. I asked the Lord to take it away, and it got worse. Where, when I read out of Scripture when I'm teaching, I start to cry half the time. And I'm like, "This is awful." I've got to keep a Kleenex in my pocket in case it happens when I'm teaching, because what do you do when you're on a platform and your nose starts to run and everybody's looking at you? "Lord, take this from me." And He has made it worse.

We should feel deeply about God. Please don't lose that! But that should be a feeling that comes from right thinking about who He is. So we must teach our students how to think. And for women, this can be a little bit of adjustment. Because I believe that a lot of this Bible literacy problem that we see has grown out of a desire to resource women only in emotive terms instead of in intellectual terms.

We should feel deeply about God, but that should be a feeling that comes from right thinking about who He is.

But what do the Scriptures say? That we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We are to love Him with our intellect. Is that a verse that is only for men? Or is it that the women are to love God with their emotions and the men are to love God with their minds? No. You are a thinking being, and you are commanded to love the Lord your God with every ounce of brainpower that you have.

Teach your students how to think. Often women in the church are not challenged to have a thinking faith. I praise God that Nancy has built a ministry around asking women to do just that. Because it means I can stand up in a room like this and say these things and you will be able to receive them because you already know that the fire alarm needs to be pulled.

We need to have a thinking faith, which raises the question, what is the path to transformation? Isn't that what we all want? We want to be changed. Right? That's what I want. I don't want to stay the same way that I was. I want sanctification to do its work in me. So what is the path to transformation? How are we changed?

Well, we're not left to wonder about that. Romans 12:2 actually answers that for us. It says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world." Great. That's what I want. I don't want to be that person any more. Tell me what to do next. "But be," what? "transformed." Yes, that's what we all want, right? "By the renewing of your mind." Thank you. Not your heart.

Does this mean that our hearts are not to be renewed? No. But it means that the path to the renewal of our feelings is through our thinking. Right thinking should inform right feeling. We can't simply feel to feel differently; we must think to feel differently.

You know how I know this is true? Because I love . . . I'm going to call them cheese puffs so that I don't get sued. But I think you all know which cheese puff I have in mind. I love it, love it, love it like a little baby bunny. I love the cheese puff. (laughter) I will eat them until my tongue bleeds from being cut by the whatever it is that makes them sharp after you eat several bags in one sitting. (laughter)

I devoted many years of worship to the cheese puff. Oblivious happy years in which we were happy together. Until one day, what happened? I read the label. And do you know what happened to my feelings for the cheese puff? They died a slow and terrible death. As soon as I was able to look up in a dictionary what all those words meant that were the ingredients of my dearly loved cheese puff. But you know what? I didn't want them anymore. You see the transformation that happened there? Once my head knew, my heart couldn't love what I had loved before.

Isn't that a picture of how the Lord changes us? He gives us a better vision—the knowledge of Himself—and we see ourselves in relation to who He is, and then we cry out, "Lord, I don't want to be like this anymore. Change my desires. Change my desires. Make me want the better thing."

The path to transformation is from the head to the heart. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. And so, we owe it to the women that we teach to give them a thinking faith.

The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.

Know Him, and you will love Him. It is a simple formula. He is the most loveable being. We must teach women to think rightly about God and that right thinking will then beget right feelings for Them. I love that women are able to have a deep feeling faith. I think many times men can look at us and learn from that.

But I think that we need to be careful not to think in exclusive terms that it is our job to be the feelers and that it is men's job to be the thinkers. You. You. You. Every woman you teach is called to love the Lord her God with her intellect. So first teach your students how to think.

Second, I want you to teach your students how to learn. Don't just give them good information; give them good tools.

You have to push them to seek firsthand knowledge of the Scriptures. You know why? Because the false teacher and the secular humanist rely on us not knowing what the Bible says. We haven't even gotten to what it means or how it should change us. They rely on you being ignorant of what the Scriptures just physically say.

So often women that I encounter have gotten into a way of thinking that I would characterize as just the telephone game. They read a book about the Bible. And I don't know if you've noticed this, but when you read a book about the Bible and you don't read the Bible, you just read a book about the Bible. Right?

And you're reading through, and they're quoting Augustine or they're quoting John Piper or whoever it is they're quoting. And what we end up getting into is a situation where we are reading so often what someone said about what someone said about what someone said about the Bible. And it feels more accessible to us. It feels more actionable because there are bullet points and there are air quotes pulled out to the side.

But God help us if we become content to be curators of other people's opinions about a book that we cannot trouble to read. This is where the words of life live. Use those books as a supplement to but not a substitute for spending time in the Word of God firsthand.

God help us if we become content to be curators of other people's opinions about a book that we cannot trouble to read. The Bible is where the words of life live.

You are commanded to love the Lord your God with what? All of your mind. Let's change the emphasis. You are commanded to love the Lord your God with all of your mind. Not my mind, not Nancy's mind, not John Piper's mind, yours. It's not that there isn't a role for teaching in the church. Good grief, I wouldn't be here if I thought that.

But you and your students have a firsthand responsibility to have exposure to the Scriptures firsthand. It is the best guard against false teaching. It is the best guard when we get these soul-sucking questions asked of us. Right? Or even ones that aren't so soul-sucking, even the smallest challenges to our faith. And we begin to feel ourselves crumbling. Why? Because all we know is what someone's said about what this says. We need to know. We need to know firsthand.

And then third, I want you to teach your students how to work. We have gotten, I think, into a mindset in the church where we believe that just showing up is awesome if you sign up for a class or something like that. I want to change that paradigm.

Disciples are called to be disciplined. Do you hear how those two words are so closely related? They're called to be disciplined. Is anybody in here disciplined at anything? You've probably got something, right? Maybe you're good at working out. Or maybe you're good at playing an instrument or something like that. How did you get that way? Yes, you got that way by practice.

Let's say you're a violinist. The first time that you sat down to play the violin, how good would you be at it? And how smart would you feel after you got done? And so you would be tempted to say, "Well, this is too hard. I'd rather just listen to violin music."

Imagine. I had four children in piano lessons at one time, until we were like, "Listen, we can't afford this. So unless one of you is Liberace, the rest of you have got to quit." (laughter) How would I have felt if I had taken that child over to the piano teacher who I was off-loading buckets of money to, and she had said, "You just sit there and I'm going to play for you a while, and maybe you'll just pick it up." Fired. Right?

Why is that our template so often for how we try to train our people in the Scriptures? We learn by doing. We learn by doing. This means that we must make our students do the work. In fact, I would say, try not to do anything for them that they can do for themselves, which is why we're going to give them tools.

If you're a parent in here, you know this philosophy, right? I always called it, with related to parenting, I called it "intentional laziness." It's where I was just waiting for them to have whatever motor skills or intellectual ability that they needed to where I could off-load the next thing on to them. Right?

So like, "Oh, look at you. You're walking vertically. You can start doing your laundry." (laughter) "Oh, look, I think that your grip is strong enough not to drop a butter knife. Go make your lunch for school." (laughter) Intentional laziness, right? I'm getting back my life a little bit but what's also happening? I'm doing right by my children. Why? Because I'm training them to become self-sufficient adults.

Imagine if my nineteen-year-old son walked into the kitchen while he's home for Christmas break and says, "Mom, hey, what shirt should I wear today?" What? "What should I eat for breakfast?" No. I would have done something terribly wrong as a parent if he was not able, if I had not off-loaded those things to him. My job is to raise a fully-functioning adult. That is your job as a teacher. Right?

And so I always tell the women at the beginning of my studies. So we started 1 Peter this fall. I say, "I have three goals for you. I want you to know the book of 1 Peter. Now who are we kidding? We're going to spend eleven weeks in 1 Peter, and you're going to know about this much of it, but it's going to be a really good this much. Okay? So I want you to know 1 Peter. But more than that, the second thing I want for you is that anytime you sit down to study your Bible, you will be more comfortable with it after having done this particular study." In other words, that's me. I want to give you those tools, right?

"And then my third purpose is always what? Not just that you would know 1 Peter or know how to study your Bible better, but what? That you would see God more clearly. That's number three." But it should probably be numbered as number one. I've got to work on my numbering system.

So how do we off-load? How do we practice intentional laziness in the best way with regard to our students? Well, I think you have to, just as with parenting, you have to set a clear expectation. "This is what I expect from you; this is what you can expect from me. I will come prepared. I will have put the work in. I am doing what I am going to ask you to do." That's a big piece of what we tell our students. "I have already done and will be doing what I am asking you to do. And I want you to come along with this. But you need to understand that this is hard work."

It is amazing to me how this seems often to be the only area of our sanctification that we thought would be easy. Like we think, I've got the Holy Spirit in me. I should just be able to open this up, and just kapow! He's just going to drop truth on me.

In the study that I'm doing right now in 1 Peter at the beginning of chapter 2, he says you should crave the pure milk of the Word. You know that pure spiritual milk? You know that passage? What is that picture that he is painting there? It's a room full of women, you can say it. It's breastfeeding, right? That's a nursing mom image right there.

He says, "Like a newborn infant, crave pure spiritual milk." How easy is nursing? Okay, it is the most natural thing. It is the most necessary thing for that little baby. But is it easy? No. Believe it or not, it is an acquired skill, and it is hard. That is our metaphor for taking in the Word of God.

It is the most natural thing; it is the most necessary thing. But it is not something that we automatically know how to do well. We must learn how. And it's hard work, as is the case with all sanctification. It's hard work, but it is good work, because we are dying to be transformed from who we were into who we could become through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So part of this teaching them to work is giving them some permissions. You need to give your students permission to fail. This is really hard for women, right? Because we don't want to take the wig off our soul. We want to show up put together, and we have developed a habit of wanting to have the right answer all the time.

So I don't know if you've ever been in a small group . . . So I ask this open-ended question at the end of each of the weeks of my homework where I say, "Knowing that God is _____ [they have to fill in the attribute of God] shows me that I am _____ [they have to lay themselves up against whatever it is that they've learned about God] so therefore I will ______." Some women come up and they say, "Ummmm, what is the answer to that one?" (laughter) I don't know. You tell me what your answer was.

They love a "fill-in-the-blank" mentality. They want to check off that they've finished their homework, and they just want to be right. And so they come to small group time or whatever time it is where there's going to be discussion, and they want to show you that they got the right answer.

We have to stop asking questions that allow them to feel that way. I tell my women, "I'm going to ask you questions, and they're going to make you mad because your homework is going to raise more questions for you than it's going to answer." And I'm so for that I can't even tell you, because you started to think at that point.

That's a natural part of the learning process—to understand what we do not know. It is you on the first day of violin lessons. You're going to need to get used to that. Not only that you're going to need to lean into it and get really familiar with that because that's a positive thing for you.

We need to give them permission to fail. It is so hard when I ask a woman to paraphrase something, she's like, "I'm going to do it wrong." That's okay. Do it wrong. You will get better. It's all right. Start somewhere. You're allowed to not do it right the first time. Give your students permission to fail.

Give your students . . . this is going to sound scary. Give them permission to speculate. It doesn't mean that they will remain in speculation indefinitely. Although, I've got to say on some topics in the Scripture, we may be speculating on them until Jesus returns. But let's do so sober-mindedly and with some good tools in our hands, shall we? But you have to give your women permission to speculate. Maybe it means this, but maybe it means this. And there should be dialogue around that that's pushing them to think and to think hard.

Give them permission to fail and to speculate and to wonder. And this is a big one: Give them permission to wait. Give them permission to wait. We have an instant gratification society. We don't want to wait. Not only do I want to show up with the right answer, but if I don't have it, I want you to supply it to me as quickly as you can.

Women need permission to wait as they study. They have to get over the desire to have the right answer, to have an instant answer. And the job of the student, they need to understand, is not to please the teacher but to expand their own thinking to love God with their mind.

Nancy: That's Jen Wilkin speaking at a recent Revive conference on Women Teaching Women. Jen has a lot of experience teaching women God's Word. And she's been giving us a lot of practical insight.

Jen writes about how to study the Bible effectively in a book called Women of the Word. I hope you'll get a copy. It's not a long read, but it's packed with helpful advice for making your Bible study more meaningful.

We'd like to send you a copy of Women of the Word as our gift when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Your support at this time will help Revive Our Hearts continue teaching women God's Word and encouraging and equipping them to share with others what they've learned.

So be sure to ask for Women of the Word when you call us as 1–800–569–5959, or you can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Tomorrow we'll hear more practical advice from Jen Wilkin on helping other women get into God's Word. She'll take off some of the pressure teachers can feel. When she's teaching, she wants the focus to be on God's Word.

Jen: The last thing I want to hear is, "You were a rock star, or you killed it." I don't care about that. I just want to show up and be faithful to the text. Don't ask me to be a rock star. You go somewhere else if you want that. My job is to teach the text. And it's not just my job, it's your job to come and partner with me in that as a student. Come on along.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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