Precepts, Lines, and a Little at a Time

One of my favorite teaching props fits in a tiny Ziploc bag. No, it’s not fake crack! It’s a small piece of folded metal wire flattened on one side and formed into a wide loop in the middle. I ask people to tell me what it is. Most guys can look at it and say, “It’s a cotter pin”, which is technically true. But it’s no ordinary cotter pin: it’s the firing pin retaining pin that goes to an M-16 assault rifle and the gun won’t fire without it!

As many of you know, one of the key classes to train people to walk in victory as believers is Spiritual Warfare class, aka War for the Soul. Teaching a women’s recovery class on the Stronghold of Fear one day we had a powerful time as God’s Spirit did what He does best, reveals His Truth that makes people free. I had one woman who wasn’t interested in the class, so she was always looking for a way out of it. That day she successfully played hooky and missed the class. I remember at lunch after class that same woman was sitting with us when another lady shared how the class had changed her life. She had discovered some new precepts for defeating Fear in her life and she was grateful for the teaching. The woman who had skipped suddenly exclaimed, “That’s the same stuff I’m dealing with! I needed to hear that! When will you be teaching it again?” I explained the class would come around again in six weeks. “But I’m leaving next week! I won’t be here!” As one of my favorite evangelists, Leonard Ravenhill, used to say, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity.” Like that cotter pin, the lesson on the Stronghold of Fear was an essential part of her program. But she had allowed selfishness and laziness to prevent her from getting it. Her next battle with the “Spirit of Fear” she would not have use of the important precepts we learned in the class and so was less likely to win.

What most people like that delinquent woman don’t seem to grasp is that God plans to equip us in advance for every upcoming battle through the teaching of His Word. These are what I call “Divine Teaching Appointments.”  They may come through our personal devotion time alone, though our pastor’s Sunday or midweek message, through fellowship conversation with fellow believers, through a Christian book, or even through the message of a song that reveals God’s Truth. Whatever the means, God intends to deliver the essential pieces and we are expected to be seeking to obtain them. Our LORD explained this concept through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 28:9-10
“Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.”

In Isaiah 28 we see God’s frustration with teachers who were supposed to be teaching His people what they needed to know to walk in righteousness as they showed the world what it means to follow the true God. Instead, these teachers had made pleasure their focus and neglected to give the “meat” to the God’s people so that they could know the LORD’s true ways. Then God reminds teachers and students how it’s supposed to work: by building the powerful weapon of God’s Universal Truth piece by piece. To do this, precepts are presented and laid down so they line up with other key precepts. These come together a little at a time!

  1. Precept—a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought. A rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct. An order issued by legally constituted authority to a subordinate officer. A precept is a rule or direction, often with some religious basis, dictating a way you should act or behave.
  2. Line—each piece of information builds on the previous ones taken to heart and learned. Without making the effort to learn and apply, there is nothing to build on. The difference between building a house and just having a pile of bricks. (years in church doesn’t equal growth any more than years living in a family means a person has learned to relate to others or be unselfish—only effort makes that happen)
  3. Here a Little—God rewards those who make the effort to seek out His Truth by giving a little piece of it every time. These I call Divine Teaching Appointments.

Sadly, most believers have a lot of knowledge they’ve accumulated by random reading or listening. But because they have neglected opportunities to fill in the missing parts or to have applied their weapon they aren’t being effective in their Life’s Work. It’s very challenging to me as a pastor because discipleship is my specialty and that consists of training or coaching someone to move from this spot in their spiritual maturity to the next spot with a goal in mind. This is how I have helped hundreds of men and women escape drug addiction over the last sixteen years and how I helped teenagers grow into mature Christians before that. I am often fascinated to find the LORD has planned the Bible study lessons to match the worship message, the evening study, and the Wednesday class or study. Other connecting pieces are given throughout the week in our devotion times, personal study and encounters.

The challenge is people often hit and miss, not recognizing the importance of the individual Word given at each Divine Teaching Appointment. So after I’ve delivered my message or taught my  class or gone to a town and delivered a workshop I’m going, “LORD, they missed this! How will they make it up?” Indeed, the LORD answers that question in verse 13:

Isaiah 28:13
But the word of the Lord was to them,
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little,”
That they might go and fall backward, and be broken
And snared and caught.

Much of the misery the majority of professing believers are going through is because they are unarmed and getting beat up by the World, The Flesh, and The Devil. They are hit and miss Christians and the Devil takes full advantage of their ignorance. For many, they don’t realize that if they had an opportunity to hear a message or be in a class and they chose not to attend or study they still will be held accountable for what they missed! Satan has the power to test us based upon what weapons we have available. If we didn’t choose to collect those parts and arm ourselves with that knowledge he still has the right to attack us as if we had them! Most tell me, “I had no idea just how organized Satan was until I took your class! He has been getting in for a long time in ways I didn’t know!” So beware or what you have opportunity to know but selfishly or lazily neglect may actually be used as a snare to trap you or cause you to stumble!

Now don’t misunderstand me. This doesn’t mean we should live in terror of missing a message because we are sick, on vacation, or wind up sleeping in or going to bed without spending time with the LORD. God will certainly give us an opportunity for a makeup if we are making a regular effort to be obedient and faithful. I’m not talking about a legalistic approach where missing is the issue. But the reality is that in the LORD’s Army and in the Kingdom of Heaven an attitude of laziness, lack of motivation, and focus will always lead to defeat and humiliation. If we’ll just make the effort, the LORD will do the rest.

Luke 12:47-48
And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

To whom much is given, much will be required and to whom much has been committed, of them they will ask the more. If we use the opportunity to learn and we apply what we have learned, we store up blessings for ourselves. If we don’t use it, we will account for it. Every believer will still be held accountable for every Divine Teaching Appointment they were given even if they don’t show up for it. That includes those to learn, and those to share with others the “food” we have been given in the “due season”!

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent [study] to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

TIME TO GO HUNTING FOR MORE PRECEPTS!!!

About Martin Britt

Martin Britt is a licensed, ordained minister, an Internationally Certified Addictions Counselor and an Internationally Certified Clinical Supervisor. Martin serves as pastor at Parkway Baptist Church. He served for more than fifteen years with Home of Grace Addiction Recovery Program in Vancleave, Mississippi and travels around the southeast conducting seminars and training in an effort to encourage discipleship in the local church.

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