Someone once said the problem in the modern church is that we have too many "saccharine" Christians. (...little packages just like sugar packages, but not the same as sugar) It's an artificial sweetener, designed to look and taste as much like sugar as possible. But it's not the real thing.
There are a lot of causes of saccharine Christianity, but near the top of the list is the fact that Christians fail to take seriously the Word of God. I don't mean that people fail to believe the Bible is God's revealed Word. I'm not talking about believing the Word, but practicing the Word.
This is a critical issue because your spiritual development as a disciple of Christ is directly tied to what you do with the Scripture. God's Word is one of the absolute essentials for following Jesus, so let's talk about the various contexts in which we need to approach the Scripture.
Many Christians come to hear a preacher or teacher they enjoy. But this is the only time they open their Bibles, so they never learn to feed themselves on the Scripture. :., like babies, when they get hungry all they can do is cry for somebody else to feed them.
A. The Personal Context
1. We have a personal responsibility to become men & women of the Word. No one can eat for you, & no one can grow spiritually for you.
a. A mother can soften a baby's food to make it go down easily. In some cultures, mothers even chew their babies' food for them before giving it to them. But a mother can't make the baby swallow & grow.
b. Aren't you glad your mother isn't still feeding you? ...chewing your food for you! How much better it is to be able to sit down to a good meal & feed ourselves.
2. That's what God wants us to do with His revelation. It takes time & discipline to nourish ourselves on the Word, but how well we do that has everything to do with how far we progress as Jesus' disciples.
3. Text: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Rev. 1:3).
a. he who reads personal responsibility is blessed
b. ...there is blessing for us in every part of the Scripture. Knowing the Word is an individual responsibility, a matter of personal effort.
4. Jesus, to the 7 churches in Rev. 2-3. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev 2:7). Then Jesus says it is the person "who overcomes" who receives the blessings of His Word.
B. The Family Context
Deu. 6:1-2aNow this is the commandment, the statutes & the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, 2so that you & your son & your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes & His commandments
1. God's truth was meant to be taught in the home & transferred from generation to generation in the family.
2. He gives the process by which this teaching is to happen: Deu. 6:6-9These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons & shall talk of them when you sit in your house & when you walk by the way & when you lie down & when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand & they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house & on your gates.
a. This is not exactly being timid about your faith in your home.
b. ...even tho your children may not want the Word now & may not appreciate it now, keep it before them.
- "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov 22:6). Why is this true? Because he stares it in the face every day of his life.
- Put up a prominent plaque that reads: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, and live by it. Don't apologize for it
C. The Church Context
1. Paul charged Timothy: "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching" ( l Timothy 4:13).
a. Timothy was to explain the Scripture & help God's people put it into practice. And he was to be diligent about it:
b. "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all" (1 Tim 4:15).
c. Why preach the Word in church? Note v 16 "Pay close attention to yourself & to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself & for those who hear you."
d. The assembly is where the Word of God is to be proclaimed so that we might hear it, understand it, & apply it. The church is the environment for affirming the Word of God in the lives of His people.
e. Dying churches de-emphasize preaching the Word, but God says it is essential: I Cor. 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
a. Rev. 1:3consider 3 ways to make the Bible come alive in these 3 contexts. "Blessed is he who reads & those who hear the words of the prophecy, & heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near"
A. Reading the Word
a. Does this mean read a verse a day to keep the devil away"? Hardly. That makes it a good-luck charm, not the authoritative Word.
b. In the Bible, reading has to do with understanding what God says.
1. Reading means Studying the Word.
a. ...Grasping Gods message to us, giving diligence to our study 2 Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth).
b. Give yourself fully to it. Devour it the way you devoured that first love letter. Take the Bible seriously.
c. Like Paul Old man, in prison waiting to die, cold & lonely.
- Here was a man who had been to the 3rd heaven, who had seen things no one else had seen (2 Cor. 12:1-4).
- What did Paul want more than anything in that damp prison cell? "When you come, bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, & the books, especially the parchments". 2 Tim 4:13
2. Memorize the Word.
a. Psa 119:11, "Thy word I have treasured in my heart." There's no greater exercise than memorizing Scripture. If you have never done it before, start with a verse a week. At years end, you'll have 52!
b. God's concern is that you have the Word in your heart so that you have it ready to use in any situation.
c. Whys that important? The Word of God is "the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).
- It's the Word that the H.S. uses to help you when tough times come. But if you don't have the Word in your heart & mind, the Holy Spirit has no sword to pull out & wield. The best e.g. of the value of knowing Scripture is Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1-11). Jesus answered Satan each time, "It is written." Jesus didn't open a copy of the OT & show Satan the verse. He simply responded out of what was in His heart.
- If you dont know the Word, it cant help you when you need it.
- But we must first be diligent to put the Word into our minds.
d. Prov 22:17-18, read this advice: "Incline your ear & hear the words of the wise, & apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips."
- The Word cannot come to your lips & go out of your mouth until it is first "within you," in your mind.
- If you will cooperate with the Spirit by working to memorize Scripture, He can put in your mind what needs to come out of your mouth when you face hard circumstances & difficulties.
- When you see the Word of God become alive in your life, when you see it bubble forth from your heart, you will see God honor His Word! When you find that you can send the devil packing with the Word the way Jesus did, you'll know it is worth the effort to hide God's Word in your heart.
- Many of us have been telling the devil, "Go away, leave me alone." But he doesn't go anywhere, because it's not our word he is afraid of. He's only afraid of God's Word.
- When Satan hears the Word, he hears God. & he can't handle that. Jesus quoted 3 verses to Satan, & he was gone. 3 strikes & out.
- You need to read the Word; I.e., study it diligently & memorize it.
B. Hearing the Word
What does hearing the Word involve? It means more than letting the sounds into your ear. To hear in the Bible means to let the Word of God talk to you. Let it sink down into your mind & heart. Remember that Jesus said, "He who has an ear, let him hear" (Rev. 2:7).
1. Personalize the Word.
a. Some approach the Bible as a Book written 2000 years ago for the people then!. ...as if it were speaking to someone else, not them.
b. But the Bible was written to us & for us.
c. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness," (2 Tim 3:16).
- To hear the Word is to take its truths & apply them to ourselves. This is God talking to us. We have to respond to what He says.
- Reading the Word w/o hearing it is like chewing w/o swallowing.
2. Meditate On the Word.
a. A key word is meditation. 8 times in Psa 119, the psalmist's long tribute to the Word, he says he meditates on the Word of God (vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148)."I will meditate on Thy precepts," (15). "Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders" (v. 27).
"O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (v. 97).
"My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Thy word" (148)
b. Do you realize what the psalmist is saying in this last verse? "I can't wait until it's nighttime so I can think about God's Word. When the kids are quiet, ...everythings shut down, ...phone isn't ringing, ...don't have to worry about distraction; my head on the pillow & think about God's Word."
c. Can you & I say that? The power of this is: when you meditate on His Word at night, you sleep with God on your mind. & you wake up with a calm mind.
d. Joshua also shows us how powerful meditation is. Joshua had a big challenge ahead. ...conquer the Promised Land with its walled cities & giants. He was getting ready to face a formidable foe. Did God give Joshua a surefire military plan? No, He told him: This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8)
- The power of meditation is that it gives you success in your life. Puts God on your side
- The word "meditate" like a cow in chewing its cud. That's the picture of what God wants us to do with His Word. Chew on it Sunday & swallow it. On Monday, bring the Word back & think about it some more, over & over until we absorb it.
- That allows the H.S. to work in your heart & mind.
3. Teach the Word.
a. If you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, that means you are going to become a teacher of His Word. (repeat) (meditate on it) (regurgitate & chew on it some more)
b. ...a disciple is also one who teaches what he has learned to someone else. All of us are called to "make disciples" (Matthew 28:19).
c. If you are unable to teach someone else the basics of the Christian faith, it is because you are an immature believer. That's what the author of Hebrews says.
- Heb. 5:1-10, the writer was going deep with his readers. He was teaching them about the Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is not the stuff you teach new Christians the first week...
- 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, & you have come to need milk & not solid food.
- ..they had been saved long enough to be teaching others. But were still in spiritual kindergarten playing with ABC blocks.
- We make jokes about it, but there's really nothing funny about Christians who think the epistles are the wives of the apostles !!
d. It's like everything else you learn. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. Every time you learn something from the Word, find somebody to share it with. Find a way to teach what you are learning to someone else. That's how you hear the Word.
C. Heeding the Word
1. Blessed is he who reads & those who hear the words of the prophecy, & heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Rev. 1:3).
a. Obedience is always the goal of knowing Scripture. Look at Psalm 119 again, see what the psalmist said about heeding the Word.
2. Act on it. v. 57 "The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep Thy words."
v. 106 "I have sworn, & I will confirm it, that I will keep Thy righteous ordinances."
v. 109 "Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes them"
a. The psalmist knew what to do with the Wordobey it.
b. Jesus, "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them" (Jn 13:17).
3. If you want motivation to open the Word & let it change your life, make this your prayer: "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law" (Psa 119:18). Ask God to open your eyes to His Word.
4. If you will read, hear, & heed the Word, you will see God show His power thru it. Then your prayer will be, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).
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Sid Womack, webmaster