Monday, December 7, 2020

Updated Piece 5: The Word of God

            Raise your hand if you feel like reading the Bible is a bit unnecessary. superfluous, like it’s extra-credit, something for when you need a boost or want brownie points with God or need to get out of a mess.  Now, how many of you didn’t raise your hand but should have? 

            Many Christians have no problem letting their Bibles sit on the shelf for extended periods of time.  They pick it up occasionally for a little “God boost,” but they don’t feel a deep need for it.  They read about God in the pages but don’t meet Him in the pages.  They read about other people’s stories in the Bible but don’t see themselves in the stories.  They think the Bible is “good advice” but don’t realize it’s also the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesian 6:17).  And so the Word isn’t as alive or meaningful to them as it should be.  It’s just a “good book.” 

            It’s one thing to read about God in the Bible, but it’s another to desperately reach for Him through it.  It’s one thing to simply read a verse, but it’s another to ask God what it means for your life today.  It’s one thing to read verses about fighting against evil and Satan, but it’s another to speak them out loud during times of spiritual warfare.  It’s one thing to read about the Israelites wandering the desert thousands of years ago, to scoff at their unfaithfulness and ungratefulness, to think “You fools deserved it” when God punished them … but it’s another to walk with them, to stand with them at the foot of the mountain as they trembled at the voice of God, to understand their fears of dying and being attacked by enemies, and to be humbled by the fact that we often do the same things they got in trouble for (complaining, not trusting God, creating our own gods) when we’re in our own “desert” times.  (We’re no different from them.)    

            In our day and age of being too familiar with God and His Word, we have lost the sense of awe (the proper fear) of God, His Word, His Truth.  We’ve heard these stories again and again.  They’re so common that they’re boring.  And in our apathy towards God’s Word, we fail to grasp the truth it reveals about who we really are, who God really is, what’s really going on, and how it applies to us in practical and spiritual ways. 

            If we think the Bible is just a “good book,” then we don’t understand it at all! 

            Sadly, for many of us, reading the Bible is little more than a mindless, monotonous chore, an item to be checked off our “To Do” list.  Instead of savoring it, meditating on it, absorbing it, we go “Bible reading … check!”, and move on quickly.  (Or maybe we read it to pick it apart, piecing it back together in a way we like better.  Many people and churches fall into this trap, twisting God’s Word to fit their own ideas and desires, using and abusing it for their agendas.) 

            We need to be very careful with God’s Word, with His Truths.  We need to uphold it above all, to use it as the measuring stick we measure all other “truths”against, to read it as He wrote it, not as we want it to be.  We need to start seeing ourselves in the stories and people of the Bible if we want to learn from them, if we want His Word to change our lives and hearts and eternities for the better (instead of just educating our minds).  We need to start using the Word of God as the sword that it is, if we want to successfully battle against evil.

            [Ephesians 6:17 says that the Word of God is the “sword of the Spirit.”  And in the Greek, this is about speaking the Word out loud to defeat evil, like in Matthew 4 when Jesus responded to Satan’s three attacks with “It is written …” and then quoting Scripture.  To be effective in spiritual battles, you not only need to read/know Scripture but to speak it out loud in times of attack.  Find verses that speak directly to the areas Satan attacks you in, write them down, and speak them out loud when needed.  Memorize them, if you can.  This isn’t magic or hocus-pocus; it’s spiritual warfare with spiritual weapons.  2 Corinthians 10:3-4: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

            So many people can know the Bible forward and backward without ever meeting God there, without ever seeing how relevant it is to their lives, and without ever realizing its power to help us in spiritual battles.  (Oh, the heartaches we create for ourselves when we try to battle spiritual enemies with earthly tactics and weapons!  If we don’t realize that there is a spiritual battle going on around us all the time, if we don’t address the spiritual that’s behind the physical, we’ll be using the wrong weapons to fight the wrong battles.  And, oh, how vulnerable we will be to the Enemy’s attacks!  You can’t fight the Enemy if you live like he doesn’t even exist.)  

            I’ve known Christians, even church leaders, who nonchalantly say “Oh, I know I should read my Bible more, but ...”  And yet they have plenty of time to read the whole Harry Potter series (which is a whole other issue!  Dabbling with the occult or with evil things opens the door to evil, giving demons a right to harass you, until you confess, repent, and clean up your life.  Pray for God’s help in this, if needed.).  This is a really sad indication of the pathetic condition of Christians these days.  (And we wonder why our country is in such a mess!)  “Just enough of God and His Word to get by” is good enough for most Christians, just enough to feel like they did their duty but not enough that it infringes on their lives, plans, and desires.  How tragic! 

            “Good enough” is often the enemy of great, of the best.  

            I think many of us Christians are missing out on a vibrant, living faith (and spiritual protection) because we don’t take these two things seriously enough: God’s Word and prayer (which we’ll look at next section).  If we’re casual about meeting with God then we’ll only have a casual, flimsy relationship with Him, a weak, lukewarm, watered-down faith, leaving us vulnerable to spiritual attacks, to backsliding, and to drifting into error.  And we can’t blame God for that.  He’s always waiting for us to draw closer to Him, but He lets us decide how close we want to get.  And if we want to draw as close to Him as we can, getting to know Him and His truth as it really is, then we need to go to His Word, above all else. 

            John 17:17: “… Your word is truth.” 

            Now, I’m sure there are some of you rolling your eyes right now.  “Yeah, I’ve been told over and over again how important it is to read my Bible, how I should spend daily time with God, in His Word and in prayer.  Blah, blah, blah.  I just can’t get around to doing it.”   

            Why is that?  Seriously?  What’s stopping you from it, from reaching for the best in your relationship with God?  (And how might your life change if you started doing it?  Are you really doing that great of a job on your own?  And in the end, what will you have to show for all your efforts, all your accomplishments?)  Let’s start with exploring some reasons for why we don’t read our Bibles more.  After all, the first step to growth, to positive change, is admitting that you need to change.  See if any of these reasons (these flimsy excuses) resonate with you:


Reason #1: “I just don’t care.  I’d rather be doing other, more fun things.  Besides, I’ve read it before, I know what it says, and I try to live like a good Christian.  I’m doing fine without it.”  [This is a “welcome mat” for evil, for disaster, in your life.  The Word isn’t something where you read it once and you’re done.  And it’s not about checking it off your “To Do” list or about following rules for the sake of following them.  It’s about meeting God in the pages, getting to know Him better.  The Word is active, alive, and speaks to us today, if we take the time to read it deeply and apply it.  Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  And if we don’t read it regularly, we’ll drift off-track without even realizing it.  Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Be careful how you handle the Word of God!]

Reason #2: “I want to read it more, but I’m so busy with the jobs God gave me, doing all sorts of things for Him.  And He understands, right?”  [If we don’t think God’s important enough to meet with privately, personally, regularly, then is our service really for Him?  Is it really glorifying to Him?  Or is it for ourselves, for our own glory, to earn God’s approval, to make ourselves look better or feel better, to cover up our sins or our lack of devotion to Him, etc.?  Is it really for Him?  God doesn’t really want our service if He doesn’t have our hearts.  And I think we oftentimes give Him our service to cover up for our lack of heart.  But it only fools ourselves and others (some of the time).  It doesn’t fool Him!  And until we face this in ourselves and admit to it honestly and seek to change it, we will be living mediocre, lukewarm lives, deceiving ourselves into believing that we are doing “good enough.”  Matthew 15:8: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain…”  We make time for what’s most important to us.  And not having time for God, for His Word, for His Truth, is a choice - one that shows where our heart is and that leaves us vulnerable to evil, to stumbling, to bringing consequences on ourselves that God never wanted for us, and to starving spiritually.  Matthew 4:4: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  If this is your excuse, then you probably haven’t gotten to the point where you really need God in your life.  You have the luxury of wanting Him now and then, but you don’t need Him.  You’re living a self-sufficient, self-focused life, feeling like you can handle it.  Be warned: If you continue on like this, God will have to break you of your self-sufficiency and self-focus, to get you to need Him.  To get you to realize that He is God and you are not.  And you won’t like it.  You can trust Him, that it’s for your best, but it will hurt.  Discipline always does.]


Reason #3: “I don’t want to read it because I don’t want to be convicted by anything it says.  I don’t want to be responsible for what I might discover.  I don’t want to face the true condition of myself.”  [Ignoring it won’t change what it says or what God requires of us.  It’ll just make it worse for you when you stand before Him in the end, giving an account for how you lived.  And the longer you ignore Him, the worse it gets.  Zechariah 7:11-14: “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears.  They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.  So the Lord Almighty was very angry.  ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.’”]       


Reason #4: “I don’t need the Bible because I get enough of God through sermons, Christian music, books, and other people.  It’s more exciting that way.”  [It’s great to get His Truth from wherever we can, but we always need to be discerning about the messages other people give us.  And we need to know God’s Word to be discerning, to be able to tell truth from deception.  (Far too many churches and Christians nowadays use Scripture to teach the exact opposite of what the Bible says.  Do you know the Word well enough to tell the difference?)  And it’s not about exciting us but about teaching us truth, leading us to life and salvation, and getting to know God for who He truly is and ourselves for who we truly are.  And there is something powerful about meeting with Him daily, in quiet, on your own – in the Word that He gave us, not in the words someone else gives us.  Try it for 40 days and see what happens.  Acts 17:11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  We should not take what other people say as God’s Truth, but we should always compare what other people say against God’s Truth.]

Reason #5: “Other people didn’t have the Bible, and they did just fine.  If it wasn’t necessary for them, it not really necessary for us.  Besides, the Bible doesn’t command quiet time in the Word, does it?”  [“Just fine,” huh?  Do you want a “just fine” life?  A “just fine” faith?  A “just fine” eternity?  And I wonder how much better off those people would’ve been if they did have the Bible.  Those who don’t have Bibles need us to share it with them, to live it for them.  And yet here we are, taking it for granted, acting like we don’t need it.  Other people have died for God’s Word, while we’re making up excuses for ignoring it.  And does the Bible really need to say “Read Me” for us to believe that a Book that God wrote over hundreds of years through dozens of authors and preserved for thousands of years through much persecution is meant to be read?  

2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Oh, how much we miss out on when our Bibles stay closed!]


Reason #6: “I don’t like being told what to do.  Then it’s not really a genuine desire on my part anyway.  (Or maybe I’m just plain lazy!)  So I’ll show you all just how good of a Christian I can be without being forced into your idea of what I ‘should’ do.”  [We don’t say it out loud, but many of us refuse to do what we should do just because others expect us to do it.  It’s that rebellious, prideful spirit.  But we aren’t hurting other people; we’re hurting ourselves, our faith, our eternities.  John 12:48: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.”]

Reason #7: “I want more emotional, dynamic experiences of God.  I want to find Him in miracles and nature, inside myself, not inside some ancient Book.”  [To seek God only through these kinds of subjective experiences while neglecting the Word leads to dangerous places and very bad theology.  Hebrews 5:14: “But solid food [a deep, proper understanding of Scripture] is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”]


Reasons #8, 9, 10: It’s too hard to understand.”  (And it will continue to be until you read it more.  Pray for the Spirit to grant you understanding.) … “My friend used the Bible as a club to beat others to pieces, forcing it on me, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.”  (Don’t let your spiritual life suffer because others misrepresented God.  They will be accountable to God for how they represented Him, but you will be accountable for your own relationship with Him.) … “I doubt the validity/reliability of the Bible.  And I don’t like the stories of God being wrathful or killing people.”  (The more you study the history of the Bible, the people of that time, the commentaries, the Hebrew and Greek meanings of words, the character of God, and the many good books that deal with the reliability of the Bible, the more solid the Bible becomes.  Don’t let this excuse stop you from digging deeper.  The information is out there.  If you don’t look for it, it’s because you don’t want it.  And someday you’ll pay the price for your apathy.) …


            Why are you not taking the Word of God as seriously as you should?  What has been (or might be) the consequences of this?  Do you really think you know better than God? 

            If we’re not passionate about God’s Word, it’s because we’re not passionate about God.  We haven’t yet seen ourselves for who we really are (weak, helpless, dependent on Him) or seen Him for who He really is.  And we haven’t yet fallen in love with Him, at least not enough to spend time with Him, to desperately reach for Him through His Word and prayer, to need Him.  If this is you, confess it to Him and ask the Holy Spirit to help you develop a love for God and His Word, to help you understand it and apply it to your life.  And then read it.  Daily.  Read it as though God has something to say to you personally, about your life today.  Read it as though He is in the pages waiting to meet with you, to speak to you, to help you, to lead you to His healing Truth and to a full life, because He truly cares about you, loves you, and wants the best for you. 

            The Bible isn’t about ancient people’s sins from yesteryear, their need for a Savior; it’s about our sins today, our need for a Savior.  It’s not about an old-time God; it’s about the greatness, holiness, and love of the God who lives today.  Once we grasp this, once we read the Bible as relevant and alive, it becomes much more powerful and applicable to our lives, so full of rich life lessons and of the power, glory, mercy, justice, grace, and love of God, who is the same today as He was then.  And it humbles us, making us fear Him more, trust Him more, love Him more, and it lets Him deeper into our hurting hearts where He can heal us and make us whole again, bringing miracles out of our messes, eternal gain out of our pain.



            Set aside time each day, open your Bible, ask God to speak to you through it, and read until the Holy Spirit highlights a verse for you.  Write it down, mull over it, pray about it, ask God what it means for you today.  Read it with these questions as filters, as prayers:  What am I learning about God today?  What am I learning about myself today?  And how can I apply what I’m learning to my life?  Try it for at least 40 days, see how it affects you and your faith. 

            [I think it’s best to read and pray in the morning, before your day begins.  It’s like tithing, where we give God the first-fruits, the best of what we have.  Give Him the first-fruits of your day too, the best time, when you’re fresh and receptive and not busy with other things.  Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.”  Even Jesus set aside time with God first thing in the morning, Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Of course, not everyone’s “best time” is in the morning, so just do it when it works best for you, when you can really apply yourself to it.  (But if you do it before bed and find yourself falling asleep … stop doing it before bed.  It’s not your best time!)

            And if you’re still “too busy,” bring a Bible with you while you wait in line, sit on the train, take a break at work, etc.  Write verses on notecards to carry with you and memorize one when you have an extra moment.  Keep a page of verses on your dresser and memorize one right before bed.  (This helps keep my anxiety down, meditating on God’s Word as I fall asleep.)  We can all find ways to invest more time in our relationship with God.  The things we do for Him and His Kingdom will be the only things that last in the end, when everything burns up.  And yet we’d rather shop or watch TV or read Harry Potter than put more time into eternal things.  When you stand before God in the end, how much will you have to show for your time on earth?

            1 Corinthians 3:10-15: “… But each one should be careful how he builds… his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day [Judgment Day] will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames.”  

            Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”]

            This may feel foreign at first, but the more you read and learn, the more the Bible will come alive with practical lessons and God’s love, holiness, glory, etc.  And you’ll be convicted that all your excuses are rubbish, that all your efforts to be a “good Christian” mean nothing if you’re not humbly abiding in and with God daily.  Once you begin meeting the living, holy God in His Word, you’ll be driven to it, developing a hunger and thirst for it.  You’ll want to dig deeper and deeper into it to discover all the treasures you can, all of God’s answers to life’s questions, to your fears and struggles and doubts and wounds, because you’ll realize how insufficient, unsatisfying, and exhausting it’s been trying to live in self-sufficiency, to rely on your own flawed wisdom and tiny strength.  And you’ll become protective of your time with Him, choosing to spend more time with God than with Harry Potter.  The Bible won’t just be a “good book” anymore; it will be Hope and Truth and Life!       

            Oh, the vibrant, fulfilling life we could have!  The life that comes with digging deeply into the Word, treasuring all its Truths and jewels of wisdom.  The life that comes with meeting God in the pages and in prayer, humbling ourselves before Him, opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit, to His Truth, allowing Him to convict us, heal us, comfort us, inspire us, and guide us.  Oh, the powerful witness we could have for His kingdom and His glory ... if only.  If only we would learn to value the Word and prayer as much as God does.

            “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.  They are more precious than gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.  By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  (Psalm 19:7-11)      

            If you want to settle for “just fine” and “good enough,” that’s up to you.  But if “just fine” has let you down, if “good enough” isn’t good enough, if it’s left you unsatisfied, unstable, unfulfilled and made a mess of your life … then it’s time to reach for better, for the best, in your faith.  And that’s God’s desire for us too.  He doesn’t want us to settle for less than the best. 

            Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength....”

            Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” 

            He wants us to reach higher, to strive more, to have full lives.  Because He loves us and wants the best for us.  John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

            God is not satisfied with “just fine” or “good enough” either.  Because it doesn’t do justice for His Kingdom, His glory.  (1 Corinthians 10:31: “… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”)  It isn’t effective in the spiritual battles.  It doesn’t heal our deepest wounds or comfort our darkest fears or answer our strongest doubts or grow our faith in Him to the point that we can trust Him in even toughest times.  Mediocre, lukewarm attitudes toward God only produce mediocre, lukewarm Christians with mediocre, lukewarm faith who have a mediocre, lukewarm influence on others.  Is “good enough” really “good enough”?  Will it sustain you on the long, hard journey through this difficult life?  Will it build the best eternity you could have? 

            When was the last time you drank deeply from the Word of God and met Him in the pages?  Poured your heart out to Him in honest prayer?  Invited Him into the parts of your heart and mind that you keep closed, protected, hidden from others?  Reached out desperately for Him, needy for His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness?  Picked up the “sword of the Spirit” and swung it at the enemy who seeks to devour you?  Are you willing to give God your best, your all?

          I think the only thing Satan likes better than a non-Christian or rebellious Christian is a comfortable Christian.  Because comfort breeds apathy, laziness.  If Satan can keep us comfortable, convinced that our current efforts are “good enough,” that God is pleased with our “just fine” commitment, then he can keep us from trying harder, from getting closer to God, from the kind of deep, real, sustaining faith we should have, from having a powerful and lasting impact on God’s Kingdom, and from the healing Truth that would set us free.

            “… Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”  (John 8:31-32


Questions for Reflection (answer these with God’s help, in prayer):


1.  Did anything in this section stand out to me?  Why?  What is God telling me about it?


2.  What are my past/earliest experiences with God’s Word?  How has it affected me? 


3.  Finish this sentence: “To me, the Bible is ...”  (Be honest and thorough.)     


4.  How often do I read the Bible?  Why do I read it?  What do I get out of it?  And do any of the reasons for not reading the Bible resonate with me?  


5.  Are there things in my life that show that I do not take the Bible or God as seriously as I should?  What are they?  What needs to change?  What is God telling me to do about it?


6.  How does my view of the Bible differ from God’s view?  (Look at the verses I listed or find your own.)  Do I have fears, doubts, or concerns about God and His Word?  (If so, confess them to Him specifically and ask His help in getting past them.  Ignoring them won’t make them go away; it only makes them stronger.  And remember that He can handle anything you throw at Him: the truth about what you think, how you feel, what you did, etc.  It won’t scare Him off.  If you confess it, it only brings Him closer and allows His love, grace, and mercy to heal you.)


7. (Be thoughtful and thorough with these questions.)  What do I think about the spiritual world and battle?  Do I think it’s real and take it seriously, or not?  Do I think it affects me, or not?  Am I actively fighting in the spiritual battle or am I hiding from it, ignoring the evil that seeks to destroy me, my faith, and my relationship with God?  (1 Peter 5:8-9: “… Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”)  In what ways do I rely on and try to fight in my own efforts, strength, or wisdom?  Has it been effective?  If not, is it time to start fighting spiritual battles the way God said to, with the Word, prayer, confessing sin, obedience, reliance on Him and His name, etc.?  In what areas of my life (sins, temptations, fears, etc.) do I need to start using “the sword of the Spirit”?  (Write them down and find verses to use against them.  Speak them out loud when you need to.)   


8.  What is my “best time” to meet with God?  Will I commit to it daily?  (Come up with a specific plan and do it.  Note the changes that happen the more you pray and read God’s Word.)


9.  Do I really think I can do a great job in this life, an eternally-meaningful job, on my own, without God or His Word?  Do I want more of Him in my life: His help, healing, comfort, Truth?  Am I willing to reach for it, for Him?  [If not, then there’s nothing anyone can do for you, even God.  But if so, then tell Him this.  Tell Him all that’s on your heart, everything you’re thinking.  Confessions, praise, requests, etc.  The best way to draw nearer to Him is to be honest with Him and to meet with Him daily, in prayer and the Word.  If you don’t know where to start, read the Psalms.  Pray the Psalms.  They are full of honest pain and doubts and fears, but they always bring it back around to God’s faithfulness, to trusting that He is good and is watching over everything and will work it all out for good, even our deepest wounds and biggest mistakes.)


10.  Is God convicting me about anything in this area?  Are there any changes I need to make?  Will I do what He’s asking me to do?  (Write it down.)


Prayer and Bible Work: 

            In prayer, admit to God your current attitude toward the Bible, toward His laws and commands, toward Him.  Confess shortcomings, doubts, fears.  Ask the Holy Spirit’s help to make the Word “living and active” for you.  (A great prayer for if you struggle with believing or trusting God and His Word is Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”)  Meditate on verses about God’s Word, praying that the Holy Spirit tells you what it means for your life today.  Here are some verses to start with (along with the others I’ve shared):


2 Timothy 4:2-4: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths.”


James 1:21-22: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”


Psalm 119:1-8,11: “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.  They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.  You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.  Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!  Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.  I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.  I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me…. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”


John 15:1-5: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”


2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

            God’s Word is not just “good, old stories,” for our amusement or for our “To Do” list.  It is alive and active today, for us, in our own lives.  Among other things, the Word of God …


      - leads us to Jesus, to understand who God really is (John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Bible is God’s Word in writing.  Jesus is God’s Word in the flesh.  Therefore, the Bible is all about leading us to Jesus.)


      - leads us to life, faith, salvation (John 6:63: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  And John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”)


      - blesses our lives (Psalm 1:1-2: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”)   


      - gives us wisdom (Psalm 19:7: “… The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”  It doesn’t matter what else you know or don’t know, or how smart others think you are.  A simple mind full of God’s Word makes you wise in God’s eyes, in what really matters.)


      - reveals God’s Truth to us, the Truth that lasts, that is above all of man’s “truths,” that sanctifies us and keeps us on the right path (John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”)


      - is to be obeyed (Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”)


      - protects us (Proverbs 30:5: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”) and helps us fight evil during spiritual battles (Matthew 4:10: “Jesus said him, ‘Away from me, Satan!  For it is written …’”)


            But if we ignore it or disobey it, then it will condemn us.  If we fail to take God and His Word seriously, we miss out on so much and we open ourselves up to evil, to being led astray by our own desires and plans and ideas, risking God’s discipline and wrath (Jeremiah 23:29“’Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’”)

            God will not pursue us forever.  If we keep resisting Him, at some point He’ll give what we want, a life without Him.  Don’t be like the king who burned the words of the Lord, spoken through the prophet, Jeremiah.  “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off … and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.  The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear … Therefore, this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night.  I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them … every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.”  (Jeremiah 36:23-31


            So do you still think the Bible is superfluous?  Extra credit?  Just a “good, old book”?