GROWING SPIRITUALLY: THROUGH GOD’S WORD

A lot of us refer to the Bible as our “instruction manual” for living. For committed Christians, the centrality of God’s Word is a given. The idea of the importance of the Bible is expressed in the New Testament in verses like these:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Dedication to “sound doctrine,” or following the “instruction manual” for your life, is not an option. Sound doctrine literally unleashes the power of God in your life. Take careful note of what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:16; he does not credit salvation to the power of a sermon or a worship service but to sound doctrine that is observed by others. The unsaved will see for themselves the presence of God in your life if your life is measured by the the Word of God and sound doctrine.

Also, paying attention to the Bible and understanding sound doctrine will enable you to exercise discernment when it comes to spiritual matters. The fact that the Church is rife with false teaching and false teachers is evidence that far too many Christians have forsaken sound doctrine.

The great early Church leader, Peter, wrote this about the absolute necessity of knowing the Word of God:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (2 Peter 3:15)

Knowing the Word of God is a must if you want to effectively share your faith with the lost. They are looking for answers, and the Bible has them. Knowledge of the Bible is a debt we owe the lost.

1. Meditate on the Word of God, Psalm 119:145—152

Psalm 119 is an “alphabetic psalm.” It is made up of 22 stanzas, each consisting of eight verses, each verse in each stanza beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The subject of the entire psalm is the Word of God. In all, the psalmist uses nine words to describe the Word of God:

  • Torah, “the Law.” This is God’s Law in the broadest sense; His revealed will to man.
  • ‘Edvoth or ‘Edoth, “testimonies” to God’s commands, which are considered to revelations of His character and will.
  • Mishpatim, or “judgments.” These are divine pronouncements by act or word against bad behavior and conduct.
  • Kjuqqm, “statutes” or “ordinances.” This often refers to God as the great Legislator, referring to God written and spoken Law.
  • Dabar or Debarim. This refers to God’s literal Word; the words He spoke or wrote.
  • Piqqudim, “precepts,” referring to God’s instructions to man to direct his conduct.
  • Mitsroth, “commandments.”
  • Imrah, “promises.” These are God’s promises to man.
  • Darek or Derakim, translated “way” and “ways.” It refers to proper conduct.

This gives us an idea of what the message of Psalm 119 is: the excellence of the Word of God. And the theme of verses 145—152 is that the truth of God’s Word helps us overcome any trouble.

In the previous group of verses, 137—144, the writer is convinced of God’s righteousness, and because of that conviction, he is comfortable in crying out to God for help. Verses 145 and 146 each begin with the phrase, “I cry.” Here was a deeply troubled believer who promises obedience to God’s Word in exchange for His help. This person was “up before dawn” and “awake all night” in prayer and meditation.

The psalmist’s lament is positively feverish: he is desperate for God’s help in adversity, and he is not above pointing out a number of positive things about his conduct and character to the Lord in hopes that the Lord will notice and act on his behalf:

  • I will obey your decrees.
  • I will keep your statutes.
  • I have put my hope in your word.

The psalmist prays with great intensity; an intensity that is equal to his loyalty to God in living in obedience to His Word. He prays “with all his heart” and obeys “with his whole heart.” Early in the morning and late into the night, prayer and meditation occupies his mind. Notice the focus of his hope:

…preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws. (verse 149)

The thought is one of revival: “revive me” is what the psalmist wants from God, but above all else, the psalmist wants his life to line up to God’s laws.

2. Crave spiritual food, 1 Peter 1:22—2:3

Doctrine was the key focus of the early church. We can understand why when we consider how the early church wrestled with false teachers in those days. Paul, John, and Peter all wrote letters condemning false teachers and false teaching and Peter especially sounded the clarion call in his letters to hold fast to the true Gospel.

a. The enduring Word, 1:22—25

Christians are called to live lives marked by holiness, which is initiated through the work of the God in salvation. However, verse 22 informs the reader that they play a part in their own sanctification:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

This is totally in line with the famous prayer Jesus prayed shortly before His crucifixion:

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

Purkiser comments:

The Word of God, functioning in the believer’s heart as truth and light, is the formal cause of sanctification.

While this is undeniably true, the “purification” process began when the believer accepted the truth about Jesus Christ as Savior. Either way, the “truth,” the Word of God, is what makes a believer holy.

The question may be raised: Why and how? Simply put, the Word of God sanctifies the human heart for two reasons: (1) While the Bible is a book, it is unlike any other book ever written because it is spiritual in nature. Behind, under, and in-between every word of Scripture is the Holy Spirit. We are assured in Isaiah 55:11—

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

(2) The Bible’s truths are timelessly objective, as noted in 1 Peter 1:24, 25a—

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.

b. Growing in maturity, 2:1—3

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation… (verse 2)

This is Peter’s summation of his letter. If you want to live like a real Christian ought to live, then you must—you have no choice—but to divest yourself of bad attitudes or worldly attitudes and “crave” the Word of God. A believer must long for the Word of God as if his very life depended on it, and it does! The Greek word translated “crave” means a very strong desire. It’s not a negative word but a positive one. Christians should strongly desire more and more sound teaching of the Word of God. But notice the qualifiers: “pure” and “spiritual.” The spiritual food believers should be consuming must be the right kind; it must be free of deceit and fraud. In other words, it must nourish the spirit, not tickle the ears.

It is only when believers are getting a steady diet of the Word of God they grow in their faith. This admonition reminds us of the words of David:

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

The Word of God never disappoints those who partake of it.

3. Receive and obey the Word, Luke 8:4—15

This parable is found in all three Synoptics. We might call it “God’s soil analysis,” but really it’s cold hard look at the kinds of “hearts” the receive the Word of God. The thrust of parable is simple: a lot of people hear the Gospel, some will take it heart and make it part of their lives, others won’t. The preacher well knows the truthfulness of Jesus’ teaching on this matter.

Probably the most important part of this parable is found in verse 18, which is technically part of the following parable:

Therefore consider carefully how you listen.

Listening to the Gospel is not a spectator sport! We should be engaged as we listen. Hendriksen offers this wonderful observation of the different kind of people who “listen” to God’s Word:

Some people listen hardly at all, Isaiah 40:21—

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

Some listen to be entertained, Ezekiel 33:31, 32—

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.

Some listen in order to find fault, Mark 12:13—

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.

Some listen in order to obtain true wisdom and to put it to good use, Acts 17:10, 11—

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 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.

It’s amazing how one seed, which is always the same, by the way, can have a such a different effect on different hearts. But it’s up to the individual how they choose to hear and obey the Word of God.

Babies don’t stay babies forever, thankfully. They do grow up. Christians cannot remain spiritual babies forever. They grow up as they nourish their spirits with regular doses of the God’s Word.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd
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