Posts Tagged 'Word of God'

God’s Best Gifts, Part 3

God gives His people numerous gifts for a variety of reasons. God sent Jesus – His gift of love to sinful man – to catch their attention. In a world filled with condemnation, Jesus came in love to save. God also gave His people that kind exact same kind of love – a divine, unconditional love – so that they could love the Body of Christ as God does.

Another gift God gives His people is peace. God is able to make His people completely sound in mind and spirit. Instead of anxiety, frustration, and anger, God’s people can be at complete peace.

Perhaps the most under appreciated gift from God to man is the gift of His Word. The Bible is a gift from God. Through the pages the Bible, God’s heart and mind are revealed to man in such a way as make plain His thoughts, His feelings, and His will. Even the unredeemed man is able to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, grasp the elemental spiritual truths contained in the Word of God. Of the Bible, the book of Hebrews declares:

For the word of God is alive 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. (Hebrews 4:12 | TNIV)

There is nothing ordinary about the Bible. Some people think that it’s a boring old book that’s largely irrelevant today. Other people consider the Bible to be a masterpiece of literature. Some very influential people have said some very profound, and sometimes some very stupid things about the Bible. For example, no less an influential person as Mahatma Gandhi once remarked:

You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.

Mark Twain was utterly confused about the Bible. On the one hand, he said this:

It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.

But then said this:

The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.

Richard Dawkins, who some people think is very smart, wrote something very dumb about the Bible:

To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.

Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.

And President Ronald Reagan said this about the Scriptures:

Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers for all the problems man faces.

With so many opinions about the Bible, we should go right to the source itself. As far as the Bible is concerned, it is indispensable, and here’s why you, if you are a Christian, can’t do without it:

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 | TNIV)

The Word of God is the “sword of the Spirit.” Let’s take a look what that means within the context of Ephesians 6.

It’s war

Verse 16 of Ephesians 6 occurs in the midst of Paul’s discussion of the spiritual warfare every Christian faces. This whole section seems oddly out of place in a letter largely devoted to peace, and yet it isn’t really. One of the great blessings of the Gospel is that it produces peace between members of the Body of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:14 – 17 | TNIV)

One of the great themes of Ephesians is the peace of Christ that resulted from His work on the Cross. And Paul spent considerable time writing about peaceful relationships between each other in the context of the family, at work, and out in the community. Being a Christian should result in a person treating others, especially other Christians, with respect, honor, and dignity.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2, 3 | TNIV)

And then suddenly, along comes these famous verses in chapter 6:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10, 11 | TNIV)

Peace is important, but peace between members of the Body of Christ is absolutely essential indispensable; it’s a powerful witness to the world of what the presence of Christ can do between people. And there are some immensely practical steps Christians can take to encourage the growth of that peace. But at the same time we know that of all the struggles we face on earth, the greatest threat to our survival as believers takes place in the spiritual world. No matter how diligent we may be in trying to live righteous lives that result in peace in all our earthly relationships, if we ignore the spiritual battles raging all around us, we risk losing it all.

In that sense, this section may not be “oddly out of place,” after all!

The need for armor

Of all things a believer can do to live at peace with the world around him, the key is to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” The phrase “be strong” really means be to be “continually empowered” by the power of God. You need that. Just think about how hard it is to live at peace with your spouse. All kidding aside, sometimes it seems like what’s needed is supernatural power to keep you from losing your temper or whatever. That’s a simple (or funny) illustration of what Paul is getting at here. Part of what he calls “the devil’s schemes” is sowing seeds of strife and contention between spouses or between siblings or between friends. We all need God’s power so as not to let those things get out of control. You see, even though the struggle takes place in the spirit world, there are real-world consequences to what’s happening there. No human being has it within himself to face the devil alone; we all need God’s presence and God’s resources – the armor He gives us.

Just how great is God’s power? Paul touched on that subject at the beginning of this letter.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18 – 21 | TNIV)

That’s the power Paul is writing about – the power that is available for you to do this:

you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13b | TNIV)

The struggle is real, but then so is the power of God. It is up to whatever struggle you as a believer may be facing. Shakespeare’s Hamlet felt something of that struggle. He felt that life was so bad it might better to just end it all and miss all that suffering. That was why he said this:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing, end them?

“Slings and arrows” are a good way to describe the devil’s weapons. Those “slings and arrows of outrageous (or cruel) fortune (fate)” may be able to harm you, but they can’t kill you. They’re a “scheme” of the devil’s to mess with your mind. You need the power of God to rise above those “slings and arrows.”

Parts of the armor

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14 – 17 | TNIV)

The concept of “standing firm” is so imperative for the believer that Paul wrote it in the imperative! A Christian MUST always stand firm, and in order to do that, he must wear the armor God provides him with.

Belt of truth.

The belt is important because it keeps your pants up and shirt tucked in. Truth is important, of course, but not just any truth: It must be God’s truth, or the truth of His Word. Of primary importance is for the believer to be armed with the truth of the Scriptures at all times. It’s easy to get so discouraged in our daily lives that we forget the Word and be tempted to buy into the devil’s lies. When the devil tempted our Lord in the wilderness, what did He do? He quoted the Word of God!

Breastplate of righteousness

Sharp-eyed Bible readers will recognize this piece of armor because it’s been mentioned before – long before in the book of Isaiah!

He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Isaiah 59:17 | TNIV)

That’s the Lord putting on His armor as He is seen preparing to fight the enemy. The Christian is to emulate their Lord by doing the same thing. When the devil beats down the believer, the temptation will be to fight him using his weapons. That won’t work with the devil; the believer needs to maintain his integrity and to remember that he is wearing the righteousness that comes from Christ. So no matter who’s hassling you or coming against you, because you are a Christian, you can’t retaliate in kind. Guard your heart with the breastplate of righteousness. One Bible scholar remarked:

Cowardice and hesitancy are by-products of the unrighteous heart, while bravery and courage flow from right thinking and acting.

“Right thinking and acting” flow from a pure heart, guarded by the breastplate of righteousness.

Gospel of peace

Believers are to literally walk in peace, that is, the peace of their salvation. Metaphorically speaking, then, it makes sense to wear shoes made out of the good news (Gospel) of peace. Again, Paul may have had in mind something the prophet Isaiah wrote long before:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 | TNIV)

Believers possess what everybody wants: Peace. That peace is the Gospel – the good news of the Gospel, which is the good news of Jesus Christ. Wherever the believer goes, he is a walking testimony of that good news. That’s why when everything at work is upside down or life throws you a curve ball, you remain calm, cool, and collected. You’ll feel better because you’ll be enjoying God’s peace through Jesus Christ, but you’ll also be noticed by those who are losing their minds to stress and anxiety. What a marvelous tool of evangelism: God’s peace!

Shield of faith

Christians are to “take up” this shield. This is the only time this Greek word for shield is used in the New Testament. It refers to the kind of shield a Roman soldier would carry into battle. It was large and oblong and would extinguish fiery arrows that got stuck in it. When Paul says to “take up” their shield of faith, he’s not referring to getting more faith. As a Christian, you already possess buckets full of faith. Paul is talking about using that faith – accessing it’s power to defend yourself against whatever the devil may throw at you. Your trust in God and in His Word will go a long way in keeping you alive during a spiritual battle!

Helmet of salvation

This isn’t the first church Paul wrote to about this. He wrote a similar thing to the Thessalonians:

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:8 | TNIV)

“The hope of salvation as a helmet.” Is that also what Paul was referring to here? In Ephesians, Paul is not suggesting that believers obtain salvation since they obviously already possess it. But rather, the idea is for the believer to remember that he is saved; he is already seated with Christ in Heaven; he has already won the battle. In other words, we might say something like this: When the devil is attacking, keep your head! Remember whose you are!

Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God

Lastly, Christians are to wield the “sword of the Spirit.” Paul tells us what this weapon is: The Word of God. Exactly what Paul meant here is unknown. We wish he had expanded on it slightly. It may be that Paul is suggesting that at a crucial moment during a crisis, God will being back to your mind – and possibly to your mouth – an appropriate Scripture. Jesus said this would happen:

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19, 20 | TNIV)

The Spirit is able to do just that. When Jesus was explaining this to his disciples, He was referring to persecution because of their faith; definitely a crisis! But there are other crises in life that may arise where a believer needs counsel from the Word. The mind is an amazing thing. It remembers everything yet recalls nothing sometimes. With the help of the Spirit, Bible verses and stories can be brought back to remembrance, thereby comforting or empowering the believer or even somebody else.

This amazing Word of God is truly a gift. It’s literally the gift that keeps on giving, making it possible for every child of God to live victoriously over the the devil and all the circumstances of life.

 

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The Awful Danger of Unbelief

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When a non-Christian doesn’t believe in God or doesn’t believe in the Word of God, it’s not a great tragedy. Unbelievers don’t believe; it’s what they do best. Their minds are carnal; they are firmly rooted in this world and in the things of this world and have they have no relationship with the spiritual world. Of the carnal mind, the Bible says this:

…the mind of the flesh with its carnal thoughts and purposes is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot. (Romans 8:7 AMP)

That’s right. The carnal – worldly – mind is hostile to God. Now, you may wonder: how can your unsaved aunt, who is so kindly and benevolent, be considered hostile to God? It’s because she cannot submit to God’s law – His Word. It’s not just that she doesn’t want to, it’s that it is spiritually impossible for her to do so. That unbelief is actually hostility directed at God. Your unsaved aunt’s carnal mind is toxic to God. She doesn’t believe and, in fact, she cannot believe.

And until she submits her will to the drawing of the Holy Spirit to the point where she commits her life to Christ, she’s lost, without hope, and an enemy to God. She may want the things of God; she may associate with Christians; she may even go to church, but if her mind remains in its state of utter carnality, she has no chance, because she is God’s enemy. She may hear the Gospel and like it. She may sing the hymns and be touched by them. But until her heart is right with God, everything remains wrong.

But if you think converting to Christ ends all problems with a carnal, worldly mind, you’d be wrong. The battle against worldliness never ends. The Devil is always going to try to win you back, and it always starts in your mind. And it always with starts with unbelief; unbelief toward towards God’s Word. It’s a spiritual battle that cannot be won using the things of this world, like simply reasoning or counseling. A spiritual battle is fought and won in the spiritual world, using the weapons of the Holy Spirit.

There is a well-known story in the Old Testament that illustrates how dangerous the carnal mind is and why unbelief in the Christian isn’t just bad form, it can be deadly.

Unbelief measures difficulties by human standards

Nobody has it easy in this life. Nobody. If anybody tells you otherwise, they’re lying about other things, too. We all face problems. Sometimes we may be be facing a huge problem, and at other times we may be assaulted by many small, unrelenting, irritating problems that never seem quit. If you are a Christian, but your mind has stopped functioning in the spiritual realm and reverted back to it’s original carnal state, then you’ll be filled with unbelief. God’s Word will have lost its power and meaning. And whatever those problems may be that you are facing, they will be blown all out of proportion.

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Numbers 13:1, 2 TNIV)

You know the story well. Moses and Israel had left the Egypt and the Lord had led them right to the border of the Promised Land, the land God had given to them. All they had to do was go in and take it. The mission here was a simple one. Moses was to send in a band of men to check it out. It was supposed to be simple. Unbelief made it impossible.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:31, 33 TNIV)

Here we see the terrible power unbelief has and what it can do. If all you know about this story is the record in Numbers, you’ve been missing an important piece of information. It was NEVER God’s idea for Moses to send in the spies. It may sound like it, but it wasn’t.

Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.” (Deuteronomy 1:20 – 22 TNIV)

That’s not God talking, it’s Moses. It was never God’s idea to send in the spies. God simply responded to what the people wanted. Sending in the spies showed weakness on their part and was the result of unbelief in the Word of God. They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to take the land, even though God told them He had given it to them! The fact that they felt like they needed to “do things themselves” showed unbelief and a distinct lack of faith. They didn’t believe, they took it upon themselves to do the job in the flesh, and the result was unbridled fear.

When the spies, operating in the flesh, saw the “giants,” they concluded they couldn’t win. The KJV put it this way:

We be not able… (Numbers 13:31 KJV)

That’s the carnal mind talking. The redeemed mind says something very different:

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 TNIV)

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.” (Mark 11:22, 23 TNIV)

Unbelief contradicts the Word of God

Here’s what the spies said to the all the people of Israel:

And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.” (Numbers 13:32 TNIV)

But here’s what God said:

So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. (Exodus 3:8 TNIV)

So who are you going to believe? The spies who spoke of a devouring land filled with giants? Or God, who described the land as being “a good and spacious land…flowing with milk and honey?” Well, if you have a carnal mind, then you’ll believe other carnal minds.

It boils down to this: The carnal, worldly mind, always contradicts the Word of God. The carnal mind says things like this: “Of course I believe in the Bible, but…” Yes, “buts” fill the carnal mind. The carnal mind says things like:

“Of course I believe in prayer, but…”

“I know God can heal, but…”

“I know I should go to church, but…”

“I know the Bible says it’s a sin, but…”

“Buts” fill the worldly mind and nullify the Word of God. That’s why entertaining fleeting doubts can lead to permanent unbelief. That’s not only a sin, it’s dangerous.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10 TNIV)

Do you want to call God a liar? I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes! Not believing His Word is essentially calling Him a liar. That puts you in a precarious position, indeed.

Unbelief hates the gifts of God

In the case of Israel, God had a plan for them. It all started with getting them out of Egypt, where they were enslaved, and into a free land made just for them. Canaan, the Promised Land, was God’s gift to His people. Here’s what they thought of it:

Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. (Psalm 106:24 TNIV)

When you don’t believe God’s Word, you begin to “despise” His gifts to you. You take His blessings for granted. You complain about them. Unbelief is what kept the people out of the Promised Land more effectively than any enemy ever could.

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19 TNIV)

Unbelief can literally turn off the spigot of God’s blessings. But there’s more at work here. Canaan Land in the Old Testament is a picture of the “second rest” provided for God’s people. It’s the ultimate, final destination for believers. Unbelief will keep you out!

So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it… (Numbers 14:36 TNIV)

Yes, that’s how you come to regard God’s best for you when you harbor unbelief in your heart.

Unbelief is a source of sin and sorrow

Nothing will make a weak believer miserable quicker than unbelief. When your redeemed mind begins to fall back into its default position of unbelief, you’ll face grief, sadness, unhappiness, and misery in general.

All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? ” (Numbers 14:2, 3 TNIV)

Unbelief is pessimistic. It’s negative. It sees only the downside. It never sees the possibility of success. Every bad thing in your life – real or imagined – will be blown way out of proportion when you get stuck in the rut of unbelief. Your spouse will never be good enough. Going to work will always be a chore. Even going to church becomes a burden when you lose faith in God’s Word.

This isn’t a kind of positive thinking exercise here. For the Christian, God’s Word is more than a collection of stories. It’s powerful. It changes lives.

For the word of God is alive 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. (Hebrews 4:12 TNIV)

God’s Word cannot be taken lightly. To do so is inviting trouble. It’s an absolute offense to God. The Bible is not a dusty old book. It’s a supernatural book that demands a response from people because God doesn’t tolerate indifference or disobedience.

It’s actually alive. It’s active. That is, it’s effective and it’s powerful. No human being can escape the living, active Word of God. God’s Word brought the universe into being. And Jesus, the living Word is able to recreate a man who is otherwise dead in his sins.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19 TNIV)

God’s Word is able to cut deep into your heart and soul. It reveals things to yourself about yourself. It separates the lies of your life from the God’s truth in your heart. Nothing in your life remains untouched by the power of God’s Word.

God’s Word is the discenerner of your thoughts and intentions.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1 – 3 TNIV)

At the same time, for one who endeavoring to live a sanctified, righteous life, God’s Word protects and saves. There may be times when God’s Word is the only thing between you and spiritual death.

Unbelief is dangerous. It will hurt you. It may kill you.

“As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” (John 12:47, 48 TNIV)

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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