Christian Habits: Dwelling on the Word

When we were of the world, we thought and acted like them, but now that we know Christ (or rather are known by Him) our habits have changed (and are changing). You must be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12.2), an inward change which results in a new lifestyle.

Take the apostle Paul for example. After fighting tooth-and-nail against the Christian “sect” (as he saw them), Christ knocked him into the dirt and showed him how much he would have to suffer for Christ. Immediately he reversed course, as he began to publicly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, reasoning with anyone who would listen. One day he killed Christians; the next he loved and joined them.

So it is with all Christians–there is a definite change in our habits. One day we are of the “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2); the next we are falling on our knees praying to Jesus as Lord and King, submitting to His every command. One day we wonder what this whole “Christianity” thing is about; the next we cling tightly to our Bible, knowing it is the inspired and holy word of God.

Not everyone’s conversion feels quite so dramatic, but we must understand the change involved in stepping from the world into the family of God.

One of the first signs of a changed heart, a converted mind, a reborn soul is that intense love for God’s word as absolute, bedrock, divine truth. Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians:

Eph. 1.15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

Paul wanted the Christians to know certain things about God and about their salvation. How would they come to know these things?

Eph. 3.3 …by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

Through the Holy Spirit, God made known to Paul the mystery of the gospel. Paul wrote it down, and he preached and taught that gospel. Those are the means by which God chose to continue revealing the gospel of His Son–through the reading and teaching of Scripture.

God put the church together in great part to give us an environment which fosters growth in the word.

Eph. 4.11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

All those gifts God gave the church in verse 11 have to do with teaching and preaching at some level–the passing along of God’s word. Notice the benefits of staying in the word and continuing in a steady teaching / learning environment:

  • You will be built up in Christ
  • You will attain the unity of the faith
  • You will come to know the Son of God
  • You will grow up in Christ
  • You will take part in the growth of the whole body of Christ, the church

Every Christian should habitually be in the word, whether it’s listening to the Bible read or taught (by a competent teacher!) or reading and studying for himself. Is your life characterized by a love for the word and a continual hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

STAY IN THE WORD!

Sermon: Not Ashamed of the Gospel

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” said Jesus.

Is it prideful to believe and insist that there is only one true, living God?

How should a Christian approach an unbeliever? What sort of presuppositions should a Christian be aware of in himself and in the one he attempts to teach?

Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

Don’t you love it when you discover an outstanding Bible passage you just didn’t remember studying before? Last week I stumbled upon Job 28. May I share some thoughts from that chapter?

Gold MineJob has been debating with his three friends in chapters 3-27, and 28 is a continuation of Job’s reasoning. The main question of the chapter arrives in verses 12 and 20, but watch how Job builds up to the question in verses 1-11:

1     “Surely there is a mine for silver, And a place where gold is refined.
2      Iron is taken from the earth,
And copper is smelted from ore.
3      Man puts an end to darkness,
And searches every recess
For ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
4      He breaks open a shaft away from people;
In places forgotten by feet
They hang far away from men;
They swing to and fro.
5      As for the earth, from it comes bread,
But underneath it is turned up as by fire;
6      Its stones are the source of sapphires,
And it contains gold dust.
7      That path no bird knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.
8      The proud lions have not trodden it,
Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
9      He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the roots.
10   He cuts out channels in the rocks,
And his eye sees every precious thing.
11   He dams up the streams from trickling;
What is hidden he brings forth to light.

Ancient PathsBy gorgeous imagery, Job transports us into the recesses of the earth, into the mines, into the center of the rock. What does man find hidden there in the darkness? He finds precious things, gold, silver, iron, glittering jewels, sparkling dust.

What’s the point, Job? We read on…

12    “But where can wisdom be found?
        And where is the place of understanding?
13    Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
14    The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15    It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
16    It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
17    Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
18    No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
19    The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20    “From where then does wisdom come?
        And where is the place of understanding?

WisdomVerses 12 and 20 create an inclusio, which is a section bracketed by two nearly identical statements. The twin statements expose the main point of the section: “Where can wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?”

We brilliant humans can search and find so many wonderful, valuable, precious items hidden in the earth…but can we find wisdom in all those places? Man doesn’t even know the value of wisdom–it cannot be measured like gold or silver. You cannot find wisdom in the ocean, you cannot purchase wisdom from a merchant, and you cannot measure wisdom’s value using any earthly economic system.

So, Job reiterates, from where does wisdom come? The answer challenges many:

21    It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
22    Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
23    God understands its way,
        And He knows its place.
24    For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
25    To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
26    When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
27    Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
28    And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
        And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is hidden from mankind. There is a wisdom which comes with age and experience, but not the wisdom which Job seeks: the wisdom of the ages, the rock-solid truth, the understanding of life. That wisdom is hidden from all the living. In fact, those irresistible forces of nature, Destruction and Death, have only heard rumors about wisdom!

God's PaintingGod understands wisdom. Of course He does! Being the Creator of this life, He surely knows how this life operates! He sees and establishes everything. He’s the one who created the physical laws in the first place. Even wisdom He spoke into being.

But God not only understands wisdom, He gracefully reveals wisdom to us! He says to man, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Apart from God’s revelation, man cannot be truly wise. The most learned scientist, the most widely-traveled archaeologist, the most introspective guru among men still has not found wisdom until he opens up the word of God and examines what God has actually revealed about man and about Himself. In His word we find truth and wisdom, those things which are hidden from mankind.

Does that fill you with excitement? Isn’t that brilliant? Doesn’t that make you want to dig into God’s book and share it with your children? That’s the way I feel, too!

Let us fear the Lord, our Maker. Let us depart from evil. Therein lies wisdom.

The Political Christian? World Says…Word Says

American PoliticsWORLD: “The worst possible thing that can happen is that a Democrat/Republican president is elected.”

WORD: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Rom. 13.1)

WORLD: “If my presidential candidate doesn’t win, I’ll take to the streets in protest. The other person won’t be MY president!”

WORD: “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Rom. 13.2-4)

WORLD: “I’m not going to pay taxes. Paying taxes is unconstitutional.”

WORD: “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13.5-7)

Helping HandWORLD: “I don’t like that person who is running for president. Therefore, I shall share every news story I find that tears him/her down. I like this other person, so I shall share every news story I find which builds him/her up.”

WORD: “You shall not bear false witness.” (Rom. 13.9) “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15).

WORLD: “If someone doesn’t agree that my presidential candidate is the right one for our country, I’ll let them have it with both barrels blazing!”

WORD: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4.29-32)

Is Seeing Really Believing?

Shocked EyesThe apostle John wrote his gospel in order to produce faith in his readers (John 20.30-31). How is that faith born? In the book the crowds and even Jesus’ disciples ask Him to SHOW them something so they can believe. Don’t we sometimes declare, “Seeing is believing”?

The crowds, attempting to goad Jesus into giving them more bread asked, “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6.30)

Faltering Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (John 14.8)

Those Who SAW

After Jesus began to work miracles,”many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” However “Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2.23-25). Although they believed when they saw, it seems their believe was not really in Jesus as the Son of God. It wasn’t a belief unto salvation, a persevering faith.

Skeptical

Jesus chided the people, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4.48).

Jesus fed the 5000, and “when the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!'” (John 6.14). That sounds like faith, but just wait until  the end of the chapter: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (6.66).

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, “many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11.45-46).

Those Who HEARD

More than SEEING, faith comes by HEARING, as Paul writes in Romans 10.17. John’s gospel illustrates and illuminates this truth: faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.

When Jesus told Nathanael, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” He based that connection solely on the words of Jesus (John 1.47-51).

ListenThe very fact that Jesus is the embodiment of the Word shows the prominence and weight of hearing His word (John 1.1, 14)

Following Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, He spent the rest of the day teaching the whole town, who had come out to meet Him. “Many [of the Samaritans] believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'” (John 4.41-42)

What Jesus Is Looking For

In the very heart of the gospel, the pivotal chapter, John 12, we read this indictment against the Jews: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him” (John 12.37). And here’s the main point, as Jesus continues:

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12.44-50)

This is why Jesus told Thomas at the end, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

Faith is not built on sight but on sound. It’s not in the seeing but the hearing that truth faith is born. True faith comes from believing the word of God, embodied in His holy Son.

Two different but inseparable questions: Do you believe in Him? Do you believe Him?