READING THE BIBLE
A woman bought a parrot, took him home, and then returned him to the pet store the next day. ‘This bird doesn’t talk,’ she told the owner. ‘Does he have a mirror?’ asked the owner. ‘Parrots love mirrors. They see themselves and start up a conversation.’ So the woman bought the mirror. Next day she returned. The bird still wasn’t talking. ‘How about a ladder? Parrots love walking up and down a ladder. A happy parrot is more likely to talk.’ The woman bought a ladder. Sure enough, she was back the next day; the bird still wasn’t talking. ‘Does your parrot have a swing? If not, that’s the problem. He’ll relax and talk up a storm.’ The woman reluctantly bought a swing and left. When she walked into the store the next day her countenance had changed. ‘The parrot died,’ she said. The pet store owner was shocked. ‘I’m so sorry. Tell me, did he ever say a word?’ he asked. ‘Yes, right before he died,’ the woman replied. ‘He said, ‘Don’t they sell any food at that pet store?’ The moral of this story is: You can spend your life on mirrors, focusing on appearance; on ladders, focusing on career success; on swings, focusing on entertainment-and starve to death spiritually. Mother Teresa said the most difficult cases she dealt with in Calcutta were those who’d lost their appetite entirely, or were so sickly they couldn’t feed themselves or digest food. You’ll die spiritually if you don’t feed yourself on God’s Word each day! Jeremiah said, ‘Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.’ (cited from UCB “Word for Today” 1st May 2010)
Jeremiah 15:16 says this:
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
Jeremiah sees the Word of God as food for his soul. He hungers for it; he is desperate for it; it is what gives him joy and delight; he recognises how much he needs it; that without it he will spiritually die.
So… you want to be a disciple? You want to be disciplined? Then you MUST practice reading the Bible – feeding on the Word of God – essential for your spiritual health and well-being.
In what we are now going to study, let us see that there are a number of interchangeable words and phrases that essentially mean the same thing: The BIBLE, the WORD OF GOD, the LAW OF THE LORD
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH THE WORD OF GOD?
Let us read together passages that encourage us to do this very thing – passages that we know very well:
Psalm 119:105 ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
Joshua 1:8 ESV
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.
Matthew 4:4 ESV
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Romans 15:4 ESV
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart
1 Timothy 4:13 ESV
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching
Psalm 1:2 ESV
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Isaiah 40:8 ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Psalm 19:7-11 ESV
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Romans 10:17 ESV
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
You know these things. This is the WHAT should we do with the Word of God. But….HOW should we “eat” or “take in” the Word of God?
HOW SHOULD I TAKE IN THE WORD OF GOD?
18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)
- “tie them as symbols on your hands”: listen to God’s Word and say to God that you want them to guide the things that you do every day. Hands speak of the Word guiding what we do.
- “bind them on your foreheads”: ask God to fix them in your mind so that you remember them. Ask God to fix them in your mind so that they become what you believe and live by. Foreheads speak of the Word guiding us in what we think and understand.
- “teach them to your children”: this is self-explanatory – but also points out our responsibility to ensure that God’s Word is passed on from person to person – we cannot say that “it’s not my responsibility – you find out for yourself!”
- “talking about them…..” – this shows that “how” we learn God’s Word should not be limited to reading or listening. Some people learn best by personal study; others by listening to the Word being preached; others by talking about it. Doreen used to get very upset that she would read the Word of God but neither understand it nor remember it. Her spiritual life was transformed when she realised that there were many different ways that she could learn the Bible – her preference is to listen to it and to talk about it rather than read it.
- “write them on the door-frames…and ..gates”: so that over-and-over again we are being reminded of what the Word says – so that we can really learn it – like the verses that are written on the walls of our church building.
So, how should I focus on the Word of God? Read it, listen to it, talk about it, carry it with you, write it down, learn it off-by-heart.
Make it your daily habit: read the Bible every day; have a set time for doing so. Work from a study guide like “Daily Bread” or “Word for Today” (UCB). Follow a Bible reading plan which will take you through the whole Bible in a year. Choose a version that suits you – remember they are all translations with advantages or disadvantages to each.
WHY SHOULD I FOCUS ON THE WORD OF GOD?
The Word goes on to promise us in Deuteronomy:
21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
22 If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow – to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him – 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. 24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the River Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea. 25 No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go. (Deut 11: 21-25)
The promise here is that IF we choose to feed on His Word, listen to His Word, live by His Word, then:
- Our nation will be blessed and our church will be blessed – so there will be a corporate benefit for us
- Nothing and no-one – neither earthly or in the spiritual realms – will be able to overcome us or stand against us. We shall be strong. We shall be safe. We shall see God’s Kingdom growing. All this BECAUSE we choose to live by the Word of God! Marvellous!
I think that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians opens up this question as to the “why” even further.
In encouraging the disciple to put on the “whole armour of God” he says:
17 Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)
Paul is saying that the Spirit – who lives in us – will use the Word of God like a soldier uses a sword. And how is this? It is both a defensive and offensive weapon.
We ARE embroiled in spiritual warfare – whether we like it or not – against the powers and principalities of this world – whose prince is the devil who does NOT want Christians to live by God’s Word or use God’s Word to make a difference to the world.
A swordsman needs to be well-practiced in the use of his sword to be effective in the battle – and it is not surprising to remember that in the past the reading and study of God’s Word was often known as “sword practice”.
So, acknowledging that we ARE in a spiritual battle and that our weapon is the Word of God, let us learn it well – why?
2 Timothy 3:16 gives the absolutely definitive answer – and is SO relevant for the society in which we live today:
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
For every Scripture is under attack and scrutiny from a society that is moving away from the Truth of God’s Word.
- We need to know the Truth of the Word in order to be protected from heresy and false teaching – used by Satan to lead us astray. Such is the cry for China – vast numbers of people are turning to Christ – but poor teaching of the Word has led to many cult leaders rising up and causing mayhem. In the 19th C one man, claiming to be Christ, started a war in China that led to the death of countless millions of people.
- We need to know the Truth of the Word in order to counter the growing lies in society that are challenging the teaching of the Word of God – how more so than in the areas of sexuality and the way in which we can receive eternal life.
- We need to know the Truth of the Word in order to know what to say when we are questioned or challenged about our faith and the things we say we believe – just look at the need for Dave Workman to “wield his sword” well when he stands at “Speakers’ Corner”, harangued by Muslims and atheists.
- We need to know the Truth of the Word so that we know what to say to the “seekers” whom we are longing to see come to know God – amongst our family, friends and colleagues
- We need to know the Truth of the Word so that we are able to win the “battle of the mind” where Satan attacks us mentally – telling us that we are “no good”, “inadequate”, “sinners”, or tempts us to do wrong
- Do we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God – all of which is profitable for doctrine? We will be looking at this in the coming weeks in our housegroup studies.
- If we do, then ARE we “feeding” on the Word of God?
- Which is our preferred way of learning the Word of God – and are we focusing on this?
- Are we giving enough of our time and commitment to learning the Word of God? And if the answer is “no” then what are we going to do about it?
- What would help you get more to grips with the Bible? Would a Bible study tool like “Our Daily Bread” or “Word for Today” help? Would a Bible study plan help? Why not join with me on the “30 Day Bible Challenge”. Ask one of the elders if you would like further help on this.