Biblical Foundations 39: The Word of God 2
We are in post 39 of our foundation series, digging into the Bible to understand why God has us attending this local church, what God is doing in us and through us, what does it mean to truly elevate God, elevate Christian community, and elevate others (non-Christians)?
In post 38 we began to take a step back and look not just at what the Bible says but specifically at what the Bible says about itself. We are looking at the Word of God to help us understand WHY the Word of God is so important, why we must move from the general/big-picture teaching of the Bible and also learn to believe, agree with, submit to, and obey the specific teaching of the Bible. Doctrine, what we believe, matters, my friends. It is not enough to just believe that “God is good, He loves me, He loves you, let’s go do some good deeds.” All that is true! All that is in the Bible! But that’s not all that is in the Bible.
The Bible is as long as it is because we need to know the specifics, not just the general, the Google-earth AND the Google-street view. A GPS can give you some beautiful and important images of the big picture of the earth, of a country, of a region, of a city. But to truly get to your destination, you need specific turns and specific routes and specific directions. It’s not enough to just say, “Go north!” That is true…but there is more than that general direction to getting to your destination.
Remember when the devil tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness—by twisting Scripture, the devil attacked Jesus! “God has said…” and then the devil twisted Scripture and quoted it incorrectly to try to get Jesus to sin. How die Jesus respond?
The Lord didn’t answer with general Bible verses about the love of God, popular verses that people vaguely know about (“The Bible says somewhere…” instead of knowing the book, chapter & verse); Jesus answered with specific verses for the specific attacks of the devil, specific verses from a book of the Bible (Deuteronomy) that many church-attenders never read & study & know. Jesus could have just destroyed the devil through the power of Jesus’ glory…but Christ didn’t do that. He resisted the devil’s temptation in the way that any of us can (with the help of the Holy Spirit): through a proper understanding of doctrine, of the specific teaching of the Bible.
Let’s dig into some passages in the Bible about the importance of the Bible, of doctrine, of God’s Word…
John 8:31 NIV
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
[Oh loved ones, if we really are disciples of Jesus and not just intellectual believers, we will hold to His teaching! Do you know His teaching? You can’t hold onto something if you don’t know what it is! And as we know the Truth of Jesus we will be set free! Set free from fear, anxiety, sin, hopelessness, worry!
But many church-attenders have bought the lie that knowing more and more doctrine will be like a ball and chain around our ankles, we think that digging deeply into the Bible will restrict us, but Jesus says it will set us free!
- Put a fish in just enough water that it doesn’t die, put it in super shallow water. That fish isn’t free, it’s trapped in an inch of water, it just sits there gasping for breath—that’s all it can do! But put that fish into deep waters and watch it swim and spin and dive and live! The deep water fish is free!
So many church-attenders are like the fish in one-inch of water—we get one inch of Bible teaching each Sunday, and we read one inch of Bible throughout the week (if that!), and we are stuck, gasping for breath, in prison, we are the opposite of free…and so of course we reach out for any sin or anything that the culture offers to us in our gasping; our gasping leads to our grasping…]
Oh loved ones, look at what the Lord Jesus says just a few verses down in verse 37:
Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
What does it mean when we have no room—no time!—for Jesus’ Word? No room to believe all of it, those parts of Jesus’ Word that will cause people to get angry with us? May God help us repent that we have no room in our beliefs—our precious opinions!—and no room in our schedules for His Word…
John 14:23-27 NIV
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
[If the disciples, after three straight years with Jesus face to face needed to be reminded over and over again of the specifics of Jesus’ Truth, than so do we, loved ones.
- Let’s do a little math: let’s assume the disciples spent 12 hours per day with the Lord Jesus for 3 years—that’s a total of 13,140 hours in the presence of the Word of God made flesh as He spoke to them the Word of God made text.
- If you read the Bible for one hour per day—and that’s a bif if!—do you know how long it would take us to spend 13,140 hours with the Word of God? 36 years. The disciples got 36 years of the pure Word of God from the pure Word of God and they STILL needed the Holy Spirit to remind them of the specifics of the Lord’s Truth. How much more do we need the Holy Spirit to take us deep into the Bible, into the specifics, not just the general?!]
And what is the result of going deep into the Bible through the Holy Spirit? Peace, loved ones, peace…untroubled and unafraid hearts—please look at the next verse.]
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 15:1-8 NIV
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
[Oh do Jesus’ words remain in you, loved ones? Not just on a shelf in your mind, but as the engine that drives your desires, your choices, your beliefs? An even more humbling question: do you ever PUT God’s Word into you? That must happen before it can REMAIN in you…
We say that Christians should be more loving—and love is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit! But look at verse 8—the Holy Spirit bears much fruit in our character as the Lord Jesus’ words remain in us! ALL of the Bible, not just some parts, the specifics of the Bible, not just a few Bible Tweets or Facebook memes! Church attenders often live & believe very similarly to non-Christians, we look like them and not like the Lord Jesus, not because we read the Bible too much/too deeply, but because we read it too little/too shallow! Some say, “I don’t need all that doctrine, I just love people.” The Holy Spirit uses the doctrine to enable us to love people, to bear His fruit of holiness and love in our lives!]
John 16:12-13 NIV
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.
[WOW! The disciples had been with Jesus every day for three years, constantly listening to His teaching, much specific teaching. And even after those three years of constantly teaching them, Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you—more to speak to you, more words for you, more doctrine and teaching and Truth for you to believe and obey, more than you can now bear.” The disciples didn’t say, “Hold up! You’ve taught us so much already, no more! We have the big-picture, let us run with that now.” Jesus wanted to take them even deeper, deeper into Truth, doctrine, His Word, the Bible.
And just as that deep doctrine was more than the disciples could bear, it is hard on us as well to go deep into Scripture! It is easier to stay in the shallow end of the Bible, in the big-picture parts! There is a pain as we dig into all the Bible, a pain of being convicted of our sin, of being pruned and humbled and changed by God to stop believing wrong/false things and to start believing all of the Bible. This is more than we can bear on our own, but the Lord Jesus is with us—He is worth the pain of growing and maturing!]
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
[The Holy Spirit will speak, will tell us, will guide us into ALL the Truth—this is doctrine, loved ones, inspiring the rest of the NT through those human writers and opening up our eyes to understand and agree with and obey ALL of the Bible!
One of the main roles of the Holy Spirit is not to give us really nice goosebump feelings or produce emotions in us; one of His main roles is to help us read, understand, agree with, and obey all of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation! All the Truth of God!
Let’s get as intensely practical as we can: think of a relationship with your spouse or your boyfriend/girlfriend…or even one of your best friends.
Do you only know general things about them, or do you know specific/detailed truth about them?
How healthy would your relationship be if you said,
“Look, I know that my wife likes food, but I don’t know what kinds.
I know she likes to do stuff, but I don’t know what.
I know she was raised in the United States, but I don’t know where.
I know in general that she wants me to love & respect her, but I don’t know the specifics of what that means.”
And now imagine if you went further by stating that it wasn’t important for you to learn those specifics, if you made the conscious choice to stay with such a general (i.e. superficial/shallow) knowledge of your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend and didn’t invest the time to get to know them more deeply?
We have a word for shallow/superficial relationships—they’re called acquaintances. Did the Lord Jesus die for you to be His acquaintance? No, He specifically says that when we receive Him as Savior & King we become His friends, His children, His bride—those are words to describe a deep and intimate relationship! Then why do we settle for such a general relationship with Him?
Many people say (or subconsciously think), “You can have your dry, stuffy, academic doctrine. I know Jesus Personally. I talk with Him throughout the day.”
Ah but do you listen to Him?! (and how do you know it’s Him talking to you!?)
But let’s not forget how the Bible describes itself: “All Scripture is inspired by God/is God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). My friends, the Bible is literally the “breath of God.” By reading the Bible and digging deeply into it regularly, we are getting so close to the Lord Jesus that we can feel His breath! By NOT digging deeply into the Bible, we are standing far away from His presence and His breath.
We cannot separate knowing Jesus from His primary way of communicating with us—the Bible, any more than you can really know your best friends if you ignore the primary ways that they communicate with you.
What do we often say about a strained/distant relationship? “You don’t listen to me, you don’t pay attention to me (that is, my words!), you aren’t hearing what I am saying!” Interacting intentionally with the words of the other person is directly related to knowing them! If you don’t agree, just try putting on head phones this week whenever you are hanging out with a loved one—you are in their presence, but you cannot hear anything they say! See how far that gets you!
And yet we do this with God and celebrate/justify it—we rarely if ever listen to what He says (reading the Bible!) but we think we know Him because we get a nice feeling from a Christian song. Our relationship with the Lord, at BEST, is distant and strained, and at worst is literally non-existent, is dead. But we often are satisfied with this or we simply say, “I don’t have time” to deeply read the Bible/it’s too confusing.
Luke 24:25-32 NIV: 25 [Jesus] said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
The men on the road to Emmaus, their hearts burned within them as Jesus did what? Gave them nice feelings, did magic tricks, did signs and wonders? As He opened their hearts to the Scriptures, to the Bible, as He showed them specific passages and verses and how they applied directly to the Lord Jesus and proved Who He is! Holy Spirit empowered and inspired doctrine caused their hearts to burn with joy as the doctrine helped them grow closer to Jesus Personally! Has that ever happened to you reading the Bible? It should, at least sometimes!
But we try to manufacture such feelings these days, usually through shorter sermons and longer times of musical worship, through repeating certain choruses of songs over and over again. We must be careful, as we enjoy worshiping God through song, that we are not trying to “work up” a feeling or emotion in others or ourselves–we must ask the holy Spirit for guidance on this. Friends, secular rock concerts use those same methods, and the people there often “feel” something, they have a great experience, they leave with a type of “high,” but it is not the Holy Spirit.
We must ask for grace from the Lord to not chase that earthly feeling using earthly methods in the church. Instead, we must ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the Bible, to the Truth, to doctrine! Oh Lord Jesus have mercy on us…help us to know You through Your Word, to know the Word of God made flesh through the Word of God made text…