Biblical Foundations 42: The Word of God 5
The last four posts, we have discussed the importance of putting on the Truth of God, wearing it like a down coat as we venture out from the safe/warm/snug/comfortable life to follow the Lord Jesus into the often bitter cold of the harvest field. We also talked about the need for God’s help to see the Gospel, His Truth, the Bible, as bigger than anything we face; this will help us survive and thrive in both the valleys and the mountaintops of life by fixing our eyes primarily on the Lord Jesus & His Word not on ourselves and our woes (or our wishes!).
But not only do we need to learn how to wear the Word of God, we also need to learn to keep it on. It is possible to read the Bible and then forget it, like water running off a windshield of a car—it doesn’t saturate and nourish, in one ear and out the other–flush! Like putting on a down coat and then taking it off and going outside—this would make no sense! We need to keep it on! Thus the goal is not just to have 10 minutes per day reading the Bible; we need to saturate our minds, we need to constantly remind ourselves of God’s Word by having Scripture signs/reminders up throughout the day! Like on a highway—you are told when you get on the highway but then there are smaller signs throughout the trip to remind you what highway you are actually on so you aren’t driving the wrong direction for hours and hours thinking you are on the right path!
-Scripture post it notes;
-Listening to the Bible in the car;
-Listening to Bible passages set to music (Seeds worship).
-Continue to set your mind to the channel of the Bible passages you read earlier by thinking of them (and turning off the other sounds that clog up your mind!) This is a choice we make throughout each day!
Let’s continue to dig into the Bible to see what it says about the Bible, about the importance of Truth, doctrine, what we believe…
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—
This is what happens when we are deep in the Bible through the Holy Spirit—He grows/bears His fruit in us—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. (Galatians). We’re enabled to truly love others!
1 John 3:18: Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
But we often leave out the “and in truth” from the verse above…that is so important to truly loving others! But it seems that so many church-attenders, in a mad dash to love others, neglect being planted in the Word, and thus they don’t bear the Biblical fruit of love; they have a cultural/worldly love for others, but it isn’t Biblical love, the love that hates evil and clings to what is good–this is sincere love (Romans 12:9).
Only plants with Bible roots bear Bible fruits; plants with culture roots bear culture fruits (if we are planted on the internet and t.v. and social media and Netflix and music more than the Bible, our roots are culture, regardless of what we say, and we will continue to believe beliefs and do actions that match up with the popular culture).
- We are discipled/trained by whatever we spend most of our time in/doing—simple as that (Scott Sauls).
- What is your soil?
- Where do you plant yourself each week, especially in your time outside of work/school?
Culture love is a love that eventually often changes beliefs and starts agreeing with those we love, changing our beliefs to line up with theirs so as not to offend them. This is the natural and logical conclusion for us when we are not planted in the Word—eventually we become chameleons blending in with culture instead of Christians standing out with Christ.
The way that many others feel loved is when we agree with and celebrate them. If we do actions of love toward them but they know deep down that we disagree with/disapprove of their actions, they often don’t feel loved no matter how kind we are. And so the Christian is then in an serious and important position—do we keep ourr beliefs lined up with the Bible—thus loving God first—and risk hurting the person, or do we change our beliefs to line up with the person—thus loving God second—and dishonor God. Oh how necessary the Word of God is to loving others like Jesus…
My friends, there is so much more to learn from the Bible about the importance of the Bible, of Truth, of doctrine, of having correct beliefs, of knowing the specific teaching of God’s Word not just the general teaching. We could spend another ten posts on these verses but here are a few more below for you to dive deeply into prayerfully. Oh loved ones we have strayed so far from the pattern of Christian living in the Bible because we have strayed so far from the pattern of Christian believing in the Bible—a dedication to the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit!!
Luke 6:46-49: 46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-4: Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
Galatians 5:7: 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
Philippians 2:14-16: 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
2 Thessalonians 2:15: 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
1 Timothy 3:8-10: 8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
1 Timothy 4:15-16: Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
2 Timothy 2:15-18: 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles [rightly divides] the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
Titus 1:9: Elders: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
Wow. Such powerful verses on the importance of God’s Word, of the necessity of going deep into the Bible–specific teaching–and not just staying in the shallow ends.
For the rest of our time together we are going to go through Nehemiah chapter 8, which among other things highlights the connection between the Word of God & joy. Oh may the Holy Spirit use this chapter to shatter the lie that doctrine is stuffy and dry and cold and lifeless!
The background to Nehemiah is important for us to understand more of the details of this chapter: For hundreds of years God’s people had strayed from Him, worshiping other gods, explicitly disobeying Him or simply implicitly ignoring Him. God was (and is!) so patient—He sent prophet after prophet to woo and encourage and attract His people back to Him, for all sin is spiritual adultery against God, to return them to their first love, to God their husband. But they refused. God warned them time and time again what would happen if they continued to rebel against Him, and finally He brought the king of Babylon—Nebuchadnezzar—to destroy the Temple and Jerusalem and to take the majority of His people into a foreign land to be captives for 70 years. The majority of them never returned, only their descendants.
But God was gracious, He didn’t punish/discipline forever. He eventually by grace allowed His people to return to the Promised Land where they slowly and with grief rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple in a much more plain and simple and smaller style and scale. What we will read now in Nehemiah 8 is what happened when the people began to have their worship serve in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 8 (NIV):
1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
[THE PEOPLE asked for the Bible, the Law, the Truth, the Word of God! Before the exile in Babylon in Isaiah 30:8-13 they said, “Tell us no more of what God says, stop confronting us with the Holy One!” They didn’t want to hear the Word, they just wanted to be entertained, to be comforted. Now after suffering the discipline and humbling of God, now they say, “Bring out the Truth, the Word of God.” Oh what a difference! We cannot miss this!]
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
[Approximately SIX HOURS of reading the Bible out loud! And the people listened attentively! They were listening with expectation, with a purpose, with focus, because they knew that GOD Himself speaks through His Word! Oh please don’t think that this was somehow easier 2,500 years ago because people had a “longer attention span” than we do today or were somehow less busy than we are–they made almost everything from scratch! They didn’t have a longer attention span, listening to someone read the Bible for six hours (with children included!) wasn’t somehow easy for them because their culture was different but because their CHARACTER was different—they had been deeply humbled by the LORD through much suffering and God’s Word was water to a dehydrated soul; they were drinking deeply from God’s Word as He spoke to them and refreshed them after many decades of discipline, of humbling them, of lowering their self-pride & self-confidence and increasing their pride in the LORD, their God-confidence! God broken them down to build them up and bring them closer to Him through the Bible!]
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion…
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites…instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
[YES! They were STANDING the whole time out of respect for the Word of God! And Ezra and the Levites were trying to speak and unfold it so all the people could understand it’s meaning! Not entertaining people and sprinkling a little Bible as a seasoning/flavoring, but serving the Bible as the main entrée and digging deeply into it so all can understand, work out the challenges, connect it with other verses/passages, ask the LORD for guidance, etc. Oh that is what a local church is supposed to be like, my friends…]
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
[Why weeping? Because that is what the Bible does—it convicts us and breaks us down, it shows us our utter need for God and the foolishness of depending on ourselves. The Bible shows us our hopelessness without the LORD, it exposes the deep failings of not just our actions but our hearts and minds—our outer AND inner brokenness.
The Holy Spirit helped the people realize all the ways that they and their descendants had strayed from God before the exile, all the ways that they didn’t just “make mistakes” but the ways that they rebelled against God and disgraced Him and committed spiritual adultery against Him. The Bible showed them the full horror of their sin, didn’t downplay it or make it seem not so bad, and they wept. They mourned, they grieved that they treated God their King like that. They didn’t make excuses, they didn’t blame others, they didn’t say it was no big deal, they wept. Just like Peter after he denied the Lord Jesus three times—he went outside and wept bitterly over how he had treated the Lord Jesus. Peter didn’t say, “Hey, at least I GOT to the courtyard–everyone else RAN! Look how far I got in following You, Jesus!” No, Peter wept over his sin, and rightly so.
Oh loved ones when is the last time you have wept—not over your situation but over your sinfulness?
When is the last time the LORD disciplined you and humbled you mightily? He only does this to His children, my friends (Hebrews 12)…
But as important as this is, this is not the only effect the Bible had on God’s people! Look at the next verse, look at how Nehemiah responds to the people’s weeping:
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
[Yes we are to weep over our sins, but not forever! Then we are to celebrate over God’s grace to forgive and redeem and adopt and make us new! Humbling and convicting come from God’s Word, but also grace and comforting and joy over all that He has done despite our sin, over Who He is and what He has done in response to our sin! A realization of our sin leads to joy when we run TO the Lord Jesus (not away from Him!) and receive His forgiveness and comfort and cleansing!
- Think of all the people who have been given a diagnosis of cancer—I can’t imagine the shock and the difficulty of receiving that news. But then think of the joy of being healed, being in remission! Even though they had to go through chemo and radiation and surgery and so much, they have joy in the cure that started out as pain in the diagnosis.
- Same is true for Christians when we look at the suffering of JESUS on behalf of sinners like us! Grieving over our sin leads to rejoicing over His Cross and empty tomb and love and grace!]
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
[It doesn’t say they had joy because of their external circumstances, because God gave them tons of money or any of the other temporary blessings that so many people chase and crave. They got deep and lasting joy because they understood the words of God!!! Oh what deep and lasting joy from the Word do we throw away when we crave and clutch the shallow and temporary happiness of the word…This is why we have spent five posts on this topic, loved ones—so that we can know the LORD and understand His Word and thus have joy that no suffering can take away…]
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law.
[They experienced grief and joy the previous day from God’s Word—and they came back the next day for MORE! YES! When the Holy Spirit is moving, He brings us deeper into the Bible, not shallower, closer to God’s Word, not farther away, more often into doctrine not less frequently! The Holy Spirit creates in us a hunger for God’s Word so that what the Lord Jesus said is true: we live on every word that comes from the mouth of God!]
14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.
[YES! See!? Deeply knowing the doctrine and Truth of the Bible leads to outreach, leads to us telling others about God and His Truth! That is the primary mission of God’s people around the world and in local church’s—to go out from the building and tell others about Christ, about all that we are learning in the Bible!!! No ivory towers, no retreating from society, but going out into society not just for good deeds and not as thermometers that rise & fall & reflect the culture but Holy Spirit-powered and Scripture-wired THERMOSTATS that change the culture around us—salt and light in a decaying and dark world!]
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
[Because they dug into God’s Word like they never had, because God humbled and brought them low, they celebrated and had joy like the never had.]
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
[They read from the Bible and celebrated…day after day! Learning doctrine, digging deeply into the Truth of God’s Word, is not meant to only feel like you are in a quiet classroom—it is also meant for celebration! Celebration as we look back to what the LORD has done and look ahead to what He promises to do and focus on His perfect and unchanging character and beauty and majesty and power and love and glory! Oh may He bless this local church to be like that—digging deeply into His Word and CELEBRATING!!! A dear brother in Christ just told me about a Bible study he is serving in a local jail–he and the guys are simply digging into God’s Word and recently some of the men were high-fiving each other afterwards because of what God is teaching them–YES! They are hungry for God’s Word and He is opening their eyes and they are celebrating, even in prison!]
After five posts, I pray it is clear that the Bible is not saying we should all move to Antarctica to study the Bible by ourselves and just wait for Jesus to return. Not at all.
Loving doctrine doesn’t ignore loving actions—it’s the fuel needed to do them.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
Having the Truth in the power of the Holy Spirit leads inevitably to walking—following Jesus, living out our faith, loving as He loves (but not as the culture loves).
John, the disciple Jesus loved, the disciple that leaned against the Lord Jesus at the Last Supper, who was arguably closer to Christ than anyone, John’s greatest joy is that his children would walk in the Truth. Being so close to Christ, knowing Him so deeply, didn’t lead John to not care about doctrine but to focus on it even more closely. What a lesson to us today…have a great Sunday, loved ones—celebrate…He is RISEN!!!! 🙂