Today we are wrapping up our series called “Text”. This has been a series on the Bible. I trust that you have learned a lot of things during this series. Some of the things that we have learned and we have been challenged with so far are: We’ve learned that the Old and New Testament was written by many different people, from different stages in life and in different places over a span of 1500 years. We also learned that if you took all of the books and you cross referenced them that you’re going to find that there is absolute one hundred percent congruity. There’s nothing that conflicts. It’s all-congruent. We also learned that there are multiple prophecies in God’s word that have been fulfilled perfectly. One hundred percent accuracy. This doesn’t happen unless God is involved and driving the process.
We’ve also learned that there were people who took the bible and they reproduced it. They sacrificed their time. They sacrificed their families. Literally, at points in time, they sacrificed their lives. Why? So that we could have the Bible put into our hands. This is a gift. And so my question to all of us this morning is: What are you going to do with this gift? Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Now, what this verse is saying is that we spend a significant amount of time on things that are going to pass away. I would say, “Yeah, that’s probably pretty accurate.” We spend time reading magazines like People Magazine, right? And maybe the National Enquirer although we would never admit to actually reading that. Right? We’ve seen it, though. We may spend a lot of time watching television. I don’t know what it is that you might be reading or watching right now but here’s the thing: the reality is that much of what we spend our time on is going to pass away. The only thing that is going to remain with us from now unto eternity is God’s word.
So, my question is, “What are we going to do with this gift that God has given us?” In Psalms 119:11, King David, he says, “I have hidden your word in my heart.” David challenges us take God’s Word and conceal it deep into the core of who we are. When we do this we are going to begin to see transformation in our lives. I know that many of you throughout this series have stepped up to the plate, and you’ve made a decision. You’ve said, “You know what? I want to become a student of God’s word. I’m going to read more. I’m going to study more.” But today, I want us to challenge again to become more than readers. I want us to intentionally take God’s word and allow it to transform us and change us. We know this is what God wants us to do and what He calls us to do but it is still a struggle.
As I look at my journey as a Christ Follower, let me tell you what I see. I see moments of absolute consistency. Times where I was hungry and I was reading God’s word and it was changing me and it was making me new. It was transforming me and things were rich and I was growing. I hope you have had times like that in your life too. But, as I look back on my journey with Christ, there have also been many times of seasons of inconsistency. Times when I haven’t been “hiding God’s word in my heart”. Times when I have not set time aside in my day to take God’s word and to study it. I am guessing that some of you here may have had times like this in your life as well. When we do this it leads us to a place of being in a spiritual desert. Some of you here today may be in a desert right now. Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve connected with God, since you’ve really dove into His word and let it change you. Here’s what blows me away: We know this. Right? We know what God does in our life when we dive into His word. He changes us. He transforms us. He makes us new. Our thinking becomes straightened out. He picks us up above our circumstances and up above our challenges. We know what God does in our lives when we are really diving in with Him. So, my question is, “Knowing that, why do we continue to neglect God’s word?”
Let’s spend some time looking at a few things that God Words brings into our lives when we commit ourselves to spending time in it. One of the things that God’s word brings when we make a commitment to set aside some time to really dive into God’s word and become intimate with God, is it brings power. Hebrews 4:12 in the New Living Translation says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” What we have to understand about this verse is that God’s word is not only alive; it also brings power. So many of us struggle in the world that we live in today. We walk around without confidence and without knowing that it’s Jesus Christ that lives deep inside of who we are. God’s word deposits in us the ability to overcome, the ability to become who it is that God has made us to be. And I know right now that we have some people that are crying out, and you are in desperate need for God’s power, the supernatural overcoming power of God in your life.
God’s word also brings healing. Psalms 107 describes various people who are crying out because of different needs. One group that was calling out was those in need of healing Verses 17-20 say, “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” You see, all throughout God’s word, God is referred to as “Jehovah Rapha”, which means “the healer”. He is the one that wants to come to you. He is running to you with His arms open wide and He has His bandages of healing. He desperately wants to wrap them around the wounds in your life. He is the healer and I know that there are some you here today who are in desperate need for healing. It may be physical healing. You continue to get sick, and you continue to struggle, and you just can’t get past it. There are others of you that are here that need relational healing. You had a relationship at one time that was really, really close, and it’s fragmented, and it’s broken, and it’s splintered apart. God’s word can bring healing. Maybe you need healing from your past. You’ve been abused. Maybe it was sexual, maybe it was verbal, and maybe it was mental abuse. Healing comes from God’s word.
God’s word also brings direction. Proverbs 16:9, it says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” So many times I can look at my own life, and many of the times when I cried out to God and when I re-connected to Him and said, “God, I need You,” was a time in my life when I was searching for direction. We go through life asking ourselves questions: What should I be doing for a living? What is my real purpose? How should I be spending my time? How can I be a better steward of my money? Should we have three kids? Should we have six kids? These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves. God’s word brings direction into our life.
Finally, God’s word also brings freedom. Luke 4:18-19 says (this is Jesus speaking), 18″The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” What we see when we look at these verses is the exact reason why Jesus Christ came to this earth. Why did He come? He came to set you free. He came to set me free. He came to set us free from addictions. He came to set us free from pain in our life. He came to set us free from the guilt of poor decisions that we have made in the past. God can set us free! Do you want to be set free? God’s word brings freedom!
So far, we’ve seen what happens in our lives when we really make a commitment and say, “God, I’m going to honour You. I’m going to hide Your word in my heart.” We have seen that God word brings power, healing, direction and freedom to our lives. God’s word will give us everything we need to fulfill everything that God is calling me to do. Here are two applications for us today. First, God calls us to master the text. Proverbs 7:1-3 in the New Living Translation says, “1Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands. 2 Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. 3 Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” I think to fully understand what this verse is saying we need to understand a little bit about the Jewish tradition and the Jewish background. The Jews literally dedicated their entire lives to mastering the text. As a matter of fact, if you had a young boy he would enter a certain school at a very young age. And by the age of ten, each boy will have memorized the entire Book of the Law. That’s the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy! That is crazy but it doesn’t stop there. When they graduate from that level of school, then from ages to ten to thirteen, they go to another school. In that school, what they would really begin to dive deeper and become masters of the text. Matter of fact, by the time that they graduate, by the age of thirteen years of age, they have the entire Hebrew scriptures memorized. Wow!
And so what we see in the Book of Proverbs is that we are commanded to take God’s words and guard it as we would guard our own eyes. In other words, we are to take God’s word very seriously. These verses also talk about taking God’s word and tying them to our fingertips and writing them on the walls of our heart. If you look back into Jewish history you will see that they took this very, very seriously and very, very literally. They would write the words of God on the walls of their home. They would even take parchment paper and write God’s word and His laws on them and then they would tie them to their wrists, so that everywhere they would go, they literally had God’s word with them. They also had phylacteries. You’re like, “Okay, what in the world is that?” It’s a little leather box. It had a strap on it, and they would tie it to their head. They would put God’s word inside of those boxes so that it literally would protect their minds and their thoughts. Here’s what we have to know and understand: why did they do these things? Because they wanted to take God’s word with them everywhere that they went. They talked about it at home. They talked about it at work. They talked about it with their kids when they were taking them to school, on the way home, as they went about life every single day, they were mastering the text.
So, what are some ways that can help us master the text? I want to offer four tools to help us master the text. First, we need to choose a bible. There are so many different versions and they come in different shapes, and they come in different sizes. One that you might be interested in is the New International Version. That’s the translation that I primarily use. There is also the Message. It is not a translation but it is easy to read. The New Living Translation is also very easy to read. The point is: find a bible that works for you. Second, we need to study the extra materials. One helpful tool for this is commentaries. One that I have used for many years is the Expositors Bible Commentary. It is fairly easy to use and read. There are lots of different commentaries out there. I also use the NIV study bible. It has lots of good notes in it too. It has God’s word and underneath it has an explanation of every single verse that’s in it, so it’s all in the same page. It’s concise. It’s together and it’s a great.
Third, we need to focus on the who, the when, and the why. We need to ask questions like: What was going on in that culture? What were their struggles? What was their pain? What was their hurt? What was the sin in their lives? And when you really begin to understand the who, the when, and the why, it’s going to make God’s word really jump out of the pages and jump into your life, and you’re going to see God really begin to reveal a lot of things to you. And another great way to help us master the text is going to the web. I mean, there are a ton of resources out there. The one that I use the most is “Bible Gateway”. Another one that I have used is “The World Wide Study Bible”. There’s a lot of good stuff on the web. Another great website is “YouVersion”. Its goal is help people begin to study and to know God’s word more intimately. So maybe you’re at a place in your life right now where you’re not spending enough time with God, and maybe you’re reading and it just doesn’t make sense and it’s not connecting. Maybe it’s time for you to really consider picking up some new tools.
So, those are some great practical study tools, some things that will help you dive in a little deeper so that you can understand God’s word and apply it to your life. But here’s the reality of it all. God is calling us to take His word with us literally everywhere that we go. We should write it on the walls of our heart and we should let it saturate our lives. We should let it literally consume everything that we do. Psalms 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” In these verses, David cries out, “When can I go and meet with God?” And that’s my question for us: When was the last time that you’ve met with God? Maybe you’ve been following Christ for a long time, maybe just a short amount of time. Regardless, the question still stands. No matter where you are in your journey, when is the last time that you’ve met with God? When is the last time that you’ve been intimate with Him? And you spoke to Him and He spoke to you? Here’s what we’ve got to know: the reason that we master the text is not for knowledge, and it’s not to say, “Look at me”. We master the text so that we can meet with God. When is the last time that you’ve met with God?
So, we’ve seen that God calls us to master the text but He also calls us to be mastered by the text. In Matthew 23:27, Jesus is talking to a group of people and He looks them right in the eyes and He says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” Typically in Jesus’ day, when people were buried, they were buried in big tombs. And several times a year the religious leaders would wash these tombs. They would get water and lime and they would mix them together, and they would wash them literally white. They were called white-washed tombs. And so, you have Jesus. He comes on the scene and there’s a lot of scepticism surrounding Him. He comes in and He claims to be the Son of God. Some believe Him; some don’t. And I love this passage of scripture, because what He does is, He looks the spiritual leaders in the eyes and He says, “Guys, you know what? On the outside you look beautiful. You look great. You know all the verses. You know how to hold your Bible. You know what to say.” What Jesus is really saying is, “As I peer deep into the core of who you are, on the outside you’re great, but on the inside you’re unclean – you are dead.”
So, how about you? Are you posing? On the outside, are you putting on a spiritual fashion show? Are you washing the outside of your lives white but inside you are dead? What are we going to see when we peer deep into who you are? What is it that is really going on in the inside? 1 John 2:3-6 says, “3We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” So, here’s the deal. Today’s the day. It’s time to be mastered by the text and walk through life as Jesus did. God does call us to master the text. It’s about taking it with us wherever we go. My next question is, “Will you be mastered by the text? Will you walk as Jesus walked? Are you going to live it out? Are you going to stop talking about spending time with God and actually spend time with God? Today is the day. Are you going to say, “Okay, God, I am going to do everything that I can do to dive into Your word and begin to study and learn more about who You are?” The challenge for us this morning is this: Will you make the decision to dive into God’s word and allow it to change and transform your life?