Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The POWER of God’s Word

Chuck Colson, in one of his books, was talking about the fact that so many of us have Bibles, and yet the Bible doesn't change us. 81% of the people surveyed in a recent poll said that they were evangelical; and yet only 42% of them knew that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount; and 48% of them could name the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Out of the 1382 people that were surveyed, less than 1% of them said that their lives were directed and truly changed by what the Word of God said. In other words, many of us read it; but it doesn't always change us. Many are not really reading it and meditating on it.

I read a story about an inner city preacher was reading his Bible and preaching out of it. It was a New Testament. There was a drug addict who noticed the nice, thin paper of the Bible, thought how good it would be to roll up marijuana cigarettes, and asked the preacher for the Bible, "I would like to use the paper to smoke marijuana with." The preacher told him, "I will let you have the Bible if you promise to read it before you smoke it." The addict agreed. Sometime later, the evangelist was preaching a meeting, after the meeting a man came up to him and said, "I am the man who you gave the bible to" The evangelist remembered. "How are you doing?" The Evangelist asked. The man said, "Well I took the Bible I read Matthew then I smoked it, I read Mark then I smoked it, I read Luke then I smoked it, I read John, and it smoked me" THE WORD OF GOD WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR LIFE, IF YOU TRULY READ IT and MEDIDATE upon it!

I was reading recently about a guest lecturer at a university. The only thing they asked him before he made the lecture was not to talk about the Word of God, the Bible. He noted how strange it was to speak at the university and be asked not to talk about the Bible. Especially when that evening, he went to do prison ministry and the first words from the warden were, "As you talk to the prisoners, could you talk to them about biblical principles?"

That seems to me like the cart's before the horse. We're not supposed to share God's Word at the universities; but when we speak to prisoners, who've already messed their lives all up, then we can talk about it. It seems to me like we're building the hospital down at the bottom of the cliff instead of putting fences at the top. Seems to me that we don't really understand what the Word of God will do and how it can change our life.

The Bible was written over a 1600-year span. It was written by 40 generations, by over 40 authors from every walk of life including kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, and scholars. It was written in different places, including out in the wilderness, in dungeons, in palaces, inside prison walls, while traveling, on lonely islands, in the midst of war. It was written at different times, sometimes in peace, sometimes in battle. It was written during different moods, some writing from the heights of joy while others wrote from the very depths of sorrow. It was written in three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. And it was written in three languages -- Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek. It covered subject matters including hundreds of controversial subjects, yet with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation, there is one unfolding story, and the story is the redemption of man through Jesus Christ.

Ezra tells us in Ezra 7:10, four ways to take God's Word and apply it. Let me just read the passage. "For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it and to teach its statutes and ordinances to Israel."

1. Ezra prepared his heart to approach God's Word. Ezra literally prepared himself in the way that he approached God's Word. He wanted to make sure that he entered into the presence of God's Word in an appropriate manner.

2. Ezra prepared his heart to study God's Word. As Ezra read it, he allowed his heart to be tender and open to the voice of the Spirit.

3. Ezra prepared to practice what he learned. Ezra not only read it; but as soon as he read it, he practiced it. He began to apply it to his life.

4. Ezra prepared to share what he learned. Ezra not only learned it in his own life and practiced and applied it, but he took it immediately and he shared it with others, so they could apply it to their lives.

There are three simple things you have to do when you come to the Word."

Three key phrases:

1. Learn It.

It can't change you until you know it. "Learn it, and that deals with your head." Memorize scripture, that's the thing.

2. Love It.

You've got to begin to embrace the Word and let it embrace you.

3. Live It.

You've got to let the Word of God that comes into your heart go out through your hands, and you've got to apply it to others.

Question: What convictions should I have concerning the Bible?

Answer: I have learned to: learn , love, and live God's Word. No wonder the psalmist said, "Your Word I have hid in my heart so that I might not sin against you." Now what happens is, when we take the Word of God and learn it and love it and live it, we begin to develop biblical convictions. And there are three convictions about the Word of God that I want to make sure that we have today.

1. Even when I don't understand it, I'll trust what God said.

"It's not the parts of the Bible I don't understand that bother me," wrote Mark Twain. "It's the parts I do understand that give me fits."

Even when I don't understand it, I will take what God has said at face value. I will place my trust not in my understanding, but in God's Word. Naaman did that, remember? Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army, had leprosy, and his little servant girl suggested that he go to her country and see a prophet who could heal him. So off Naaman went to Elijah's house. He arrives in front of the house in his chariot, and Elijah doesn't even come out -- he just sends a servant out. And the servant tells Naaman that the prophet says for him to go down to the Jordan River and dip seven times in it. This ticks Naaman off. In fact, he says, "If I just needed to dip in the water seven times, I could go back to my own swimming pool in Syria. At least, the water's cleaner there." And off he goes. But then remember, his colleagues talks him into going down to the Jordan and dipping seven times, and when he comes out, his flesh is like a newborn baby's.

Now, what's interesting about this is how Naaman responded. He said, "I had thought the prophet would come out and wave his hand, and I would be healed (he had preconceived how God would answer his prayer)." But now, after his healing, he said, "Now I know that there's a God of Israel." Now isn't this interesting? Haven't we all done the same thing Naaman did? Haven't we come to God with a prayer request and told him how to answer it? We have this preconceived idea of how he's going to answer it, and we're just ready for it to be step one, two, three, four. Now, the first conviction is that the Word of God is very important. And that is, even when I don't understand it, I'm going to trust what God has said.

2. Although it seems illogical, I'll obey what God has said.

I will obey what God has said, even if it doesn't make sense. Remember Mary? In John 2, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee? They run out of wine, and Mary looks at the servants, and says, "Whatever he says to you, do it."

3. While human opinions vary, God's Word is right on every subject.

While human opinions vary, while others will have all sorts of answers, God's Word is right. One more conviction that'll change your life. I need the Word of God as much as I need food. And when I realize that the Word of God, which is the bread of life, is my spiritual staple that allows me to grow in my walk with him, it begins to change my life. And it begins to build convictions that help me to stand. I have five for you.

Convictions come into our lives when...

1. We have learned what the Word says on a given subject.

2. We choose to apply and obey the Word in daily life contexts.

3. We have exposed ourselves to a need in that area.

4. We have decided what is worth living and dying for.

5. We have settled the issue before we are forced to.

I am so thankful for the Word of God. As I posted yesterday, too many people say, "I prayed, BUT, I DIDN'T READ THE BIBLE" You can not and will not be the victorious man or woman of God that you can be without daily spending time with God's Word. If you have a hard time reading, then listen to the Bible online. I was listening to the Bible just this morning. Here is a website that will allow you to do this:

Or, you can get the Word of God on CD or cassette tape. Just make a commitment to spend daily time with the Word of God. You WILL be changed for eternity!

I love you guys, and pray that you have a faith-filled, peace-filled, and hope-filled day! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty