“Remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 3.15 (GNB)
Today is Bible Sunday and we will be looking at the Word of God together in this sermon. One of the sessions that we cover on the Alpha course is about why and how we should read the Bible and we will be touching upon some of the material used in that session in this sermon.
But to begin with, I would like to ask you to do something…grab a piece of paper and a pen and in a couple of minutes write down all the reasons you can think of for why we should read the Bible. Once you have your list, take another piece of paper and now write down all the reasons you can think of for what makes reading the Bible difficult or challenging.
Ghandi said to the Christians of his day: ‘You look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle torn planet. But you treat it as though it were nothing more than a piece of literature.’
The Psalmist says “The words of God are more precious than gold.” (Psalm 19:10) At her coronation the Queen was handed a Bible by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, with these words: “We present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.”
During their ordination, priests within the Church of England are presented with a Bible “Receive this book, as a sign of the authority which God has given you this day to preach the gospel of Christ and to minister his holy sacraments.”
Christians when giving evidence in court take an oath on the Bible. As their hand is placed on the Bible they say “I swear by almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
The question is why?
Jesus said “People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) The tense used makes it clear that God’s word is continually being spoken.
There is a great saying – “The Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions.” We get a sense of that in the Lord’s Prayer.
The Psalms paint some wonderful pictures of the Word of God. The extract from Psalm 119 in our reading today is no exception. The Word of God, we are told, is:
- Like purifying and cleansing water (v.9)
- A treasure (vv.14, 72, 127, 162)
- A companion and a counsellor (v.24)
- A song (v.54)
- Like honey (v.103)
- A light (vv.105, 130) and
- A heritage (v.111)
What on earth would life be like without these things?
The psalmist goes on to suggest why we should value the Word of God. The reasons all relate to what it does:
- It brings happiness (vv.1-2). It has been said that “key to happiness is to live in God’s Word and to let his Word live in us.” If we walk according to God’s Word we will be blessed and know happiness.
- It produces cleansing and purity (vv.9, 11). “The agent the Spirit of God used to regenerate the hearts of all of us who are saved.” We get a sense of this cleansing, and washing in the word in Ephesians (Ephesians 5:25-27)
- It gives liberty and freedom (v.45). Sin always promises to bring freedom, but it only creates bondage and causes us to become slaves to depravity (2 Peter 2:19). It is the truth of God that brings true and lasting freedom (John 8:32).
- It provides direction (v.105). The Word of God provides the direction we need, a lamp to out feet and a light for our path. It is like a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19).
- It produces understanding (v.130). Our walking and understanding are inseparably linked. In addition to shedding light on our path, the Word of God enlightens our minds (the ‘eyes of our heart’ become enlightened) so we can discern what we ought to do.
Paul said “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Reading the Bible helps us:
- Become like Jesus, as we are ‘transformed into his likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- Know the presence of God, joy and peace in the midst of life’s storms (Psalm 23:5)
- Find guidance (Psalm 119:105)
- Know life in all fullness, health and healing (Proverbs 4:20-22)
- Be defended against spiritual attack (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Experience God’s power…it can convict us deep in our hearts, challenge us, affirm us, and build us up (Hebrews 4:12)
- Cleanse our minds (John 15:3)
Living according to God’s word then helps us:
- Keep our ways pure
- Not to sin
- Teach and admonish one another with wisdom. I think that Christian are often very poor at speaking the truth in love because they don’t have the Word of God written on the tablets of their heart and they don’t recognize their own poverty of spirit
- Develop an attitude of gratitude in our hearts
We do this by:
- Studying it. God’s purpose in giving his Word was to point us to himself. We are, therefore, to seek him through his Word (v. 2), and this seeking is to be done wholeheartedly (vv. 2–10). We are to ‘look’ into his Word (v. 6) and to learn its judgements (v. 7). It really helps if we do this together and here we have several in your church you may have several opportunities to dig deeper into God’s word – perhaps in Housegroups, or nurture Groups. There are also some really great Daily Bible Reading Notes you can buy that aren’t too expensive – and readily available at Christian bookshops.
- Obeying it. The duty of obedience is set forth in these verses in several ways: walking in the law of the Lord and in his ways (vv. 1, 3), keeping his testimonies (vv. 2, 129), and taking heed to our ways to make sure they correspond to the teachings of God’s Word (v. 9). We need to encourage one another in this…it isn’t easy, but God gives us strength to prevail and grace and mercy when we fail.
- Storing it. We hide it in our hearts – the centre of our being. We get a sense of this in Proverbs 7:1-3: “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”
- Declaring it (v.13). Studying the Word of God will cause our hearts to burn within us, just as they did with the disciples on the Emmaus road when Jesus explained the scriptures to them (Luke 24:32) in such a way that we won’t be able to keep it to ourselves. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
- Rejoicing over it (vv.14-16). The rejoicing of verse 14 and the delighting of verse 16 are connected by the meditating of verse 15. As we reflect on what the Word of God is and what it does, we will find the rejoicing and delighting to be inescapable.
Reading the Word of God has an effect and an impact on us. It leads to transformation and it draws us closer to Christ. We are told:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
Reading the Word of God is an intentional or purposeful act, just like putting clothes on. In the first part of the passage from Colossians (3.12-14), Paul uses the metaphor of putting on new clothing to describe the transformation of God’s chosen people. When we make that choice to follow Jesus, we leave behind the rags of our old lives and ‘put on’ the glorious robes of our new lives. It is only when we begin to leave behind our old selfish selves and move forward with Christ’s love in our hearts that we can attain the perfect unity expressed most wonderfully as Christ’s body here on earth, the church.
These signs of a transformed and re-formed believer are the outward ‘clothing’ of a transformed heart, one that is at peace with God, oneself, and others (3.15). We the evidence of that in the use of the gifts of the Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit. This must form the basis of the missional heart of the church, in which the primary reason for our existence is to worship and glorify God. And as we give thanks for God’s goodness and grace, we can’t help but express our gratitude in acts of service to others both inside and outside the church in thought, word and deed (3.15-17). We recognise or own poverty of spirit and capture a glimpse of the length and breadth and depth of the love of God.
The message of Christ, that we are justified not by our own efforts but by faith, and saved, not by our works but by God’s grace, is expressed in a heart for mission, rigorous teaching, exuberant worship and heartfelt thanksgiving to God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (3.16-17).
If you want to know more of Jesus, and feel held back and in a dry place – why not ask for prayer ministry?
As together we read the Word of the Lord… let’s remember the Words of Jesus who said “Everyone who hears these words of mine puts them into practice…” (Matthew 7:24)
Let’s close with this silent prayer….
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to live according to your Word. May we be clothed in your truth; with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and over all of these, love. May your kingdom come, your will be done and your church shine with your light. Amen