Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Reading God's Word (Part 3, Reaching Up, Reaching In, Reaching Out)

[This was shared during this evening's midweek Lenten devotional worship with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

Psalm 1:1-3
Matthew 4:4

Have you ever thought about the title of this book?

We call it the Holy Bible.

The word holy means set apart for God’s purposes.

The word Bible comes from the Greek and means simply, book.

So the Bible is the book set apart from all other books by God to give us His Word.

Unlike other books that grow static or old-fashioned, the Bible always remains alive and relevant, always like a tweet or Instagram someone posted just this minute. “... the word of God is alive and active,” Hebrews 4:12 says.

There is actually just one thing that makes the Bible unlike any other book, the book set apart for us by God. It’s Jesus.

The whole book shows that the whole of human history, from the creation, through the call of Abraham and the life of Israel, through this very night, points to Jesus, the only One Who can save us from ourselves, from our sin and death.

We see Jesus in Genesis 3:15, where God promises a Savior Who would destroy the sin into which Adam, Eve, and the human race had just fallen.

We see it in Revelation, where the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus is affirmed as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,” Who is returning to this fallen world and raising the dead, so that all who have believe in Him will have life with God for eternity, while those who have turned from Him will live with the eternal consequence of their choice, hell.

The Holy Spirit has guided the Church to recognize that the 66 books that make up the Bible speak God’s Word to us, pointing us to “the Word,” God the Son Jesus, as “the way, and the truth, and the life,” the only way to life with God. Martin Luther explained: “Scripture is the manger in which the Christ lies…”

The Bible is holy, set apart by God, so that you and I can know Jesus and the new life that only He can bring. John could as well have been speaking for all the Biblical writers inspired by the Holy Spirit as for himself when he wrote near the end of his gospel: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

If there were a subtitle for the Bible, it might be, Why and How to Trust Jesus for Forgiveness and Everlasting Life with God.

Reading and taking the Bible in brings life to believers in Christ. This is why Jesus cited Deuteronomy 8:3, when confronted by the devil’s temptation to turn stones to bread: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

It’s essential then, for believers in Christ to steep themselves in God’s Word, studying it both privately and with trusted Christian friends, as I know many in this congregation do.

But the Bible is sometimes hard for us to understand.

How can we study it in ways that help its message permeate our lives, inform our decisions, give us guidance and hope?

How can we hear God’s voice speaking to us through the Bible?

Pastor Mike Foss, in a book we’ll be considering in our Tuesday studies after Easter, points to a three-step process Christians have used for centuries to let God speak to them through the Bible.

First: We find a quiet place and ask God to speak to us in the words we’re about to read from the Bible. Here we seek “not information, but the transformation” of our souls. We want life-knowledge, not head-knowledge.

Second: We read the passage we’ve decided to look at, stopping when it speaks to us or at the end of the passage. In this step, we ask ourselves a few questions: What does this tell me about God or life? How does it fit with what I know about Jesus? What lesson for my life is here?

Third: We pray that God will plant the words of this passage and the lesson it gives deeply into our lives.

What if a passage doesn’t speak to you? Keep reading until you hit upon something God uses to get your attention.

If a passage doesn’t make sense, don’t worry about it. You can discuss that later with a fellow Christian, even your pastor. (I love talking with people about sections of Scripture they struggle with. I may not always have the answers, but I can struggle and pray with you.)

You may see a danger in reading the Bible like this.

What if we’re wrong about what we see in the passages we read?

This was the very reason that the Church of Martin Luther’s day was so horrified that Luther wanted laypeople to have access to the Bible in their own languages.

Pastor Foss also points to three tests to ensure that we’re reading what we see in God’s Word rightly. Here, I quote him directly:
“First, how does what you hear lift your soul up to the majesty and wonder of God in the crucified and risen Christ? If it doesn’t, it is most likely your own thinking [and not God’s]...Second, how does what you hear move you to thoughts, attitudes, and actions that fit the person and work of Jesus?...[Third] how does what you hear move you to reconciliation [with God and with others]...” 
Psalm 1:1-3 tells us: “Blessed is the one...whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season…”

In this well known passage, the law of the Lord references the Torah, the way of life laid down for us by God in His Word.

As we root ourselves in God’s Word, we grow as disciples and our growth will impact not only our own lives, but the lives of those with whom we share Christ and those for whom we pray in the name of Christ.

Breathing in God’s powerful Word, drawing life from it, is an essential element of Christian discipleship, of reaching up, reaching in, and reaching out.


Keith Tracy said...

On the 28th of February you had "9 ways to reach outsiders", followed by this post of insider God speak.

To which do you attain to follow or teach?

Mark Daniels said...

Could you clarify your question? Thanks.