The Importance of Meeting with God in His Word

The Importance of Meeting with God in His WordIn Exodus 19 an amazing thing happens to Moses. He’s called to the top of Mt. Sinai where he meets with the Lord and the Lord speaks with him and gives him instructions.

What if I told you, you could meet with the God of the Universe, the most powerful Being in existence and hear from Him any time you desired? That this same God who called Moses to speak with him desires to speak with you today?

The truth is we can meet with this God and we can get close to Him and we can know Him because we have a great high priest who is our mediator. Jesus Christ is the mediator for us, through His blood shed on the cross. He is the perfect sacrifice, paid once for all time. And so Hebrews 4:16 says:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And one of the ways, I’d say the primary way, God has graciously provided for us to “draw near” to Him is through His Word, the Bible. I would argue that hearing and especially reading the word of God is the most important thing we can do in our process of sanctification.

In John 17:17, in what we call Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, he says:

…Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Jesus prays for our sanctification, the daily process of being made righteous and being conformed to His image. Jesus wants us to be like Him. And in this prayer He reveals how that happens – through interaction with the truth. But He doesn’t stop there; He also makes it clear what the source of truth is that sanctifies. It is the Word of God. The Bible is composed of sanctifying truth.

Back to the book of Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

Sanctification is about heart change and nothing impacts the believer’s heart like the word of God. Neglecting the word of God is neglecting to expose our hearts to the thing that is most needed to change them.

Why would I say it is the most important thing? Why not attending church or praying or loving our neighbor or obeying Christ? Because regular reading and study of the word of God shows us the importance of all of those other things and leads us to them. We know we should pray and how to pray because the Bible tells us those things. We know we should not neglect attending church because the Bible tells us that. We know we should love our neighbor as our self because the Bible tells us so.

When, for example, my prayer life has become dry or infrequent it is almost always because I’ve stopped spending regular time in God’s word. When I become cold to the things of God and to His church, it’s because I’ve stopped spending time reading the word. When I’m impatient with my wife and children, it’s the same reason – I’m not reading and studying God’s Word like I should.

Psalm 119 is an extended a psalm of praise and a prayer to God from a man who places high value on God’s Word.

Psalm 119: 62 says:

At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.

The psalmist praises God because of God’s law. Or, said another way, because of God’s word. One thing we find is that our praise of God and our desire to obey him are functions of the time we spend in the word and it’s a circular process:

We spend time in the word —> This leads us to praise God —> This leads us back to His word to learn more about him —> which leads us to praise God, etc.

So regular, I would say daily, intake of God’s word is essential for the Christian. It is the oxygen of our Christian life. Without it we suffocate and die.

Why (Insert Group Name Here) Leave the Church

You’ve seen the blog posts and articles – why group X is leaving the church, men, millennials, college students, teens, etc.

Can I just say something? I’m tired of that approach. There are two and only two reasons people “give up on the church” no matter their demographic:

  • They are immature Christians. (Hebrews 5:12)
  • They were not Christians to start with. (I John 2:19, 3:10)

Listen to what God’s Word says about the importance of the church to the Lord and, by extension, to His people:

  • Christ died for the church, not for a collection of autonomous individuals. (Ephesians 5:25, Acts 20:28)
  • The church is Christ’s bride (Revelation 21:2)
  • The church is Christ’s body (Colossians 1:24)
  • The church is God’s plan to sanctify His people (I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 5:26-27)
  • The church is God’s plan to evangelize the lost (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • The church glorifies God to all creation (Ephesians 3:10)

Someone who does not see the church as essential to the Christian life is not viewing life through the lens of scripture, not viewing life from the perspective of one transformed by the Holy Spirit. That’s not to deny that sometimes one must leave a particular local congregation. However, a mature Christian will always seek another local expression of the Body of Christ with which to affiliate, no matter how difficult or hurtful their experience at a specific local church. Being part of a church is what Christians do. To say I’m a Christian who has given up on the church is like saying I’m a husband who has given up living with my wife. “Husband” implies relationship with the wife. “Christian” implies relationship with the church.

So next time you see an article on “5 Reasons Why Duck Hunters in the Midwest Leave the Church,” you can save yourself some reading: they are leaving because they are either immature Christians or not Christians at all.

 

Why Read the Bible All the Way Through? – Part II

Context is King

“Old Woman Reading the Bible” by Gerrit Dou

If, as we established in the last post, the Bible is one seamless story it follows that no section stands apart from the others. There are certainly some sections of scripture that can be helpful on their own but even then to properly understand them we must have an idea of their context. There’s a saying in real estate that the three most important things are location, location and location. For scripture, it’s not far off to say the three most important things are context, context and context.

What do we mean by context? Context is knowing where the verse or passage fits in relation to the chapter, where the chapter fits in relation to the book and where the book fits in relation to scripture as a whole.

Christian apologist Greg Koukl goes so far as to say “never read a Bible verse.” Of course he doesn’t mean never read a verse at all but never to read it in isolation. I quoted this statement from Koukl while preaching one time in South America and the translator didn’t want to translate it until I explained that I was not discouraging people from reading their Bibles but from reading just a verse apart from the context in which it’s found.

We sometimes forget that every single verse, no, every single word, in the Bible is there because God chose to put it there. Every sentence is set in relation to the sentences around it in just the way God intended. So when we read our favorite passages or verses apart from the text appearing before and after them, we are missing some of what God intends to tell us with that passage.

In their excellent book “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart, they say this about context:

“This (Literary context) is what most people mean when they talk about reading something in its context. Indeed this is the crucial task in exegesis, and fortunately it is something you can learn to do well without necessarily having to consult the “experts.” Essentially, literary context means first that words only have meaning in sentences, and second that biblical sentences for the most part only have clear meaning in relation to the preceding and succeeding sentences.” (How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth, p.27)

And nothing helps us with what Fee and Stuart characterize as the crucial task in exegesis more than reading the entirety of God’s word.

Why Read the Bible All the Way Through? – Part I

“Old Woman Reading the Bible” by Gerrit Dou

God’s Word is One Seamless Story

The Bible is an amazing book. However, it’s not really a book but sixty-six books written by 40 different authors across hundreds of years. Yet despite the different authors and extended time spans, it tells one story from beginning to end.

Of course, as Christians, we realize this is so because ultimately the Bible has one author – the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Despite this we often read the Bible piecemeal, a passage here, a verse there, and while there’s value in that, we can miss some important biblical truths that way.

For example, Malachi 3:6 tells us that the Lord never changes and Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” One of the best ways to learn that or at least have it reinforced for us is by experiencing that truth through the pages of the scriptures. When you read in the Old Testament about God choosing Abraham to be His and Abraham being justified by faith and then see that same pattern revealed throughout scripture as God deals with His people, God’s immutability is reinforced.

And what about things like God’s holiness or His justice? These attributes are illustrated over and over in the pages of the Bible. When you’re familiar with all parts of scripture they come into sharper focus. I believe the lack of a healthy fear of God we see in the church today is a direct result of a church that has no familiarity with large portions of God’s Word.

Unfortunately, a lot of us learned Bible stories, especially the ones in the Old Testament, as disjointed morality tales with the hero being Moses or Daniel or David. But these accounts are not morality tales they are links in the chain of the story of redemption, a story that began, not in Bethlehem, but in the Garden of Eden:

Sometimes called the proto evangelGenesis 3:15 says:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

    and you shall bruise his heel.

This is the first reference in scripture to God sending a savior. From that point forward, all the way to the cross, all of scripture is about God doing that – preparing people and circumstances so that “at the right time” (Romans 5:6) Jesus Christ would come into the world and bruise the serpent’s head.

All of scripture before the cross leads to the cross; all of scripture after the cross points either back to the cross or forward to Christ’s second coming.

If you doubt that, look at how Jesus viewed the scriptures. In the last chapter of Luke’s gospel, the risen Christ appears to some travelers on the road to the village of Emmaus. As they walk along they talk about recent events in Jerusalem, and express their disappointment. Jesus then helps them understand why these things happened by referencing the Old Testament. In Luke 24:27 we read:

“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself.”

The Bible is one seamless story and it’s all about Jesus Christ – not just the red letters. Therefore if we want to know all the Lord has to tell us about Christ we must read the entirety of scripture.

Every Dream in the Bible

Is God communicating with me through a dream?
Jacob’s Dream by José de Ribera

Jeffrey Kranz at OverviewBible.com has designed a helpful graphic compiling all the dreams in the Bible.

 There are many reasons this is helpful and interesting but here’s what stuck out to me: In the entire sweep of biblical history covering hundreds of people and thousands of years, there are only 21 times God used dreams to communicate something. All but 6 of those times are in the Old Testament. Among those in the New Testament, 4 of 6 were to Joseph regarding his role with and protection of the Christ child.

Also, the majority of the dreams (perhaps all, depending on how you look at it) are given to move forward the history of redemption culminating in Christ. After the dream of Pilate’s wife, just prior to Christ’s crucifixion, no further examples of this kind of communication from God exist in scripture.

So what do we make of this?

One thing is, if I think God is communicating with me directly via a dream, I’m probably wrong. The instances of God communicating this way are so infrequent in scripture as to be statistically insignificant and seem to be reserved for those with a special role in God’s outworking of redemptive history. Dreams are never given just to convey information about personal life decisions or even for the purpose of evangelism.

However, there is one sure fire way to be sure we’re hearing from God and that is to be a student of His Word. The truth is we don’t need dreams or other extra-biblical communication from God in order to know and do His will. There is nothing we need to know to live a life pleasing to God that is not contained within the pages of the Bible.

 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:16-17