Treasuring the Word

Do you and I treasure the Word of God? Is it precious to us? Do we thirst for the Word as if we truly were sustained by it’s truths?

There’s an old saying that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. In many cases that saying rings true, and I can’t help but wonder if that were the case with the Holy Scriptures. If we were without them, how much more would we treasure them once we had them? If we were unable to go to our bookshelves and open up a Bible in our own language and begin reading the very words of God; if we had to be dependent on others to take the Bible written in foreign languages and translate it bit by bit into our own language, how grateful would we be for those precious “bits of God’s Word”?

I saw this clip for the first time today, and it brought me to tears. Some of my tears were tears of joy…rejoicing with these brothers and sisters who are celebrating to long-awaited arrival of Scripture in their own language. But some of my tears were tears of regret…and tears of confession…that far too often I take for granted my access to the Word of God.

Let us not take for granted our access to the Word of God with our neglect of it. Let us treasure the Scriptures! For “they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. (Psalm 19:10)”

Watch this clip.  Hopefully you’ll never look at your Bible the same way again.  THIS is why Bible translation is such an important work!

Advertisements

Day 37: 1 John- Jude

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 ESV)

Do Not Love the World:
What does John mean by the world here? He is referring to the system of mankind that is actively opposed to God. John is not commanding believers to completely retreat from the world. To do so would be to neglect the great commission of going to all of the world and making disciples.

We are commanded to not pursue, enjoy, love, approve of the things in this fallen world that are anti-God. John later explains such things as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Do Christians seem ineffective in the world today? If so, it is not because they lack the strategy or skill. It is because they are doing what Christ commands them not to do; they are trying to marry the system of this world with the system of God. This is not possible. The gospel does not allow it. The two are actively opposed to each other.

1 John 2:4 “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commands is a liar.” Do you love the world? Before you say no- prayerfully search your heart. Do you desire comfort, acceptance, wealth, yourself and your plans? Or do you desire the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom?

Do you love Christ? You cannot say yes to both things. You cannot love God and the world. If so, God Himself calls you a liar.

The Foundational Reason Not to Love the World:
John tells us that we do not love the world because of the love of the Father. This likely refers both to the Father’s love for us and our love for the Father (we love because He first loved us).

This is important. We are not loved by the Father because we reject the world. That would be a justification by our works- a doctrine contrary to scripture. It is not I reject the world then receive God’s love but I receive God’s love in Christ thus loving Christ above all and rejecting the world’s system- for it is opposed to such love. 

This is the gospel. Christ has made us new in His love and grace. As new creations, we are different from the world. This is not our home. We are strangers and sojourners here. We have a purpose in this world, not a purpose of this world.

Christ prays for us,  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:15-16). 

Like Christ, you are on a mission. Do not seek to make peace with an enemy that cannot be reconciled. Instead, armed with the gospel of Christ, rescue those in the enemies grip.

Day 35: Hebrews 11 – James 5

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:2-5, emphasis mine)

We all need more wisdom in our lives and in verse 5, James is calling on us to ask for wisdom within the context of trials. He is telling us that when we are in the midst of difficult times and lack the wisdom we need, we should ask God for that wisdom.

It’s important to note that the Scriptural concept of wisdom is very different from our own. When we think of wisdom, we think of it in terms of knowing what to do, getting direction for our lives, or being able to discern between one choice or another. In the Bible wisdom was almost always moral. In other words, wisdom meant knowing God and His ways, and how to live in a way that pleased Him.

That’s the kind of wisdom James is talking about here.

Although James talks about how trials strengthen our faith and our character we all know that trials don’t always lead to spiritual growth. Suffering can lead to fear, despair, anger, and bitterness. Or what if having a great abundance of material wealth is your trial? Yes, that is a trial too! That sort of abundance can lead to greed, stinginess, and self-indulgence.

None of these responses is helpful for our sanctification.

This is why we need wisdom in trials. Not so that we can figure a way out, but so we can submit and honor God in the midst of them. We need wisdom so that trials lead us to be more like Jesus. We need wisdom in trials so that we do not sin against God.

The good news is that God wants us to have that wisdom. That’s why we are told to ask Him. He is a giving and generous God. James is confident that God will give us the wisdom we seek because of God’s character.

This word “generously” literally means single or simple. It is suggesting God’s unwavering, undivided intention. That means James is telling us to pray to a generous God who wants to answer our prayers because He fully intends to give us the wisdom we are asking for and will in no way despise us for asking.

In fact, James 1:5 can be literally translated as;

Let him ask the giving God.”

What a great and glorious God we serve. There is no one like our God. He gives us the strength to honor Him in the midst of trials so that we can become more like His Son!

Day 32: 1 Thessalonians 3- 1 Timothy 5

Today’s reading covered the rest of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and most of Paul’s first pastoral epistle to young Timothy. I’m amazed at how relevant Paul’s words are to us today, particularly in the area of false teaching.

Jesus Coming Back
In both of Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica, the major theme is the second coming of Jesus. People had some bad ideas about Jesus coming back. They thought that the believers who had died before Jesus’ second coming would miss Jesus (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

The Thessalonians speculated when Jesus would return, to which Paul says, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 ESV)

On top of this, some people in the church were lazy and refusing to work because they were waiting for Jesus to come back. (2 Thess. 3:6-12)

Jesus’ Judgment
While no one knows the day or hour of Christ’s return, we do know that when He returns, it will be to judge. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 is one of the clearest pictures of eternal punishment in all of the Bible.

“…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…” (7-12)

Fight The Good Fight
Paul spent much of his time lovingly yet sternly correcting false teaching that diminished the gospel. The modern church has seen a good bit of false teaching in the two above areas lately and could greatly benefit, both corporately and individually, from Paul’s words to young pastor Timothy:

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience….” (1 Timothy 1:19-20 ESV)

To Paul, the ‘good warfare’ was the gospel. When we speculate about dates and times of Christ’s, we disobey the scriptures and detract from the glorious gospel. When we ignore the clear biblical truth of eternal punishment in hell, we detract from the gospel and deceive both ourselves and others.

But let’s be honest, all of you reading this likely acknowledge the reality of hell and know that the Lord’s return is not hidden in some secret Bible code. So what about you? The exhortation is the same, “hold faith and a good conscience.” What is it in your life that diminishes the gospel? Find it and fight it by faith in Christ.

The gospel is to important to be diminished. Wage the good warfare!

Day 31; Philippians 2 thru 1 Thessalonians 2

Maybe it’s because I’ve been studying and meditating on the text for this Sunday’s sermon (the beattitude about hungering and thirsting after righteousness, Matt 5:6), but I was struck throughout today’s reading with the sense that Paul had an insatiable appetite to know God more fully and to live a life that pleased God more completely.

I couldn’t go so far as to say that was a “theme” of the reading.  Now that we are deep into the shorter epistles (letters) of Paul, we are speeding through these books too quickly to really dissect each of them with any level of detail.   Nonetheless, since Paul was the author of each of them, by taking in a larger cross-section that includes several letters (eg this morning, Philippians, Colossians, and part of 1 Thessalonians), we get a fuller understanding of the heart of the author himself.

Paul, more than any other New Testament writer, knew that those who are in Christ have nothing else to do in order to remain in Christ.  He is perfectly clear about this. Once we are in a right relationship with God by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, then all has been accomplished; now no sin remains uncovered or unforgiven.  Yet, if there is one thing we can further say about Paul it is that he never presents the mindset that once we are “saved”, then we should sit back and wait for death and wait for heaven.  Instead, he challenges the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians (and each of us), to continue to pursue after God.

Look at some of these examples from today’s readings, and as you read them, consider the inherent paradox:

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12b-13)

the paradox – Paul is writing to the “saints in Philippi (Phil 1:2), those who have already been given “salvation”, yet he exhorts them to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling”.  There is something beyond the experience of conversion that he challenges believers to strive after; something without which we should not be satisfied.

“Do everything without grumbling or complaining, so that you may become blameless and pure” (Phil 2:14-15)

the paradox – In Christ, we are already considered pure and blameless. Now we’re exhorted to work at this so that we become what we already are?  In some sense before God, we are truly already pure and blameless because we have the righteousness of Christ; however, Paul wants all of us to live in such a way that this becomes a true reality so that our lives honor the One who saved us.

“I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  (Phil 3:10-11)

the paradox – Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit now indwells the apostle Paul; however, he is not satisfied with this level of knowing Christ.  He wants to know Christ more and more, deeper and deeper.  Paul has an insatiable appetite, a driving ambition in his life to know Christ more and more.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”  (Phil 3:12)

the paradox – In Christ, Paul has been made perfect because of the righteousness of Christ, imputed to Him by grace through faith….yet, Paul is not satisfied.  He sees that his life still exhibits imperfections and immaturity, and he wants these things to “be made perfect”…and so he presses on in his walk with Jesus.

There are more examples from today’s readying that I could give, yet for space I’ll stop there.  The point is this:

Do you have an appetite to know God more?  Is there in you a yearning for a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ that is not satisfied yet?  Not a knowledge that can come from a theology book so that way may understand a point of doctrine more, but a knowledge of “knowing” our mighty God more fully, more completely.  Do not be satisfied with where you are in your walk with Christ.  It is not enough.  If you have tasted of the fruit of heaven, the glorious King….there is no being satisfied with just a taste on this side of heaven.

Oh Lord, give us more of You!

Day 29: 2 Corinthians 10 – Galatians 4

posted by Tim Sherwood

The end of 2 Corinthians and the beginning of Galatians is Paul speaking strongly and boldly against any other gospel than the one he originally communicated to these early converts.  In the first 5 verses of Galatians, Paul outlines the simple and pure gospel.  That Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins in accordance with God’s plan (verse 4).  That God raised Jesus from the dead and affirms Him as the Lord of Lords (verses 1 and 5).  Paul so emphatically defends the one true gospel for two reasons, he desperately loves the Corinthians and Galatians and he loves Christ even more.

How do we know that Paul is concerned about these two churches hearing and believing something other than what he taught them about Christ?  We see it in 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”

We also see it in Galatians 1: 6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul is willing to be thought of and called a fool for the gospel.  He is willing to argue, beg, plead, and fight for the gospel.  Why?  Because it is all that matters.  It is God’s original and only plan to redeem mankind.  It is the reason Jesus came to earth.  He cares too much for those that he told the good news in Corinth and Galatia to have them miss the incredible grace of God by adding something to it.  Most importantly, he loves Christ too much to insult him in saying that what he did on the cross was not enough.

I don’t like to think about this myself, but when I add anything to the gospel beyond the unbelievable gift of God through Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, I am telling Christ He is not enough.  If you have accepted the wonderful gift purchased by Christ’s blood, don’t try to add anything to it.  If you have been waiting to “clean up your act” before coming to Christ, don’t bother, you can’t.  The good news is you don’t have to.

Day 27: 1 Corinthians 10-15

The Corinthians needed to be reminded of the gospel. The symptoms of their forgetfulness were devastating; sexual immorality, drunkenness during communion, abuse of spiritual gifts, outward worship without hearts of love, denying the resurrection of the dead, and the list goes… Paul lovingly and sternly reminds them.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

If you have repented of your sins and trusted in Christ’s work on the cross for forgiveness; you have received the gospel, now you stand in it, hold fast to it, and are transformed by it. Don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking you move on to better things.

It all comes down to this: gospel, gospel, gospel, gospel. Learn it. Go deeper in it. Live it. Apply it. Spread it. There is no aspect of the Christian life that is untouched by it. You never master it. It masters you. It shouldn’t bore you, but thrill you.

It kills your pride. It lays you low so you can look up and see Christ. The bad news is you; sin, a diseased heart, death, and wrath. The good news is God Himself; His intervention through Christ, His atoning work on the cross. Salvation for all who believe.

It’s the center of Scripture. It distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. They say ‘do’, the gospel says ‘It is finished.’ Done. It will never be destroyed. Never be stopped. It’s the life-blood of the church, the cornerstone, hope for the hopeless, rest for the weary, food for the hungry, the well that won’t run dry, the breath of life, the living water.

It has a name and at that name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord; that He lived perfectly, died humbly, and rose victoriously.

O, the gospel has a name: Jesus. and to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Do you trust in Him?