What would you say is the most important discipline in the Christian life? Let me put it this way, what is it that you as a Christian need most in your life in order that you might live a healthy and growing Christian life? What is the most essential practice for a vibrant spiritual life? I would hope that you would say, "Bible study". We can see the importance of Bible study from seeing the priority the early church placed on it.
Acts 2:41-42 (NKJV) Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
"Continued steadfastly" is from the Greek word proskartereo, which means: "to be earnest toward, to be constantly diligent, to adhere closely, to be devoted to". They diligently observed two things: the apostles' doctrine, which was the New Testament Scripture, and fellowship, which consisted of breaking of bread and prayer.
For our time this morning, I want us to look at the discipline of Bible study. Why is it important to read and study the Bible? It is important because it is the only source of truth we have about God.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from God. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it the mind of God is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who God is and what he values. In the Bible, God reveals himself.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus said:
Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
How do we know what God want from us? He has told us in the Bible - He wants our love. How do we do this? How do we love God? Can we express our love to Him in any way we want? No! The only way we know how to love God is from the Bible.
John 14:21 (NKJV) "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
1 John 5:3 (NKJV) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
We love God by living in obedience to Him. How can we possibly do this if we don't spend time in the Bible to know what obedience is?
John 15:12 (NKJV) "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
We love God by keeping his commandments, and one of these commandments is that we love each other.
Why do we need to know about God? A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy says, "Whatever comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you." What we think about God determines our response to Him, and our response determines our behavior.
He is our Creator and Redeemer. If we are going to live a life of purpose, we must know who He is, and what He expects from us. Is there life after death? If so, how is it attainable?
John 17:17 (NKJV) "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
The only place that we can get the truth to these very important questions is from the Word of God. The Bible teaches that man is separated from God by his sin, and therefore, under condemnation. Only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross, can we have eternal life.
I think that most of us understand that the Bible lays out the terms of salvation, but once we trust the Lord for salvation, does the Bible lose its usefulness? Not at all!
1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
We grow in our Christian walk as we read and study the Bible.
Colossians 1:16 (NKJV) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Why do we exist? It is for Him. Now, since we were made for God, we will never live a purposeful and meaningful life unless we are rightly related to Him. And we won't be rightly related to God until we know what His manual says. So, as we read and study His Word, we learn the principles by which we are to live. The only place where we are going to hear God's voice is in His Word. The world around us will always be giving us its view, but we'll only get God's view as we spend time in His Word.
Does it make sense to you that the Creator would know how to keep the creation working properly? If it makes sense to us, then why do we try to live our lives without consulting God's owner's manual for life?
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV) "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Let me give you Young's literal translation of this verse:
Joshua 1:8 (YLT) "The book of this law doth not depart out of thy mouth, and thou hast meditated in it by day and by night, so that thou dost observe to do according to all that is written in it, for then thou dost cause thy way to prosper, and then thou dost act wisely."
Now, who doesn't want their way to prosper and to act wisely? I think that the primary reference here is to our spiritual lives, but if we are prospering and acting wisely in our spiritual lives, that will spill over in every area. Notice, that it is not just reading, but it says, "....that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it... " That, folks, is why we read and study - that we may live it out!
Too many of us have bought the lie that the Bible really doesn't have the answers to life, so we don't apply ourselves to learn its truths. We listen to the voice of the secular world instead of the voice of God, and then we wonder why our lives are such a mess.
The voice of OUR society says, "Don't spank your children, it will damage them." So our culture has moved away from corporal punishment, and our kids are a mess. What does our Creator's owner's manual say about raising children?
Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Who is he talking to here? Parents! Parents it is your job to train your children. You are to teach them the way to go. You're not to let them go their way, you're to train them.
Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV) Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him .
Proverbs 23:13 (NKJV) Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.
The idea here is not that your correction will bring them to salvation, but that it will deliver them from physical death.
Proverbs 29:15 (NKJV) The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 20:30 (NKJV) Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.
Literally, "blows of a bruise"; i.e., severe blows that bruise; physical discipline may cure a man of evil and cleanse his inner person.
The voice of our society says, "Sex is simply a biological function; find yourself a willing partner of the opposite or same sex and have fun." What does the Bible say?
Proverbs 6:23-35 (NKJV) For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, 24 To keep you from the evil woman, >From the flattering tongue of a seductress. 25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids. 26 For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. 27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
The Hebrew word for "touch" is naga', which means: "to touch," i.e. lay the hand upon (for any purpose).
30 People do not despise a thief If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. 31 Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house. 32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy is a husband's fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will accept no recompense, Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
How would we ever know the destructive power of sexual sin apart from the Word of God? Everything in our world goes against this teaching, but God, who made us, gave us His Word that we might live a prosperous life. Listen folks, we are all very forgetful and need to be reminded often of God's principles, that is why we must spend time in His Word.
How do we know the Bible is true? How do we know that it is not just another book? The Bible can be verified as the Word of God in many different ways. Scientifically, the Bible is amazingly accurate. Historically, the Bible gives stories of wars, locations of ancient cities, the existence of lost civilizations, and many other things that were once thought to be historically inaccurate. As archaeologists uncover the ruins of the Middle East, the Bible is being verified as accurate. I think that one of the greatest proofs of the Bible is fulfilled prophecy. God said certain things would happen, and they happened.
Let me give you an amazing example from the prophet Ezekiel. He made a number of predictions about the destruction of Tyre. Tyre was a Phoenician stronghold. Tyre was a fairly significant city, a large city on the west coast of Phoenicia, now known as Palestine. And the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel in verse 2 of chapter 26 telling about the destruction of Tyre:
Ezekiel 26:2 (NKJV) "Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, 'Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.'
In other words, because Tyre mocked Jerusalem:
Ezekiel 26:3-14 (NKJV) "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. 4 'And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. 5 'It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,' says the Lord GOD; 'it shall become plunder for the nations. 6 'Also her daughter villages which are in the fields shall be slain by the sword. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.' 7 "For thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. 8 'He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you. 9 'He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 'Because of the abundance of his horses, their dust will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, when he enters your gates, as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 'With the hooves of his horses he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people by the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground. 12 'They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water. 13 'I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. 14 'I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken,' says the Lord GOD.
Now that's pretty detailed stuff, folks. I mean, that is not some kind of general prophecy. This is very specific. This is a great Phoenician city. From the seventh century B.C., it controlled Phoenicia. It had strong walls, about 150 feet high and fifteen feet thick. And it was flourishing when Joshua led Israel into Canaan. Hiram the first was its king. He helped David build the palace. And according to 1 Kings 5:10, he helped Solomon build the temple.
Here's what actually happened as verified by secular historians: In 590 BC, Ezekiel makes his prediction. Four years later, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar attacks the coastal city of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar came and laid a 13 year siege on that city. They were walled cities so all you had to do was, if you couldn't get into the city, you just cut off anything coming into the city, and they eventually starved. It took him 13 years, from 585 to 573. Finally, the city surrendered, because they were all dying. And Nebuchadnezzar broke down the walls and the towers, destroyed the city, did every single thing Ezekiel said he would do, and, of course, he wasn't reading Ezekiel when he did it.
He got in the city. He didn't find the spoils. He thought he was going to find spoils, but they had used their fleet to take the spoils out. They took all the spoils to an island a half-mile off the coast because, Ezekiel said, that his army would receive no wages from Tyre. And that is exactly that happened. When he got there, they had taken all the valuables off to the island, Nebuchadnezzar had no naval force to go off and get it.
Ezekiel 29:18-19 (NKJV) "Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it. 19 "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army.
The island then became the new city. And it flourished for 250 years out on that island.
Only part of the prophecy was fulfilled; the part about Nebuchadnezzar, the part about destroying the walls, smashing it down, slaughtering the people, not getting the spoil, but not all of it was yet complete. The ruins were still on the old sight. The rubble was still there. After 250 years, a 24-year-old guy by the name of "Alexander the Great" showed up. He had 33,000 infantry men, he had 15,000 cavalry. He had just defeated the Persians, and he was on his way to Egypt. He needed supplies. So he came by the new island city of Tyre and he sent word, "I want you to supply all of my men and all of my horses and all of my army." And they said, "Forget it, buddy, you don't have a navy, and we're on an island, we're not going to help you at all."
He didn't like that. And it wasn't good to get Alexander mad. He didn't have a fleet, so he decided he had to get a way to go to that island, so he did what Ezekiel, the prophet, said would be done. It said that the place would be scraped bare as rock, and all the rubble would be thrown into the sea. Well, what conqueror in his right mind would ever do that? Why waste your time once you've conquered the place, picking up everything and throwing it in the ocean, all the stone and all the rest of it? But that's exactly what had to happen. So Alexander did it. He took all the debris and built a 2,000-foot long, 200 foot wide causeway all the way to the island with all the debris.
Now the island had fortified itself as well with powerful walls that reached right down to the edge of the sea. And as Alexander got closer, he realized he's going to have to get over those walls. So, in order to pull it off, he built these massive towers, 165 feet high, according to the record (20 stories high) and they held artillery, and they held a drop bridge. They just pushed the towers out the causeway, shot at the people from them, when they got to the wall, dropped the bridges down and walked right in. In the process, of course, all the way along the people are throwing things and shooting things off the wall, and they invented what were called tortoises, big shells that they held over the workers who were building the causeway. It took him seven months. He went in and murdered 8,000 people over a period of a few months, executed 7,000 more and sold 30,000 into slavery and fulfilled every single detail of the prophecy. And though the city of Jerusalem has been rebuilt 17 times, Tyre has never been rebuilt. And that's exactly what God said, "You will be built no more".
Today, the original mainland site of Tyre is as "bare as a rock." And you know what they do there today? They dry fish nets there, just as Ezekiel said. There is a city named "Tyre," but it exists only as a small fishing village down the coast from the ancient city. Ezekiel couldn't have guessed that those things would happen. The story of Tyre and others is evidence that God directed the writing of the Bible.
To me, the greatest proof of the verification of the Bible is my experience. I know that the Bible is true, because I have seen its truths working in my life.
Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV) A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
I have seen this verse fleshed out many times- try it, you'll like it. The more time I spend in the Bible the more I come to know and love my God. One morning Lindsey came up to my office as I was reading my Bible. She said, "Why are you always reading your Bible? Don't you know it all by now?" I told her that I learned something new every time I read it. I continue daily to learn about God and myself.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The reading and study of the Bible produces and increases faith. I was struggling with some battles that I was facing, and I was greatly encouraged as I was read this:
Exodus 14:10-14 (NKJV) And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 "Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness." 13 And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 "The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."
Can you relate to that story? I sure can. I have felt just like those Israelites at times. As I see God's provision for them, I also know that He loves and will take care of me. I have to constantly be reminded of the truth, "The Lord will fight for you." As we read the Scriptures, our faith is strengthened.
Not only is our faith strengthened, but we are comforted as we learn about our God and His love and care for us.
Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
How much hope would you have apart from the Word of God? Ephesians 2 says that the Gentiles had no hope when they were strangers from the covenants of promise.
The Bible being the Word of God and providing all that we need for life and godliness, shouldn't we be spending more time in it? I think many folks have the attitude, "I'm too busy, I don't have time to study." People take time to do what is important to them. If spending time with God through His Word was important to you, you would make time to study.
Our study of the Word is not to be for academic purposes, we're not to study to just learn facts and doctrines, but that we may grow to know God and know what He wants in our lives. Studying the Bible should be a way of life. We should always be seeking to learn something new and fresh every single day. We should have the attitude that Job had:
Job 23:12 (NKJV) I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.
I think this is why Job did such a great job dealing with the tremendous trials he faced, he loved God's Word. We don't like to miss a meal, and if we do, we can sure get ornery. We have to have our food. But are we that way when it come to studying the Bible? I remember reading about one of the saints of old who had a principle that he lived by, "No Bible, No Breakfast". That is a good idea. If you didn't eat until after you had read your Bible, you would either spend a lot more time in the Word or you would lose a lot of weight.
World starvation is tragic. Often we hear reports that thousands starve to death daily. Television specials on the trouble and tragedies of the world break our hearts. But as sad as this is, there is an even greater tragedy. We should be weeping for ourselves. The Christian community is a starving, illiterate people. Believers are living lives of frustration and discontent. The only cure is for God's people to take the study and application of His Word seriously. After all God has done for you, is it too much to ask that you spend a time each day reading and studying His Word?
Psalms 119:105 (NKJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
The word of God directs us in our work and way; and a dark place, indeed, the world would be without it.
How much time do you spend each day getting to know the God who you claim to love? If you want to live a productive vibrant Christian life, you need to discipline yourself to spending time in God's Word. If you neglect to spend time in God's Word, you do it to your own peril.