What would you say were the fundamental disciplines of the Christian life? Let me put it this way, what is it that you as a Christian need in your life in order that you might live a healthy and growing Christian life? What are the essential practices for a vibrant spiritual life? I would say they are; Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and witnessing. We can see the importance of these from looking at the early church.
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.
These new Christians "continued steadfastly" in these very important disciplines. We also see in the book of Acts that they were very involved in sharing their faith.
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 (KJV) 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.
Most Christians do claim to believe the Bible. After all, the average American home has four Bibles. Many people believe that the Bible is the Word of God. What we believe about the Bible is a start, but what we do with it is far more important.
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 question 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 loose 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.
When I was in the Navy I was an aircraft electrician assigned to a helicopter squadron. The manufacturers of the helicopter had put out a maintenance manual explaining in great detail how to fix and prevent problems. I was told by more experienced electricians that the book wasn't helpful, the folks who wrote it didn't know what they were talking about.
One day after replacing a landing gear switch, I was trying to adjust the switch so the landing gear indicators would work properly. In the cockpit there is an indicator that tells you when the gear is up, down, or unsafe. You can understand how important it is for the pilot to know if his landing gear is down and locked. I had the helicopter up on jacks and was putting the landing gear up and down to check the landing gear indicators to make sure they were working right. I adjusted and readjusted the switch but I could not get it to work properly. I kept making adjustments but nothing worked. Finally, in desperation, I got out the maintenance manual and carefully read the section under "landing gear switch adjustment." I adjusted the switch exactly as the book said to, and then ran the gear up and down. You'll never guess what happened, it worked perfectly! Amazing! The folks who built the helicopter knew how to make it work properly.
Does that make sense to yo- 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 (KJV) This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt 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 thou dost 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 the world today 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.
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.
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 the world 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 many different ways. Scientifically, the Bible is amazingly accurate. The Bible gives historical accounts, 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. The destruction of Babylon was predicted in Isaiah 13:19, and was fulfilled down to the very last detail. The Bible is verified as the Word of God by hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled.
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. Several months ago, Lindsey came up to my office in the morning and 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. Just the other morning I was struggling with some battles that I was facing and I was greatly encouraged as I was reading through Exodus.
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.
Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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.
Let me give you some suggestions for spending time in God's Word. First, Have a set time. Maybe first thing in the morning, that way you know the events of the day won't squeeze it out. When you read is not the issue, just make sure you set a time when you can read without interruptions. If you don't have a set time to read, the chances are real good that you won't read at all.
Second, Have a plan. I have found that if you have a plan that you are using, you will be much more apt to do the reading. You could read through the Bible in a year. There are many Bibles available today that are set up to read through in a year. A helpful method that I have used is to pick a book, let's say James, read the whole book. Then the next day read it again. Do this for thirty days and then move on to another book. Divide the larger books up and read the first 5-7 chapters for thirty days, then move on to the next 5-7 chapters and so on. In two and one half years you will have read the New Testament thirty times. By the time the month is up, you will have a good handle on the book you are reading.
When you read, read actively. Active reading means underlining, making notes in the margins, asking yourself questions, and then rereading the book and writing out meaningful principles that can be applied.
If you have trouble being faithful to reading, ask someone to help by holding you accountable. Have them check up on you regularly to make sure you are spending time reading.
The next level of commitment to Scripture is studying the Word. Reading the word is preferably a daily activity, study may not be so regular, but when you have the time, get out a concordance, and some study tools and do some digging. You should come across things in your reading that you can further search out when you study.
I would also suggest memorizing. In your reading, as you come across verses that are particularly meaningful to you, or that convict you in a certain area, commit them to memory, then you can meditate on them any time and place.
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 loose 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.
If you want to live a productive vibrant Christian life, spending time in God's Word is a fundamental discipline. If you neglect to spend time in God's Word, you do it to your own peril.
How much time do you spend each day getting to know the God who you claim to love?
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