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Monday, March 26, 2012

“The Power of the Word – Part II” - (03/25/12)

What God’s Word will do for the believer. 
March 25, 2012

            Last Sunday I shared with you about why the Bible is so powerful, why it is unlike any other book ever written, and why we should dedicate ourselves to know it.  We looked at seven characteristics of God’s Word.  We learned that the Word of God is
  • Infallible – means that it is flawless in total,
  • Inerrant – means it is without errors even in its smallest parts,
  • Complete – it needs nothing added or subtracted,
  • Authoritative – it is God’s voice speaking and is absolutely true,
  • Sufficient – means that it is adequate for every need,
  • Effective – means it always accomplishes the task it sets out to do, and
  • Determinative – it is the determiner of who is and who is not a believer.
Now I want to give you six major benefits of Bible study, or in other words, what God’s Word will provide in your life.  And I know that if you truly understand these they are going to become your motivation.  In fact, I hope that by the time we get done with this message you can hardly wait until this service is over so that you can get home and begin to study your Bible.  That’s my motivation today.

So the question is… What will the Word of God really do for you?  What is it able to accomplish in the life of the believer?  I’m glad you asked.

#1. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Truth.
The Bible is the ultimate source of truth.  Nothing else compares to it.  In Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17:17 He said, “Father, Thy Word is truth.”  What a great statement!  “Thy Word is truth!”  My friends, do you realize what it means to actually have the truth?  We’ve all heard people say, “Well, I don’t know what the truth is.  I don’t know what to believe.”  That reminds me of Pontius Pilate’s cynical question.  He looked at Jesus and said, “What is truth?”  How sad when we see that “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” was standing right there in front of him but Pilate was too blind to see it.
Many thousands of new pages of material are printed every minute across the globe.  Writers are cranking it out, information of all kinds, tons of it.  We’re not hurting for information, folks, we’ve got a lot of information and a lot more misinformation.  Ecclesiastes 12:12 says, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”   Books, books and more books!  The Bible tells us in II Timothy 3:7 that although people are constantly learning new things, the problem is that they are “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Isn’t that terrible?  People out in the world read, and they study, and they think, and they reason, and they listen, and they talk, and they interact; but they never get to the truth, and they never settle on anything, and the frustration in them is overwhelming!  You see mankind has lost the truth along the way, as we’ve separated ourselves from God and from His Word.
But the fantastic fact is that every time you pick up this marvelous Book, you pick up THE TRUTH.  And that TRUTH is powerful!  In John 8:31-32 Jesus said that His Word is the key, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  
One excellent reason to study the Bible is that the truth is in there—the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about life, the truth about death, the truth about you and me, the truth about men, women, children, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, the truth about friends, enemies, the truth about how you ought to be at work, how you ought to be at home, the truth about how you ought to eat and drink, how you ought to live, how you ought to think—THE TRUTH is all there!  What an incredible resource!

#2. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Joy and Happiness.
You should want to study the Bible not only because it is the source of truth but also because it is the source of our joy and happiness.  And yes, I know that joy and happiness are not the same thing, but I believe we get both from knowing God’s Word.  In Psalm 19:8 we hear David say: “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.”  Isn’t that a great thought?  He’s talking about learning the principles of the Scripture.   When you begin to study the Bible and you learn these great truths you will get excited!  I study the Bible a lot because I’m constantly teaching and preaching the Word, but I also study it on my own because I love it, and I need it, and I have never lost the thrill of discovering the great truths that comes from the Word of God.   It’s an exhilarating and joyous experience.
There are many Scriptures that reinforce this truth.  Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 11:28: “Blessed (or happy) are those who hear the Word of God and observe it (obey it).”  Do you want to be a happy person?  Then obey God’s Word.  It’s amazing to me how many people know what the Bible teaches yet they don’t obey it, and as a result they forfeit happiness.  Lots of Christians tell me that the Book of Revelation is just too hard to understand so they don’t bother to read it.  But they don’t know what they are missing.  Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed (happy) is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed (obey, put into practice) the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  The word “blessed” means happy.  Do you want to be happy?  Then read Revelation!  Do you want to be happy?  Then read any part of God’s Word and begin to respond to it.
Last Sunday I quoted Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.”  And I love these words in I John 1:4, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  Isn’t that great?  Full joy!  There’s another wonderful statement made by our Lord Himself in John 15:11.  He says: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  What a tremendous thought!  His words give us great, overflowing joy!  Yes, there’s joy in the Word of God, in the truth of God, if you will believe it and obey it.  If you don’t keep His Word, however, there’s no joy.  But if your heart is committed to obey His Word, He will fill your life with joy.
There is no excuse for us not knowing the truth and not having our lives literally filled with joy.  That joy is available to us right here in the Word of God.  As you study the Word, if you hear what it says, and you draw out its principles, and if you obey those principles because you love the Lord Jesus Christ, then God will pour out the blessings and the joy.
So, why should you study the Bible?  What can you expect that it will do for you?  Number one, the Bible is the source of divine truth and that truth will be the anchor for your life.  And #2, the Bible, the Word of God, is the Christian’s greatest source of joy.  No matter what happens in your life, when you study the Word of God there will be a joy in your heart that is untouched by any circumstance.

#3. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Victory.
 Just like everyone else, I like to win, and I hate to lose.  That rule applies to basically everything, including my spiritual life.  I don’t like to see Satan win a victory, I don’t like to see the world gain mastery over me, I don’t like to see my flesh override my spirit.  I want to win in the Christian life!  But here’s the secret of success. The Word of God is the believer’s source of victory and without it we are left spiritually defenseless.  In Psalm 119:9-11 David asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it (his way) according to Your Word.  10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your Commandments.  11 Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  David understood that God’s Word is the believer’s source of victory over sin.  As the Word of God is taken into our life it becomes the resource from which the Holy Spirit draws to direct our life.  It is the primary tool that the Holy Spirit uses.
But here’s the sticking point…You have no way of preventing yourself from being led into sin by the enemy unless God’s Word is already resident in you so that the Holy Spirit can kick it into your conscious mind.  You see, as a Christian you’ll never function on what you don’t know.  You’ll never be able to operate on the principle you never learned.  You’ll never be able to apply the truth you haven’t yet discovered.  So as you feed the Word of God into your mind it becomes a handle by which the Spirit of God can direct and guide you.
            An example of how the Word of God will save your bacon in the hour of temptation is seen in the account of the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness recorded in Matthew 4.  Verse 1 says, “Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested (or tempted) by the devil.”  You know the story and we don’t have time to go through it today but you’ll remember that Satan hit Jesus three times with his best temptations.  So how did Jesus handle it?  In each case Jesus answered the devil with the Word of God.  All three times Jesus answered the temptation of Satan by quoting directly out of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Listen, as a Christian it is the capturing of biblical truth in your conscious mind that gives you the capacity to defeat Satan.  You can’t do it on your own.  Jesus triumphed over the enemy through the Word of God.  It was His source of victory.  He knew that you can’t just use logic, or reason.  You can’t out-argue the devil!  I find it amazing that Christians think they can go up against Satan with no weapons and no ammunition.  It can’t be done.
            One more thing, you can’t just throw John 3:16 at the devil.  You need to know the right Scripture for the right situation the way a warrior uses the appropriate weapon in a given situation.  Hebrews 4:12 describes the Bible as “…living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”  But swords and knives come in all sizes.  In Ephesians 6:17, in Paul’s discussion of the armor of the Christian, we find that it wraps up with this great piece of armor in verse 17, “Take the helmet of salvation and Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”   
            Now when most of us think about a sword, we think of some 5-foot thing like a Samurai sword.  The Greek word for that kind of huge cutlass is “rhomphaia.”  However, the Greek word for sword that Paul uses here in Ephesians 6:17 is “máchaira.”  A “máchaira” was a short, small dagger.  The Sword of the Spirit is not a great huge broadsword that you just flail around hoping you’ll whack off the head of a demon sooner or later.  The Sword of the Spirit is a “máchaira”; a short close-combat fighting knife, a dagger.  It is short, it is incisive, it must hit a vulnerable spot or it doesn’t do any damage.  The Sword of the Spirit that Paul is talking about us using is not something general, but specific.
            Listen, you could own a whole Bible warehouse and still not have the Sword of the Spirit.  Having the Sword of the Spirit is not owning a Bible, but knowing the specific principle in the Bible that applies to the specific situation you are facing.   The only way you’ll know victory in the Christian life is to know the principle of the Word of God to make that application to the specific point where Satan attacks, where the flesh attacks, or where the world attacks.  As you fill your heart and mind with the Word of God, it becomes your source of victory.  Just know that you can’t even begin to approach the Christian life without becoming a student of the Bible.  God’s Word is the source of truth, it’s the source of joy, and it’s the source of victory.  But that’s not all…

#4. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Spiritual Growth.
       I believe everybody wants to grow, and it’s a sad thing to see somebody who didn’t grow; but do you know something that’s even sadder?  To see Christians that don’t grow, who are stunted.  And the reason they don’t grow is because they don’t get into the Word of God.  They may go to church and sit there.  They take a thimble to church, and it gets filled up, but it’s not enough to satisfy and it’s not enough to bring about growth.  I Peter 2:2 says this, “As newborn babes desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow by it.” Even babies have the good sense to eat when food is available, but unfortunately many Christian babies don’t know that the Word of God is the source of their growth so they remain stunted.   
            The more a Christian gets into the Word the more he/she will grow.  And conversely, the more he/she grows the more they will crave the Word of God.  The more you grow the more exciting the Christian life becomes.  The Word is the source of life.  As you mature, you grow stronger, and as you grow stronger you’re able to defeat Satan, and you know more about God and His character, and your life is enriched in every possible way.  In John 6:63 Jesus said this, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and, they are life.”  The Word is a life-giver, the Word is a life-sustainer, and the Word is a life-builder.  It is tremendous nourishment.  I Timothy 4:6 adds to our understanding of this where Paul says, “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.”  The Word nourishes us, it feeds us, it builds us, and it causes us to grow.  So when you study the Word it becomes your source of growth, just like it is the source of truth, the source of joy, and the source of victory.

#5. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Power and Stamina.
It is the Word of God that infuses us with power and we all know there’s nothing worse than feeling like an impotent Christian.  Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”  But sometimes we don’t feel very powerful.  In fact, sometimes we feel like a dud rather than dynamite!
            The truth is most of us struggle with our spiritual impotence.  That’s because many of us don’t really understand the source of our spiritual power.  Listen, it is the Word of God ignited by the Spirit of God that infuses you with power.  Let me say that again: It is the Word of God, ignited by the Spirit of God, that infuses a Christian with power.  From my own life I can tell you that the more I know about the Word of God, the less I fear about any situation, because I know what the resource is for that situation.  The Word of God becomes my source of power.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  This is a powerful book.  Let me tell you, if you pick this up and read it, it will cut you up.  It’s powerful stuff!  It’s a powerful book!  That’s why the apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.’’   
As you focus on the Word of God it has a power in your life that’s incredible.  As you meditate on it, it empowers you.  As you feed on the Word of God, as you pump the Word of God into your life and mind and heart, it is going to come right back out when your buttons get pushed.  It’s the believer’s source of energy, source of power, and source of spiritual stamina.  As you feed daily on the Word of God and depend on the Holy Spirit of God, it will have a powerful effect, and it will enable you to truly be Christ’s “witness”, anytime, anywhere, with anyone.   
            So we need to study the Word of God because it is the source of truth, the source of happiness, the source of victory, the source of growth, the source of power, and here’s one more.

#6. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Divine Guidance.
            Whenever I want to know what God wants me to do, I go to the Word.  People say, “Oh, I’m searching for the will of God.”  But where is God’s will to be found?  Friends, God’s will is easy to find; it’s right in His Book.  If you study the Bible, you’ll often come across the phrase, “this is the will of God.”   What does Psalm 119:105 say?  “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  Pretty simple, right?  The Word of God is a guide for us.  As I open the Word of God, it guides me.  It’s amazing how God speaks to me through His Word.  If I have a decision to make I find the place in the Bible maybe where somebody in the Old Testament or New Testament grappled with a similar decision and I try to see how God led there, or I go to a text in the Bible that gives me a direct answer.  God guides us out of His Book.
However, there’s a subjective element to this too.  As a Christian we have the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  I John 2:20 says, “The Spirit dwells within us,” and a few verses later in verse 27 we read, “…and we have an anointing from God.”  That means we don’t need to rely on our human wisdom because the Holy Spirit will teach us.  And that happens when you study the Bible; the Holy Spirit in you takes the Word of God and makes a personal application that will give you guidance.  It’s an incredible combination to have the Truth and the resident Truth-Teacher.  And in combination they guide the believer.  What have we said then?  The benefits of studying the Bible is that for us it is the source of truth, happiness, victory, growth, power, and guidance.

Other miscellaneous benefits from knowing God’s Word:
·         It will reveal what God is really like.
·         It will keep you spiritually clean.
·         It will give you courage.
·         It will illuminate your path in this life.
·         It will make you wise.
·         It will give you a panoramic view of time and eternity.
·         It will help you understand human nature.
·         It will make you a better spouse and parent.
·         It will point you to Heaven and warn you from the path to hell.

So after hearing all this, what should be your response?  “Well,” you say, “I guess I ought to begin to take action.  Mike, if what you say is really true, if the Bible is going to do all these things, then I need to get on board and start practicing what I’ve been preaching.”  And of course, you are absolutely right, but where should you begin?  Let me suggest 7 practical action-steps.
Action-Step #1: Study God’s Word like a dedicated workman.  Paul wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth.”  The KJV translates that last phrase as “…rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”  In either case the term Paul chooses to use literally means “cutting it straight.”  Paul is saying that we need to study diligently so that we can accurately interpret God’s Word.  Paul was using the language of a tentmaker.  A tentmaker made his product using lots of different animal skins.  He would take those hides and carefully cut out pieces that he could sew back together.  If his cutting were off, nothing would fit together and the tent would be useless.  So what Paul is saying here is that you cannot have an accurate theology of Christianity unless you have accurately interpreted the individual verses, texts, and contexts.  And I can tell you from experience, cutting it straight takes study.  One of my heroes of the NT is Apollos.  Do you know why he was so loved and respected?  He is described in Acts 18:24.  “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.”  Did you get that?  “…He was mighty in the Scriptures.”  That means he knew how to rightly divide, to accurately handle the Word of Truth.  I want to be like Apollos, but it takes dedication and study.
Action-Step #2: Believe God’s Word with all your heart.  By that I mean, if God’s Word says it then believe it, deep down.  Jesus said to Peter one time, “Will you also go away?” and Peter said, “Lord, where can I go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.”  In other words, “Lord, You are the source of everything I need, and I’m sticking here with You.”  If God’s Word is true then hang in there.  Study it, and believe it.
Action-Step #3: Honor God’s Word by giving it priority in your life.  If this is the Word of God, then honor it.  Job makes a magnificent statement in Job 23:12, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”  Listen, if this is the Word of God and it will do everything we just said it will do, then believe it and honor it.  In fact, in Psalm 138:2, the psalmist said to God, ‘‘For You have magnified Your Word according to all Your name.”  Isn’t that incredible?  God honors His own Word and so should we.
In the city of Ephesus they worshiped the Roman goddess Diana, also called Artemis by the Greeks.  Modern images of Diana show her as beautiful, slim young woman but the old idols depicting her show her as an ugly beast of a woman with her chest covered with about 20 breasts.  So why did the Ephesians worship her image?  Because their temple priests taught them that she had fallen out of heaven, and if her image fell out of heaven it was worthy of honor.  Let me tell you something about the Bible.  It came from Heaven, directly from God!  That statue didn’t, but God’s Word really did, and it’s worthy of honor.  So study it, believe it, and honor it.
Action-Step #4: Love God’s Word as a precious love letter from God.  If all the things in this Book are true, you’d better love it.  The psalmist cried out in Psalm 119 and said, “Oh, how I love Thy law.”   And I love the 19th Psalm where David said to God in verse 10, “[Your words] are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.”  My friend, if it’s this sweet, then study it, believe it, honor it, and love it.
Action-Step #5: Obey God’s Word by submitting yourself to it.  If it’s really true, obey it, respond to it, say ‘yes’ to it when it speaks and continue in it.  Follow the admonition of I John 2:5, “But whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him.”  If it’s really what it claims study it and believe it and honor it and love it and obey it at any price.  If you yield yourselves as servants to God you should obey God.  This is part of the bargain, so obey His Word.
Action-Step #6: Fight for God’s Word by defending it from attackers.  If it’s really true fight for it.  In fact, in Jude 3 it says, “Earnestly contend for the faith,” and the faith there means the body of revealed truth.  The word “contend” is the Greek word “agonidzo” from which we get the word agonize.  Agonize for it, engage yourself in a battle to defend the Word of God.  If it’s really true, if it can do the things we said, study it, believe it, honor it, love it, obey it, and fight for it.
Action-Step #7: Proclaim God’s Word by sharing its sweetness with others.  In II Timothy 4:2 Paul simply said this, “Timothy, preach the Word.”  If it’s really true, preach it.  Pass the candy around.  Don’t be selfish with the Good News.

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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