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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

 

Oct 2, 2016

Why is the Bible important to believers? Is there any real purpose for knowing it? What does it say about this matter in the Bible itself? What are some dangers to be avoided in handling the Word of God? Listen to this episode for answers. 

Here are the notes for this episode:

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The Importance of the Word

  1. Intro
    1. Testimony of salvation and growth
    2. I began growing because I got into the Word of God.
  2. A Love-affair with the Word
    1. Never has there been a man or woman who was greatly, or even moderately, used of God who was not themselves a serious student of God’s Word.
      1. John Wesley said of the Word of God, “I have laid it up in my mind like a choice treasure, to be ready upon all occasions to counsel, quicken, or caution me.”
    2. The longest chapter in the Bible is on the Word of God. That is pretty significant and should show how important the Word is by God Himself towards us. We should emphasize things as much as God does.
      1. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psa. 119:105)
      2. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psa. 119:11)
      3. “I will delight myself in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” (Psa. 119:15-16)
    3. Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
    4. The Word of God is spiritual food for the spiritual man. If he doesn’t eat regularly he will starve to death.
  3. Why is the Word important? (2 Tim. 3:16-17)—(What’s right, what’s wrong, how to get right, and how to stay right)
    1. For doctrine (What’s right)  
      1. “Doctrine” means, “what is taught by an instructor”. The written Word of God is the only infallible source of doctrine, or teaching, about the God of Heaven. We have creation and conscience to bear witness to His existence and law, but the specifics beyond that are found in the Word. Spiritual things are subjective: they must be judged. Even the prophets were told by Paul the Apostle that they were to be judged (1 Cor. 14:29-30). The OT prophets were not supposed to be revered until they were proven (Deu. 18:21-22; 1 Sam. 3:19-20). The measuring line that we hold up today to examine teachers is the Word of God (Acts 17:11).
        1. Paul told Timothy, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Ti. 4:13)
        2. And also, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16)
      2. There are ways that doctrine can be abused. Doctrine is not an end in and of itself for people to say that they have the truth and then do nothing with it. We are not to be hearers of the truth only, but doers of the truth also (Jas. 1:23-25). There are whole denominations that glory in their doctrine and not in God. They have knowledge without wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge correctly. They’re like engineers marveling at a bridge that’s exquisite in design. “How marvelous is the bridge! How wonderful!” But they never walk across it, and so they never benefit from its intended purpose.
      3. But that’s not a perfect analogy. Doctrine’s purpose is to reveal things about the person, mind, and working of the God who is invisible to the eyes…at the current time. The Word of God is an earthly and tangible record of spiritual realities for us. That which it records as truths about the spiritual realities invisible to our senses as yet is what we call “doctrine”. The Shepherd has determined by His wisdom the way for His sheep to go in. If they go beyond that, they are going out of the determined course of the Shepherd.
      4. Yes, the Word is to be studied for the purpose of obtaining right doctrine. But even moreso for the purpose of seeking, knowing, and serving God correctly. All roads may lead to Rome, but only one leads to God’s heavenly city.
    2. For reproof (what’s wrong)
      1. In Proverbs we are told, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” (Pro. 6:23)
      2. If you are a Christian, you’re getting used to being reproved by God. The Word of God sets forth God’s standards of righteousness. When we hold it up to ourselves we are shown our faults. That’s what reproof means, “setting forth faults”. But as those born of the Spirit of God that’s what we desire!
      3. In John 3:21 we’re told, “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
      4. A Christian wants to know, and indeed longs to know, what their faults are! I want to know my faults, my shortcomings, and my blind spots so that I can get them right before God. I want to be pleasing in His sight, and that requires that I be shown where I am not pleasing in His sight. The Word of God is that lamp and light to show us our faults.
      5. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18) It is the Word of God that we look into to compare ourselves with God’s standard of what needs to be changed in us to bring us into agreement with Him. Two cannot walk together unless they be agreed (Amos 3:3). This means that we must change to walk with God.
      6. Notice also in that verse (2 Cor. 3:18), that as we continue to look into the Word of God that it is the Spirit of God which changes us. The Word and the Spirit go hand in hand and will never contradict each other, but they will work together for the same purpose.
    3. For correction (How to get right)
      1. As much as the Lord will use His Word to tell us we’re wrong and what needs to be changed, He won’t leave us without telling us what we need to change to.
      2. Today, it’s sad to see that the professing church doesn’t want the same standards that God does. The majority don’t “seek out of the book of the Lord” (Isa. 34:16) to know anything about what God expects of them. They’ve allowed themselves to be deceived into thinking that because they said a prayer or made a decision that God’s going to do the rest. In a sense, they’re right. God is the one who saves, but man’s part is to be committed to Him.
      3. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart we read in Acts 16:14 that she attended upon Paul’s words. He will open people’s hearts and give them understanding, but their commandment from Him is to abide and continue with Him. God will not drag you kicking and screaming to heaven any more than He will drag you kicking and screaming to read and study His Word. If you cared to be instructed by Him then you would willfully and intentionally attend to His Word. God has not hid His Word in that sense. Man, for the most part, has refused to obey it.
    4. For instruction in righteousness (how to stay right)
      1. We can finish 2 Timothy 3:16-17 with this part, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
      2. God has given man in black and white all that he needs to know to stand righteous before Him in Christ Jesus, having confidence of heaven, victory over all the devices of every enemy, and to have fellowship with his God. We may be perfect before Him he says. Yet few will take the necessary time to seek Him.
      3. The Bible is sold at the dollar store next to coloring books. We eat fast food meals that cost more than a Bible in the US. Just like the Lord has said, “To whom much is given much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) I mean, what are people going to say at the Judgment? “I’m sorry Lord Game of Thrones was really good this season.” If you had any idea of the reality of heaven, or hell, you wouldn’t be wasting your time playing video games or watching TV and movies. I say that as somebody who struggles with the temptation of entertainment regularly. But the reality of the coming Judgment convicts me of the need to be watchful and instructed in righteousness.
    5. For growth
      1. Peter said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Pet. 2:2) Peter isn’t implying that it’s only new Christians who need the Word of God. New Christians have a zeal for wanting to know God’s Word that can fade over time if they let it. We all need to keep that zeal there. We need to keep the newborn desire for the Word. The results are that we will grow.
    6. For equipping to serve God
      1. In Ephesians 6 we are told about the armor of God. That is, the spiritual equipment that God has given us to do battle on the frontlines of His war. People try to cop out, “God has an army and he’ll fight my battles for me!” Yes, that’s true but don’t forget that you’re a soldier in that army of His. You are supposed to be fighting God’s battles. He’ll put you somewhere that He sees fit, but that’s where you’re supposed to fight and stand.
      2. The only weapon listed in the armor is the Word of God. It’s referred to as “the sword of the Spirit.” Again, we see the connection between the Word of God and the Spirit of God. What good is the shield of faith without the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? You will be able to defend yourself from darts but you will never move forward in the battle for victory. Practically, faith needs an object. We put faith into things or people. God’s Word gives us both: truths to believe, and the person of Jesus Christ to believe on. You need the sword and the shield together.
      3. If you want to be spiritual, be filled with the Word of God. Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) It is the spirit that quickens you, and the Lord has said His words are spirit and life. On the basis of Christ’s own words therefore, I don’t consider someone spiritually minded who doesn’t love the Word of God.
      4. The Word of God is our only true, infallible, spiritual weapon. With it we can be spiritual minded servants of the living God.
    7. For comfort
      1. Paul the Apostle also tells us, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)
      2. We have been given promises directly from God, who cannot lie. When we stand upon His promises we can be at peace in the middle of terrible earthly circumstances. We can be certain of things that are not visibly seen, and of things that have not even happened yet.
      3. We also have the testimonies of men of God who walked before us. Noah and a global judgment, Daniel being cast to lions, the three Hebrews thrown into a furnace, Jeremiah being protected through the judgment of God against Jerusalem, and many who were faithful unto death. The Lord took care of them and protected them until their time to depart. These things were all written for our ability to walk with the same God. We can absolutely learn patience and comfort from the scriptures.
    8. It is necessary to be saved
      1. If you don’t have the Word of God then you don’t have God. We are told, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14) And also, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17)
      2. Men cannot believe on a Savior they have never heard of, and they can’t obey commandments they are not aware of.
      3. If faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God, then we can also say that without the Word of God there is no hearing, and without hearing there is no faith. Where there is no faith then there is no salvation.
      4. Now does this mean that if someone doesn’t have a Bible, such as in persecuted countries like North Korea, that they aren’t true Christians? No, but without a true knowledge of God which comes by His Word they can’t be saved. They have to have heard the truth and kept it in their hearts and minds. As the Apostle John said, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” (1 Jn. 2:24)
      5. I will say this though, I have never read a testimony from a Christian who underwent terrible persecution, tortures, and imprisonments who did not say that they desired a bible more than anything else while in prison. Most survived because they held fast to those passages that they memorized before they were imprisoned. I will say to you, if you were imprisoned tomorrow to be tortured and endure such trials of faith, are you confident of your foundation in the knowledge of Christ to say that you will endure to the end? Sobering: yes. Is it possible: absolutely.
  4. Dangers to be avoided
    1. Allowing a “lens” to be put over our eyes
      1. When you’re young in the Lord it seems to you that almost everyone at a church is a spiritual giant. It’s easy to come under the influence of a well-meaning teacher or preacher who you will learn from. That’s not necessarily wrong, but oftentimes they become your interpreter.
      2. A lens works as something that comes between you and God’s Word. You are taught a certain doctrinal view before you know the scriptures and you accept it. Then, for a long time you don’t even think about examining whether or not it’s true. Many will continue in the exact same doctrine that they received from the person or church that they began their walk with. Even if their doctrine is right, it can do lasting damage to your relationship with the Lord because you never learn to be alone with God. You never learn to “prove all things”.
      3. There came a time in my walk when that was the case with me. I was initially led to an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. I was told very early on that I was “eternally secure”. It took years for the thought to even occur to me that I should examine my doctrine. I began at the first point and studied forward. I had studied at a bible institute and bible college at this point, and I also had read the “deep” works on hermeneutics by some notable teachers today. When I started studying I set aside ALL my presuppositions. I proved every single line of reasoning backwards and forwards with a plain sense scripture text. By doing so I found out the errors that I had assumed were true.
    2. Setting up idols in our hearts
      1. There was an interesting quote from C.S. Lewis. I don’t personally like Lewis because I doubt his testimony of salvation. I have read his works, and I still doubt it by the words from his own mouth. Nevertheless the man was an excellent logical thinker. He said, ““…there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet.” (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, page 273)
      2. Lewis called this type of logical fallacy a “bulverism”. I call it setting up an idol in your heart. It’s something that you’re not willing to part with, and it’s dangerous. It is often a pet sin or doctrine. God has said that to marry a divorced person, while their former spouse is still living, is to commit adultery. Try to find a pulpit that teaches that correctly. God says that if you turn from Christ He will cast you forth as a dead branch to be burned. Try to find a pulpit that teaches that correctly.
      3. Men seek the path of least resistance. What I have asked people more than once when asked about certain things is, “Can God ask too much of you?” God cannot give you a hard commandment really. He can only expose something that you are not willing to part with. That is idolatry. Whether it’s a sin or a false doctrine it can cost you your relationship with the Lord entirely.
      4. We must maintain a humble heart before the Lord. When we approach unto Him we need to come understanding that EVERY thing is on the table. If He asks for it, it’s His to take or change. I’ve been convicted by the Lord in this type of idolatry before. I know that if I had not yielded on the matter that He would’ve quietly withdrawn Himself from me. The scary thing to me is that I believe it has happened to multitudes who continue in the church today. God had put His finger on something and they refused His correction. Subsequently He quietly departed and wrote Ichabod over their life. He is certainly willing to return, if they are willing to humble themselves.
    3. Using men’s wisdom to understand God’s book
      1. You cannot approach the Bible like a textbook. It is the one book in existence that cannot be understood without first knowing its Author.
      2. It’s a spiritual book and it takes a spiritual person to learn it (1 Cor. 2:9-16). God is a Spirit (John 4:24). God has made it so that the wise in this world will mostly reject His ways because it costs them their worldly reputation. Paul the Apostle said himself that there were few wise-men after the flesh, few mighty men, and few noble men after the world’s nobility that were called. (1 Cor. 1:26)
      3. You cannot study your way to a relationship with God. Try all the academia you want. Logic is good, but it’s not the Word of God. Men must first be humbled by the gospel of Christ and the knowledge of sin before they can begin to walk with God. God gives wisdom as He sees fit, but not to men who haven’t humbled themselves before Him.
      4. Be careful about going outside the Word of God to understand God. Be careful about going to men to understand God. Whether they are professors at a university, authors of deep intellectual works, or preachers of notable ministries: they are not God or His Word. Some Christians have walked down the hall of psychology and never came back. It’s very subtle. “I have a mood disorder” “Oh really? God said that He will keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.” I speak from experience on that topic. Be careful. It is very subtle. Stay with the Word of God, and anything that would cause you to say that a single verse of scripture is wrong: reject it entirely.
    4. Exalting spirit above the Word
      1. As in all spiritual topics the pendulum swings to extremes. There are those who are all Word and no Spirit, and there are those who are all Spirit and no Word. You end up being either a Pharisee or a Pagan. Neither is correct, and I’m suspicious of anyone who falls under the banner of either extreme.
      2. The Word of God was written down by men under the direct guidance of the Spirit of God (2 Pet. 1:21). It is the Word of God that is said to be profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17) But it is the Spirit of God that enables us to understand the Word of God.
      3. Jesus said that when the Spirit of Truth came unto the disciples He would teach them yes, but He would also not speak of Himself (John 16:13-14). The Spirit of God always glorifies Jesus Christ. He will not speak of Himself.
      4. Even the manifestation of the Spirit in signs and wonders was said in Mark 16:20 to be only to confirm the Word. It’s also repeated in Acts 14:3 where we read, “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” (Act 14:3) The signs and wonders were a testimony by God the Father unto the Word that the disciples preached.
      5. Let me try to give you an example. Some people say “The Lord told me this”. That’s not necessarily wrong to say, but how do you know it’s the Lord? Usually people will quote from John 10 and say, “His sheep know His voice and another they will not follow.” I don’t detract from that at all. But can you see that the ground for them believing that is the fact that the Word of God told them? They wouldn’t otherwise have an objective fact to defend themselves if that wasn’t the case. But I will say be very careful in these things. When the Lord revealed His Word to Samuel, in the sense of His voice speaking to Him as a prophet, in 1 Samuel 3, Samuel confused it for a physical person’s voice. He didn’t have to guess what was said or interpret it. God spoke that clearly. We don’t see prophets in the OT having to “discern” the Lord’s voice. I know of people who have wandered down this avenue and got away from scripture and now they have received another spirit that they believe is more authoritative that God’s Word. The only spirit that would say that is another spirit. Paul’s words to the Corinthians make clear that it is very easy to be deceived and receive another spirit (2 Cor. 11:3-4). I often find that it is through a contemplative route that people are led astray. “Empty your mind,” they say. “Be still and know,” they say as they rip verses from their context and meaning. All I will say is be careful. I know brethren that exercise spiritual gifts according to the biblical pattern and it never came through that manner.
      6. I’m certainly not trying to take away from seeking spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. We are told to “covet earnestly the best gifts” for the use of edifying the body of Christ. These things are given by God to the body as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). But the Word of God is for every child of God. Be careful to maintain the proper balance, and if I may say so, if you continue to seek the Lord in His Word He’ll keep you balanced.
  5. It must be mixed with faith
    1. Without faith it is impossible to please God
      1. The Word of God does not profit you if you don’t have faith. We are told in Hebrews why the Israelites in the wilderness were overthrown, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb. 4:2)
      2. It is not enough to read the Bible, study it, and memorize it. Its words are not magical incantations that just because you can recite them they will work on you. The Lord looks on the thoughts and intents of the heart. His Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). God is not fooled by outward appearance. The difference when faith is mixed with the Word is seen in trials and temptations as well as in times of ease and prosperity. A believer will live by the Word because they believe its warnings, promises, and wisdom.
      3. God has said that men will give an account for every idle word that they speak (Mat. 12:36). Those that know that verse and place faith in the Word will exercise themselves to guard what they say. They will do it because they heed the warning and believe in the God who spoke it. Also, because they walk by faith in it God is pleased with them.
      4. But if someone knows the verse and doesn’t place their faith in it then they will be swiftly rebuked by the Lord in the judgment. They knew what God had said and did not obey it. (Luke 12:47) It is fearful to think of their end. Hearers but not doers. Consider James’ words:
        1. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (Jas. 1:21-25)
    2. Our faith is in God
      1. God’s Word is an objective record of truth about and from God to man. We need to be careful to not miss the forest because of the trees. There are endless tangents and distractions waiting to catch you if you let them. It is wonderful to study the Word of God: but don’t lose your love for the God who gave His Word. It is Him that your love and affection is directed toward. It is God’s face that you seek. Your faith is in God to do according to those things that He teaches you and promises you in His Word.
      2. Continue in the Word. Let it dwell richly in your hearts. Pray and seek the Lord for understanding, and with patience He’ll teach you.