JP preaches on the importance of spending time in God's Word. We live in a spiritually impoverished world when we have the Scriptures at our fingertips. The Bible is true, breathed out by God, set in history, trustworthy and reliable, and needed for the growing Christian life. Most of us take the Bible for granted, but you cannot grow as a Christian without getting into His Word. And to read it, you need a text, time, and commitment; a plan and accountability in your life. JP shares that ultimately, being in the Scriptures consistently has transformed his life and will transform yours as well.
Death to Self: the Truest Fruit of All the Disciplines
Baptism: Why You Should Why You Shouldn't and What it's For
The Discipline of the Lord's Supper
True Test of Being a Servant
The Secret Place as the Secret to Christlikeness
The Activity and Attitude of Prayer
The Spiritual Disciplines: Spending Time in God's Word
The Key to Knowing and Serving the God Who Loves You
Todd Wagner: For me, reading the Bible, taking it in through osmosis, meditations… It's not just for yoga anymore. I have a ton of commentaries… I probably have 30 on Nahum alone, and I have competed in probably over 100 Bible drills.
Jason Delph: I'm not sure compete is the right word. Maybe participated?
Todd: Shhh. Shhh. Silence. Competed is the right word. Maybe dominated is a better way to say it.
Moderator: Please recite Genesis 1:1.
Todd: Genesis 1:1. Uhhh… [Nervous laughter] I know this. Umm. Wait. Time out. This caught me off guard. The lights are on me. I didn't know I was going to have to recite that. I thought I was the one judging others. I know Bible. I'm a pastor. Why are you asking me about Bible? I know it. I mean…what, what...? Old Testament or New?
Harrison Ross: I try to read my Bible every day, but I haven't gotten past the whole "Proverb of the Day" thing.
Jenny McCunniff: When people ask me, "What's your hobby?" I tell them, "Reading the Bible." They don't understand, but I really get into it.
Todd: What translation, I guess? What translation do you want?
Moderator: Any translation will do.
Todd: Okay. You're putting me on the spot though, just throwing random verses out. Genesis 1:1. Like someone's going to know that. [Sigh]
[End of Video]
Greetings to you guys. Greetings to those who are tuning in all over the country on Spring Break, traveling and whatnot. My name is JP. If you're just joining us at Watermark, I'm one of the teaching pastors here and get to fill in every now and then. It's good to be with you guys. Thank you.
I was raised in a small town in south Texas. We didn't have a lot of money growing up. My dad was a hard worker. He owned a small business in a small town and did what he could. He's always been a hard worker. He learned that growing up. He was raised in a small farming community about 30 minutes from my town. He was raised very poor.
Your parents tell you these stories and you always kind of wonder… You know, they walked to school, uphill both ways, in the snow, barefoot. You kind of wonder what's true, but with my dad I was able to confirm some of these things through other people who knew him. They grew up in a house without plumbing. He can remember when they installed plumbing.
He and his siblings moved into a barn with a dirt floor. They lived there for several weeks. When they moved out of that barn they killed rattlesnakes in there the next week. That was just one of the stories he told. I would hear stories of him wearing feed sacks to school. He would get chicken feed in a cotton sack, and my grandmother would take it and cut holes in it to make a shirt for him to wear to school. I can't even imagine.
Needless to say, they were very, very, very poor. One thing my grandfather did as a farmer is he slowly acquired land. He would borrow money to purchase land, and then he would produce crops on the land and sell the crops to pay the debt for the land. He slowly acquired this farming land. It was not very valuable land in south Texas. It was very rural; there is not a city near there. He slowly acquired this land so that when he died it went to my grandmother.
When my grandmother died about four and a half years ago she was able to divide up this land between my father and his four siblings, so between her five children. They divided up 500 acres, and each child got a plot of land of about 100 acres. Within two years of her passing four and a half years ago each one of those plots of land struck oil. Crazy. It was incredible.
Here's why I tell you that. It's just the irony… I think back to my grandfather and my great-grandfather, who was really destitute, lived in a shack, was a hermit, never came out, never took baths. It was just a weird… Yeah. I hear all these things, and I knew that all growing up. When we didn't have a lot of money I would just hear about how my dad's family really didn't have money, sometimes not having money to buy food.
But underneath the ground they walked on was an abundance of riches. They had no idea. Can you imagine…? "Hey, we don't have food to eat, but underneath us is an abundance of riches. We don't know how to mine it, and we're completely oblivious that it's even there."
Friends, we…you and I today…are in a spiritual poverty. We are spiritually destitute, but in here there is an abundance of riches, a wealth of knowledge, which is the Word of God from the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and it's right here to be had by all. We need only to dig in, to scratch beneath the surface, to go deep and dig into the abundance of knowledge. We walk around like we're oblivious to it. We take it for granted. That has not been the history of the Bible, that we would take it for granted.
We're moving in this series called inTIMEacy. Blake set us up last week. It's inTIMEacy, because it takes time for the spiritual disciplines. This week is reading and studying the Scriptures. I've really wrestled with God this week. Like, "God, why me? Why would you want me to teach this one?" See, I'm the guy who doesn't like to read. I never liked school. I mean, I loved school, but the classes got in the way. You know, I loved the social elements of school; I hated anything I had to study. I wasn't good at it.
The only thing I was really good at that I liked and enjoyed was art, so when I graduated from high school (just barely) I went to a two-year technical college and studied art there. I managed to graduate from college without ever, in my entire life, reading a book cover to cover. I hate it that much. The words get mixed up. It doesn't make sense. It's hard for me… I'm an audible learner. I've never been good at reading.
Then when I became a Christian it was like the way for me to know God is to read his Word. I'm like, "Why didn't you give it to me some other way, God?" It's always been difficult for me. It's called a spiritual discipline. It felt like I was being disciplined. Okay? I had to pray diligently, "Lord, would you give me a desire to read your Word. Father, would you meet me there and make known to me the things of you by your Spirit through your word?
He has been very faithful to answer that prayer, but it is just recently that I am able to find enjoyment in studying the Scriptures. So this week I just said, "God, why? I don't even like reading," and he, in his subtle way, said, "That's why." I'm like, "Why not Blake? He's smart, and he loves to study the Bible. Todd knows more Bible than anyone I know. Why not Todd?" He said, "That's why."
Some of you love to wake up and read the Scriptures. I'm glad you're here, but I want to talk with the rest of you. The other thousands of you in the room. Those are the folks like me who don't just wake up eager to get in the Word of God. Maybe it feels tedious. I want to talk about getting in God's Word from a guy who, for most of his life, has not enjoyed it and has found it very, very hard. That's what we're covering this morning. Specifically, how we can't take the Bible for granted, how to read it, and then what we benefit from reading it.
I just want you to know why this message is so important. It's because you cannot grow as a Christian without getting into his Word. You can become a Christian through the finished work of Jesus, God, moving into your life, but you cannot grow as a Christian without getting into his Word. Some of us will die spiritual infants because we've been converted, we've been saved by the grace of God, but we've never taken the time to grow in that faith by getting into his words that he has left for us in the Bible.
We're going to be in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. If you have your Bible I hope you'll turn there. Paul wrote this to Timothy, who is a pastor in the church of Ephesus. The book of Ephesians was written to the church in Ephesus. Second Timothy is the last letter Paul wrote, letters that were inspired by God. The Sprit of God is writing this letter through Paul to encourage Timothy. Paul doesn't know this, but to us, we still read the Scripture today as the Holy Scriptures, as the God-breathed Scriptures, as we'll see.
Paul is in prison and is about to die. You've heard about Paul being on house arrest in Rome? That's not this time. Paul is in a dungeon in Rome. Probably a hole. He probably cannot see the light of day. Paul's people had to look very hard to find him so that he could even get this letter out. People did not know where he was.
Persecution has really increased, and he knows he's about to die. In a moment, Nero comes to get Paul. There's no crowd there. The greatest missionary of all time. He walks him outside the prison and cuts off his head, and that's the end of Paul. That's the end. No one even knows where it happened. It was very, very, very uneventful. Why did they do it? Because Paul is writing letters like this. Because Paul is advancing the gospel.
Think of the irony. Paul was a man who persecuted Christians, even killed Christians, and now he's going to be killed because he is a Christian. Do you see how the Spirit of God changes people? Now he is going to be killed because he is a Christian. I'll start in verse 1, just to set up where I'm headed in verse 14. He writes,
"But mark this…""Hey, this is important Timothy." "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be…" Listen. "…lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…"
It sounds like he's reading the Dallas Morning News. He's like, "Hey, in the last days this is what it's going to look like." We're looking around, kind of nervous, like, "Oh, man." "…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God —having a form of godliness…" **He's talking about people with a form of godliness."…but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are… always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth."**
They're studying everything. They want to be so intelligent. They're looking at culture and trying to make their minds smart, but they never come to an understanding of the real and absolute truth. Then he contrasts this with Timothy in verse 14. He says, "But as for you [Timothy] …" But as for you, Watermark. He's going to give the solution for us so we're not like that.
"…continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." Salvation comes through faith in Christ Jesus, but we grow wise in spending time in the Holy Scriptures. They make us wise in the faith we have, wise in the salvation we claim we have.
This is verse 16 and verse 17, which I want you to memorize this week. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." It says all Scripture is God-breathed. So why can't we take the Scriptures for granted? That's the first thing I want to talk about.
1._ Why we can't take the Scriptures for granted._ Let me ask the question. Do we take the Scriptures for granted? Okay. Let me give you some stats. In the US, 85 percent of households own a Bible. There is an average of 4.5 Bibles, so between 4 and 5 Bibles in every US household. Some of us are throwing off that stat. Some of us have 30. We buy one, and whenever we're tired of reading that one we get another one.
The Bible is in Guinness World Records. It's the best-selling nonfiction book of all time. Nonfiction just means factual. Interesting that Guinness acknowledges that. The Bible is indisputably the best-selling book of all time, of any literature. Let me put this in perspective for you.
The Bible has sold over 5 billion copies…5 billion. The second best-seller of any written literature has sold hundreds of millions. It's not the Qur'an. It's probably a book that, in China, was mandated by the government that everyone would purchase. That's most likely what's second on the list. The Bible…5 billion copies sold. This is our book, God's book. It's by far the best-selling… It's been translated in over 3,000 languages.
Technology allows us to have it in our pocket, on our phone. The YouVersion Bible app has recently been downloaded over 100 million times. But do we take it for granted? Listen. About half of Americans, 46 percent, read no more than once or twice a year. An abundance of riches we're walking on and around, and we never dig in.
I would tell you that reading the Scriptures declines in proportion with the moral decay in our society. As reading of the Scriptures declines, so does morality around us. It tells us all Scripture is God-breathed. This is why we can't take it for granted: because Scriptures are the Word of God. Who here doesn't want to hear God speak? I spend so much time with young adults desperate to know the will of God, desperate to hear God. "I just want to hear God. I wish he would just speak to me."
I was on a panel recently. There were some great theologians. I didn't deserve to be there. I know that, and I'm okay with it, but God had me where he wanted me. I got to sit up there with Matt Chandler, Todd Wagner, John Piper, Tullian Tchividjian, and Ben Stewart. They just asked the question, "Does God audibly speak to us today?" I was like, "Oh, man. This is gonna be good. This should be interesting. I'm not going first. Who's going first?"
Matt and Todd shared, and it wasn't as controversial as I thought. Then John Piper just said, "If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible out loud." That was a drop-the-mic moment then walk off the stage. I was like, "That's what I was going to say, too, guys." He said if you read the Bible out loud you'll hear God speak.
It's funny, but it's so true. These are the words of God. He's given us everything we need right here, made known to us by his spirit, the Scripture tells us, but we take it for granted, wanting some writing on a wall or some audible voice in search of direction instead of going into what he has given us.
The Bible was scribed by humans. It was written by people, but it's God-breathed. He did not breathe into it; he breathed it out through them. God breathed it. God did it. God wrote it through them. It wasn't like they were listening and then, "Okay. Slow down, God. Let me write that… Okay." No, that's not what was done. They weren't just scribing the audible voice of God. God wrote it through them. For all Paul knew, he just thought he was writing Timothy a letter, but there are eternal truths in it that would push the church forward.
All Scripture is God-breathed and useful, it says. It is both human and divine, written by humans and completely divine. Do you know anything else that was both fully human and fully divine? Jesus. Jesus was both fully human and completely divine. So are the Scriptures, written by humans and completely divine…the divine, infallible, inerrant Word of God…so we would read it and apply it to our lives.
People tell me sometimes, "I don't believe the Bible." I want you to know something. That is an intellectually ignorant statement when someone says, "I do not believe the Bible." Here's why I can say that. The Bible is 80 percent history. It is deemed by secular historians one of the most accurate historical books we have. What do I mean when I say the Bible is 80 percent history? I mean when it says that person was king, they were king. When it says they were in that land, that land was there. They were king of that land.
When it says those two lands went to battle, that battle happened. Archeology and history today show us that. The Bible is 80 percent history, and most of that history is undisputed. When someone says, "Hey, I don't believe the Bible," that's not really what they're saying. They're saying, "I reject the message of the Bible: salvation through Christ," but to say you do not believe the Bible is an intellectually ignorant statement. The Bible is mostly undisputed history, fact.
A lot of people get hung up on the canon. You know, how did we get the Scriptures? Did men determine the Scriptures? In the first century AD we had the complete Bible. We already had the Hebrew text, the Old Testament text, and then in the first century AD with the writings of the rest of the Scriptures…we know this is the last letter Paul wrote…we had the complete New Testament. It has always been deemed the Bible.
The canon took place at the Council of Rome, which happened in AD 332. This is when they said, "These are the Scriptures." People get hung up on that. This is what you need to know. They did not sit in a room and determine what Scriptures would be in there and what Scriptures would not. The Scriptures were already determined before that. We know that through the writings of father Origen, the writings of Athanasius, the Muratorian fragments that all date prior to the Council of Rome where the canon took place; they just made it official. These are the Scriptures.
It would be just like if we gathered today and said, "Hey, these are the Scriptures." You'd be like, "No duh." That's what they were like. "Hey, no duh. We know." It's just becoming official now. There wasn't a big debate. It wasn't like, "No, not that one, but this one." It was, "Yes. It's official. These are the Scriptures." That's what took place in the canon.
The Bible is not a book; it's 66 books. It's divided with time, BC (before Christ) and AD (anno Domini), Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament Scriptures are mostly Hebrew. There is some Aramaic in there in Daniel and Ezra. The New Testament Scriptures are Greek. So it's written primarily in two languages.
It's written by 40 authors. Some of them were in prisons; some of them were in palaces. Some of them were rich; some of them were poor. Some of them male; some of them female. Some of them married; some of them single. Some of them were shepherds; some of them were kings. One of them was both.
This Bible was written on three continents over 1,600 years, and it has one central truth, this Bible that fits together perfectly like a puzzle: it tells you of God's great love for you, that he came to rescue you through Christ. This Bible tells you where you came from, it tells you how you know him, and it tells you where you're going. This is why we read the Scriptures. This is what it is. It's not a book at all; it is the living Word of God. It's not written in chronological order; it's divided by literary types.
In the Old Testament we see the Law, the first five books; the Prophets; and then the writings. The chronological pieces are repeated. It's almost like you get to the Gospels and he says, "This is really, really important." He repeats it four times, the same story, and then the book of Acts. Those are the historical books of the New Testament. Then you have the epistles or letters), and then you have Revelation, the book of prophesy foretelling what is to come.
Here's why I tell you all of that. It's because people have not always taken the Bible for granted the way we do. In AD 600 the Catholic Church said the Bible could only be produced in Latin. Around this time it was already in 500 languages. They said, "You must destroy all other Bibles. It can only be produced in Latin."
From that time forward people began to give their lives so that you and I could have the Bible in English, starting with John Wycliffe, who took the Latin Bible and scribed it by hand into English. It took 10 months. He had followers who would also do the same. When he died, 44 years after Wycliffe's death the pope had his bones dug up, crushed, and sprinkled into the ocean. He was hated that much for trying to preserve the Bible in English.
Jan Hus was his follower, a disciple of John Wycliffe. Jan Hus continued to distribute the English Bibles. Anyone caught with one would be killed on the spot. This was a death sentence. They took Jan Hus, and they burned him at a stake. They tied him to a stick, they put Wycliffe's Bibles at his feet, and they lit the Bibles on fire.
As he was burning, his last words were that in a hundred years one would come who would bring reform to this. One hundred and two years later Martin Luther nails his Ninety-five Theses to the church door. How about that? One hundred and two years later. This continues. John Collett shows up in St. Paul's Cathedral and begins to preach the Bible in English. People were so desperate to hear the Bible in a language they could understand that 20,000 people flooded the cathedral, and 20,000 more waited outside just to hear it.
People did not take the Bible for granted. They were desperate to have it in a language that could be understood. This continued and continued and continued until Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press. Why? Because he was a Christian. Why? Because he wanted to print the Bible. What was the first book ever printed on the printing press? It was, indeed, the Bible. Johann Gutenberg, being opposed, died a very poor man. People have desperately opposed this book, and others have desperately wanted to read it.
William Tyndale shows up on the scene, and he prints the very first New Testament in English. It's now printed, not scribed. Tyndale is sought after. He has bounty hunters for his head most of his life. He also is captured and burned at the stake. Anybody caught with his book would be killed, but they were still desperate for it. They would smuggle this book into England in bales of hay, in bales of cotton, and in flour sacks.
Before being burned at the stake, Tyndale's last prayer was, "O Lord, open the eyes of the king of England," a prayer that was answered three years later. Henry VIII shows up on the scene. Was he a great man? No, he was not. He was a bad man. He wanted to divorce his wife and sleep with his mistress, but the pope wouldn't let him.
To spite the pope he legalized the English Bible. How about that? God used his sin. He legalized the very book that said he couldn't do what it was he wanted to do. "All things work together for the good of those…" Right? Now the Bible is in English. For about a thousand years you could not own an English Bible, and we take it for granted. People gave their lives so we would have an English Bible.
You have the greatest archeological discovery to date of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946-57 which show the text has been preserved. It has not changed, as our critics wanted to tell us for hundreds of years. The Bible we have today is the most accurate Bible we've ever had other than the original manuscripts. Why? Because we continue to get more manuscripts this continues to get more and more and more accurate to the originals. I should tell you, the story has never changed.
But I want you to know, in 2014 we gather in this place and I teach to you from this Word. Many governments today still ban the distribution and production of the Bible. You can look at this map, and anywhere on that map that is blue the government has banned the distribution and production of the Bible today, 2014. We must not take it for granted, friends.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…" It teaches us about God and how to live for him. It rebukes the wrong attitude and behavior. It corrects our steps and places us back on the path. It trains us, you and me, to be like Jesus, to follow his example.
So how do we read it? If you're like me it may feel difficult. Listen to me. You read it like you're mining for riches. When they showed up to my father's land they didn't just grab a shovel and start digging. They said, "We need a plan." So you read the Bible with a plan. You have to have a plan.
You came in this room, and you either have a plan or you don't, but I pray you would leave here with a plan. To read the Scriptures it takes a plan. What is a plan? A plan is a time, a text, and a commitment, and you also need accountability.
1._ You need a time in your life that you read the Scriptures._ What do I mean by time? Is it the morning? Are you a morning person? Is it the evening? I'm not a morning person, but before I get out of bed I want to read the Bible, because I know it bears fruit in my life. When I say I want to, I don't mean I just have this overwhelming desire to. I mean I know the disciple produces a fruit in my life that is worth however tedious the task is.
2._ You need a text._ What do I mean by that? You can't just grab this book and say, "Okay. Where do I go? All right. Here we go. Second Samuel. No, maybe Luke. No. Zachariah?" You need a text. There are a couple of things. There are 31 proverbs. There are also about 30 days in a month. Today's the ninth. I woke up and read Proverbs 9.
I also follow The Journey. I'm asking you to follow The Journey. If you do not have a plan I'm giving you one right now. I'm asking you tomorrow to wake up and read The Journey with me, with Todd, with the elders, and with our staff here. We all read the same thing, and we can benefit from each other's conversations.
You go to www.jointhejourney.com. You sign up. It comes to your inbox. We're going through Paul's epistles right now. It's fantastic. It's a great little chunk of Scripture. You can read it in about 10 minutes, or you can read it slowly in about 30, or you can read it for 10 and then think about it for 30. It's just a perfect little chunk of Scripture I would encourage you to read.
3._ A plan requires commitment._ You have to have a plan. When I go to the gym… I don't like the gym either. I'm starting to see a pattern in my life. When I go to the gym I kind of walk around, and I'm like, "Oh, bench press. That's interesting. Squat machine. Won't be doing that. Curls." My favorite machine is the water fountain. I spend so much of my time at the gym walking around aimlessly, kind of like, "What do I feel like doing today? Nothing. Okay." You need a plan, and a plan requires a commitment, and…
4._ Commitment requires accountability_. You need other people around you who you're communicating to them what you're reading. So many of you are nodding your heads right now. I'm asking you the question, "Are you daily and weekly having conversations with others in your life that you're communicating to them what you're reading?"
Community had better do this. At a bare minimum you'd better get together as you meet with your community and say, "Hey, what are you guys learning in God's Word?" That should be the first question you ask in community. As you guys gather, say, "Before we go any further, what are you guys learning in God's Word? What's God teaching you?" We need other people asking us about this and what it looks like for us. I would say that accountability is your responsibility.
Let me tell you what this looks like for me. I'm not saying you have to do exactly this. This is just what it looks like for me. I wake up, usually because my iPhone alarm is ringing. I turn over and grab it. I cut off the alarm. I open my email. I push a button, and The Journey pops up. (It's the most user friendly it's ever been.) It opens to ESV.
Some people say not to read the Bible on technology. I'm not one of those people. I say to read it on anything you'll read it on. So I push the button, I read it in the ESV, I stop and I think that the purpose of me reading it is I'm trying to grab one nugget out of there I will think on throughout the day, one piece of information I'll just meditate on. Then I'll turn to the Proverb of the Day. Whatever the date is, I'll turn to that proverb and read that chapter as well. It's the book of wisdom. We could all benefit from wisdom.
I do that before my feet hit the floor. That's just my own little rule. Before my feet get out of bed I want to read the Scriptures. Some of you would say, "Hey, I'd fall back asleep." That's fine. Get up, grab a cup of coffee, and get in a chair. Whatever you need to do. That's just what I do. Then, on Mondays and Fridays I schedule (it's in my calendar) some extended time to go back and reflect on for over an hour the stuff I thought.
This is just my own pattern. This is my plan. Then I email my guys every Friday and tell them what I read. I'm not waiting for them to ask me. Okay? Accountability is your responsibility. I'm not waiting for them to ask me; I proactively email them and say, "Hey, this is what I read this week. This is what I studied."
If I don't email them then they ask me, "Hey, why didn't you email?" I show them every week. If I miss a day I tell them. "Hey, pray for me. This day just got crazy. I wasn't able to spend as much time in God's Word as I wanted to." I ask them for prayer in that. That's what the accountability piece looks like. It's on my shoulders. It's my responsibility.
Now how do you read the Scriptures? That's what we're talking about. You probably have heard observation, interpretation, application. That, in and of itself, is confusing to me. I'm like, "What's an interpretation?" So I've taken that and turned it into three simple questions. These are the questions I ask myself when I read the Scriptures. If this is helpful for you, write these questions in your Bible.
The first question is…What do you see? This is the observation one. As you read the text, at face value what does it say? What do you observe? My friend Garrett went to Dallas Theological Seminary, and his first assignment there was they gave him a verse, Acts 1:8, and said they wanted him to write down 25 observations from that one short verse. He was like, "Twenty-five observations?"
He went home and worked through it, and he wrote down 25 observations. As he got past 20 and closer to 25 it got really hard, really difficult. He did what he could though, and he wrote down 25 observations. He took it to the professor the next day, and he was like…"Boom! Twenty-five observations. I did it. Done." The professor said, "Oh, that's great. Twenty-five more." He went home and wrote 25 more observations from one verse. This is an abundance of riches. You can do deep. Read for depth, not breadth. Dig deep below the surface into it.
The second question is…What does it mean? This is the interpretation. What does it mean? What I'm asking is why the author wrote it. Why did Paul write this letter to Timothy? Where was Paul? He was in prison. Not house arrest; he was in a dungeon in Rome. Why did he write it to Timothy? To encourage Timothy as he leads Ephesus. I'm learning now places and people.
What does Paul and Timothy's relationship look like? What did he say in the text that he was trying to fix in the church of Ephesus? Why was he concerned about Timothy? What was going through Paul's mind? I'm trying to figure out who the people, the place, and the intent are and why he wrote this text. I'm asking those contextual questions, the peripheral questions. I'm trying to get my mind around what happens.
You don't get to determine the intent. This is dangerous. Right now we're talking about sex at The Porch. I get all these emails from young adults that say, "Well, I don't think I need to wait until I'm married. That's an old idea. God understands our culture has changed." That's a cultural worldview. They're taking the Bible and applying it to the culture, so they're reading the Bible through the lens of today's culture. That's not… You don't get to determine the intent. God determines the intent.
God gets to say what he says about divorce, about capital punishment, about how he loves us, about how we should love him, what our discipline should look like, what our time management should look like, how we should work, what kind of employee we should be, what kind of employer we should be, what kind of husband or wife we should be. God gets to determine that and reveal it to us through his Word. When you get creative with the interpretation you start a cult. That's what happens when you get creative with interpretation. You have to determine what the author's intent was.
The last question is simply…What should I do? "Now that I've read it, what should I do? How does this apply to me? Why did God preserve…? What is the eternal truth here? I know Paul had something to say to Timothy in Ephesus, but what does God have to say to me when he says all Scriptures are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. What did he have for me in that verse? How does he want me to apply that to my life? What changes should I make as I read it?"
That's a very important question. What changes should you make as you read it? I love this. In James 1, James, who is Jesus' brother, just says you should read the Bible not like a man looking in the mirror; you should read the Bible like a woman looking in the mirror. Do you understand the difference? Let me explain the difference to you.
When I look in the mirror as a man, I look in the mirror and I'm like, "[Sniffs. Looks up the nose.] No boogers. All right. Let's go." Men look in the mirror just naturally think, "Dang, you look good. All right. Let's go." My wife, on the other hand, looks in the mirror and makes a change. She looks, pauses, fixes, changes. It's an, "Okay. I'm going to change something. I'm looking, I'm seeing something, and I'm changing something." This is what James is saying.
He says, "You read the Bible to make a change. Audit your life against what it is saying and change. Look intently at it." Read it like you're trying to figure out what the eternal God wants for you. "Lean into it. Look beyond the pages deep into it. Mine it for riches," Jesus' brother would tell us. Why? Because the Scripture is preparing us for God's work, the work God has for you in this life. He has some work for you. "…so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Let's talk through before we leave how we benefit from the Bible. We are transformed. As we read the Scriptures we are changed. The Spirit of God changes us through the Word of God. This is incredible. Paul writes this to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 5 he says, "… to make her holy , cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."
We take showers to be physically clean. We bathe in God's Word to be spiritually clean, that daily we would be spiritually clean. There was a grandfather with his grandson, and the grandfather would wake up every morning and read the Word of God. The grandson would see him, and he wanted to be like his grandfather, so he tried. He said, "Grandpa, it's useless. I open this book and I forget everything in it before I close it. When I read it my mind goes elsewhere. What is the point in reading this book?"
The grandfather is putting coal on the fire. He picks up a dirty coal basket and says, "Go and fill this with water." The grandson goes out to the well, fills it with water, and runs back, and all the water runs out. The grandfather says, "You're going to have to be faster than that, son." He goes back to the well, fills it with water again, and hurries back to him, and before he gets to him all the water runs out again.
The son says, "It's useless." The grandfather replies, "I want you to do it again. I believe you can do it. Hurry. Do it as fast as you can." To prove him wrong, the grandson runs back to the well, scoops water in the basket, and runs as fast as he can back to the grandfather. He says, "Grandpa, I told you. It's useless. The water runs out. If you want water I need a bucket. The grandfather says, "You think it's useless. Look in the basket. Do you see how it's changed? Remember, it was dirty and black with coal. Now it's clean."
This is what Paul is saying: the Spirit of God washes us from the inside out when we are devoted to reading it. It is cleansing us. It's the washing with water through the Word, Paul writes. This is my life; this is my story. I was an adulterer and now a devoted husband. I was an abuser of women and now a discipler of two little girls. I was materialistic and now, by the grace of God, generous with his resources. I was a user of people and now a contributor to community.
Why? What happened? How did God take a porn-addicted, alcoholic, sex-addicted drug user and make him someone who would preach the Word of God by his grace. I was cleansed through his Word. First the washing of blood through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the growth through his Scriptures. It changes us. We are transformed.
As you read it you will know the path to take. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." It shows the path to take. This is the verse that's tattooed on Justin Bieber's back. I know that because I saw it in his jail photo. The irony. I just thought, "Justin, if you read that verse and you knew what it said you wouldn't have ended up in jail."
It is the path to take. The Scriptures tell us. You may not always want to. Many times I have not done what this book said, and I regretted it every single time. Many times I have done what this book said, and most of the time it's been extremely difficult and has gone against my own feelings and emotions, and never once have I regretted it. Never once. So we do what it says. It tells us the path to take.
As we read it our foundation of faith will be strong. Jesus says, in Matthew 7, if you read the Word and do what it says you will be like a house built on a stone. When the storms come you will not move. But if you do not read the Word or you read it and you do not do what it says you are like a house built on sand. When the storms come there is going to be a disaster.
So many people are like, "There's a be church and a do church. Are you a be or a do?" It's frustrating to me, because I'm like, "Jesus says DO! We are Christians because God made us Christians. That's his grace moving into our lives, and now he's asked us to do something: that we would read his Word, that we would get in the Word. Jesus says, specifically, not just read it but do what it says, that we would apply it to our lives so there would be change in us and around us, that we would do what it says."
Let me tell you something. You're in a storm or you're preparing for one. Outside these walls there's a storm. You are either in a storm or you're preparing for one. Your only hope, the only thing you can stand on that's true, is the Word of God. Do you know it? You cannot take it for granted any longer.
I think of friends who are immovable objects in the face of adversity. I think of Todd. I think of Blake. I think of our elders here. When cancer comes, when layoffs happen, when people come with these weighty problems and are like, "Hey, we're just going to go for it," or when they lose loved ones, it's not like this emotionless… They're human, you know. But they say, "I can trust God in the midst of this." Not because they're learning to trust God in the moment; they learned to trust God decades ago. Decades in his Word.
When you read it you have the ability to overcome temptation. You can overcome temptation, the Scripture says. We're in a battle, guys. Satan is after you. He wants to kill you. He wants to kill your children. He wants to kill your family. He wants to kill anyone who is a follower of Jesus.
Ephesians 6 says, "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." **Hebrews says it's"…sharper than[a]two-edged sword…"** Do not get in a fight with Satan without a sword. Do you remember what Jesus did when he was accused and tempted by Satan? There he was. He's sitting there and the Accuser comes up and begins to talk to him and tempt him. Jesus responds three times, verbatim, from Deuteronomy.
Some of us haven't even opened Deuteronomy. Jesus, verbatim, speaks from Deuteronomy 6 and Deuteronomy 8. "Satan, take that." God in the flesh responds with the Word of God. When you read it you know God. He's not a stranger. Some of us know of God, but we don't know God. We might not recognize him if he was in front of us because we haven't spent time with him in his Word.
When you read it, in John 10 Jesus says, "My sheep know my voice. They recognize my voice because they've been listening to it." When you read it you grow as a Christian. You grow as a Christian. Psalm 1:2-3: "…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers."
The Word is bread for us. It is as important as food for us. We cannot grow as Christians without it. If you trusted Christ when you were 5 years old but have not spent time in his Word you will die a baby, infant Christian, having never grown in his Word. I don't know if you've ever seen how slow a tree grows.
You take a picture of it, then you take a picture of it a year later and it looks exactly the same. It's a slow growth in his Word. But if you take picture of a seedling and come back 10 years later and take another picture of it you're going to see a massive oak with deep roots, particularly if it's by a stream and is continuing to feed itself. It's a slow growth, but it makes you strong and immovable.
Last Sunday my little girl Presley turned 7 years old. We asked her what she wanted for her birthday. We make a big deal about the Bible in our house. We read the Jesus Storybook Bible at night. Instead of pushing it on them I take the approach and say, "One day you'll be able to read this book. Right now it's bigger than you, so I'll read it to you, this Jesus Storybook Bible with the colorful pictures, but one day you'll get your own."
For her seventh birthday I said, "Babygirl, what do you want?" She said, "Daddy, can I have a Bible? I want a Bible." A proud pastor moment, right? So we go to Mardel's and get the cutest purplish-pinkish Bible we could find. We got "Presley Kate" on it. It was the new reader's version. We wrapped it up, and we called our community together. She got that Bible and was so excited.
That week I bumped into a friend of mine who said, "You know, I remember when I got my first Bible. I read it, highlighted it, and underlined it." I looked at her life, and I said, "That saved you from so much. See, I didn't do that. You doing that…you starting at an early age and reading the Word of God…has spared you from so much." I'm looking at Presley, and I'm like, "That's the best investment we could have made!"
If she will take this in and apply it to her life then she's going to be just fine. When that boy tries to make an advancement on her, I'll kill him, but she's going to be just fine. When she gets laid off, she'll be fine. When that miscarriage happens, or whatever God has for her, she's going to be okay if this is her foundation. She's going to be just fine if she'll take it in.
Guys, there is an abundance of riches around us, but we are like foolish people who think we can't afford to eat when we're walking on a wealth of knowledge. We're spirituality destitute when God's voice is at our fingertips. I want you to know it's not like that everywhere. My friend just got back from China. She said in China if they have a Bible they have to register it with the government, like it's a weapon. In China 100 people will share one Bible. It's like the best day of their life when they get to have the Bible to read it and learn from it. It's a closed country.
We take it for granted. We've got five in our house, and one of them is holding up the kitchen table, or something. Right? We take this book for granted. That's why I'm begging you. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I'm saying, "Hey, don't take this book for granted." This is a video of the underground church getting a box of Bibles. I just want you to watch their excitement and contrast it with ours.
I want to give us time to reflect on that, so I'm just going to pray right now, then the band is going to come up and sing a song. Stay where you are and just reflect, like, "What is my plan this week…time, text, commitment?"
God, we love you. Thank you for the gift of the Bible, the gift of your Scriptures, for the way you've preserved it through the lives of William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Paul, who lost his head because of this book, as well as many others. Help us not to take it for granted. Help us to see it for the wealth of riches that it is, that we would feast on it, that we would dig deep into it.
Help us to apply it to our lives so that we would be transformed into your desires for us, that we would know the path to go, that it would be our sword in the midst of temptation, that we would be able to fight off evil with the incredible truths you have given us. Father, help us to know it. Write it on our hearts through the power of your Spirit. Help us to make it a priority to get into it. Lord, I pray you would take our hearts and speak what is true.
Here's what I propose. You need a time: Tomorrow morning. You need a text: The Journey. Just jump in. Some people are like, "It's not deep enough," and then they leave and don't read anything. That's crazy. Let's jump in. The Journey. If you're on another place, great. Stay there.
You need accountability: Here's what that looks like. If you're on social media, use #inTIMEacy and just let us know what you learned. That way we can click on that link and see and benefit from what everybody else is learning. You'll get to read what I'm reading, what Todd's reading, what Blake's reading, and what the elders here are reading. We can all read that together and all learn the same thing at the same time.
If you struggle with a plan, your time is tomorrow morning, your text is The Journey, and your commitment and your accountability… We'll do that too. I pray you get it in community, but let's do that tomorrow and jump in on this thing, and let's watch. I believe if we all did that this world would change. If just the people in this room became devoted to reading his Word every single day the world would change.
I know I kept you long, but I think it's a really, really important topic and subject to discipline, and I pray we would all do that. Thank you so much. Have a great week of worship.