7540 Lyndon B Johnson Fwy Dallas, TX 75251
In Person Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM Streaming Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM
6401 Parkwood Blvd Frisco, TX 75034
In person Sunday 9 AM Streaming Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM
6400 K Ave Plano, TX 75074
In Person Sunday 9 and 11 AM Streaming Sunday 9 and 11:15 AM
As we continue our series “Can You Relate?”, this week Todd took us through the importance of rightly relating to the Bible. He showed us how it’s not a mess or a moral book, but rather, a treasure. A treasure to relate to like your life depends on it.
How We Relate To God
Good morning. Hello to my friends. We have more online than usual this morning because Fort Worth has a busted water pipe in front of the Ridglea, one of the reasons we're praying that we have our own place over there to help them gather. Keep praying about how you might respond to that. But hello, Plano. Hello, Dallas. We are gathered together, and, Fort Worth, I think you're watching from home.
We're going to try and figure out how to relate. We are in a little series called Can You Relate? We're going to grab a number of different relationships we must have and the key to making those relationships thrive and prosper. Last week, I talked about the most important relationship anybody can have is the relationship with the living God.
The word I gave you that I told you if you think of this when you think of God every time, it's going to bless you, it's going to change your relationship with him… If you think performance, if you think obey, if you think any of those words, your relationship with God is not going to be good. I chose not to use fear, although that's the beginning of wisdom, because it doesn't mean be scared of. It means respect.
The word I chose was good. If when you think of God you don't think of good, abounding lovingkindness, covenant-keeping love, and radical pursuit of you while you were yet a sinner, wanting nothing but to bless you, your relationship with God will be perverted and be not informed by revelation. It'll be a made-up understanding of God perceived by man.
Today, we're going to give you maybe the only thing you might think is not a living thing to have a relationship with, and you'd be wrong. Next week we're going to talk about your relationship with singleness, whether you are currently or have them around you. Then our spouse. I'm going to give you a word for both of those things. Then our children, then our boss and other human relationships.
But this week what I want to do is talk about the importance of your relationship with the Book, the Bible. It is living and active. This is not a dead word. It is alive, and when it is sowed it will not return void. Your perception of this book and the way you deal with it is going to have every effect on your life, and specifically, if you understand that God is good and that he's a loving Father…
A loving Father would not leave children in the dark. He would speak with them and encourage them. There's nothing that pleases me more as a dad than when my children look at me and say, "Dad, what would you do? What do you think about this?" I have a couple of decades on them, and I've learned a few things, and I have walked with the Father longer than they have, so I can help them and point them to things that are good and true.
Before I give you the word that I want you to think of when you think of this book, I'm going to do something today that I've never done before, and I kind of have a hunch I'll never do it again. I'm going to quote Joel Osteen. I don't know Joel personally, but I do know how he begins his messages. Have y'all seen this? It's amazing. It really is.
He goes with every message and he says, "This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I can do what it says I can do. Today, I will be taught the Word of God." He has people who listen to him repeat it back to him or they say it with him. "I boldly confess: my mind is alert, my heart is receptive. I will never be the same. I'm about to receive the incorruptible, indestructible, ever-living seed of the Word of God. I will never be the same. Never, never, never. I will never be the same. In Jesus' name, amen."
My friends, that is an outstanding way to perceive the Word of God. The problem is that people who do that don't often go on to teach it or people who have a perception that this book is somehow special don't go on to obey it. It doesn't matter what you say about this book. If you don't do something with it, it won't do you well.
There was a husband who said to a wife one time, "Sweetie, wouldn't it be amazing if for our anniversary we flew to Israel and made our way down farther south and maybe tried to find Mount Sinai…?" (Which you can't even get to. It's probably in Saudi Arabia. There's a tourist one that's not the real one, but I'll let that go for now.) "…and we stood on Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments?"
His loving wife looked back at him and said, "Sweetie, wouldn't it be better if we just stayed here and obeyed them?" Yes, it would. There are two people in the Scripture that God himself when he walked on earth called a fool, that Jesus said, "That person is a fool." The first one is in Luke, chapter 12. It's a guy who because he had many things and was very comfortable thought his soul could also be at ease.
Jesus said that guy was a fool, because while he arranged his life in such a way that he would find great comfort, he was not in a place that ultimately should have given him rest. I want to say it again. I've said it here many times. People who really are pursuing comfort in this world and all the world offers… We sometimes do it, and we keep achieving and striving for more, because when we have more we also know this really can't be enough.
I like to tell people, as Lord Acton said, the rich are infinitely better off than the poor, because while the poor still think money will buy them happiness, the rich know better. This rich fool didn't, though. He thought he was fine and set up, and he had barns filled with things and was distracted from the pain in his heart by the accumulation of those things and more, and Jesus said, "You fool! This very night your soul will be required of you."
You're a fool if you think there's anything in this world that could ultimately satisfy you. Let's be honest. There's a lot in this world that can anesthetize us from pains of this world, but every night when we lie down we have to go, "Hey, there has to be something more. I know there's somebody I'm going to have to give an account to and, probably, to try and act like he's not there isn't going to work." That person is a fool.
Churches are filled with people who are trying to give lip service to God but still run their own offense. They say God is the source of all peace, but the truth is the source of all peace is all that they are gathering in this world, and it is fleeting and it is foolishness, and giving lip service to God is not going to work.
The second people Jesus calls fools are found in Matthew, chapter 7. They are people who give lip service to God. They would maybe start their own daily devotion by saying, "This is my Bible. It is the incorruptible, indestructible, ever-living seed of the Word of God," and then they listen to it or maybe they don't even teach it or they go out of here having taken all kinds of notes, and they don't do anything with it.
Jesus says you are a fool and you built your life on a foundation of sand not if you never read your Bible but if you read your Bible but don't heed your Bible. That's a fool. The person who has a Bible and doesn't read it has no advantage over those who don't have a Bible, and those who read it and don't apply it commit spiritual abortion, and that is an offense to God. Jesus says you are a fool when you destroy the life within you and you don't respond to it.
We are not to be deluded, or deceived, by being merely hearers who delude ourselves. We must be doers of the Word. In other words, you have to respond to this book. This is an expression of God's kindness. Let me just say this to you really quickly. This book is to be put to work. I love Deuteronomy 32:47. It's when Moses is talking to the nation of Israel. He's about to leave them, and he just says to them, "Listen. This is not an idle word." That word idle means it's not a word that should be dormant in your life. It should go to work.
"Indeed, this is your life." Words of life are here. Don't listen to the zeitgeists, the worldviews and philosophies of the day. Don't try and find insight from otherwise learned, finite men. This is your good, good Father, and he is trying to make it go well with you. It is not an idle word for you. Don't put it aside. Don't let it be there not employed in your life. Let it go to work. Why? Because if you will listen to it, it will prolong your days with joy and gladness, is what is implied. We have to go to work with the Bible and make it happen.
Let me give you a few things that a lot of people think the Bible is and why sometimes we're not enthralled by it. Some of you guys have been around here for a long time, and you know a lot about God's Word, and that's great, but we have folks who come to faith here all the time, and when you first start looking in your Bible, you're like, "Todd, this book is a mess. It makes no sense to me. It's intimidating. I don't know how it's put together. I don't know how to apply it to my life, and I just can't do much with it."
One of the things that delights me is when somebody comes up to me and says, "I've been reading the words of the Father. You know him better than I. You're an older brother. Would you help me understand what Dad meant?" I love that. My kids sometimes… I can hear them. When I say something, they ask each other, "What do you think he meant by that?" The older ones who have been around solve some of the riddles, because you speak to them sometimes in riddles, just like God does to us.
This is what the proverbs are. "The words of the wise and their saying are like riddles," it says in Proverbs 1. Sometimes when you read stuff it's not like God is trying to deceive us; he's just teaching us in creative ways. There are things in here that the Bible says are difficult to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort to their own destruction. I love it when people come to me and say, "I've been reading my good, good Father's Word, and I don't know what this means," or "This seems to contradict this. Help me understand that." I delight in that. I love it, and we want to help you.
Your big takeaway today would be, "I have to get somebody who can teach me to feed myself out of this book." This is not our goal: to have you come every week and take notes and for me to feed you. You will be extremely malnourished if you come and gorge on the Word of God for 45 to 50 minutes with me every week and don't feed yourself. A guy named D.L. Moody, who was a great communicator, would often get together and give a series of messages, and there was a guy one time who said, "Mr. Moody…"
He stood up in the middle of the assembly and said, "Mr. Moody…" He meant to encourage Moody. He said, "These messages, I believe, have been so meaningful in my life that they will, by and large, sustain me the rest of my days." Now as a pastor, you're kind of pleased by that. Right? You're like, "Man, that's encouraging that what I'm saying you think is going to get you going from now until you're home."
Moody just responded and said, "Sir, you may as well go eat a big breakfast tomorrow, so much so that you never have to eat again. That is foolishness." I pray these messages drive you to feast yourself at the Word of God. I have never seen an abiding, fruitful Christian who has not been a personal student of the Word of God. Never seen it. It doesn't happen. You're not to chew my masticated efforts.
If you haven't noticed before, my goal is not that you can take a bunch of notes and spit back out what I have said. When I'm done teaching, my goal is that you would go, "That brother believes there is life for me in the Word, and that guy believes that God is good and wants a relationship with me. He has told me that I can have a relationship with him through Jesus and obedience to his Word. I'm going to go get me some of that. He is an older brother, and other older brothers and sisters around are willing to help me."
If you don't leave here more passionate about the Word of God, I have failed. I don't care what kinds of notes you take. My goal is not to make you come feed at my trough. My goal is to tell you you have a God who is worth knowing and you should diligently pursue him. He is good, and he loves you. This is the Word of God. It is not to be idle in your life. It is not to be eaten at once a week. It is your life.
But the Bible is a mess when you first start reading it, isn't it? You're kind of like, "What in the world do I have here?" Just so you know, it was written by 40 different individuals on several different continents over a period of 10 civilizations and 1,500 years with 3 different languages. You're like, "Are you kidding me?"
Here's what's amazing about this. Even though there are a bunch of different finite human authors, there is one divine Author who worked through finite men to produce infinite revelation, or imperfect men to produce a perfect Word, because if God is there he can do that, and that's the means through which he chose to reveal truth to us.
There is only one problem throughout this book. In fact, if you just get this… If you just asked a bunch of folks, "Hey, why don't you write some story or some record of history? And I'm not going to tell you about anybody else who's going to do it," and we compiled it together, it would just be nonsense, but not so with this book.
Even though most of the authors never met or knew each other, this book has one problem in it: sin and the brokenness of humanity and the fallenness of this world. It has one solution: redemption to the God who created this world. And it has one hero, one star, from beginning to end: Jesus Christ.
When you look at it, it's kind of like, "How does this make sense? How can I put this thing together?" Well, let me tell you this. There are 66 books in the Bible. How to remember that? Well, there was a guy named J.B. Phillips right when I trusted Christ who was an English scholar who actually translated the New Testament into modern English.
The guy who gave that to me said, "I want you to read this, Todd. It's a little bit more simple than the Queen's English. Read this as you get to know more of your God." He told me this. He said the reason Phillips only did the New Testament is he didn't want his Bible to be called the "Phillips 66," because there are 66 books in the Bible. That's how I remember there are 66 books in the Bible.
There are 39 books in the Old Testament; there are 27 in the New. How to remember that? Well, easy. I write down Old Testament. O-L-D is three. T-E-S-T-A-M-E-N-T. Three and nine…39 books in the Old Testament. Now if you know math, 66 minus 39 is 27. That's kind of hard to remember. How many are in the New? Same thing.
How do you remember how many books are in the New Testament? Write it out. N-E-W T-E-S-T-A-M-E-N-T. "Wait, Todd. That's 39 again." Yes, but the New Testament is about discipleship, multiplication: 3 times 9 is 27. There you go. In this mess of a Bible, now you know how many books there are.
Here's the thing. What about those 39 books in the Old Testament? It's January. A lot of folks are reading their Bible again. So what do you do? Well, when you start reading your Bible, you start to find some historical narrative that makes a little bit of sense. "In the beginning…" That's a good place to start a book.
Then it tears through from there, because you don't get too far through Genesis and Exodus, and the story continues historically, and all of a sudden you have this book called Leviticus with a bunch of laws, and then Numbers, and then Deuteronomy, which is really a retelling of what you heard already in Numbers, Exodus, and Leviticus, and it's kind of confusing. Then from there, you bust ahead in some other books.
You hear about the people who are going into the Promised Land. You have Joshua who shows up, and then when Joshua leaves there's no real leader in the land, so people do what they want, and God raises up different deliverers. They're called judges. Then there's a story about this gal who leaves Israel and goes somewhere else, and her sons marry some foreign women, and her sons and her husband die, and then they go back. That's the book of Ruth.
Then we're kind of like, "What in the world is going on? How do I put this thing together?" Well, let me just tell you. What you need to realize is the first five books of the Bible are what Jews call the Torah. Don't get too wrapped up in that. Torah is just Hebrew for law. The first five are called the Pentateuch. They pretty much lay the foundation for the rest of your Bible.
If you want to understand your Bible, you have to understand who God is working through and why he's doing it. You find that in the earliest books of the Bible. God introduces his holiness, he introduces the problem, he introduces the solution, and he tells you there is a star coming. We find out that his name, the one who can take us into the Promised Land, is Jeshua, Joshua, Jesus, and he's going to work through a people to reveal himself.
Let me just have some fun with you. We're at the book of Ruth. It's not hard to remember Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and then, like I said, you have Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Then after that it gets kind of crazy, because you start to go, "What's going on?" Here's how you can remember the next books of the Bible.
Imagine there are two mules. Whenever you get mules you name the two mules, so let's just call the mule Sam. So you have 1 Sam-mule and 2 Sam-mule. Now imagine on the 1 and 2 Sam-mule you have two guys riding on them, and they're kings. So you have 1 and 2 Kings riding 1 and 2 Samuel. They come after.
Imagine the kings are holding a couple of newspapers. What's another word for newspaper? Chronicles. So here's your Bible. You start to work your way through it: 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. And what do boys who sell newspapers yell all the time when they want you to buy them? They go, "Ezra, Ezra, read all about it!" So now you know what's next. It's the book of Ezra.
You want to read what the headline is. The headline is amazing. "Nehemiah has rebuilt the wall in 44 days." So now you're making your way through. After that you want to flip to the personal sections. You're going to find out what's going on in the entertainment world. You find out that Esther was just named queen of Persia, and then you go to the employment section and you go and find yourself a Job. You put all that together.
Why do I do that? It's kind of crazy, kind of silly, but let me just tell you. So many people have no idea how to put their Bible together. Here's what you need to know. I'm serious. If you've never looked at your Bible before, open to the table of contents. If you go from Genesis down to Esther and draw a line, which you should do, and you say, "That is the historical part of the Bible…"
The Bible is not a mess. It's put together. It's chronological, pretty much, Genesis through Esther. After that you have five poetical books. All they are are books that are written with a certain genre. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes… Those five books happened and are written by guys who lived somewhere in the history between Genesis and Esther. Then you have 17 prophets. Seventeen historical, five poetical, and seventeen prophetical.
Almost all of those 17 prophetical books fit in 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. So it doesn't make sense when you're reading these books over here if you don't know what the history is around it. That's what you want to do. You want to understand when you read social commentators… That's what prophets were. They were men who came from God who said, "Let me give you some commentary on what you're doing and why that's not going to work out for you."
You have to understand what they were doing…that's why God said this…and what the application was for them, and then you can take that timeless principle out of their element and put it over here and see if there are parallels in our social context that have application for us. When you read your Bible, the Old Testament is not chronological after the book of Esther. It's not a mess; it's put together very clearly.
You then have 400 to 500 silent years, and then you get to your New Testament. It's put together very simply. You have Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They're what are called the Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic means they see with the same eye. They basically are written to the Jews, to the Romans, and to the Greeks. They're historical narratives that take truths about Jesus and communicate the story of Jesus into basically different cultural contexts. So they are synoptic.
They were men who were either eyewitnesses of or were writing down an eyewitness account, a historical narrative of what happened with Jesus. A number of years later, the fourth gospel, John, was written, which is not told in the exact same way. John had a real purpose in writing his gospel.
He wanted folks to know, "This Jesus you've read about and talked about? He is God. People thought he was God. They killed him because he was God. He claimed to be God, and he was raised from the dead as evidence that he could do what he said he could do because he was who he said he was."
Then you find out that Jesus, because he's not dead but still alive, is going to work through his people like he said, so the Acts of the Spirit of Christ, the book of Acts, comes next. Then you have the letters, most of them written by one servant, one guy Jesus had an interaction with that led him to faith, a guy by the name of Paul.
You have a few other epistles written by different people, James and Peter and Jude, and then you have the book of Revelation, which basically is how Jesus is going to do what he said he was going to do, which is to restore all things and deal with sin, but because he doesn't want to deal with you in that sin class he has offered you redemption. This book is not a mess. It's put together very simply. That's your Bible.
Let me tell you what else this is. This book is not a moral rule book. That's the way most people think of their Bible. "This book is here to tell me if I don't do these things I'm going to get in trouble." When you think of God you think of a policeman, you think of a judge, and you think wrong. He is just, but he is the Father, and he loves you. This book is not a moral rule book. It talks about what is right and good and true, but it doesn't just tell you to not do wrong.
In fact, the way you know you're saved is not because you don't sin but because your heart has changed and because you walk with God. That's who people are who are saved. This is a fact. This whole idea about morality… We say this a lot. "That boy was raised right." Let me just tell you something. Our city is filled with moral people, largely, who are raised right who are headed right to eternal separation from God.
The purpose of Scripture is not to improve your behavior. Behavior modification is not the gospel. It is an offense to the gospel. God isn't looking to have you behave. In fact, most moralists don't claim to be without sin. What they really say is they are without scandal. This Bible says if you keep the whole law yet offend in one point you are a lawbreaker, a sinner, and the wages of one sin is death. The standard of a holy God is holiness.
This book doesn't tell you how to stack up a résumé of righteousness. This book tells you that there is a God who loves you. The reason the world is screwed up and the reason your soul is screwed up is that you come from a line of humans who have said, "We think we can find life apart from you. You're not good, your Word is not true, and disobeying you is not that big a deal. I don't need God." That is sin.
What he doesn't want us to do is to go, "You know what? Our life is screwed up. I'd better start doing what God wants me to do." No. You have to throw yourself at the mercy of this God. This is not a moral rule book. It is a message of love and redemption. This is not a book that man would write if he could. Meaning, this book from beginning to end says man is a liar and God is good. God seeks man; man lies. God rescues men; men harden their hearts.
From beginning to end, this book is very deprecating toward humankind and exalting toward God, and it should make you love him. This is not only not a book a man would write if he could; it's not a book a man could write if he would. What do I mean by that? Thirty-three percent of this book was written prophetically, telling you what is to come.
God says in here, "I will do what only I can do. I'm going to tell you what tomorrow holds." History is prophecy fulfilled. Prophecy is history to come. Count on it. This is the Word of God. It is infallible and it is true and it is enough, and you would do well to pay attention to it. It is not a mess. This is not a moral rule book. This is a book to tell you that God loves you and wants to bless you.
Let me show you one of the earliest times… We're not very far in human history, and what is going to happen is that Moses is going to review a few things. In Deuteronomy, chapter 4… Deuteronomy is this. Think of duet nomos. Nomos is Latin for law. Duet we know is two people singing, so this is the second telling of the law.
That's why you start to see in Deuteronomy a lot of stuff that already showed up in Exodus, Leviticus, and such. Moses is wrapping up his life, so he's telling you again things you need to know. Listen to what he says about the Word of God. This is what you need to hear. "Listen, Israel, to the statutes and judgments I am teaching you so that you may live."
Do you see what the motivation is? "So that you might live and go in and have all that I want you to take possession of." It's a good, good Father. He's not looking to rip you off; he's looking to set you free. I mentioned to you before there's nothing that delights me more than when a kid comes to me and says, "Dad…"
I had a buddy in my community who texted me yesterday, and he said, "Man, you want to talk about making my day? My daughter just came up to me with a list of songs she wants to download from iTunes, but before she bought them she said, 'Dad, would you read over these lyrics? I've already done it. Would you read over them and make sure they're going to be good for my heart as I meditate on them?'" You're like, "Man!"
She knew, "Dad is not trying to rip me off from good music; Dad is trying to make sure my heart isn't influenced by the zeitgeist, by the morality of the day, and I don't want to meditate on anything I shouldn't. I want my heart to be filled with what is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and good, and anything that pulls me away from God wouldn't be that."
I want to go back and make one quick comment. I talk to a lot of guys whose number-one issue is pornography. They can't stop looking at porn, and they go, "Man, I just know God wants me to stop looking at porn." They define their life by saying, "I'm not going to look at porn." The goal of this book is not to change your behavior. Listen to me. The goal of this book is not to say, "Don't lust." The goal of this book is to make you love. It's not "Don't steal." The goal of this book is to have you give.
The goal of this book is that you would become somebody who is actively walking with and pursuing Christ. Here's a fact: sin will keep you from this book or this book will keep you from sin. There are so many guys that what they try to do is say, "I'm not going to look at porn. I'm not going to look at porn. I'm not going to look at porn." This book says, "Flee immorality and pursue righteousness, love, faith, and peace with those who call on God from a pure heart."
I don't know guys who are daily ingesting the Word of God, running with other godly people, prayerfully seeking to abide with him, attentive to the Word, and journaling who are slaves and addicted to porn. I have a lot of guys who are around the Bible a little bit, who have Bibles, who don't want to look at porn, that all they try to do is not look at porn. If you're reading your Word and journaling, you're not going to be struggling with that in the same way.
God doesn't want you to not lust; he wants you to learn to love him. That's how you know you're saved. You don't become a petty moralist who tries to stop things. You become a guy who sees, "This is a good Father. Why wouldn't I want more of him? He's not even angry at me that my flesh is corrupt and longs for those things. I can tell him. He has been tempted in every way as I have been, yet without sin."
You have to run to this book. It's not a mess. It's not a moral rule book. I'll tell you what it is. It's a mirror. James, chapter 1, verses 22-25, says, "But prove yourselves doers of the word…" You're going to find out why. Because he doesn't want you to just be a hearer who deludes himself, who James, the half-brother of Jesus, is writing is a fool; somebody who says, "God is good. His Word gives me life. I know what I should do, but I'm not going to do it. I'll say, 'This is my Bible,' but I'm not going to teach it."
"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror…" This word for man here is not the word anthropos, which is the word for humankind. It is the word male. When men look at a mirror, they just kind of look up there and make sure they're street legal, to quote a friend.
When a woman looks at a mirror… It doesn't say he's like a woman who looks in the mirror, because when a woman looks in a mirror she goes to work. She pulls out a tackle box of face-altering things and just… Because she doesn't like what she sees, and she's going to make it better. This is what the Word of God is. It's a mirror. What you don't want to be is like a man.
"…for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty [the law of freedom] , and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
This book is a blessing, and we're supposed to see… "Why does my life stink? I see why. Because I'm not loving my wife the way God said I should love my wife. I see why. Because I'm not treating money the way I should treat money. I'm making money a god, and I'm not treating it like a servant. Money is my god. It's a lousy god; it's a great servant. I see why." And on and on it goes. "Because I'm trying hard not to sin instead of abiding with my Jesus in every way."
When Moses spoke to them in Deuteronomy, chapter 4, he wraps up that little section in verse 40 by saying, "I want you to know you should keep the statutes which I am giving you today so that it may go well with you…" This is a message of love that a father has for his kids. "…that you might live long in the land which I'm giving to you." "I want life to be a blessing."
That's why in Psalm 1, the entire song to God starts, "How blessed is the man who doesn't listen to the wicked or the scoffers or the sinner but delights himself in the law of the Lord, and on that law he meditates day and night. He'll be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, and he will produce fruit in season. The wicked are not like that. They are like the chaff which the wind drives away," and on and on the psalm goes. It's just saying, "God's Word is good. You want to delight in it."
This is the most valuable thing you could ever come across. It is what philosophers long for: a more sure word from God. This is a treasure. A number of years ago (I think it was 2010), this fellow who is an author… His name is Forrest Fenn. Forrest is a rather eccentric millionaire, and he wrote a novel, and in order to give that novel some publicity, he took a little 10-inch by 10-inch box that weighed 40 pounds and stuffed it with a fortune worth of gold, over a million dollars worth of different trinkets and precious jewels.
He hid it in New Mexico, and he put clues about where it would be in his first novel and his second novel. That'll help your sales. Since then, a number of folks, upwards of 70,000 now, have bought his novels and gone to New Mexico, looking to see where Forrest Fenn hid that treasure, trying to find it, diving in. Spurgeon said, "Men ride stallions when they hunt for gain but snails when they are on the road to heaven."
One of the guys who most recently went looking for that was a pastor, and he's no longer with us. He died. There have been a number of people who have died looking for this treasure. This guy went down there looking for it. There's nothing wrong with running after a fun little treasure if it's just a little getaway, but that guy was serious about it, went after it, and gave his life trying to find it.
Just like a lot of you are coming here to church, and your growth and your appetite for this treasure is a snail's pace, and you are riding a stallion Monday through Friday. You are running hard for silver and gold, and Jesus says if you think that's going to give you comfort, you're a fool. If you listen and you don't eat all week, you're malnourished and you're a fool. This is your treasure. Proverbs 2:1:
"My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then [you're going to see this] ."
You have to dive in. I have never met a serious, prospering, abiding believer who has not been a student of the Word of God. It's not going to happen. You have to be a person who believes this book is what it claims to be: the very words of God that is profitable to teach you how to find life, reprove you when you're finding it in the wrong places, correct you, and train you so that you might be adequate and equipped for every good thing.
This book, my friends, is worth dedicating your life to. When Queen Victoria was queen of England… If you don't know much about Queen Victoria, she came after William Wilberforce, a man who saw the horrors of a way that seems right to men by using their prosperity and their technological advancement to go and take captive other men from another continent and bring them as slaves.
William Wilberforce said, "It is an offense to God that we in England say we love and serve the King and Creator of all men and imprison these other souls." Wilberforce set out to do two things: to abolish the slave trade and to reform the manners in general of Englishmen. He knew the reformation of manners would come the same way the abolition of the slave trade would come: through the exaltation of the Word of God.
His most difficult adversaries were people who sat in churches every single week who were actively seeking treasure on stallions and ships but at a snail's pace applying the Word of God. By the grace of God over 20 years, the Word of God was once again employed in the hearts of leaders as more and more people were awakened to truth, and after Wilberforce, a young lady became queen, Queen Victoria. It was a golden age, if you go back and look at English history.
England was prospering greatly because they were once again living in a way that was going to cause their tree to flourish. An African prince came to England to ask Victoria what the secret to England's greatness was, and she picked up this book and gave it to him and said, "When we walk as God would have us walk, it is the key to everything we need."
If you don't know, a little bit later England left that book again. There was a group of folks who lived there who could not worship God in the way they believed the Scripture would have them to, so in order to keep their faith pure, not tainted by the oppressive ways of the religions of men, they left and sailed to a new England.
These Puritans began to found a different colony, once again on the Word of God. We made the same mistake England made during that little period about how we viewed others and built much of our nation on the slave trade, but by and large, through repentance and great awakenings, America went back and forth paying attention to this book.
Teddy Roosevelt, a president not just over a hundred years ago, said at one point, "A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education." I agree with that. I agree with Samuel Chadwick who said, "No man is uneducated who knows his Bible, and no one is wise who is ignorant of its teachings." In fact, Shakespeare references the Bible 1,300 times. You can't understand Shakespeare unless you understand your Bible.
The Bible is all through literature. It is the book that has influenced civilizations like nothing else, and it influences our lives. Reagan said, "Of the many influences that have shaped the United States…" We're not saying we're a Christian nation, but the thing that influenced the United States. "…into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible."
Now you go back and look at the history of America. We used to do spiritual formation even in public schools. We knew you couldn't be wise and educated unless you knew God's Word, and we had ethic and moral instruction even for people who were moralists. We said, "We're going to have to avoid the scandal of sin if our nation is going to be strong. Not everybody needs to be a believer, but you'd better know this is the way of life."
We took that out of the classroom, and you look from 1963 on, the spike in suicide, the spike in teenage pregnancy, the coming death and abortion of children, and the disruption and breakdown of our society. It's because we don't treasure this book anymore. We are like Joel Osteen. "President, put your hand on the Bible." "Hey, before you testify in our courts of justice, swear to the God of this Bible." We mock it, and we are not prospering.
The way back is to find the Book and to become a student of it. This isn't for somebody else I'm talking; this is for you and me. I'm going to talk about marriage in a few weeks, and when we do, you're going to find that this book, again, is the key. Harvard, which was founded as a theological institution to train pastors on veritas (truth), has lost its way, but it did a study recently about what the number-one determinate is on what could make marriages work.
Guess what they found? People of the Book, people who are pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace, people who are regularly a part of a community of faith and who, according to Harvard, read the Bible and pray the Bible into their lives together… Their marriages stay together to the tune of one out of every 1,287. In other words, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of abiding, God-seeking disciples of Jesus end up having their marriage fall apart.
Now you can say what you want. There's something going on here that it will prolong your marriage and be life to your relationships. This book is a treasure, and you should build your life on it. The truth is only one out of 100 men will read the Bible; 99 will read the Christian. That is why we must be people of the Book. People are going to trust the Christian long before they trust their Christ. God's way is to keep our behavior excellent, not as it's modified but because we walk with him and are attentive to his ways because he's a good, good Father.
They're going to ask, "What is the source?" I have never seen a fruit-bearing Christian who is not a student of the Bible. It just doesn't happen. We need to find the Book one more time. There's a story in the Bible that really captures this. The reason we are where we are as a country… I could take you to so many places in the Scripture. I could take you to 1 Samuel, chapter 3. I could take you to Ezekiel, chapter 7. I could take you to Hosea, chapter 4. I could take you to Micah, chapter 3.
All of those say a lot of the same thing. I'll read you this one in Amos, chapter 8, verses 11-12, when God is talking to the nation of Israel that had been given a book and had put it aside. "'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord God , 'When I will send a famine on the land…'" You're thinking, "Why does God want to punish us that way?" What he's going to say is it's not the famine where you're going to hunger for bread or thirst for water. Rather, there's going to be a famine of the hearing of the words of the Lord.
Because you're not going to have the Word of the Lord… It's around. You have Bibles. You don't read them. You don't pay attention. You go to churches and hear it preached about, but you don't apply it to your life. That was my story. I grew up in a family that went to church. Never once did we talk about God, pray, or read the Bible at home. It was just moralism. It was, "Look, we all are sinners, but don't have a scandal."
That's why 40 percent of abortions happen with people who regularly attend church, because we just don't want the scandal to be public. He said, "What's going to happen is eventually you're going to kind of dumb it all down, and you're going to start to not teach my Word but just have little references to it here and there. You'll stand up, and you'll have large churches full of people who hold it up but don't call people to walk in it."
In our country, even though 70 percent of us identify as Christians, less than 10 percent of us have any attentiveness to the treasure, so people are "staggering from sea to sea from the north even to the east," the Scripture says. They will go to and fro, and they'll seek some knowledge and will not find it, because they don't want to humble themselves before the Word of the Lord.
Isaiah 66 says, "To this one will I look: to him who humbles himself and pays attention to my Word." Folks, this is not an idle word; it's your life. There's a great story in the Old Testament I'll tell you quickly. It's in 2 Kings, chapter 22. He's the greatest king. There was never a better king, it says in the Scripture, before him (that includes David) or one after him. His name is Josiah.
"Josiah was eight years old when he became king…" He was the son of a guy who was a wicked king who only lived for two years. Josiah's grandfather was Manasseh, who for 55 years led Israel into great paganism and idolatry. When Manasseh was out, his boy was king for two years, and the servants of his house said, "We have to kill him."
The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, chapter 10, "Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad…" These people said, "We'd rather have an 8-year-old as king than this pagan fool," so they offed him. Now when you're 8 and you become king, you go, "I don't have a whole lot to offer." Luckily, his mama noticed that it didn't work out well for his pagan, godless daddy, so something about that mama helped Josiah consider a different way.
We find out when we read 2 Chronicles, which is just a retelling of 2 Kings, basically, with a theological perspective, that when he was 16 he came into a personal relationship with God. Four years later at 20, he started to deal with the high places, and then two years after that he decided to reinstitute the worship of God. He had raised money to have the temple redone. That's what Josiah did.
He commissioned money to have the place where people were going to see the holiness of God refurbished. He sent his royal secretary to Hilkiah, the priest, and said, "Get busy." As Hilkiah was cleaning up the temple and making it as it should be based on the orders of the king, they came across a book. They found a book. Hilkiah gave it to the royal secretary of the king, and he read it. He just kept reading it.
Eventually the temple work was done, and he went back to report to the king. He said, "King, the temple is ready now, and by the way, they found a book, and I've been reading it, and you might want to read it too." It was the Pentateuch. It was the Torah. It was the Law that had been lost for about 60 years in paganism. This little boy began to read it. He's still young, and this guy began to read the book.
It says when he read it he was humbled, and he tore his clothes and said, "We are doomed." He said, "I want you to go and find me somebody who can tell me what to do." There was a woman who was a godly woman and a prophet. God always has his remnant. That woman said, "God is pleased with you, Josiah, and because you've humbled yourself before him, ultimate judgment won't come during your reign, but it's going to come."
Josiah could have gone, "Woo! I'm good. I read the book. I found out I'm okay. I humbled myself," but he didn't, because when you read a book and you find words of life and you find grace you go tell the nation, and that's what this boy did, and that's why God loved him. He didn't just have a book where he came and found life. He went and gathered the people and said, "Let me tell you what's here," and he led the nation in a revival.
He got rid of paganism and male prostitution, which was happening in the temple. He tore down the high places, and he called the people to know the goodness of God. He celebrated the freedom God had accomplished, and he told them where they came from and about the exodus. The Passover was reinstituted, and the glory of the lamb whose blood you hide behind was lifted up again, all anticipating the perfect Lamb of God that would take away your and my sins.
When you find life in the Book, you don't just go, "Woo! Good for me." You bring blessing to the nation. When you find the Book is a treasure, you dive in, you read it through, you pray it in, you live it out, and you pass it on. If you are not doing that in community… When you get together, if you're just chatting it up, if you're not saying, "This is what God is teaching me, this treasure this week I have been mining in. Let me tell you how it has affected me this week…"
When someone asks you for counsel, if you don't take them to the Word of God, you are messing up. This book is so accessible a child can wade in it. It is so deep you can spend your entire life studying it and an elephant can drown in it. This week, we were doing some cleaning at our house, and we came across a book. This is a journal. It's a journal of my little 8-year-old king, Camp, when he was actually 7.
We had more fun looking back at how when he was 8, like Josiah, I had him in the Book and said, "Buddy, you've got to read this and look at it," and every day we were in the Proverbs because it's to train young men. Here's a little bit of Camp's journal. On the fourth day of the month he was apparently in Proverbs, chapter 4. In his little 7-year-old handwriting, he writes, "Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding."
That's a quote from Proverbs 4:7. Then there's his little note. "Dear Lord, please help me get wisdom and understanding and help me be a man of righteousness. In your name I pray." Now let me ask you a question. Would you rather have that boy as king or a guy who in his arrogance and in his 20s is using his power to pervert himself and others? Because this boy had a book.
We flip the page. Proverbs 31. It was the thirty-first day of the month. He wrote down, "Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy." He wrote, "Dear Lord, I thank you for my family. Help me stand up for people who are afflicted and needy." Is that hard to do, to read and pray? That's what this boy was doing. You give me that 8-year-old king.
I love this. He was reading Psalm 115 one day. He wrote this down: "Our God is in the heavens. He does as he pleases." So he just illustrated that little bit. "God: 'I want coffee.' Camp: 'Okay, you got it.'" His application that day was God gets what he wants, and somehow he got 45 points that day for something. I'm not sure what.
I love this. He was in Proverbs 23 one day, this little 8-year-old king, and he wrote down, "Now I know why they give me spankings: so I don't die." Proverbs 23:13 says, "Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die." Verse 14: "You shall strike him with the rod and [spare his soul from hell] ." That's what it says. So he said, "Dear Lord, please help me be good so I don't die, and please thank my parents for making sure I don't die."
Like every king, he has a court and there's sometimes trouble in it. Proverbs 25:28: "Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.""Dear Lord, thank you for my family and a book to guide me through all kinds of friendships and make them nice and appropriate. Please help me get along with my brothers, mostly Cade, and help me with my short temper. In your name I pray."
Isn't that great? He realized if he couldn't control himself he was more vulnerable than a city without walls. I love this. This is what I mean about how the Bible can sometimes be confusing. Here's a little boy, and he read Hebrews 4:13, which says, "And no creature is hidden from God's sight. All things are open, are naked and exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." So Camp wrote down, "Cover up. Always cover up when you're naked. You're not invisible even when you're naked."
What this verse is saying is there's no place we go that God doesn't see us, even when you're naked under those sheets. This is what the Scripture says. "The hearts against sinful deeds are not executed quickly. Therefore, the hearts of men among them are given fully to do evil." "It's working out that I'm not obeying God's Word. Let me just keep doing what I'm doing, and I'll be okay." No, you won't. God will not be mocked.
If you don't pay attention to this treasure, if you don't become a student of this Word that is life, it will eventually come back to haunt you. When you think of God's Word, don't think it's a mess. Don't think it's a moral book for behavior modification. It is a message of love from a redeeming King who loves you.
As a little 8-year-old boy, you start making yourself ready to be a king. If you're already a king, tear your robes and go, "I've been leading my wife, my family, I've been using money and my career in a way that seems right to me. I'd better get back to the Book and not just say I love it but dive in it. It's a treasure."
Father, I pray that we would be people of the Book, that we would see our time in it as our greatest reward, that we would be attentive to everything in it, that we'd cry for discernment and lift our voice for understanding, that we would be people who know you love us enough to lead us to life indeed and that we can find it right here in our Bible. Your Word is enough. Make us students of it. Turn our ears from this world, for what it says is untrue, but you're a loving God. Teach us your ways, amen.