Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Benefiting From The Bible

If you asked the average Christian which book means the most to them out of every book they have ever read or owned, I believe most would say the Bible.  But although we talk about the Bible a lot, I wonder how many Christians are literally benefiting from it in a real and practical way on a regular basis. We don't get the benefits of God's Word by setting a Bible on the coffee table. Carrying your Bible to church every Sunday will not give you some kind of magical blessing from God. There is a process, some prerequisites if you will, which will ensure that you will receive the benefits that God wants to provide through His Word.

In Psalm 119:161-176 we see the progress of a man's relationship with the Word of God which ultimately culminated in great personal benefit. These progressive steps actually form a cycle which can keep itself going indefinitely. Some spiritual cycles in life are negative, like a rut. For example, the cycle found in the book of Judges as the Children of Israel constantly went from sin to servitude to supplication to salvation...and back to sin again. But the cycle in Psalm 119 is not a negative one. It is an extremely positive and helpful cycle which will keep the benefits of God's Holy Word flowing into a person's life.

1. Assessment

The first prerequisite to receiving benefit from the Bible is that one must have a proper assessment of it. If you do not consider the Bible to in fact be God's Word, if you do not value it highly, and stand in awe of it's truth and power, then you will never be helped by it. Notice what the Psalmist said in verses 161-162.

" heart standeth in awe of thy word. I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil."

To recognize the intrinsic value of God's Word is without a doubt step number one towards receiving benefit from it. When you consider the Bible, does your heart skip a beat? Does your heart stand in awe?  Awe is defined as "fear mingled with admiration or reverence". We should stand in awe of God's Word because the Word of God is eternal (Psalm 119:89). It has always been and always will be. It is settled and unshakeable. The philosophies of man come and go, but God's Word is here to stay. It was by the Word of God that the heavens and the earth were spoken into existence, and it is by God's Word that they are kept and preserved unto judgment (II Peter 3:5-7). The Word of God is a hammer, which can break man's hard heart into pieces, and is a fire which can thaw a heart frozen with unbelief (Jeremiah 23:29). It is sharper than any two-edged sword and can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God can stop Satan's advances (Matthew 4:1-11). But not only is the Word of God powerful, it is also precious. It can calm the fearful soul and cheer the sad heart (Psalm 23). It is sweeter than honey and more to be desired than much fine gold (Psalm 19:10).

When one is standing in awe of God's Word, and recognizing the amazing treasure that they hold in their hands, that person is well on his way to getting some real benefit from the Bible.

2. Affection

The second prerequisite to receiving benefit from the Bible is to love it. It is a very logical progression to say that assessment leads to affection. People are affectionate towards that which they have assessed to be of great value. You would not love and cherish a piece of trash that you found on the side of the road, but you would certainly love and cherish an old photograph of your grandparents or some other family heirloom. What makes the difference? The assessment. When something is perceived to be very valuable, it is only natural to love and honor that object. Again, notice the words of the Psalmist in verses 163 and 167.

"...thy law do I love. My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly."

Love is predominantly shown by the giving of time. If a person says they love the Bible but never reads it, would you believe them? What about a person who never wants to study the Bible, listen to God's Word preached, or memorize a verse? That kind of love is not a very convincing love. When we truly love someone, we will desire to spend time with them. Not as little as we can possibly get away with, but every last moment we can possibly squeeze in. It is the same with the Word of God. Those who love it will want to be in its presence as much as possible (Psalm 119:97). When it is preached, they will want to hear it. When there are no preaching services, they will still set aside time to read it on their own. And since they cannot literally carry their Bible everywhere they go in life, they will want to hide it in their heart through memorization so they will never be without it.

3. Acquiescence

The third prerequisite follows the first two very closely and naturally. When a person holds the Scripture in high regard, that will naturally lead them to love it. And when a person loves the Scripture, they will obey it. Notice the progression unfolding in verses 166-168.

"LORD, I have...done thy commandments. My soul hath kept thy testimonies...I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies."

Jesus himself said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Just as it is natural to love someone you hold in high regard, it is also natural to obey that person you love. If a child is constantly disobeying everything his parents tell him to do, he is going to have a hard time convincing them that he truly loves them. When you truly love someone, your aim is to please them, and obedience pleases God most of all.

4. Advantage

Once these three prerequisites have been fulfilled (esteeming the Bible highly, loving the Bible, and obeying the Bible) then a person will begin to see the benefits that the Bible will bring. Look at verses 169, 170, and 173.

"...give me understanding according to thy word...deliver me according to thy word...Let thine hand help me..."

Have you ever been in over your head and felt in desperate need of some spiritual understanding? Have you ever felt like there was no way out of a certain situation or circumstance apart from God's miraculous deliverance? Have you ever needed help? God's design is that His Word would provide understanding when we are stumped. God's plan is that His laws and precepts would spiritually deliver us from all manner of snares and entrapments. God's purpose is that the Bible would literally be a help to His children on a daily basis. Every need that we have can be supplied through His marvelous and matchless Word (Psalm 19:7-9). Sadly, for many Christians the Bible is nothing more than a religious relic that takes up space on a shelf, but God wants it to be so much more than that to us.

So let's recap this cycle for a moment.
If a person will first give the Bible a proper assessment, it will soon lead to affection. Affection will lead to acquiescence, and acquiescence will lead to advantage.

And now we will see the most beautiful part of this cycle: Advantage leads back to where we started -  Assessment! When we are personally benefiting from the Word of God, it will cause us to esteem the Bible highly once again. The advantage that His Word provides will bring us full circle back to assessment where the process will start all over again!

It is a wonderful thing to watch the first complete revolution of this cycle in the life of a new believer. Because of his new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit, a new believer should have a reverence for the Bible. As he stands in awe of the wisdom of the Bible, he will love it and spend time reading it and listening to the preaching of God's Word. As he obeys what he has heard and read, he will see the Bible begin to come alive, giving him understanding, delivering and helping him with various issues in his life. Suddenly he says, "This is amazing! How did I ever survive without the Word of God? I want more!" At this point, the cycle has gone around once, and his spiritual journey is well under way.

Once a Christian gets into the habit of regularly reading and obeying the Bible, he may make multiple revolutions of the cycle each week. In fact, just like when a bicycle picks up speed you cannot make out the individual spokes of the wheel, so also when a Christian develops a strong relationship with the Word of God the "spokes" of this cycle will all blur together. It will be hard to identify which came first between the assessment, the affection, the acquiescence, and the advantage. But such a Christian will know for sure that the wheel is properly turning when he sees all of the components of the cycle showing up in his daily life.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! I'll be looking for good sermon material in just a few more weeks, and this seems like a good option. :)