Episode 1. The Way to God’s Blessing
How many times have you heard, “read your Bible more”? Well? You know you should, but, hey … life is busy. It’s hard to understand. You have enough to deal with … without someone heaping another burden on your back, right?! I know you’ve heard it all before. You should read your Bible more; we […]
How many times have you heard, “read your Bible more”? Well? You know you should, but, hey … life is busy. It’s hard to understand. You have enough to deal with … without someone heaping another burden on your back, right?!
I know you’ve heard it all before. You should read your Bible more; we get that, but for many people, it’s a chore. When you hear the word “Bible”, come on … In your heart of hearts, how do you respond? I know I used to cringe at the idea that anybody can be so narrow, so religiously geeky if that makes sense, as to actually read the Bible. But after I’d been a Christian for a while, you know what? It became a chore. It’s like when I was a kid learning the piano and my parents insisted on me practising at least half an hour every day. Really? A whole half an hour? And that … That’s how so many Christians approach the idea of reading their Bibles. They’re being told so many times, “Read your Bible”, that every time they hear it, it conjures up a sense of duty; a sense of responsibility and labour, and (let’s be honest here) guilt in their minds.
How about you? How do you feel about the Bible that’s gathering dust somewhere in your house? Oh and by the way, if you happen to be someone who does open their Bibles most days (and the research confirms this), you’re one of the very few people in God’s kingdom who does. So for many people, either the Bible has a bad rap as some dreary, boring, fundamentalist thing that narrows your mind and fuels your life with a list of dos and don’ts, or it’s a source of guilt. That’s the majority view – sensational! But what if I told you it’s not meant to be either of those? Have a go at this. Psalm 119:1-3:
Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of the LORD. Happy are those who keep His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart; who also do no wrong, but walk in His ways.
Happy, eh? The original Hebrew word there means either to be happy or to be blessed. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Who doesn’t want to be blessed? So who is it who is happy and blessed? Well, those whose way is blameless; those who walk in the Law of the LORD; those who keep His decrees; those those who seek Him with all their hearts; those who do no wrong, but walk in God’s ways. God’s Law; His decrees; His ways, and that’s what the Bible is all about.
I know what you’re thinking. “Who needs a whole bunch more rules in their lives?” I get that, but the happiness and the blessedness actually come to those who are blameless; those who do right; those who have a clear conscience. God’s Law; God’s decrees; God’s ways … That’s how you get to that place.
Perhaps that’s why God takes His Word so seriously: Because there’s so much good in there for you and me. It strikes me as incredibly sad that so many people who say that they believe in Jesus actually look at God’s Word (the Bible) as an optional extra; as an add-on if you will. The number of times people Email me with this mess in their life or that challenge, this problem or that temptation, this and that, and sure; I can give them answers from God’s Word that’ll speak right into that situation to bring healing or power or wisdom; whatever’s needed, and I do that because God’s Word is packed full of more healing and more power and more wisdom than you or I will ever need in a lifetime, but I often ask these same people, “So, how often do you read your Bible?” On the rare occasion that I get a response, it goes something like this: “Oh, I don’t have time.” That’s the most common one. “Oh, it’s hard to understand.” That’s the second-most common one. “Oh, I don’t think it’s that relevant.” Yeah, that’s the third-most common response.
Let me be blunt here. We behave as though listening to God speak isn’t all that important but then, when people have a problem they can’t solve, they turn to a preacher like me to help them solve the problem from God’s Word. Doesn’t that strike you as just a little crazy? A lot, maybe?
So what does God have to say? Let’s listen to Him. Psalm 119:4-6:
You have commanded Your precepts to be kept diligently. O, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping Your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all Your commandments.
See, keeping God’s precepts isn’t an optional extra; it’s God’s command. There are eight different words used in Psalm 119 for the Word of God, the Bible. One of them is precepts, and the sense of this is that God made us. God knows us. He knows how we should live, so that we’re not put to shame. Shame interrupts our intimacy – our fellowship with God. It takes away the blessings, the happiness, the joy, of living in a relationship with Him the way we were meant to. He doesn’t want that for you. Shame was what drove the first wedge between God and humanity, when Adam and Eve ate of that one tree that they were told not to eat from. Shame is what’s ruining our lives, and much better than asking someone for help in the middle of a problem that’s confounding you is avoiding the problem in the first place. Wouldn’t you agree? God wants the very best for you, because He loves you, and the place to find His very best (honestly) is the Bible.
If shame is something that ruins our lives, then the opposite of that is a good heart; a sound heart; a clear conscience. You know what it’s like. When you do something that you know is wrong, your conscience eats away at you; it just does. God put it there for a reason. It’s that part of us, made as we are in the image of God, that helps us turn our ways back to Him. When our conscience is troubled, it robs us of peace; it robs us of joy, and more often than not, it robs us of sleep, and that’s why living our lives God’s way is the best way. Really.
Most people think (and honestly, this is how I used to think too) that if you become a Christian, you have to live life by a set of rigid rules, and that’s going to narrow your life somehow. It’s going to rob you of being able to do all the things you want to do, but actually, the exact opposite is true. Psalm 119:7-8:
I will praise You with an upright heart when I learn Your righteous ordinances. I will observe Your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
When we discover the right way to live – good, wholesome, pure, gentle, kind, loving, generous, sacrificial, loyal, honest – all the qualities we admire in other people, all of a sudden, we’re living with a clear conscience and that clear conscience is where we discover the freedom that Jesus came to bring us. God describes Himself as our Father. In fact, Jesus used the word Abba, which means daddy, and He’s a good Father – the best. All He wants is the best for you and me, and what I’ve discovered is that there are actually very few things about which He says to us, ‘Don’t do them.’
Go back to Adam and Eve. There were doubtless thousands of fruit-bearing trees n the garden. There was only one of which God said, ‘Don’t eat from this one,’ because He knew it would be bad for them. They would discover the difference between good and evil. Why? How? Because their conscience would convict them of their wrongdoing.
You and I, we know when we’ve done something wrong, and that sense of guilt ruins everything. Every thing. What God wants for you is to be free to worship Him; to live in freedom with an upright heart; with a clear conscience. I will praise You with an upright heart. When? When I learn His right ordinances; when I learn to live in goodness and light, rather than in evil and darkness, and the place where we discover how to do that – the place where we get the knowledge and the wisdom and the power to live for Him – is in the Bible. The amazing love-letter that He’s preserved right down through the ages.