The Word

Study Jesus, b.l.e.s.s., 27 January 2013

Study Jesus

Big Idea:
Study Jesus

Scriptures: Psalm 119


Three weeks ago we began our new year with our new series and annual theme, b.l.e.s.s. We said that we have been blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme throughout history, most prominently in God’s covenant with Abram (Genesis 12:1-3)

Our first week’s challenge was to bless one person.
Week two’s challenge was to spend one hour listening to God.
Last week’s challenge was to eat with a lost person.

These are not one-time challenge, but new rhythms, patterns for the new year, every week. Some would call them spiritual practices or disciplines.

Today’s letter is “S” and it stands for Jesus.

Do you like to study?

When I think of study, my mind jumps back to finals weeks in college, cramming facts and data moments before heading to class, hoping to remember the right formula, date, translation, or concept in order to pass the class. While striving for an “A” was something of a game, the whole thing was rather stressful and usually not meaningful to me. I’ve long ago forgotten the periodic table of the elements, the capital city of every nation in Africa, how to say “administrator” in Spanish, or our ninth vice-president.

For many, Bible study is done similarly. The pastor says to read a chapter a day, so we do it. The goal is to finish. It’s all about the destination.

The challenge this week is not to merely study or even study the Bible, but study Jesus. Study a Person.

Perhaps you remember the story of Steve Jobs’ biography. When Jobs asked Walter Isaacson to write a biography of his life, he said to tell everything—good and bad—so that his children could know their dad. That makes me so sad—that they would need a book to get to know their dad—yet it would be even more tragic if his kids had no interest in reading it!

We have God’s Word to help us know about God, but also to know God. We can study the life and teachings of Jesus in order to ultimately know Him, His heart, and become like Him...because unlike Jobs, Jesus is alive!

The Word of God

We’re going to look at a few verses in Psalm 119. There are two things unique about this chapter. First, it is the longest chapter of the Bible, 176 verses! Second, it is divided up into sections, each beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, from aleph to taw. It begins

[Aleph] Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. (Psalm 119:1-8)

Have you ever read passages like today’s scripture reading and wondered what all the fuss was about? Consider this passage:

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:97-104)

King David loved the Scriptures. He didn’t have a leather-bound copy of the Old and New Testament—obviously since he lived centuries before the advent of Jesus and the New Testament—but he recognized the wisdom of God and was desperate to know it. Oh that all of our political and military leaders—and business and entertainment and education get the idea—would have such a desire to know not only the information contained in the Bible, but its main character, Jesus Christ.

One of the great distinctions between Christianity and most other religions is that we pursue a living person, not merely the teachings of a dead man—or woman. Truth is a Person. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The word “Christian” means “little Christ,” so in order to authentically call yourself a Christian, you must be like Jesus, and in order to be like Jesus you must act like Jesus, and in order to act like Jesus you must know how Jesus acted, and in order to know how Jesus acted you must know the Bible and in order to know the Bible you must study it...not merely read it.

As much as I love the attitude between the old W.W.J.D. bracelets—What Would Jesus Do?—it’s often too late to ask the question. Our lives are filled with split-second decisions and actions that don’t allow time to prepare. If someone cuts me off on the expressway, I don’t have time to pause and reflect upon what Jesus would do (perhaps He would wave!).

The key to living like Jesus is to know Jesus—not just about Him, but actually know Him. The Bible is our primary source—as I mentioned two weeks ago when we talked about listening to God—but we can’t stop there. Many have read the Bible and remained skeptics. There are atheists that have read and even memorized much of the Bible! There is a difference between just reading the Bible and studying Jesus.

Love Letter

I have saved every letter and card that my wife has given me since I met her more than 27 years ago. Every one! Why? They are valuable to me because she is valuable to me. I never read a single word in order to fill my head with facts about her. I read them to know her, her heart, her essence. Her letters and cards were not written like a dictionary or encyclopedia. They are all communication vehicles to enhance our relationship. The same can be said of the Scriptures.

Psalm 119:9-16

[Beth] How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:9-16)

How did David study the heart of God? The goal of David’s study was not information, but transformation.

I often struggle in studying the Bible. For me, it’s almost too familiar. I am tempted to skim through it like I would a children’s book that I’ve read to my kids one hundred times. The reality is, there are new things to glean from the Bible each time I open it. Reading it for knowledge is one thing, but asking the Holy Spirit to speak through it—and for me to be still and listen to it—is something entirely different. Our attitude and approach are critical. Oh that we could all be like David, who wrote

[Gimel] Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalm 119:17-24)

What was the result of David’s pursuit of God? Twice he is called a man after God’s heart. He got it! As he got to know the heart of God, he became more like God. I can tell you three things that are on God’s heart: widows, orphans and strangers.

Many have memorized parts of the Bible, gone to church for decades, pray before every meal, and put a check in the offering, but that doesn’t mean we know the heart of God, much less have the heart of God. When we study Jesus, we discover the heart of God. John wrote

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18)

Jesus, in the incarnation and crucifixion, makes the heart of God known to us.


One of the most beautiful passages about God’s Word is found in the book of Joshua. Moses has just died, the baton has been passed to Joshua, and God gives him leadership instructions including the following:

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

What is God saying here?
  1. Know it and speak it. Keep it in your mouth.
  2. Meditate on it day and night. Keep it in your mind.
  3. Do what it says. Keep it in your actions and life.

  1. Huddle

  1. For the past year, I’ve been beta-testing a discipleship tool called a Huddle with several men, including our elders. At the heart of the gathering are two simple questions:

  1. 1. What has God been saying to you?
  1. What are you going to do about it?

  1. It all starts with knowing Him, with reading about Him, with studying Him.

  1. This Week’s Challenge

  1. Which brings us to this week’s challenge. You already know what it is—study Jesus this week...every week! Engage in God’s Word and invite Jesus to be the center of your life.

  1. For some of you, Jesus is too familiar to you. You’ve spent decades with Him and you almost forget He’s with you. This happens often in marriage—we take our spouse for granted since they’re just always there.

  1. Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you in fresh ways. Seek first His Kingdom, not your own desires. Before your feet hit the ground, lie in bed and say, “Jesus, I want to do today with You. You lead and I will follow. You speak and I will listen and obey.” Spend time every day in God’s Word. The Scio Journal on our Facebook page makes this particularly simple as we read one chapter of the New Testament together each day and then interact. I love what Wayne Cordeiro says, that being in God’s Word each day is like receiving fresh bread. Do you like fresh bread? Jesus is the bread of life and as we sit at His feet, follow His example, and participate in His mission to seek and save the lost and care for the widow, orphan and stranger we will know Him more daily.

  1. Most of you have no problem eating food each day. Make sure there is spiritual food in your daily diet, too. Jesus wants to know you and be known by you. Study Jesus.

  1. Your Word

  1. [Nun] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

  1. Credits: some materials borrowed from Charles Kiser (

  1. You can listen to the podcast here.

Words, 24 July 2011

Big Idea: We are to know the Word, obey the Word, and share the Word.

What is your favorite word? Probably your name. Words are the building blocks of communication. They are the subject of the game Scrabble and its newer rival Words with Friends. Words are powerful. They convey meaning. Words can encourage or destroy, inform or confuse.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (1:19-20)

That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Quick to listen
Slow to speak
Slow to become angry

Let’s go back for a moment and review the context. The previous verses say

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:16-18)

Notice that phrase...

...“word of truth.” The Greek is “logos” and means “word, spoken or written, often with a focus on the content of a communication.” Jesus is referred to as “The Word” in John 1:1 which emphasizes His own deity and the communication of who God is and what He is like.

We have been given the Word, both Jesus Christ and the Bible. God chose to give us new life and the Word.

Followers of Jesus that know Jesus and the Bible are to be...

Quick to listen
Slow to speak
Slow to become angry

When I was writing my message this week, I accidentally wrote

Quick to speak
Slow to listen
Slow to become angry

Unfortunately, that probably describes me more accurately. I love to speak (aren’t you glad!). It has been said, however, that God has given us one mouth and two ears. I’m trying to become a better listener. It’s difficult. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about what I’m going to say next rather than truly listening to the speaker.

We are also to be slow to anger. This is impossible without being filled with the Holy Spirit, something we talked about a few weeks ago. If you missed it, I encourage you to download the podcast because being filled with the Holy Spirit is one of the most vital and yet ignored aspects of following Jesus. We need to confess our sins, get rid of the junk in our lives, and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us. That’s exactly what the next verse says...

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (1:19-21)

Is there any moral filth or evil in your life? Get rid of it!

Last week I mentioned my (weed) garden. Before I could plant my garden, I had to first remove all of the weeds from last year. I rototilled the soil and then planted seeds.

What is in the garden of your mind? Fox News? Facebook? Gossip? Lust? Or the Word?

Let me be very frank: if you are not filling your mind with the Word, it’s sin!

Last week I said there were sins of commission that we commit and sins of omission when we ignore things. You cannot follow Jesus if you don’t know Him. You can’t obey God’s Word if you don’t know what it says.

We have more resources and opportunities to fill our minds with God’s Word than ever before. People in other countries smuggle pages of the Bible, risking their own lives, in order to read it. We can listen to it in our cars, read it on our phones, buy countless translations and study editions, and even watch much of it on film.

If you spend any time online, I urge you to download the free
YouVersion app or bookmark on your computer. It’s a totally free resource where you can both read and listen to the Bible, post notes, interact with others, and view various reading plans. I’m reading through the Bible this year with the Life Journal reading plan. I begin most every day using my iPad to read the Bible before I even get out of bed. It’s a great way to start the day!

Perhaps you’ve tried to read the Bible and found it to be boring or difficult to understand. If so, a reading plan is great, especially one that takes you through both the Old and New Testament each day. I often find that out of the four or five chapters I read each day, if one or two are less than exciting, inevitably one or two will be timely and powerful. For daily reading, I’m using the New Living Translation and love it.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. (1:22-25)

Did you catch that? Don’t just read the Bible, do what it says.

I’ve met people that love to study the Bible, but they never apply it. That’s like a soldier who spends all day polishing his gun collection but never goes into battle. There are many so-called Bible scholars that are atheists! They completely miss the point! They are educated, but not transformed. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were like that. Their brain was filled, but it never reached their heart.

Watching workout videos won’t help you lose weight!

Most of us are educated far beyond our level of obedience.

A common complaint to pastors is that they want deeper teaching. Deep teaching means I want you to confuse me so I don’t have to do anything about it! Mark Twain famously said, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Jesus said

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

They both heard the same word but had different outcomes.

Listen to this!

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47-48)

We’re judged by what we do, not what we know (the opposite of most schools!).

James concludes...

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:26-27)

A few years ago I was talking with a man who told me that he was not into organized religion. I told him that I hated organized religion! He was surprised and said, “But I thought you were a pastor.” I explained that I follow Jesus, not a religion. I know Jesus through prayer and the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Religion is man’s attempt to know God, but Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion. He came to foster a relationship, to give us freedom and real life, and to establish His Kingdom. He has sent us on a mission to be His hands and feet, serving orphans and widows and the poor and needy. He wants us fully engaged in the world, but so filled with the Word that it transforms the world rather than the world polluting us.

It grieves me when I see Christianity reduced to information without transformation. We need information, but it most not stop with information. We need application which then leads to transformation.

We were created to know God, not merely know about God. Jesus Christ is the Word. Do you know Him? He gave Himself and also the Bible. Let’s get into the Word. Let’s let the Word get into us. Finally, let’s practice true religion and get the Word into the world, our broken world that is desperately in need of faith, hope, and love.

You can listen to the podcast here.