Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The Word of God P21 (03-24-21)
How do you respond to the word of God? As you read the word, from those who are eyewitnesses of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, or had an encounter with the risen Savior, how do you respond? Are they just words on a page? You can know what they say, but do you know what they mean? Do you know they are truly words from the living God? Who can make the word of God come alive to you as to its meaning, a meaning that transforms hearts and lives?
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Unless a man is born again he cannot discern the things of God. To the natural man, the words of the bible sound like foolishness to him. Not so with the believer. He hears the words of the bible as to what they really are, words from the living God. The Spirit of God is living in Him, and so he has the mind of Christ, who interprets the meaning to him. So now he can begin to walk in the new life God has given him, a life that is to be walked in a personal relationship with the living God. God perfectly loves you and me and has provided everything we truly need for life and godliness. Are you in Him? Then you have that life to be lived in you and through you.
So now as we move on to this next lesson, how did people respond to the message of the apostle’s teaching? Certainly there were two kinds of people. Those who believed his message, and when they heard the message they recognized it as from God, and not of human origin, as God opens up their understanding and so they become born again, believing what was said in regard to what God provided through His Son, Jesus Christ. They identified with their death with Christ so they can identify also with His resurrected life in them and so have entered into that new life with Christ.
Christ Jesus freely gave Himself to us. He gave His life for us to give it to us to live it through us. That is a total act of the grace of God. Of course, sadly, there are others, contrary to God’s desire that none should perish and all come to repentance, who simply refused to believe the message, for their hearts were hard and so would not accept what the apostles said as being true.
We are created in such a way by God as to have free will. We can choose life or remain in death, separated from God forever. But my desire is that by looking at the evidence, what eyewitnesses, the apostles, have said, so you will see the clear logic of the gospel, the truth recorded down for us, from those who have been with Christ Jesus, whom the Spirit brought to their remembrance, whose words were confirmed as being from God by signs performed through them, that you might believe. By looking at the responses of men who did believe their message, that indeed they said it was the word of God when they believed, so that now you have more evidence that indeed these scriptures are indeed the word of God, because of the evidence of changed lives. These men were full of joy in the midst of all kinds of trials and tribulations, hanging onto a better hope laid out in the gospel, that the world does not understand.
It is exciting to go through this series on A Closer Look at the Word of God. We are now in chapter 7, The Response to the Apostle’s Teaching. We talked about the word of God as it was given to the apostles.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Now, we will talk about the response. That is an important thing to keep in mind when we are going through any kind of teaching. Is there a cause and an effect? When Christ was here, and He taught there was a response to His teaching. If there is not any response then somebody just did not hear anything. It seems you have to respond in one way or another. If you are going to be listening to teaching you are going to be responding. In your heart, you will say that sounds true. Or you will say, “I do not agree with that. I learned something different.”
In the final analysis, the important thing in the word of God, is that without the Spirit of God living in us teaching us what something means, we are not going to know what it means. What scripture means has to be taught to you by the word of God.
There are many bibles that are out and many study courses out there and various bible studies, and people will go to great lengths to learn the original languages of the New Testament, which was written in Greek. They will go to great lengths to learn the original language of the Old Testament, which was written in the Hebrew language. People will go to great lengths to study those types of things, and nothing wrong doing that. If people did not study the Greek and Hebrew texts, we would not have a translation today. Thank God someone went back and looked at the original languages and translated them. But a translation is merely translating what something says. It is not even the job of a translator to translate what it means. It is merely to get words as to what it says in a language and getting it into another language that you are translating it into. All true translations of the bible have come from a student of the original languages, taking the only manuscript and then translating it into a different language. To translate into Chinese, it requires someone knowing both Hebrew and Chinese forward and backward. The same also with Greek. As an example, a paraphrase like your Living Bible and the Good News Bible, people have not gone back to the original language, they just read into the language they are looking at. In America, you are looking into English. You are paraphrasing that English translation. A translation is taking it off of the original language.
Even with all of that, with all of the study guides, you can study the maps, the historical content and all the things you want to. And all that is good. There is nothing wrong with that. When talking about things to do, the more you can learn the better, but even with all of that, in the final analysis, for you to know what that passage in the word of God means, you are going to have to let the Spirit of God teach you.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”[Isaiah 64:4] – the things God has prepared for those who love him –
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
When you are thinking about those things that God has prepared, freely given, to those who love Him, now you are talking about the grace of God. When you are dealing with the grace of God, you are talking about those things He has freely given us. Christ Jesus freely gave Himself to us. He gave His life for us to give it to us to live it through us. That is a total act of the grace of God. For you and me to understand the grace of God, we are going to have to be in a situation of depending upon the Spirit of God living in you to reveal to you what it means.
1 Corinthians 2:14
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”[Isaiah 40:13]
But we have the mind of Christ.
Natural man cannot understand spiritual things. It is foolish to him. But we, who are in Christ, discern all things because we literally have the mind of Christ living in us. Natural man can read the bible and tell you what it says but that does not mean he knows what it means. At a book sellers convention in Atlanta, Charlton Heston was there. He was there reading out of the bible. I am sure he did a marvelous job. An actor can read out of the bible. An actor can tell you what the bible says. An actor can play a part so convincingly that you think he is Moses, but he isn’t. But an actor, whether he knows what it means or not, that is totally dependent on whether he is born again and, therefore, with the capacity of God to know what it means.
With that introduction, we will now look at what the bible says and your response to it. In this particular case, it is the response of those who were listening to the apostles.
Turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
So the apostle Paul was saying this. Did they hear the word of God? Yes. Who did they hear it from? From us. So they heard it from the apostle Paul and whoever was traveling with him. So it could have been Luke and possibly Barnabus as well. So you heard the word of God from us. And Paul said he received his revelation directly from Christ Jesus. And when you heard it, you did not just accept them as words coming from a man. There was no human wisdom coming from this. You are accepting what we were saying as it literally is, as the word of God. The interesting thing about that is that when the word of God is received and accepted and applied, or believed or depended upon, then the word of God says it is going to be at work in you who believe.
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose
If God is living in you, His word is living in you. There again, that is the case that what you know in your mind, and you have yielded to it and believed it, until it is not just I think this is what it is. There is knowledge. I know in whom I have believed. I am persuaded he is able to complete what He began in me. I know that. That changes your mind. It changes your emotions, your will and your behavior.
2 Timothy 1:11-13
11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
The problem, in many instances, in Christianity today, is we are out there trying to get people’s behavior changed before we get their mind changed. That is the reverse of the process. As a man thinks, so is he. That is why we are studying the word of God.
7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he
When you stop to think of these statistics that are given today. As an example, the one I heard is that by the time a young person reaches 18 years of age, they have looked at 21,000 hours of television. When you think of the amount of television that is in the homes today and the absorption with that, it is amazing to me when you stop to think of those numbers, that is an awful lot of observing. You compare that to the amount of hours a day that we feed upon the truth of the word of God.
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I would certainly say that even in my own case that would be the case, a number of hours a day that I spend in other activities in comparison to reading the word of God and meditating upon it. I am afraid, sometimes, that it falls far short than it should. Not legalistically but just for my own benefit. On the other hand, I also know that because of the number of years of being in Christ, a whole lot of the word of God is already in my heart. It is memorized and there as a part of my life. To meditate upon the word does not necessarily mean sitting there reading your bible. Otherwise, what would you do before you had one? Once it is in your mind and it is there, you have truth to meditate upon and the truth of God and it changes your life.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
But what we have today is a substitute, of course, for all the wisdom of the world we get through the media, which is foolishness to God and people substitute that for the things of God. Even people who are observing human behavior in the psychological profession, who can certainly observe observable data, but the solutions are certainly a different matter altogether.
1 Corinthians 1:19-21
19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[Isaiah 29:14]
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
But anyone who wants to take time to record information can record observable data, anyone who knows anything about anything, will know that negative input into your mind will produce negative thinking and a negative reaction. Violent input constantly into your mind is going to produce violent thoughts. Violent thoughts can produce violent action.
Every place we look in our generation is sexual innuendos. All of these advertisements are around a sexual innuendo, such as billboards with sexual innuendos. Every place you look it is sex, especially as it relates to women with very little on. If we think that staring at that, especially from that of a man, and watching that is not going to affect our behavior and affect our thought life, we are just negating the truth. We are refusing to believe the truth. That is why people coming up and saying pornography cannot hurt. If pornography cannot hurt you, then please do not say good literature can help you or you just negated either one of those two. I think any one of us knows that good literature and truth is going to do something as different in our human personality than reading a bunch of lies and garbage.
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
As a German professor said one time, “Garbage in, garbage out”. That is what certainly takes place. The more garbage in the mind, the more there is to come out. When you stop to think of that 21,000 hours, in comparison to say a person would go to church every Sunday of his life, how long is the message in the average church? About half an hour. So you are talking about, at the very most, the amount of time is about 2 hours of input and that is if you are listening and not sleeping. If you progress that out into a normal lifetime, by the time you have reached 18 years of age, you might have a 100 hours compared to 21,000 hours.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
When you stop to think, we wonder why we are in such sad shape. It is not hard to figure out. So what we are talking about is not from a legalistic standpoint. This feeding upon the word of God is not even more legalistically construed as such as eating food. When you go home for dinner, you do not say this is legalistic. I have to eat. You are hungry and if you do not you will die. It is the same thing with the word of God. This is spiritual food. Our lack of input will make us malnutritious. We have to realize spiritually we are malnourished. Let us compare our lifestyle up against the early believers.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
That was daily teaching. They devoted themselves daily to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Turn to Acts 2:46-47.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It is an interesting thing, isn’t it, that you see something taking place here as believers assembled themselves together for fellowship, for prayer and for daily the apostles’ teaching? The by-product of listening to that teaching is that the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved. We continually think that evangelism has to be done in the name of evangelism. In other words, we have big evangelistic crusades. Again, nothing wrong with that and thank God for them. Many people have come to Christ in evangelistic crusades. But the matter of fact is evangelism will also take place, and probably even in a more healthy setting with believers assembling themselves together. Inviting people in to explore the word of God together, and there find out who Christ is and who they are and come to the Lord.
I was listening to a radio program the other day and it was talking about how we need to get out and reach more of the lost. I look at that and say, “Yes, that is a true thing”. But what concerns me is the condition of the saved. I can remember a man I respected very much one time. He said, “If I had to make a choice, and thank God I do not, between leading someone to Christ and building someone up in their relationship with Christ, I would do the latter rather than the former. If I build up a person in Christ, in a very short time there will be two of us sharing Jesus instead of just one.” That is a true thing.
I think today of the condition of many Christians who are living in defeat. How many times have we heard on this radio broadcast and how many times that I think of it myself, in my early years as a Christian, until I understood my identity in Christ, how many times has it entered my mind, that I know I should witness and what am I going to do? Come to Jesus so you can be miserable like me. Come to Jesus so you can still be struggling with life the way I am. It really does not provide much motivation.
So what you do not really see many times is a victory. When talking about a victory, I am not talking about sinless perfection. I am talking about living above your circumstances rather than under your circumstances. Like a person asked one time, “How are you doing?” “Under the circumstance”. So I said, “What are you doing down there? God did not call us to live under circumstances but to live above them.”
That is not just religious talk. Living above circumstances is realizing we have God who is so faithful to us and loves us so much and in that love, He is going to do what is necessary to do, first of all, to show us the immensity of His provision and His love for us. Then, if we are still walking in an attitude that is contrary to Him in some areas of our lives then I believe that is where the Lord will allow the world, by lifting His hands off, to allow the world to get a hold of you. But in that getting a hold of you, going back again to the faithfulness of God, and that is what makes a new person out of us. If we will learn that this input, this constant input of the word of God, of how important that is for the mentality, and to be able to walk in normality of life, how important that is.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
I do not believe he is talking about walking around imitating people. What is he talking about being imitators of us and the Lord? In the midst of suffering and trials, in the midst of tribulation, he said that you welcomed the message of truth with joy that was given by the Holy Spirit. I believe that that is what he is talking about. When you are talking about the imitation of the early Christians, that is imitating those who have gone before us, is imitating that truth, that in the midst of trials and tribulations, the word of God is not only welcomed, the word of God is what will bring peace to a suffering soul.
When talking about the place the word of God in you lives, it is more than something to be learned for the sake of learning something. The word of God is what brings life to us, what brings peace to our hearts, in the midst of trials and tribulations of life. The tribulations that come our way and certainly they come to each and every person who is in Christ Jesus. So it is interesting, though, how people respond to the word of God. I would like to go back to Acts 16:32-34 where Paul was speaking to the jailor.
32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.
How many times does that kind of thing happen? When I see the progression of that, I cannot tell you the number of times I hear how a man comes to know the Lord and then goes back and begins to communicate those truths to his family and sees his wife come to know the Lord and then the children come to know the Lord. I believe that is the pattern of things. I am so thankful to God for the ministry He has given us here with People to People Ministries. A large percentage that respond to our ministry are men. When we have conferences 65% of people who come are men. We do not intentionally try to focus toward men but it is a message that I believe that automatically reaches the heart of a man because it is extremely logical.
The gospel is the most logical message to me on the face of the earth. The logic of that type of thing appeals to man’s mind. It is more logical than it is emotional, whereby a woman thinks more toward feelings. A man thinks toward more sheer, and sometimes a cold, logic. Both of those things are needed. That is why man and wife are together. The subjective and the objective thinking are necessary. Any one of those out of balance and you are out of balance. When the two of them become one and are able to have an informal unit of subjectivity, and many times comes through the wife, and objectivity, that many times comes from the husband, you have a phenomenal balance that takes place in the home. When you are looking at the word of God and you see how these guys responded, the word was given out and people immediately responded.
I ponder on my early Christian life. After coming to Christ, I remember the Sunday that I was driving back from an open house in San Bernardino, CA. Amy and I were invited to go out there. Our lives were kind of in shambles. Not severe, but nothing particularly happening due to the emptiness that comes from being lost. Driving home to Whittaker, CA from San Bernardino, I told Amy that someone took a scrub brush and scrubbed me all over. I did not have a clue what happened to me. I knew that I had accepted Christ but my heart had no idea what that meant. I knew nothing. I never had the bible open as far as I know. I might have glanced at the pages but to say I ever read the bible, never. The churches I went to when I was a child, we never used the bible. We just thought it was obsolete or something. Even evangelical churches that have bibles in the pews never used them. We would have fainted if we ever saw someone with a bible in their hands coming into church. At any rate, I had no idea what took place but I knew something happened.
But on the second day, I called my mom and dad. My dad was sick with cancer. That is what led me to that event seeing the frustration of life that was ever before me, seeing my dad who had all the things the world had to offer. He was a fine attorney and proficient in the courtroom. So he used his voice all of his life and here it is cut out by this cancer in his throat. Calling back there trying to explain to mom and dad that I had come to Jesus, a relationship with Christ, it was difficult to me in how to communicate. Yet, I was wanting to tell everybody that something had happened. They were probably scratching their head, thinking, “What did Bob get into? What kind of a cult did he get into?” I could imagine all kinds of things going through their minds.
But I went to some training where I learned how to share my faith. I learned more and more about life we have in Christ. I learned about His cross and forgiveness. Then I learned how to communicate my faith. I am not sure how much meaning or heart I had, but I learned how to say it. So I say God can use anybody. If He used me, He can use anybody.