Series: Meeting with God Category: Core Seminars, Devotional Life, Personal Holiness, Prayer, Sanctification & Growth, Scripture, Bible Interpretation
Welcome to Week 3 of the Meeting with God Core Seminar. Again, my name is Chad Boudreaux and my co-teacher for this course is Shawn Hutton. We’re glad you’re here.
In Week 1, we considered two assumptions:
First -- That it is possible to meet with God; and
Second -- That meeting with God is something that we should do, even on a daily basis.
In Week 2, we considered
how we can meet with God, and we focused on Biblical intake; that is, how we can use his Word---the Bible---to meet with God. Specifically, Shawn addressed two of the five components of Biblical intake: hearing the Word and reading the Word.
Today, we want to cover the three remaining components:
Studying the Word of God;
Memorizing the Word of God; and
Meditating on the Word of God.
As I mentioned in the West Hall, if we are to grow in Godliness it is
crucial that we understand and apply all of these biblical intake tools.
Before we get started down this road, let’s pray. Please pray with me.
3-Minute Andy Johnson Challenge (one minute reading, praying, meditating)
-- Shawn informed those of you who attended last week’s class of this challenge
-- Is there anyone here who accepted the challenge and wants to comment on their experience?
-- I went to the first passage in today’s outline.
Psalm Chapter 1: Verses 1-3
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers.”
This is what we want to be. People who are like trees planted near streams of water that yield fruit. When the storm comes, we want to be rooted so firmly in God’s word that we are not shaken. We want to grow strong like the tree so that we are prepared to weather the storms of life to provide good fruit for the hungry who may approach our branches, possibly not even knowing what kind of nourishment they need.
Make no mistake, the Lord
will make us strong through his word. Christians with little to gain on earth and much to lose have testified to this truth throughout the ages -- their stories fill the Bible, our church bookstall, and the library across the hallway. What’s more, if we are honest about our own life experiences, we have first-hand proof of this truth.
But we primarily go to God because He is mighty, He is our sustenance, and He commands us to do so. He is the all-satisfying tree of life. And He is worthy of our coming to Him. When we do this, we’re saying: "I’m needy. I’m hungry. And I’m weak.” We are saying we need something outside of ourselves to feed us, to satisfy us. Put simply, we go to God for our good and for His Glory.
I suspect that Psalm Chapter 1, verses 1-3 is in our outline today because it speaks to the benefit of “meditation,” something we will consider in more depth in a few minutes. When I meditated on this passage, however, I kept coming back to the last sentence: “In all that he does he prospers.” My heart heats up when I consider the hope in that promise. Now these days, where the pernicious Health & Wealth Gospel is so prevalent, we need to approach this concept with caution. But here, the Bible speaks of
God’s idea of prosperity, not the world’s. That’s important.
So what did I glean from meditating on this passage? Well, more than I expected. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mark’s sermon last Sunday, where he talked about how God has provided us with so many blessings -- blessings so rich that we didn’t even think to ask for them. And then I thought about my own life. God has blessed me with earthly prosperity -- my career achievements are well-beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. I went from being a law breaker from a broken home and broken schools to working for the Attorney General of the U.S. by the time I was 28 years old. Ten years later, though, he has taught me that earthly prosperity is
always fall short.
Now God’s teaching me what prosperity really means. Today (unlike ten or even five years ago) I can testify that I’m 100 percent dependent on God. If I’m not regularly meeting with him through his Word, I’m like a child lost in a shopping mall. And what’s more, he’s teaching me more about myself and his plan for my life. I’m now confident that he didn’t bring me to Washington, D.C. primarily to work for the Department of Justice . . . or the Department of Homeland Security . . . or a big law firm. He brought me here for CHBC. It’s here where my family and I have grown closer to God. It’s here where we have enjoyed real prosperity.
Praise God for his mercy, grace, and his Word. Through his Word, we not only learn more about our Heavenly Father, but we learn more about ourselves and his plan for our lives.
We considered the value of quiet time last week. And we learned that quiet time is part of the day that we set aside for the worship of God, for the reading of the Word of God and for fellowship with God so that we would know Him more, know ourselves in light of Him, and know the world according to His perspective.
It’s during our quiet time where we can take full advantage of the five components of Biblical intake:
To drive home and visualize why exercising these five components are important, the illustration that is often used is the hand.
Can anyone tell us how this illustration works?
If we only do one or two of these things, we can’t possibly hold onto God’s word. But when we utilize all five of these components, we have a firm grasp on the Word and no one can take it from us.
Let’s start by considering what it means to study the Bible.
Don Whitney describes it like this:
“If reading the Bible can be compared to cruising the width of a clear, sparkling lake in a motorboat, studying the Bible is like slowly crossing that same lake in a glass-bottomed boat.” Crossing the lake in a motorboat gives us a sweeping overview of the lake, and we can get an idea of its depths from just being out on the boat. But the glass-bottom boat of studying the Bible takes you beneath the surface for the clarity and detail that would be otherwise impossible for those who just pass by quickly.
Focusing back on the Bible, Ezra provides us with a good example of studying.
Ezra 7:10 --
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
Ezra had come to Jerusalem to teach the people the laws of God and to lead them in the worship of God. His heart was set on studying and living out and teaching God’s law to the people. His passion was for the Word of God. Ezra 7:9 tells us that
“the good hand of his God was on him.” It pleases God when His people have hearts devoted to His word.
But how do we study God’s word?
Studying the Bible gets us into the depths of God’s word. But how do we plumb those depths? Do we need a good commentary to make sure that we’re interpreting scripture correctly and to help us understand passages that are difficult? Do we need a concordance so we can do cross-references and see where NT passages draw from OT passages? Do we need a seminary degree or be a mega-Sevant to to study the Bible? All of these things are great. But they aren’t necessary for good study of God’s word.
Here are the only two things that you need:
A heart turned toward God in prayer and humility.
Pray and ask God to give you understanding through the Holy Spirit. This is the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. He illuminates our understanding of the Bible.
Also, a humble heart asks questions. Don’t go to the Bible assuming you know everything there is to know about God. This is important because often we get trapped in the thought that “I’ve read this before” and so we can’t learn anything else. This is an excuse that will only keep us away from God.
i. Romans 11:33-36
ii. The man who wrote this part of scripture, Paul, probably knew Christ better than any other man living at that time and had even encountered Christ personally on the road to Damascus. He knew God intimately and yet it is clear from this passage that He was consistently amazed and astounded at the person and works of God. If Paul, who knew God so well, could speak this way of God, may we never think that we can grow tired of God’s Word.
If you have these things, you can study. Everything you need is in the text. Using the Bible to study the Bible is called inductive study. This kind of study brings you directly to the word of God apart from another’s understanding or interpretation. It involves three skills:
Observation: As you read through a passage of scripture with the intention of studying it, train yourself to ask yourself several questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? These questions are the foundation of observation and will help us to interpret the text better.
This is essentially the method that is used at this church’s Wednesday night Bible studies. Let’s try it with Romans 12:1.
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Let’s use those questions quickly to study this verse.
Who is saying this? Who is speaking?
Who is he speaking to?
(Answer: Paul’s brethren, the Christians in Rome – we can also see this from Romans 1:7)
What is he saying? Just the words here, not the meaning yet. Is he asking a question? Giving a command? An encouragement? A rebuke?
(Answer: He is encouraging them by way of a command to live holy lives – pointing them back to what we read in Romans 11)
(I’m leaving out the when and where because there not essential to understanding this verse and we would have covered them at the beginning of the letter if we had been studying the whole thing)
Why is he telling them to live holy lives?
Because this is what the Christians were called to do. This was their spiritual service of worship to God; living holy and sacrificial lives.
How does he make this appeal?
He makes this appeal
“by the mercies of God.” Paul knew that he could not command spiritual things of people. He relied on God’s authority and grace. Paul wanted to make it blindingly clear to his audience -- as he so often did -- that he was relying on God’s power and the Holy Spirit.
If you’re thinking that you don’t know how to study or you’ve never done it before, notice that for that one verse it only took us a few minutes to go through and answer some questions to help us understand the text better. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to study the Bible. God gave us His word and the Holy Spirit so that we could know Him. He is not trying to confuse us by His word. He has made it accessible.
This kind of
observation is the first step of studying, and it allows us to understand what the verse says. But the second step of helps us understand what the verse means. Basically, you take the answers to your questions and put them together to give you an interpretation of the verse or passage you’re studying. There are few rules that will help you in interpreting God’s word. Take a look at the back of your handout. We don’t have time to go in-depth through each point, but take a look at points 1, 2 and 6. interpretation
(The following three points are taken from Precept Ministries’ two page flyer on inductive Bible study)
Remember that context rules
Consider the verse in light of the surrounding verses. As you study, ask yourself: “Is my interpretation of a passage of scripture consistent with the theme, purpose and structure of the book in which it is found?” Never take a scripture out of context to make it say what you want it to say. A good way to keep from doing this is to read the entire chapter or book before you focus on a particular passage or verse.
Always seek the full counsel of God
Interpret God’s word against other scripture. When you know God’s word thoroughly, you will not accept a teaching simply because someone has used a couple of isolated verses to support their idea. Knowing the whole of scripture is your safeguard against bad doctrine. This is why we read. There are times in our lives when we may not need to sit down and study every verse as much as taking time to simply read so that we can have a good foundation.
A good practice is to read the Bible in its entirety every year so that you’re constantly confronted with the Bible’s full scope. If that’s too ambitous for you at this point, you should at least expand your horizon to include less popular books like Lamentations, Nahum, Revelation or Obidiah. In September 2003, Mark preached on Obadiah. The sermon was titled: “Does God Have Enemies?” I learned so much from that sermon. Did you know that’s the only book in the Bible where God is speaking directly to non-believers (the Edomites)? Did you know that Christ’s atonement for our sins is referenced in that book, which was written more than 500 or 800 years before Jesus was born and crucified? Remember that all of scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” Use it all.
Look for the single meaning of the passage
Always try to understand what the author had in mind when you interpret a portion of the Bible. Don’t twist its message to support a meaning that is not clearly taught.
The final piece of studying is
. Knowing what a verse says and what it means should help us to shape our lives around its teaching. We should not be people who gain an understanding of God and then do nothing. Instead, we should strive to resemble those people described in James 1:22. application “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” If we hear the word or read it or study it and don’t do anything about it, we are deceiving ourselves. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” Can you imagine looking at yourself in the mirror everyday and then forgetting who you are once you leave the mirror? Likewise, let’s not be people who study God’s word and then move past it later-in-the-day forgetting what we’ve just learned.
Another thing to encourage your studies is to consider the importance of God’s word. God’s words are unlike ours, which are tainted by sin. We often blab away without paying mind to the importance of words, which is why many of us our so casual and derelict when it comes to Biblical intake. God, on the other hand, used words to create the earth. The words in the Bible all have significance and power. Jesus used the Word alone to defeat Satan in the desert. John 1 makes clear that Jesus is the manifestation of the Word. Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead with words that now fill the pages of the New Testament. We often take for granted that God even speaks to us, much less that he allows us to borrow and look upon his words. That’s an amazing fact! Through his Word, he tells us about Himself, his plans, his expecations, his promises -- through his word our lives our changed -- if we consider that with the humility and shock that it deserves, why wouldn’t we devote more time to studying His Word?
Any questions on Studying the Word?
Along with studying, an important and necessary means by which to obtain and secure the word of God in your life is
Committing the Word of God to memory can help us in countless ways. Knowing God’s word by heart means that we can think on it anywhere we go. That means that all the benefits of the Bible, ultimately knowing God Almighty, are at the forefront of our minds.
Psalm 119:154 & 156 – Revive my heart
Scripture tells us of many benefits of memorizing God’s word, not the least of which is spiritual power to fight sin.
One Benefit: Victory over sin
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Now this is not a formula. It does not mean that if we memorize 10 verses this month, then when we’re tempted, we’re guaranteed victory over sin. It
does mean that by filling our minds and hearts with God’s word we may be less deceived by sinful temptation, and that certainly when we’re tempted we’ll have the word of the Lord there as a reminder of what is really good and right. Consider the correlation to what Jesus taught: “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34)” and “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21).”
Another Benefit of Memorization: Victory over Satan
Satan is real and he prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We are called to be more like Jesus, so what did he use to defeat the devil. A sword? A firearm? No, Jesus defeated Satan with scripture. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus told the devil,
“It is written, man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Satan cannot stand against the truths of scripture.
Let’s consider one more benefit of memorization: Preparation for witnessing and counseling
Scripture memory can prepare us for unexpected gospel conversations.
Proverbs 25:11 says,
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” When we are ready with the word of God from our hearts for a time when God’s word should be spoken, blessings flow.
The person who prepared the outline for this course had a great anecdote that I wanted to share with you. He said:
“When I was a sophomore in college, there was a guy named Wes who was two years older than me. He led a Bible study I was in and struck me as a young man who was following after God. He was also married and so I viewed as light years ahead of me in terms of maturity. Two friends and I approached him about discipling us. He agreed and told us to come to his apartment one Saturday morning. When we arrived we had visions of Wes sitting down to teach us all about the depths of theology or how to do a great inductive Bible study or maybe to talk to us about what it was like to be married and how to balance what we thought at the time were our busy schedules. But Wes told us very humbly that he had never really discipled anyone before and, therefore, didn’t know what to do. His best idea was to memorize a book of the Bible together. He asked if that was alright, and so we agreed, probably more because we didn’t want to disappoint Wes more so than because we actually wanted to memorize a book of the Bible. I mean, seriously??? A whole book? Why not just a couple of verses like everyone else I knew. We memorized Colossians together and it turned out to be one of the sweetest semesters of Bible study, meditation and fellowship that I had during college. It drew us closer to God and to His word. When you memorize something, you cannot help but be in it everyday. It is literally on your heart. It is on the tip of your tongue at nearly every waking moment. That’s what I think Paul had in mind when he said in Colossians,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.””
What if you don’t have a good memory?
Memorizing scripture is not about having a good memory. It’s about fighting for your soul. We remember what’s important to us. Our phone numbers. Our passwords. Mom’s birthday. Our way back home. Movie quotes.
But what if you’ve never memorized scripture?
John Piper provides us with some practical tips:
1. Pray – that the Lord would help you to desire this and to understand and to remember…
2. Set aside time – just like reading and studying, you won’t do it if you haven’t made time.
3. Repetition – Ten times read, ten times said.
4. Review – Do it again the next day, and the next day, etc., etc.
Let’s add two more:
1) Have a plan
2) Memorize word for word
Ultimately, memorizing God’s word will help us meditate on it. I fear that meditation is a lost discipline in this age. But the Puritans warned that, “If you continue to neglect meditation, it will dampen or destroy your love for God.” What do we mean by meditation?
If you look up the word “meditate” in the dictionary, you may find the following definition
“to engage in thought or contemplation; to reflect.” That’s a helpful definition, esp. in light of the common idea of meditation today. If you Google the word “meditate,” most of the sites will speak to (i) trying to relax yourself, (ii) meditating for good health, (iii) Buddhist meditation techniques or (iv) the healing power of meditation. The Wikipedia entry defines mediation as “a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, ‘thinking’ mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness.” This is not our goal when we talk about biblical meditation.
Our goal in meditation is not to empty our mind, but to fill our minds with the truth of God. Biblical meditation focuses on the objective truth of who God is as revealed through his word. In Joshua 1:8, God commanded Joshua,
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Psalm 1, which we looked at earlier in the class today, speaks of meditating day and night on the law of the Lord.
The Puritan Thomas Watson defined meditation as
“a holy exercise of the mind whereby we bring the truths of God to remembrance, and do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves.”
Edmund Calamy wrote,
“A true meditation is when a man doth so meditate of Christ as to get his heart inflamed with the love of Christ; so meditate of the Truths of God, as to be transformed into them; and so meditate of sin as to get his heart to hate sin.” If only the Lord would grant us this as we meditate on His word we would be a changed people.
We live in a time that is so distracting and flush with information that carving out time to meditate with focus on the truths of God is difficult. We are inundated with a never-ending news cycle covering everything from politics to every sport imaginable to the fire down the street to the wars and coups across the world. Washington DC to Tripoli to Afghanistan to Damascus. We can get it all in just a few clicks of a mouse or remote control. To grow in godliness, it is imperative that we discipline ourselves. Sometimes we just need to turn off the computer or the TV or the iPod, iPhone, or iPad -- whatever gizmo Steve Jobs will roll out next week -- and get alone with God and turn our minds and our hearts toward his truths.
The best way to meditate may be to select a passage or verse or idea from your quiet time that the Lord impresses upon you the most. Once you’ve selected a passage, there are several ways to engage yourself on a deeper level. It might help to rewrite the verse or passage in your own words. Some find that writing is the most helpful form of meditation.
What are some other ways that you have found helpful to engage in meditation?
1) Pray through the text
Meditation can be a real link to prayer. Thinking and pondering on a verse can really feed prayer.
The Lord can use meditation to lead us to pray for others and to pray for them in a biblical way, by praying through scripture.
2) Don’t rush – be patient and take your time
3) Sometimes reading less is more
The goal of meditation is to meet with God, so that we might know him, know ourselves, and know God’s world according to His perspective. It’s chewing on God’s word in our mind and heart. It’s massaging these thoughts and verses in our minds. With that in mind, let’s be like the psalmist in Psalm 77:11-12 when he says,
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your might deeds.”
In the end, you can think no thoughts of God greater than what He really is. So let’s allow scripture to drive us into a deep pondering of God. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. Ponder who He is. What kind of a God would create the world from nothing? What kind of a God would part the sea to save His people from sure death? What kind of a God would kill His own son so that we could come to Him, full access through Christ, and enjoy Him forever? Hannah was right when she said,
“There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God (1 Sam. 2:2).”
Spend some time medidating on that.