Have you ever hidden something in your heart?
What do you usually hide in your heart?
In my heart I have hidden some special moments.
The day I was baptized.
My wedding day.
The birth of my children.
My love for God, my love for my wife and my love for my children impact every aspect of my life. I hide these in my heart because they are meaningful and also because they make up a large portion of who I am and how I behave.
We can hide pain and shame in our hearts. We can hide a sense of inferiority or pride or a sense of entitlement.
What we hide in our hearts shapes us. Some of us who are immigrant we hide in our hearts a sense of origin, our roots, we hold on to certain aspects of the culture of our land of birth. Some of us have a sense of heritage that comes from our family, or where we grew up, or how we grew up.
We all hide things in our heart.
This morning, I would like to explore what it looks like, in a practical way, to hide God’s word in our hearts.
Last week we looked at The Simple Answer.
We discussed how abiding, remaining, staying in Jesus is the key to everything in life.
As we studied this topic last week there were two verses that I asked you to tuck away in your minds, two verses that I said we would explore further this week.
Those verses were both from John 15, they were verses 3 and 7. Let’s read them together.
What do these two verse have in common?
What links them?
Both of them deal with God’s word.
The Word, or God’s words, or the word of God, is one of John’s favorite themes. We won’t exhaust this topic here, but I would like to take some time to explore a portion of it.
The gospel according to John is the last gospel to be written. John wrote it after he had written the book of Revelation. As the last living apostle, as one of the last living people who actually saw Jesus in person, John wrote an account of the gospel for those who did not had the privilege of seeing, hearing and touching Jesus. With this in mind, John highlights the power of Jesus' words. For example, John emphasizes miracles operated by Jesus through His word, as opposed to by His touch.
For example, John records Jesus' miracle at the wedding in Cana found in John 2:1-11.
Jesus told the men to “fill the waterpots with water.” Then Jesus told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. Jesus never touches the water or the pots.
The next miracle John records is found in John 4:46-54 where Jesus tells the nobleman to go on his way because his son was alive and at that same time the fever left his son.
John 5:1-9 records how Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years simply by saying “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
In the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-4) you could argue that Jesus took the loaves and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples (v11). You could also argue that Jesus did not touch anyone to feed them.
John also records Jesus walking on water (John 6:16-21)
There is also the healing of the blind man found in John 9:1-9. Here Jesus does spit make mud and smear the mud on the man’s eyes, but the man does not see until he does what Jesus says and washes in the pool of Siloam. Jesus touched the man in the story but the moment the man is healed Jesus is not present. In fact when he sees Jesus later (v35-41) he does not recognize Jesus until Jesus tells them man who He is.
John 11:1-46 is one of my favorites, when Jesus calls Lazarus back to life. All that was needed for resurrection was the words of Jesus.
John really emphasized the importance of God’s word.
Let’s read together how John chooses to begin his account of the gospel.
What a complicated way to begin the story of Jesus. Mathew, Mark and Luke are much more straight forward. John chooses to describe creation, God creating through the Word, and the Word having life and light in itself.
What happens to the word on verse 14?
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!
Jesus, is the Word of God. The Old Testament, the stories, the laws, the prophecies, all the teachings of the Jewish Bible, of our Old Testament, you could say the whole Bible, if you were to take it and make it a living breathing walking person, you would get Jesus, or someone who behaves a lot like Jesus.
Jesus is the embodiment, the personification of the written word of God! Jesus is the Word of God.
And I know this is difficult to wrap our minds around. I could do a whole post just on this (I might in the future). But in a practical sense, to know Jesus, to abide in Jesus, to know what Jesus would do, you need to familiarize yourself with God's word.
John 5:38-40 helps us understand this a bit better.
The Jewish leaders were accused by Jesus of not having the word abiding in them because they did not believe Jesus. Jesus goes on to explain how to study the Bible and miss Jesus is to miss the whole point. To miss Jesus is to miss eternal salvation.
When we study God’s word it should not be a clinical, cold, analytical study. It must be a hungering search to become better acquainted with a loved One.
You should study the Bible, and the study of the Bible ought to bring you closer to Jesus. If the study of the word of God makes you proud or causes feelings of superiority to rise up in your heart you have missed the point of the word of God.
The study of the Bible should always direct us to Jesus that we might receive from Him eternal life.
Studying the word of God is no easy task. You can study the Bible your whole life and it always takes you deeper, it always draws you closer, it makes you uncomfortable with how you are living, it challenges you, it also encourages you and reassures you.
You cannot say of the Bible, “yeah, its a good book, I read it once.”
The "problem" is that when we read the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and that experience often makes us, and those around us, uncomfortable. We become uncomfortable when we expose ourselves to God's word and as we allow the power of God to work in us and transform us, the changes we experience often makes non-believers around us uncomfortable.
I was talking with Donna this week and she was sharing with me how she became a Seventh-day Adventist. Can you believe her journey began when she was 10 years old and she read the 10 commandants on the Bible, Exodus 20, and she read the fourth commandment, and there it was for her, plain as day. That caused her to begin to inquire and wonder about God’s will for her life until at the age of 16 an evangelist came to her town and she decided to accept Jesus and be baptized.
I also heard from Brother Willie, how reading the Bible just impressed his heart, even when he tried to ignore it. The study of the Bible eventually led him to be baptized, and even though the water heater had broken and the water in the baptistry was freezing cold, he did not want to postpone it and was baptized in the ice cold water.
Reading the Bible is dangerous. It will change your life!
Brother Ruben has a similar story. His wife agrees, he suddenly became a different man after he began to study the Bible.
One book, that if you read it, it changes you, it bring you closer to God. It doesn't matter how many times you have read it or how familiar you are with its content. The word of God is living and powerful!
To get the most out of your experience, you should never read the Bible without first praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you. It can be very dangerous to use the Bible simply as a tool to control others, to win arguments, to bend others to your will, claiming it to be God’s will. Be careful.
My biggest fear, as a pastor, as a religious leader, is to lead people according to my will as opposed to God’s will for their lives.
One thing that helps us is knowing that the whole Bible is inspired and that all Scripture is profitable.
If someone asks you to build a fence, and they put one pole on the ground, you could build that fence going in any direction. But if there are two poles, you now have a better idea of where to go. The more poles the easier it becomes to build the fence.
You should not have a doctrine, you should not guide your life by a principle built on one text. But when you find that principle in the Bible, in different texts and stories when it fits with the bigger picture, then it is a good sign you are building on a solid foundation.
And if you are growing spiritually and learning and suddenly you come to a text that causes you to question certain things in your life, certain behaviors, certain values. You cannot simply claim that portion of the Bible is no inspired. God does not give us the luxury of cherry picking which portions to believe and which ones to disregard.
But that’s hard!
Yes it is.
That is why we approach the Bible with humility. Prayerfully begging the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual journey. Always searching for Jesus. Allowing God to speak to us, and carefully listening to His leading. We don't study the Bible because it is comfortable or easy, we do it because it is vital.
We ought to carefully and lovingly hide God’s word in our heart, because it will help us avoid sin. It will help us identify sin. As we study God's word and treasure it in our hearts, God begins to reveal to us the harmful behaviors that hurt us or those around us.
The Bible is a very ancient book. Its antiquity is a wonder. It is a marvel that the Bible has remained until the present time. Relatively few books survive the decade in which they are printed. Very, very few survive for a century. Their make-up is such that the elements tend to destroy them. Age and water rot them, insects eat them, careless handling destroys them, ink fades, covers pull loose. But the Book of God remains.
The last book of the New Testament, was written almost 2,000 years ago. Portions of the Bible, of course, are much older. The first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses about 1500 B.C., making them roughly 3500 years old. The Book of Job was written even earlier.
The antiquity of the Bible would be a marvel had men throughout the ages cherished it, and taken the very best of care to preserve it. But such has not always been the case. The enemies of Christianity have realized that the kingdom of God could not exist without the Bible. Therefore, they have concentrated their efforts against Christianity in the direction of destroying the Scriptures.
Even in the New Testament, we read of those who violently sought to overthrow the cause of Christ. We read of disciples dying a martyr's death because of their faith.
Early in the history of Christianity, Clement of Alexandria wrote, "Many martyrs are daily burned, crucified, and beheaded before our eyes."
For many years Christianity was outlawed by the Roman government. From the time of Trajan (reigned 98-117) until Constantine (c. 300), virtually every one of the Roman emperors was opposed to Christianity.
It is true that not all of them actively tried to suppress it, but few of them encouraged Christianity in any way. Many of their efforts were directed toward destroying the Bible.
Of Diocletian (284-316), the ruler immediately preceding Constantine, Eusebius, the historian said, "royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire" (Church History, Book VIII, Ch. 1).
Diocletian went on to say that if one had a copy of the Scriptures and did not surrender it to be burned, if it were discovered, he would be killed. Furthermore, if any other should know of one who had a copy of the Scriptures, and did not report it, he also would be killed.
During this time many, many copies of the Bible were burned, copies laboriously written in longhand.
Of this period. the historian Newman said, "Multitudes . . . hastened to deny the faith and to surrender their copies of the Scriptures; many more bore the most horrible tortures and refused with their latest breath to surrender the Scriptures or in any way to compromise themselves" (Newman, Church History, p. 169).
After this edict had been in force for two years, Diocletian boasted, "I have completely exterminated the Christian writings from the face of the earth!" (Rimmer, Seven Wonders of the Wonderful Word, p. 15). But had he completely destroyed it?
"Men have died on the gallows for reading it, and have been burned at the stake for owning it. Tortures too fiendish to describe have been visited upon delicate women and tender children for looking on its pages. Yet in spite of the strongest forces that Hell could unleash and in the face of the animosity of tyrants and despots, there are more Bibles in the earth today than there are copies of any other book ever written by the hand of man!" (Rimmer, Seven Wonders of the Wonderful Word, p. 15).
Over 100 million Bibles are sold or given away for free every year in the world, according to The Economist. The Bible is the most widely distributed and best-selling book in the world.
The Bible has been translated into 349 languages, and a survey conducted by the Bible Society concluded that between 1815 and 1975, around 2.5 billion copies were printed.
Since the Bible has a history spanning on two millennia, it is difficult to assess how many copies have circulated to date. Moreover, the fact that there is no single version of the Bible makes it hard to know exactly how many copies are sold every year in modern times.
Why is the word of God so important? After all, so many went through so much to make sure we would have it available to us today. God miraculously kept the Bible until our modern day, there must be something special about the Bible, about its words.
Psalm 119 really has many reasons,
One main one is that the Bible, the word of God directs our steps.
It has God’s directions for our life and the assurance of eternal life! It helps us know how much we need Jesus for everything, and especially in order to overcome the enemy.
The word of God found in the Bible is so important that Jesus quoted the Bible when resisting Satan’s attacks.
Jesus could have used reason, He could have used power, He could have called upon all the angels of heaven to come to His aid.
Yet Jesus was to be our example. He fought Satan and resisted his attacks using only resources that would be available to us. Jesus, our example, used scripture to resist the Devil’s attacks.
God does allow a tree to be present, for temptation to take place.
But He first clearly identifies sin in His word.
And He never allows Satan to tempt us beyond what we can bear.
So I finish where we started.
Jesus tells us to abide in Him and informs us that if we do, and if His words abide in us, we can ask for whatever we desire and it will come to pass for us.
We will talk about this more next week. How the word of God impacts our prayer life.
For this week I would like to give you a challenge.
It is the same one form last week.
Please, make God a priority in your life by choosing to read His word before you read anything else.
When you wake up, before checking your texts, or email, or social media, or the news, before everything, before you do anything, take time to familiarize yourself with the word of God. Read for yourself. Ask God to speak to you, to reveal Himself to you. Listen as you read. But please read.
Abide in Jesus and allow His words to abide in you.
Hide His words in your heart.
And may God grant you unprecedented victories against the enemy this week for His honor and glory.