Bible Intake: How We Hear From God

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“Bible Intake: How We Hear From God”

(Selected Passages)

Series: The Spiritual Disciplines [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

May 27, 2018

Introductory Comments:

As you all know, we have finished the book of James.

Normally, my practice is to go through a book of the Bible, verse by verse, to expose what God is saying to us in the Bible; that’s called expository preaching. 

This morning we will begin a new topical series on the spiritual disciplines. In a topical series, you study a topic. 

So, we will be studying the spiritual disciplines over the next few weeks. 

First of all, what are spiritual disciples?

Much of what I will share with you, in addition to coming from God’s Word, will be found in a helpful book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. 

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7b, “train yourself in godliness.” [on screen]

As we just learned in the book of James, over the last eight months, we are to pursue life in Christ. We are to purposefully and intentionally live the lives God has called us to in Jesus. 

We must do these things on purpose!

In his book, Donald Whitney defines “spiritual disciplines” as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

So, we are to pursue certain practices, on purpose, in order to be more like Jesus. 

As the name implies, it takes discipline, sometimes hard work to accomplish these practices. 

We must be consistent and purposeful in our pursuit of godliness. 

In this series we will cover six spiritual disciplines: Bible intake, prayer, fasting, giving, worship, and evangelism. 

This morning we will talk about Bible intake.

Donald Whitney says there is no spiritual discipline more important than the intake of God’s Word, and I agree. 

Here’s the heart of why we study the Bible: through the Bible we get to hear from God.

The Bible is the primary way that God speaks to us. 

As we go through this sermon this morning, we must remember that. We are hearing from God in the Bible!

Let’s pray as we get started. 

(Prayer)

This morning we’ll be looking at several different Bible passages. We have them all available on the screen for you to help you follow along. 

Through this sermon I want us to see five actions we must do with God’s Word. 

First, . . .

I. We must hear from God’s Word.  [on screen]

(repeat)

The apostle Paul tells us in . . .

Romans 10:17: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” [on screen]

In order for any of us to be changed by the Word of God, we must hear the Word of God.

(pause)

We must know what God is saying to us in order for it to affect our lives. 

When it comes to hearing the Word of God, the Bible demonstrates that the primary way to hear God’s Word is through the public reading and teaching of God’s Word. 

We see it in the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

First Timothy 4:13 says. “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” [on screen]

That was the model given to us in the Bible and it is still the model for the church today. 

(pause)

There are other ways that we can hear the Word of God outside of the primary way, which is the public preaching of the Word. 

Some of those other ways include: listening on CDs, listening to recorded sermons online, reading to one another in your home, and using modern day technology such as podcasts and apps. 

One particularly helpful app (I’ll mention this again later) is the YouVersion app. You can find it on Apple and Android devices. It looks like this (show app image on screen). There are many Bible versions on there that you can read and listen to on your mobile device. 

There are many other tools as well. Find something that helps you hear the Word of God!

In both hearing the preaching of God’s Word, and in supplementing our hearing of the Bible, we must be intentional to take in the Bible by hearing God’s Word. 

Second, . . .

II. We must read God’s Word.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Jesus told us in Matthew 4:4, “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” [on screen]

Reading the Word of God is what allows us to personally hear from God. 

Hearing the Word of God is utterly important, particularly the public preaching of the Word of God, but that is not all that we need. 

We each need to personally dive into the Scriptures as well. 

You need to live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. 

(pause)

Last year Pew Research asked self-identified American Christians what parts of being a Christian are essential. Only 42 percent said reading the Bible or other religious material is essential. That’s less than half. 

Further, research done by Barna Research Group among those claiming to be “born-again Christians” disclosed these numbers: only 18% read the Bible everyday. Worst, almost 23% say they never read the Word of God. This is among “born-again Christians.”

(pause)

Remember, Paul encouraged us to train ourselves in godliness. Statistically, one-quarter of us don’t read the Bible at all, and very few of us read the Bible daily. 

Now, am I trying to guilt-trip you? No. However, I will ask all of us this: do we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God?  

If so, let us dive into it every moment we get. 

Just like you eat every day (usually), read the Bible every day. 

Here are three practical suggestions on how you can read the Bible:

    1. Pick a time. 

Morning, evening, both, lunch break. 

Pick a time and go with it. 

    1. Pick a plan. 

Again, the YouVersion app is very helpful here. It offers many different Bible reading plans to help you discipline yourself to read the Word of God daily. 

If you don’t read the Bible at all start by reading one word a day, then move to one verse, then move to one chapter, and so forth. 

    1. Pick an emphasis. 

Read the gospels. Read about the life of Jesus. Read the letters from Paul. Read the story of creation. 

Pick a particular emphasis and it may help you stick with Bible reading. 

We must read God’s Word.

Next, . . .

III. We must study God’s Word.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Studying the Bible goes above and beyond simply reading the Bible.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” [on screen]

Studying the Bible helps train us in righteousness!

Donald Whitney says 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 the same lake in a glass-bottomed boat.”

One way to explain the distinctions between Bible reading and Bible study is focus and purpose. 

Rather than just consuming as much information as we can, we pause to focus intently on a specific piece of information. 

We take our time, we take notes, we write questions, we note something that captures our hearts. It’s focus and purpose. 

When studying God’s Word, you can zero in on a particular passage, person, theme, or topic.

Studying the Bible takes us deeper into what God might be telling us. 

We must study God’s Word. 

The fourth action we must do is . . .

IV. We must memorize God’s Word.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Some of us break out in hives when we speak about memorization of any sort. It reminds us of preparing for an exam or something similar. 

However, in Psalm 119:11 we read, “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” [on screen]

Some of us might say, “Pastor I can’t memorize the Word of God! I’m just not good at memorizing!” 

However, we can recite the words to our favorite song from high school and we can remember the pledge of allegiance. 

The problem is that we’re just not motivated. 

If I offered a reward, you would learn it. One hundred dollars to the first person who memorizes James 1:1. Right?  People would be jumping at that opportunity. 

We read in Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” [on screen]

We memorize the Word of God so we can quickly reference God’s spoken word to us, in any situation and at any moment. We can set our mind on things above!

Memorization can strengthen us spiritually, it can prepare us to fight temptation (as Jesus was prepared when He was tempted by Satan), it can encourage us when we are down, it can prepare us better when we are speaking to others, and it can keep us closer to Jesus by focusing on Him.

Take some time this week and memorize some of the Bible. 

We must memorize Scripture. 

Finally, . . .

V. We must meditate on God’s Word.  [on screen]

(repeat)

When we speak of meditation, we’re not talking about going into a trance like in Eastern religions. 

We’re talking about thinking deeply on the Scriptures. 

We’re not trying to empty our minds, we’re trying to fill our minds with the Word of God!

In Philippians 4:8 we are instructed by Paul, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” [on screen]

We are to think deeply on the things of God!

When we do so, we will be blessed by God. 

Psalm 1:1-2 tell us this: “1 How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” [on screen]

We are to read long sections of Scripture and fill ourselves with a general knowledge of God’s Word. Additionally, we are to intentionally focus on part of God’s Word to soak it in and let it permeate our hearts and minds. 

We are to meditate on God’s Word. 

Concluding Thoughts:

It’s essential that we take in the Bible because God is speaking to us. 

We are to hear the Bible, read the Bible, study the Bible, memorize the Bible, and meditate on the Bible. 

(pause)

In his book, Donald Whitney asks this question, “If your growth in godliness were measured by the quality of your Bible intake, what would be the result?”

That’s a convicting question. Let us be personally challenged to take-in more Bible. 

Here’s our bottom line this week:

Bottom Line: Take in the Bible, because God is speaking to you.  [on screen]

(repeat)

If we are to be like Christ, we must take in what Christ is saying to us. 

We are God’s creation, created for good works and to glorify Him, we must hear from Him!

Take in the Bible!

Here’s our weekly challenge this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Challenge yourself to take in more of the Bible.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Don’t be satisfied with being part of the statistic that doesn’t take in the Bible. 

Challenge yourself to be disciplined in this respect. 

  1. Remind yourself that God is speaking to you through the Bible.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Consciously remind yourself that God is speaking to you through the Bible. 

If you hadn’t heard from a loved one in years, and the only way they could communicate with you was through written letter, you would probably read that over and over, because you want to hear from them.

In the same way, God is speaking to you through the Bible! Remind yourself of that fact and take in the Bible. 

  1. Develop a Bible intake plan.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Come up with some plan this week. Do so even today. 

Challenge yourself for just a week to read the Bible every day, in some way. 

After this series we will be starting a series in the book of Matthew. There are 28 chapters in Matthew, and about 40 days between now and when we start that sermon series. You can read a chapter a day of Matthew and be ready to go when we start the series. That’s just an idea. 

Again, check out other plans that others have developed. Check out the YouVersion app or other resources online. 

Closing:

Church, as we take in the Bible, let us not take it in only, but let us live it out.

If you don’t know God, you should know that because of God’s Word, you can know Him. 

Hebrews 1 tells us, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.”

(pause)

God is speaking to you by Jesus, through the Bible. Even now He is calling out to you. 

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Jesus Paid it All

Benediction:

This Wednesday is a special day. It is our End of School Bash. This is a celebration for our entire church family as well as any guests you would like to bring. It’s for all ages!  We’ll have hotdogs and snacks, water slides, and your pastor will be in the dunk-tank, as well as a couple other poor souls. You’ll want to be here from 5-7 PM this Wednesday. If it rains, we’ll meet in the Fellowship Hall. 

Tonight we will not be meeting together here. Take some time to spend with your families and remember the sacrifice of so many on our behalf. 

God bless you all. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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