“Being Thankful for the Law” – Psalm 119:129-136

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November 20th, 2016

Psalm 119:129-136

“Being Thankful for the Law”

Aux. Text: Psalm 119:137-144

Call to Worship: Psalm 119:97-104

 

Service Orientation:  The Law of God is a light for the mind, a window to our souls and a rock for our culture. Seek the Lord until you, like the spiritual giants of the past, love God’s Word/ The Bible/God’s Law.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

God has told us that His Word is…

  • A Mirror: Therefore, I need to read to see myself as I really am in the light of what the text is saying.
  • A Seed: I permit the Word to be implanted deep in my heart and then envision what the fruit will be if I water and nurture it with care.
  • A Sword: The two-edged kind that pierces through all the externals and reveals the deepest secrets and motives. In this metaphor it is essential to let the Word cut where it will and to honestly admit and submit to its surgery.
  • A Lamp: It gives guidance and direction in the darkness of life.
  • Bread For My Soul: I need to let the Word of God nourish my soul through reading it to feed me, not just to inform me. When my soul is touched by a truth, encouragement, comfort, reproof, or insight from God’s Word, it’s a moment of feeding.   (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series 30)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why should we be thankful we have God’s Law/ The Bible/God’s Word?

 

Answer:  The Bible is God’s love letter showing us what big trouble we were in and what great steps He has taken to rescue us.

 

The N.T. is the very best book that was or ever will be known in the world. — Charles Dickens.

 

Queen Victoria:  “That book accounts for the supremacy of England.”

 

Patrick Henry:  “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

 

The Word for the Day is . . .  Bible

 

Anything that comes from me that has its origin in my own being can do nothing but corrupt.

Only that which comes from the Holy Spirit can be of any blessing to man.  That is why so many sermons are unprofitable.  They consist of human thoughts, human philosophy, human imagination; and they are worthless.  That is why I always recommend to young ministers and theological students that they refrain from being preachers and that they become teachers.  That is why I am sure that the only type of ministry which can prove of real blessing to any human heart is the expository teaching of the Word of God.  Our Lord has never promised to bless man’s word, but He is bound by Himself to bless unto us the teaching of His Word.  He said:  “It is the spirit that makes alive; the flesh profiteth nothing:  the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life (Jn 6:63).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin, God’s Wrath, 225)

 

Why should we be thankful we have the Law/Bible?:

I-  Without a transcendent Law-giver mankind would default to anarchy or tyranny.  (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25; Jam 2:12)

 

“If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” (Dostoyevsky; The Brothers Karamazov)

 

If we consider soberly what life will become like, were we to have a future of cumulative moral and social de-restrictions comparable to those which have transformed life the last few decades, we can only foresee a return to the jungle.   (Harry Blamires; Recovering the Christian Mind, 112)

 

Without a moral framework, society disintegrates into warring factions and isolated depraved individuals.   The result is a replay of the violence, perversion, and anarchy described in the book of Judges, which at once diagnoses the moral collapse of ancient Palestine and precisely defines postmodernist ethical theory:  “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Jdg 21:25 NKJV).    (Gene Veith; Postmodern Times, 198)

 

You cannot live in society without having definitions, laws, rules, and orders.  The most primitive societies have found them to be essential; the most advanced forms of society have found them equally essential.  A police force is as necessary in Great Britain today as it has ever been; the magistrates and the courts are as necessary as they have ever been.  Why?  Because you cannot leave questions of law and order to a man himself.  When man is a law unto himself the result is nothing but anarchy and chaos.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 6, 234)

 

It is impossible to righteously govern the world without God and the Bible. — George Washington.

 

Thomas Jefferson served as president of the Washington, D.C. school board during his tenure as president of the United States.  One of his duties on the school board was to select the textbooks to be used by the students.  He selected the Bible as the primary text with this rationale:  “I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens.

 

Mahatma Gandhi spoke forcefully to Christians when he said, “You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole of civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world.  But you read it as if it were just good literature, and nothing else.

 

Horace Greeley:  “It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people.  The principles of the Bible are the ground-work of human freedom.”  (Henry H. Halley, Bible Handbook, 18-9)

 

TO THE EDITOR:

My sister and I ran across this quote in my American Government textbook, and thought it was relevant to current events.  We thought you might want to share it with your readers:

“Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally–I do not mean figuratively, but literally–impossible for us to figure what that loss would be if these teachings were removed.  We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards towards which we, with more or less of resolution, strive to raise ourselves.” — Theodore Roosevelt (Adrian Daily Telegram, 5/2/02)

 

There’s harmony and inner peace to be found in following a moral compass that points in the same direction, regardless of fashion or trend.  —Ted Koppel

 

“Some time ago, the staff of “The Bible Study Hour” prepared a brochure that compared the world’s thinking and the Bible’s teaching in six important areas:  God, man, the Bible, money, sex and success.  The differences were striking, but what impressed me most as I read the brochure is how right many of the world’s ideas seem if we are not thinking critically and in a biblical way.  This is because we hear the world’s approach so often, so attractively, and so persuasively, especially on television.

Here are some of “the world’s” statements we printed:

“I matter most, and the world exists to serve me.  Whatever satisfies me is what’s important.”

“If I earn enough money, I’ll be happy.  I need money to provide security for myself and my family.  Financial security will protect me from hardship.”

“Anything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t hurt another person.”

“Success is the path to fame, wealth, pleasure and power.   Look out for number one.”

How about the Christian way?   From the world’s perspective, the Christian way does not look attractive or even right.   It says such things as:  “God is in control of all things and has a purpose for everything that happens . . . Man exists to glorify God . . . Money cannot shield us against heartbreak, failure, sin, disease, or disaster. . . Success in God’s kingdom means humility and service to others.  Because we are so much a part of the world and so little like Jesus Christ, even Christians find God’s way unappealing.  Nevertheless, we are to press on in that way and prove by our lives that the will of God really is “good pleasing and perfect” in all things.” (James Montgomerty Boice; Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age, 122)

 

In America we do not defer to kings, cardinals, or aristocrats; we rely instead on the people’s capacity to make reasonable judgments based on moral principles.

Those who constantly invoke the sentiment of “who are we to judge?” should consider the anarchy that would ensue if we adhered to this sentiment in, say, our courtrooms.  Should judges judge?  What would happen if those sitting on a jury decided to be “nonjudgmental” about rapists and sexual harassers, embezzlers and tax cheats?  Without being “judgmental,” Americans would never have put an end to slavery, outlawed child labor, emancipated women, or ushered in the civil rights movement.  Nor would we have prevailed against Nazism and Soviet communism, or known how to explain our opposition.  (William J. Bennett; The Death of Outrage, 121)

 

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next.  Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.  —John Jay

 

Excerpts from “America is losing its morals” by Linda Bowles, Creators Syndicate from The Messenger, January 10, 1998:

Our individual lives unfold in the context of our society, and there can be little doubt that our society is in a spiritual free fall.  The moral certainties around which we organized our lives are being replaced with the notion that sin and guilt are archaic.

Suddenly, the highest value is not having any values at all.  The blind-minded toleration of evil has become a virtue.  The greater wrong is not doing wrong but being offended by it.

…Steve Forbes:  “We are learning the hard way that a self-governing nation must consist of self-governing individuals.  A breakdown in the moral fabric of society has dire consequences.”

…“To believe in the randomness of man’s appearance on the earth…would be to deny the existence of fixed moral truths…In such a world, no one could judge with authority what is right or wrong because everyone would be entitled to his own personal systems of values…That would elevate jungle law.”

Alexis de Tocqueville, in Vol. 1 of “Democracy in America”:  “…liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

George Washington, in his farewell address: “…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Thomas Jefferson:  “Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are the gift of God?”

John Adams:  “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Will & Ariel Durant, in their book, “The Lessons of History”:  “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”

 

If people are not governed by internal values, they must be governed by external force.  Take away the Bibles that direct a nation’s soul, and the government will bring out the bayonets.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 194)

 

Religion is the major reason the West rose to become the most prosperous civilization in the world.  In the Middle Ages, Europe was like a modern Third World country, with little education, widespread poverty, and recurring famine.  Medieval Christians thought of holy living as something required only of a spiritual elite–just as the Bible belonged only to an elite, the priests and monks.  The common people felt little moral imperative to be honest or industrious.

But the Reformation changed that.  The Reformers taught that all believers are called to live holy lives–just as all may read the Bible.  Every vocation can be a calling, a way to serve God and the human community.  As a result, the Reformation stressed an ethic of honesty, diligence, and thrift–what has been called the Protestant work ethic.  It had a profound effect economically.  Modern business practices became possible, prosperity blossomed.

Today we have nearly forgotten that the foundation of our economy lies in the Christian moral vision.  And as a result, we are seeing our economy dragged down by dishonesty and fraud.   (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 305)

 

II-  The Law tells us Who God is.  (all of the Bible; Isa 6:3; 1 Jn 4:8, 16; Rv 4:8)

 

Like a drumbeat that never stops, in the pages of the OT we hear the consistent message that this world revolves around God, not us. (Philip Yancey; The Bible Jesus Read, 28)

 

The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own.  I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate.  I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God.  But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, “God, have mercy.”  Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people.  In Jesus’ own words, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Philip Yancey ; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 54)

 

“A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, more than there are to His love and tenderness.  (A. W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 75)

 

III-  The Law tells us who we are.  (Gn 1:26-30; Ps 8:4-8; Jer 17:9; Jn 3:16; Rom 3:9-20)

 

I recently overheard a radio talk-show psychologist attempting to give a caller an ego-boost:  “God loves you for what you are.  You must see yourself as someone special.  After all, you are special to God.”

But that misses the point entirely.  God does not love us “for what we are.”  He loves us in spite of what we are.  He does not love us because we are special.  Rather, it is only His love and grace that give our lives any significance at all.  That may seem like a doleful perceptive to those raised in a culture where self-esteem is elevated to the supreme virtue.  But it is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches:  “We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly” (Ps 106:6).(John MacArthur, Jr.; The Love of God, 120)

 

One thing the Bible makes abundantly clear is that human beings with a stake in their self-centered lives are experts in fooling themselves. (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 73)

 

According to Scripture, everyone is born estranged from God.  (Ps 51:5, 58:3; Rom 3:10-18; Eph 2:3; Col 1:21).  (Chuck Swindoll; The Strong Family, 46)

 

Self is a great let to divine things; therefore the prophets and apostles were usually carried out of themselves, when they had the clearest, choicest, highest, and most glorious visions.  Self-seeking blinds the soul that it cannot see a beauty in Christ, nor an excellency in holiness; it distempers the palate, that a man cannot taste sweetness in the word of God, nor in the ways of God, nor in the society of the people of God.  It shuts the hand against all the soul-enriching offers of Christ; it hardens the heart against all the knocks and entreaties of Christ; it makes the soul as an empty vine, and as a barren wilderness:  “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit to himself” (Hos 10:1).  There is nothing that speaks a man to be more empty and void of God, Christ, and grace, than self-seeking.  (Thomas Brooks; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 189)

 

Our private devotions have often been the vain attempt to find nourishment or joy in the Word of God.  We failed because our first thought was the selfish one of seeking comfort or holiness for ourselves.  Let us repent and learn that a Christian is saved so that Christ may use him for the welfare of the whole Body and of those who have not yet been gathered into it.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 80)

 

“When the serpent came and said, ‘eat the tree and you will be as god’. . . . What did he mean by that?  At first look it is kind of mystical.  What does that mean if he eats the tree he’ll be as god, does that mean there is god-juice in the tree?  That if you eat the fruit you will get god-juice in you?

No, no.  It is much simpler than that.  Much more mundane.  Much less mystical.   If you decide what is right or wrong for you, rather than following God’s Word; you are defacto putting yourself in the place of God.  The serpent is totally right!”  (Tim Keller,  Reconciliation)

 

Basketball bad-boy Dennis Rodman expresses the modern point of view:  “If there is a supreme being, he/she/it has a hell of a lot more to worry about than my stupid problems.”  Actually, much of the OT is devoted to overcoming that very same objection among the ancient Hebrews.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  (Philip Yancey; The Bible Jesus Read, 35)

 

Those of us who live in an era that has viewed our planet from the perspective of spacecraft, as a tiny globe of blue and green suspended in the unimaginable vastness of the universe, have trouble believing that we matter.  Ironically, it was our most advanced technological accomplishments, such as the Hubble telescope, that exposed our cosmological tininess.  Ernest Becker says that we carry in our breast “the ache of cosmic specialness,” wondering how we can be an object of primary value in the universe.(Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read, 35)

 

The word is planted in us when it becomes part of our being.  God teaches us from the depths of our soul, from the teaching of the Spirit, and by the teaching of Spirit-led people.  The soil in which the word is planted must be hospitable in order for it to grow.  To make our soil hospitable, we must give up any impurities in our life.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 32)

 

The perfect law, the word implanted and allowed to take root, is, then, the very teaching of Jesus.  Stephen Carter says that law has only two functions:  It makes you do what you do not want to do, and it prevents you from doing what you want to do.  This is essentially the problem with Mosaic Law in the eyes of Jesus, James, and Paul.  It is rigid, somewhat inflexible, and most significantly, external.  It has little or no power to animate the heart.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 95)

 

Feelings are great liars.  If Christians only worshiped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on.  Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.  Paul Scherer is laconic:  “The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.”  (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 50)

 

IV-  The Law explains how the world really is and why it is.  (Gn 3; Rom 8:18-25)

 

Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe.  — Ronald Reagan.

 

The kingdom of God always appears upside down to the human perspective.  We think it’s strange to die in order to live, or to give in order to receive, or to serve in order to lead.  Solomon captures the perpetual enigma of our looking-glass values just as Jesus describes them in the Sermon on the Mount.  He insists we should embrace sorrow over laughter, rebukes over praise, the long way instead of the short, and today instead of yesterday.

The truth is that it’s not the kingdom of God that is upside down–it’s the world.  It’s not the Word of God that turns life inside out–it’s the world that has reversed all the equations that God designed for our lives.   (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 189)

 

I am a firm believer in the Divine teaching, perfect example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  I believe also in the Holy Scripture as the revealed Word of God to the world for its enlightenment and salvation.  — Rutherford B. Hayes

 

My advice to Sunday Schools, no matter what their denomination, is:  Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives.  To the influence of this Book, are we indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this must we look as our guide in the future.  Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.  — Ulysses S. Grant

 

The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teaching of Christ and the lessons of the prophets.  To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life.  — Herbert Hoover.

 

The great enemy of the Word of God is anything outside the Word of God…the word of Satan, the word of demons, the word of man.  And we are living in very dangerous seasons concocted by seducing spirits and hypocritical liars propagated by false teachers.  And here’s what makes them successful…look at verses 3 and 4 (2 Tim 4).  “The time will come, and it does, it cycles through all of church history, when they will not endure sound doctrine.”  People don’t want to hear sound doctrine.  “Sound” means healthy, whole, wholesome.  They don’t want wholesome teaching.  They don’t want the sound, solid Word.  They just want to have their ears tickled.  That’s all they want.  They’re driven by the sensual, not the cognitive. They’re not interested in truth.  They’re not interested in theology.  All they want is ear-tickling sensations.  That’s what they want.  They refuse to hear the great truth that saves and the great truth that sanctifies.  And according to chapter 2 verse 16, they would rather hear worldly empty chatter that produces ungodliness and spreads like gangrene.  (John MacArthur, www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/80-180_5-Reasons-to-Preach-the-Word, 6)

 

V-  The Law details what it means to love.  (Mt 7:12; 22:37-40; Rom 13:10; Jam 2:8)

 

Background Information on “agape” – love:

  • Love is an altruistic, self-giving concern which asks nothing in return (Steve Brown; message “What the World Needs Now”)
  • Love is not a feeling it is an act of the will.
  • The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. — Tim Keller
  • Love is not really able to be identified as true love until it manifests itself in the face of that which is unlovely.
  • Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive.
  • A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.

 

The Bible is, first and foremost, a love letter.  The words in that letter are like seeds that fall into the soil of our heart.  With enough skill, we can precisely measure the seeds, weigh them, and study them.  No amount of skill, though, can bring the seeds to life.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that.  This is true of any word from God that lands in our heart—whether it’s a word voiced through the Scriptures or through nature or through the circumstances of our lives.  Each and every word that comes to us will lie dormant in the soil unless the Spirit gives it life.  And there it will wait… quiet and still… for the rain.  (Ken Gire, The Reflective Life, 71)

 

There is no question here of the priority of love over law–i.e., one system over another–but of the priority of love within the law.  These two commandments are the greatest because all Scripture “hangs” on them; i.e., nothing in Scripture can cohere or be truly obeyed unless these two are observed.  The entire biblical revelation demands heart religion marked by total allegiance to God, loving him and loving one’s neighbor.  Without these two commandments the Bible is sterile.  This pericope prepares the way for the denunciations of [Mt] 23:1-36 and conforms fully to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 465)

 

All hangs on these two commandments, as the effect doth both on its efficient and on its final cause; for the fulfilling of the law is love (Rom 13:10), and the end of the law is love, 1 Tm 1:5.  The law of love is the nail, is the nail in the sure place, fastened by the masters of assemblies (Eccl 12:11), on which is hung all the glory of the law and the prophets (Isa 22:24), a nail that shall never be drawn; for on this nail all the glory of the new Jerusalem shall eternally hang.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)

 

Observe what the weight and greatness of these commandments is (v. 40); On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets; that is, This is the sum and substance of all those precepts relating to practical religion which were written in men’s hearts by nature, revived by Moses, and backed and enforced by the preaching and writing of the prophets.  All hang upon the law of love; take away this, and all falls to the ground, and comes to nothing.  Rituals and ceremonials must give way to these, as must all spiritual gifts, for love is the more excellent way.  This is the spirit of the law, which animates it, the cement of the law, which joins it; it is the root and spring of all other duties, the compendium of the whole Bible, not only of the law and the prophets, but of the gospel too, only supposing this love to be the fruit of faith, and that we love God in Christ, and our neighbor for his sake.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)

 

By bringing these two texts together Jesus asserts that the one principle of love applies equally to the two main aspects of religious duty, one’s attitude to God and one’s attitude to other people.  It is these two foci which provide the framework of the Decalogue, with its two “tables” covering these two aspects in turn.  If the Decalogue is itself a sort of epitome of the law, these two quotations in turn sum up the Decalogue.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 843)

 

There is an indivisible linkage between loving God with all your soul and loving God with all your mind.  Wonder and curiosity are spiritual cousins.  When the soul stops wondering, the mind stops learning.  And vice versa.  A lack of wonder breeds a lack of curiosity, and a lack of curiosity breeds a lack of wonder.  Either way, when you stop learning, you start dying intellectually.  But the spiritual implications are more profound than that.  When you stop learning, you stop loving.  Why?  Because loving is learning more and more about the one you love.  True love is never satisfied.  It always wants to know more about the object of its affection.  The more you love God, the more curious you become.  When it comes to loving God with all your mind, curiosity is both the cause and the effect.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 91-2) (red bold emphasis – Pastor Keith)

 

God is love.  God is love in the NT and God is Love in the OT because God never changes.  That means EVERYTHING that God does is ultimately to be understood as an act of love.

If we look at God’s treatment of Egypt and Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, and we do not see God’s love in those acts, we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we look at the conquest of Joshua and the eradication of the Canaanite people and do not see it ultimately as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we look at the cross of Christ, and the suffering, anguish, and punishment that He underwent, and do not see it as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we cannot understand an act God does and see it as love, then we are either ignorant of the circumstances and God’s motivation or we do not understand what love is.— Pastor Keith

 

The two texts chosen (in Mt 22:37-40) by Jesus are together sufficiently strong to bear the weight of the whole OT.  This does not mean, as some modern ethicists have argued, that “all you need is love,” so that one can dispense with the ethical rules set out in the Torah.  It is rather to say that those rules find their true role in working out the practical implications of the love for God and neighbor on which they are based.  Far from making the law irrelevant, therefore, love thus becomes “the primary hermeneutical principle for interpreting and applying the law.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 847) (red bold emphasis — Pastor Keith)

 

For Jesus strict observance to the letter of the law is not radical obedience.  Jesus taught a higher standard of ethical obedience than can be enforced by any law.  He taught an ethic that flows from hearts in tune with God’s heart.  James points to the same idea with his phrase “the perfect law that gives freedom.”  We might also call this a “law of the heart,” a growing and innate sense of God’s purpose and pleasure in a given situation.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 99)

 

Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them!  If you think you are spiritual because you hear the Word, then you are only kidding yourself.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 54)

 

Worship Point:  For God so loved the World that He gave us His Word/The Law/The Bible.  (Jn 1:1-14; 3:16; 17:17; Heb 1:1-4)

 

I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 13)

 

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin is so concerned about stressing the importance of knowledge as the first element in faith that he rightly presents it in another way, showing the necessary link between faith and the Word of God, or the Bible.  Reduced to its basics, Calvin shows that:  (1) faith is defined by God’s Word; (2) faith is born of God’s Word; and (3) faith is sustained by God’s Word.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 1, 391)

 

Gospel Application:  The Law in and of itself is not life and love.  It only serves to point us to Jesus Who is life and love.  (Jn 5:39-40)

 

The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.  —D. L. Moody

 

The Law is a moral mirror.  A person looking into it sees himself as he really is in God’s eyes.  Yet the Law can no more change a person than a face mirror can make a person clean.  One can look in a mirror to see the dirt on his face, but he can’t wash his face with it.  That’s not the mirror’s purpose.  So it is with the Law.  It reveals man’s sinfulness, but it cannot make him clean.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 74)

 

What happens when you look into a mirror?  You see yourself, don’t you?  And what happens if your face is dirty and you look into a mirror?  The answer is that you see that you should wash your dirty face.  Does the mirror clean your face?  No.  The mirror’s function is to drive you to the soap and water that will clean you up.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 1, 335)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Endeavor to know and obey the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit so you can get to the point where you love and trust the WORD of God more than yourself.  (Prv 3:5-6; Jn 8:32-36; 17:17; 1 Tm 6:3-19; 2 Tm 3:16-17;  Heb 4:12; Jam 1:21-25)

 

The word of God is truth.  And we need to meditate or ruminate on truth until it becomes food for us.  That is why Jesus said that His food was to do the will of His father and Jesus also echoed the words of Dt 8:3 in that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Are we taking in and chewing God’s word until it becomes food for our souls?  I feel the reason so many of us are spiritually malnourished is because we are not taking in God’s Word like this.  —paraphrase of Tim Keller

 

The reason for this Bible centeredness is obvious:  faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17).  It is by the word that we are born again (1 Pt 1:23-25).  We grow by the “pure milk of the word” (2:2).  We are sanctified by the truth of God’s word (Jn 17:17).  God’s word is profitable and equips us for every good work (2 Tm 3:16-17).  God’s word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).  It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; cf. 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thes 1:5).  It performs its work in us (2:13).  It is “like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock” (Jer 23:29).  It does not return void, God says, “without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 275)

 

 

  • You need to allow Scripture to trump your feelings
  • You need to allow Scripture to trump your reason
  • You need to allow Scripture to trump your experience

 

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord:  but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.  Ps 19:8, 10-11.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 122)

 

The man who samples the Word of God only occasionally never acquires much of a taste for it.

 

Without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark about God’s Word.

 

A few years ago I read something rather random, but I’ve never forgotten it: “Dynamic properties are not revealed in the static state.”  Too many of us try to understand truth in the static state.  We want to understand it without doing anything about it, but it doesn’t work that way.  You want to understand it?  Then obey it.  Obedience will open the eyes of your understanding far more than any commentary or concordance could.  I think many of us doubt Scripture simply because we haven’t done it.  The way you master a text isn’t by studying it.  The way you master a text is by submitting to it.  You have to let it master you.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 80-1)

 

Our reading of the Scriptures is often far too superficial.  We just read a few verses and a brief commentary on them, then offer a brief prayer and rush off to work or something else.  But before we can know anything of joy in God we must spend time with these things, and meditate upon them. . . .  A mere hurried and cursory reading of the Scriptures profits but little and never leads to true joy.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 160)

 

Gipsy Smith told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible although he had “gone through it several times.” “Let it go through you once,” replied Smith, “then you will tell a different story!”

 

If you are a lousy repenter, you are not going to get anything out of the Word of God.  (Tim Keller message Growth through Hearing Truth – pt 2)

 

“God’s Word will never pass away, but looking back to the OT and since the time of Christ, with tears we must say that because of lack of fortitude and faithfulness on the part of God’s people, God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment.  In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, may our children and grandchildren not say that such can be said about us.” — Dr. Francis Schaffer

 

Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.

The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority.  The apologist must see clearly that the nonChristian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ.  If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority.  The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority.  (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)

 

There is also a link between repentance and the knowledge of the truth, without which none can be saved.  Paul advised Timothy to be “kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tm 2:24-25).   (Owen Roberts; Repentance; 70)

 

It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. The truth is that in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray. (George Muller; A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Muller)

 

The best way I can put it is that, before the change, I pored over the Bible, questioning and analyzing it.  But after the change it was as if the Bible, or maybe Someone through the Bible, began poring over me, questioning and analyzing me.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, xv)

 

James calls Christians to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jam 1:21).  Implicit in James’ instruction is a distinction between an ungodly life of filthiness and wickedness and the Christlike life of humility or meekness.  Christians should receive the Word of God with meekness.  That is, in the preaching of God’s Word and in the Scripture, acknowledging it as the source of salvation and instruction in godly living.  As we come to the Scripture, we are to do so as people knowing our sinful nature, our spiritual poverty before God, and our need for the molding influence of God, which comes normally by his Word.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 77)

 

The rabbis believed that humility was an indispensable condition for learning:  “Just as water flows away from a high point and gathers at a low point, so the word of God only endures with the learner who is humble in his knowledge.”  (Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 7a)  (Ann Spangler, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, 60)

 

We must always beware of prejudice.  We must never read the Scriptures without praying.  We should never approach them without asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and to guide us and to direct us.  We should deliberately humble ourselves, we should talk to ourselves and say, Now why am I going to the Scriptures?  Am I going there only to find arguments to support my case, or am I going there to be instructed, to be enlightened, to have my eyes opened to the truth of God?  We should always try to come as little children and be ready to find that we are wrong.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 9, 321)

 

So What?:  If you don’t know Who God is, who you are, what love is and what life could be, you have very little chance to live life in all of its abundance. Trust, obey and cherish the Word of the Lord and live!  (Ps 1:1-2; 19:7-14; ch 119; Jn 8:32-36; 10:10; 17:17; 1 Tm 6:3-19; Jam 1:21-25)

 

Daniel Webster: “If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures.”  “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”

 

The man is not said to be blessed automatically in proportion to the amount of biblical knowledge he accumulates.  The blessing comes with his obedience to what God has revealed to him.  This is a truth on which the Bible is relentlessly insistent:  “By [the ordinances of the Lord] is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps 19:11); “Blessed are they who keep [the Lord’s] statutes” (Ps 119:2); “Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk 11:28); “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (Jn 13:17); “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book” (Rv 22:7).  The Bible’s insistence on the relationship between obedience and blessing is inescapable.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 99-100)

 

If I hear the word of God but do not do what it says, I am treating the word as if it were useless.  I am deceiving myself about the very nature and purpose of the word of God.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 75)

 

God has so ordered the world that living according to his moral standards very often brings rewards in the natural realm, and violating God’s standards often brings destruction to people, in both cases indicating the eventual direction of the final judgment:  Honesty, hard work, showing love and kindness to others, and faithfulness in marriage and family will (except in the most corrupt societies) bring much more material and emotional reward in this life than dishonesty, laziness, cruelty, marital infidelity, and other wrongs such as drunkenness, drug abuse, theft, and so forth.  These normal consequences of sin or righteousness should serve as a warning of judgment to come, and, in this way, they are also examples of God’s common grace.  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 661)

 

Water is often used symbolically as the Word of God in Scripture (see Eph 5:26).  When the Lord uses a natural type to symbolize a spiritual reality, it is because its characteristics reflect the nature of the spiritual.  One important characteristic of water is that it must keep flowing in order to stay pure.  Once it settles into one place it becomes stagnant very fast, and so does the Word of God.  Every revelation of truth in our life should be continually expanding and deepening for us.  That’s why the river of life is just that–a river!  It is not a pond or a lake; it is flowing, moving, going somewhere.  As an old sage once remarked, “You can never step into the same river twice.”  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 178-9)

 

There is a difference between thinking and knowing.  There is a difference between reading a menu and eating a meal.  There is a difference between reading a prescription and taking medicine. There is a difference between reading the Bible and growing in grace.  How easy it is to deceive ourselves on this issue!  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 95)

 

The command to receive the implanted word, then, is not a command to be converted (‘receive the word’ means this elsewhere in the NT), but to accept its precepts as binding and to seek to live by them.  Christians who have truly been ‘born again’ (v 18) demonstrate that the Word has transformed them by their humble acceptance of that Word as their authority and guide for life.  Or, to use the imagery our Lord used to make the same point:  the believer is to prepare ‘good ground’ in his heart in order that the ‘seed’ of the Word that has been planted there might produce much fruit (cf. Mk 4:3-20).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 81)

 

It would be silly to leave dirt on your face or your hair in a mess after seeing yourself in a mirror.  It is just as silly to look into God’s Word and make no changes in your life.  Whether we read God’s Word for ourselves or hear it read, our listening must have an attitude of seriousness and submission that will lead to obedience.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 34)

 

How do we prepare the soil of our hearts for God’s Word?  First, by confessing our sins and asking the Father to forgive us (1 Jn 1:9).  Then, by meditating on God’s love and grace and asking Him to “plow up” any hardness in our hearts, “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jer 4:3).  Finally, we must have an attitude of “meekness” (1:21).  Meekness is the opposite of “wrath” in verses 19 and 20.  When you receive the Word with meekness, you accept it, do not argue with it, and honor it as the Word of God.  You do not try to twist it to conform it to your thinking.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 53)

 

Perhaps James had in mind the parable of the sower (Mt 13:3-9, 18-23) in which the productivity of the seeds was dependent upon the receptivity and condition of the soil.  The Word is to be received with “humility,” meaning “mildness, gentleness.”  Rather than being self-assertive and brash, the true believer should receive with gentleness and consideration the Word.  He should be ready and eager to learn and respond gladly to the will of God as shown in His Word (1 Pt 2:1-2).  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 43-44)

 

Faith is not faith until it is acted upon.  That is the litmus test.  Faith without works is dead.  So is love without energy.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 142)

 

The true test of any religious profession, suggests James, is not the outward ritual of worship, which many go through unthinkingly and with little heart commitment.  No, the real litmus test of religion is obedience–without it, religion is vain:  empty, useless and profitless.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 86)

 

James defines law in such a way that it grants freedom from self-interest and immorality, allowing the Christian to grow into what God intends.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 95)

 

“Whatever pretenses men make of thankfulness for the Word of God, however they speak of it as a privilege to have light and the means of grace, if they do not yield obedience to the light and conform themselves to the commands of it, they are practically unthankful and do in effect cast it behind their backs (Nehemiah 9:26).  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; 127)

 

But if we are to win the battle on the stage of human history, it will take a prior commitment to fighting the spiritual battle with the only weapons that will be effective.  It will take a life committed to Christ, founded on truth, lived in righteousness and grounded in the gospel.  It is interesting to note that all of the weapons which Paul lists up to this point are defensive.  The only offensive weapon mentioned is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  (Francis A. Schaeffer; The Great Evangelical Disaster, 25)

 

Bibles that are falling apart usually belong to people who are not.

 THANKFUL

FOR THE LAW OF GOD

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