January 13, 2013
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Word!
Learn it, love it, live it!
The Power of the Word

Opening:

If I could give you a surefire catalyst to spiritual growth, something sure to make you closer to God and a better Christian, would you do it?

Thousands of churches have taken the Reveal survey, and one of the key findings is that personal Bible study/reflection (PBJ) is the most powerful catalyst of spiritual growth across the spiritual continuum.  It doesn’t matter where you are spiritually—whether you are exploring the faith for the first time or are a high mileage unit, a veteran Christian—the most powerful thing you can do to grow spiritually is to personally engage the Bible.  Read the Word!  Learn it, love it and live it!

So I thought we’d kick off the New Year with a series of talks to help you do that.  Word!  Learn it, love it, live it!

Today we start with “The Power of the Word.”  We’re going to look at what the Bible says about itself, and what happens to us when we learn it, love it and live it.

Introduction and offering:

If I could give you a surefire catalyst to spiritual growth, something sure to make you closer to God and a better Christian, would you do it?  That one thing is to personally read and reflect on the Bible.  For the next four weeks, we’re going to talk about how to do it.

  • The power of the word: here’s what happens when you learn it, love it and live it.  You change! You grow!

  • The meat of the word: seven ways to go deeper in the Bible and get more out of it.

  • The daily word: how to do PBJ, a daily time with God of prayer, Bible and journaling.

  • The whole word: understanding the Bible cover to cover.  I’m going to give you an overview of the whole Bible so you’ll understand the parts better.

Each week we’re going to have a memory verse.  There are powerful reasons for memorizing Scripture; we’ll talk about those next week.  How many of you are not good at memorizing?  Memory is a muscle.  It gets stronger as you exercise it.  Here’s my recommendation: write this out on a card and take it with you, and review it when you can.  I like to review my memory verse when I drive.  

Memory Verse: (read it three times)

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

Hold that thought; we’ll come back to that verse later.

Notice that it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed” or “inspired.”  We consider the Scripture to be God’s inspired word to us.  But the Bible itself uses the phrase “word of God” or “the word” to refer to at least six different things.

How the Bible uses “the word of God”.

  1. The utterances of God.  

  2. The Law is the Word of God.

  3. The prophets spoke Word of God.

  4. The Scripture is the Word of God.

  5. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.

  6. The gospel is the Word of God.

As Hebrews 1 says, “at many times and in many ways, God spoke.”  All of these—God’s utterances, the Law, the prophets, the Bible, Jesus, the gospel—are the Word of God.  And because the utterances of God, the Law, the prophets and gospel were all written down, we have the Scripture, which means “writings”.  The Scriptures are the written records of God speaking in all these other ways, and are themselves inspired by God.

The Big Idea: God’s word is powerful!  Good things happen when you learn it, love it and live it!

1. God’s word is powerful.

God’s word is so powerful that whatever He says, happens.  He speaks, and it happens.  

Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God created everything by simply speaking it into being.  All of creation is the result of God’s word.  He said it, and it was.  God is the omnipotent creator who speaks and it is.  God’s word is creative; it makes things happen.  He speaks and it happens.

ILL: We’re all familiar with this kind of authority on the human level.  How many of you work where the boss’ word is law?  He speaks, and it happens.  “Coffee!” and there is coffee.  (Have someone backstage bring out a coffee for me.) I like this.

Of course, God’s authority is ultimate and complete—whatever He says, goes.  He speaks and it happens.

On Monday we read Luke 7 in our Bible reading plan; it tells the story of a Roman centurion who had a sick slave whom he wanted Jesus to heal.  The centurion sent a messenger to tell Jesus, “I am not worthy to have you come to my home, and I know you don’t need to.  Just the say the word and my servant will get well. I give orders to my soldiers— I understand authority, and I know you have it.  So just say the word and it will happen.”  And Jesus did.  Jesus speaks and it happened.  Just like God in Genesis 1.

God’s word is powerful.  He speaks and it happens.  

Isaiah 55:10–11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God’s word is powerful.  It will accomplish what God desires; it will achieve the purpose He had for saying it.  

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

Paul told the Thessalonian Christians that because they heard and accepted the word of God, it was at work in them. The Greek word is energeo; we get the word “energy” from it; it means, “to be at work, to operate, to be active or effective.”  When you receive God’s word (and next week we’ll look at 7 ways to do that), it goes to work in you, accomplishing what God desires, achieving God’s purposes.  It is powerful and active and energetic.  Whenever you receive it, it goes to work in you—this creative powerful energy is now at work in you.

What does it do?

2. God’s word saves us.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

How do we become Christians?  By the Word of God.  By hearing and believing the gospel, which is God’s power to save.  

1 Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

We hear the gospel, and God’s powerful word goes to work inside us, and brings us to faith.  You hear the gospel and the Word of God is a seed that starts growing inside you.  

ILL: One of my favorite stories is how Barry McGuire became a Christian.  He had achieved success as a musician and singer; his cover of “Eve of Destruction” went to #1 in 1965.  One day Barry was walking down Sunset Strip and someone asked him, “Are you ready for Jesus?”  Barry ignored him, but he couldn’t get the name of Jesus out of his mind.  He kept hearing it everywhere.  Someone would slam a car hood on his finger: “Jesus Christ.”  Barry wondered, “Why Jesus?  Why not, ‘O Buddha’, or ‘Hare Krishna’?”  

One day he was at a friend’s to smoke some dope and he saw a book on the coffee table: “Good News for Modern Man”.  He thought, “I’m a modern man,” and picked it up.  It was the New Testament in modern English.  He threw it down, and thought, “Now they’re disguising the Bible!”  But it haunted him, and he started reading.

A few weeks later, he was at a party; everyone was getting loaded, but he was curled up under the kitchen table, miserable.  A friend asked him what was wrong, and Barry said, “I am.  You are.  This is—it’s all wrong.”  His friend left him alone.  Finally, Barry cried out, “God, if you’re there, I want to know.”  And he says that he knew in every cell of his being.  Barry became a follower of Jesus.

But it all started with one word that he couldn’t get out of his head: Jesus.

We hear God’s word and it starts working inside us.  This was Barry’s story, and this is my story too.  I became a Christian after hearing the gospel one time—it was so powerful that it changed me forever.  And in some way, this is your story too.  We all come to God through the gospel, the power of His word.

It is the Word of God, the gospel, the message of Jesus that saves us—and it keeps saving us.  Have you discovered that conversion is an ongoing process?  Did you know the Bible talks about salvation in three tenses: we have been saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved (future).  I was saved 48 years ago when I first heard the gospel.  And I am being saved every day as I read God’s word and let it work in me and change me.  There is still a lot of work to be done in me—I am very much a work in progress—and I need God’s word to working in me, saving me, every day.

ILL: Here is the inscription that Ruth Bell Graham put on her tombstone: End of construction.  Thank you for your patience.

How does that construction take place?  By the powerful Word of God that has saved us, is saving us and will save us.  Learn it, love it, live it!

3. God’s word feeds us.  

How often do you eat?  Two times a day?  Three?  Four?  More than four?  Continual grazing?  I read in Thursday’s paper that Americans average 3770 calories a day!  That’s almost twice what most of us need!  Why do we eat so much?  Because if you don’t eat, you die!  You all know the saying: “Don’t live to eat; eat to live.”  You have to eat to live: to stay healthy, to grow, to be active.  No eat-y, no energy.

What is true physically is also true spiritually: you have to eat to live and to stay healthy.  How do you do that?  How do you eat spiritually?  God’s word feeds us.

Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

In Matthew 4, Jesus quotes the end of this verse:

Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Do you believe that?  Do you believe that God’s Word is as important or more important than your daily bread?  Job did.

Job 23:12 “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”

Do you treasure God’s word more than your daily bread?   Are you more concerned with feeding on God’s word than getting your 3770 calories a day?

ILL: My freshman year in college, the doughnut man came by our dorm every night around 10:15, just after our 10 PM house devotions.  Tom’s room was next to mine, so at 10, I stopped by to see if he was coming down for devotions.  “Sorry, I’ve got to finish this paper.”  After devotions, I stopped by again.  “The doughnut man is here.”  Tom went down and got a doughnut.  As he was about to eat it, the Lord spoke to him and said, “You have time for a doughnut, but not for my Word?”  He told me this with tears in his eyes as he handed me the doughnut.  I ate it—hey, I went to devotions!  But I never forgot that lesson.  Feed your body, feed your spirit.  

Feed on God’s word.  It is nourishment for your spirit.  Many Christians are weak and anemic and lifeless because they are underfed.  We’re a bunch of 98-pound weaklings!  You’ve got to learn to feed yourself spiritually.  That’s what this series is about: to inspire and help you dig into God’s word on a daily basis and feed yourself.  

If you’ve got time to eat three meals a day and watch TV, you’ve got time to read God’s word and feed yourself spiritually.

And when you do, you’ll grow!

4. God’s word grows us.

If God’s word is our spiritual food, then it is God’s word that makes us grow.  Spiritual growth is the result of feeding on God’s word. Personal Bible study/reflection (PBJ) is the most powerful catalyst of spiritual growth across the spiritual continuum.  If you’re not regularly feeding on God’s word, you’re probably not growing.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

I love this image.  How many of you have had a newborn baby in your home?  What happens when baby gets hungry?  She cries, he squalls!  They crave pure milk so that by it they may grow up!  Just as a baby has this craving, this intense need and desire for milk, we are to have the same hunger and desire for God’s word—spiritual food—so that we can grow up.  

And carrying the illustration one step farther, how often does a baby crave milk?  Every few hours.  Pretty much all the time!  That’s why new parents look so haggard—no sleep because baby craves milk all the time!  Do you have that kind of hunger for God’s word, that kind of desire to grow?

Don’t miss the connection in this verse between regular spiritual feeding and growth.  You can’t grow if you don’t eat!  To grow spiritually you need to be feeding regularly on the pure spiritual milk of the word.

Acts 20:32 Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul said this to the leaders of the church in Ephesus as he was leaving them for the last time.  He would never see them again, so he committed them to God and to the word of His grace.  Paul said, “I won’t be with you anymore, but God is with you and God’s word is with you—and that word can build you up.  That word can keep you growing.”  Learn it, love it, live it!

5. God’s word corrects us.  

Are you ever wrong?  Raise your hand if you’re ever wrong?  If you didn’t raise your hand, you’re wrong and in denial.  I’m wrong about lots of things.  I don’t know what they are—if I knew, I would change them and be right, because I love to be right!  My wife says that my love language is being right.  So how do we learn where we’re wrong and get corrected?  One way is by God’s word.  Let’s read this together:

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

God’s word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  When I read God’s word, I see where I’m wrong and need to change.  I am corrected.  

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

God’s word is living and active and it penetrates deep within us and judges even our thoughts and attitudes.  This happens to me all the time.  A recent example:

ILL: On Thursday, we read Luke 10 in our Bible reading plan.  I was struck by verse 21.  Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will.”  And then the next story is about the expert in the Jewish law who asked Jesus what to do to inherit eternal life.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  When the man asked, “Who is my neighbor,” Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan and then asked the man, “Who do you think was a neighbor to the man lying in the road?”  The expert said, “The one who showed mercy to him.”  I laughed out loud when I read the words, “the expert”, because it doesn’t take an expert to figure out who behaved like a neighbor.  The one who loved, the one who showed mercy.  The story is so clear that anyone can get it—you don’t have to be an expert, a genius or wise and intelligent.  

The day before, I had met with a group of really smart people to discuss Athanasius’ book, On the Incarnation.  Our discussion sometimes was confusing, dizzying—abstract and academic.  So when I read Luke 10, I was corrected: anyone can follow Jesus.  You don’t have to be an academic or a theologian; you don’t need a theology degree; you don’t have to be an expert.  I’m grateful for the people that are experts and have the degrees and think the great thoughts.  But you don’t have to be one of those people to follow Jesus.  A child can do it.  Jesus put the truth on the bottom shelf where anyone could reach it… and follow.  Simple.

God’s word has corrected me on what I do with my money, how I treat my wife and kids, what kind of leader I am, how I think and talk and behave.  I have blind spots and need to be corrected; God’s word does that.

6. God’s word equips us.

Let’s read this together again:

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

How would you like to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work?”  God’s word saves us, feeds us, grows us, corrects us, and in the process we become more like Jesus.  Because of God’s word working in me:

  • I am a better husband and father.

  • I am a better worker and leader on my job.

  • I am a better friend, more forgiving and less critical.

  • I am less selfish and more generous with my money and things.

  • I am a better listener.

  • I am more patient and more honest than before.

  • I know the right thing to do in most situations, and have the power to do it.

God’s word equips us for life.  It grows us to be more like Jesus.

ILL: How many of you have required continuing education or training for your jobs?  Many jobs require it now.  Don’t you want your doctor to have the latest training or information about new meds before she treats you?  Don’t you want your professor to know the latest developments in the field he is teaching?  

Just like these occupations require ongoing training so that they will be equipped, you as a Christian need ongoing training to be equipped for life.  This training comes from the Word of God.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by life, and ill-equipped for what you face, it’s time for more training.  Get into the Word!  Learn it, love it, live it!

7. God’s word is our defense.  

Do you ever face temptation?  I tell my friends that I can resist anything except temptation!  How do you resist temptation?  Jesus did it by the Word of God. Matthew 4:1-11 tells the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  Each time He was tempted, He responded with Scripture: “It is written,” He said, and would then quote an appropriate verse.  He answered deception with truth.  He answered temptation with God’s Word.  

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

This is exactly what Jesus did.  He knew God’s Word so well that He could quote from memory an appropriate verse for each temptation.  Hide God’s word in your heart!  I recommend that you identify you major temptations, and then find a couple verses that speak to that issue and memorize them.  Then when tempted, do what Jesus did: “It is written.”  God’s Word is powerful!  It is our best defense against temptation and deception.  

  • So when faced with sexual temptation, I may quote

Matthew 5:27–28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

  • Faced with pride, I may quote

1 Peter 5:5–6 All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

  • When I’m feeling angry, I may quote

Ephesians 4:31–32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

  • When I’m unhappy with Laina, I may quote

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Joe 3:16 What! Are you stupid?

God’s Word is our best defense against temptation and deception.  

God’s Word is powerful!  Learn it, love it, live it.