BREATH OF HEAVEN: The One Thing that Changes Everything – John 8:31-32 & Romans 13:8-9

January 31st 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

A number of years ago, I got into road biking and I never thought I’d be a road biker, but my wife got me a bike for Christmas.  I was looking for another way to get out and enjoy beautiful Colorado and, indeed, over the last few years, I’ve really grown to love the sport of road biking.  I had a friend who invited me to go on a bike ride with him, sort of spontaneously.  He called me and at the time my wife was hosting a party and there were a number of women over at our house.  I said yes to him.  I was biding my time and hoping that by the time it was for me to go, they’d be gone.  I went upstairs and got ready.  It came time for me to go.  I had to walk downstairs through my living room to get into my garage.  The living room is where all these ladies were.  I had to go downstairs dressed head-to-toe in full-on spandex in order to get into my garage!  I had always been the guy that looked at others in full spandex and thought, “I’m never going there!  I’m never doing THAT!” until I went on a bike ride not wearing them.  It was not fun!  I realized the moment I got on the bike WHY everybody that rides spandex head-to-toe!  I joined that club.  It turned out….the thing that looked confining at first, actually brought freedom.  The thing that looked like it was going to be uncomfortable and it looked like there’s no way I’m ever going there, actually was the thing that allowed me to ride way better with way more comfort than I ever would have imagined.

It’s interesting as I read through the commands of Jesus, as I read through the Scriptures, that some of the things He invites us to, at the onset seem like they’re chains rather than freedom.  They seem like they’re confining rather than releasing.  They seem like they keep us down rather than lift us up.  Things like…..in the Beatitudes where Jesus will say the poor in Spirit…they shall see the Kingdom.  The meek….they shall inherit the earth…and none of us are going listen, count me in on that.  That sounds like freedom.  It doesn’t to us at the onset.  The peacemakers, the people who seek, not to find out what’s wrong with everybody else, but to build a bridge, those are the people who really are the sons of God.  A lot of it seems really confining until you step into it and start to live it.  There’s no place, there’s no command, where this is more evident and more true than in the way that Jesus invites us to find freedom.  We typically think of freedom like in Braveheart…..”They may take our lives, but they will never take our FREEDOM!”  He charges on to the battlefield.  Here’s what you and I think deep down inside….we think we get freedom by fighting for our freedom.  The way of Jesus teaches us something completely other.  That freedom isn’t something you fight for….it’s something you step into and there’s a specific way that He teaches us how to step into it.

Here’s what He says in John 8:31-32:  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him {Just a quick timeout. This would have been a HUGE deal for any Jewish person.  To put their faith in this Messiah would have been groundbreaking, would have been completely contrary to the culture that they’d grown up in, to the parents that they had, to the traditions that they embraced.}  ….”If you abide in my word, {If you make your home in my word.  The NIV says it: If you hold to my teachings.  The Amplified Version: If you continually obey My teachings.  The Message:  If you stick with this.  The NLT: If you remain faithful to my teachings.  Then, and only then….} …you are truly my disciples… {People who live in my wake.  People who embrace my way. People who take on my character.  This word literally means “a learner.”  Somebody who takes on the way of Jesus.  If you obey my word then you are my disciples.  Did you know that for a disciple obedience is not optional, it’s essential.  Obedience isn’t something that’s super-spiritual that disciples do.  Obedience isn’t sort of varsity and we’re sort of JV.  Obedience is the baseline for anybody that would say I want to be a follower of the Messiah, a follower of Jesus.  It’s not optional, it’s essential.  Jesus goes on and says as you abide in my word, as you obey my teachings, as you take on my character as your own, learning from me how to live this life, you will be my disciples….} ….and you will know the truth.  

That’s fascinating, isn’t it?  We’ve been looking at the truth of the Scriptures over the last few weeks and Jesus sort of twists this a little bit, doesn’t he?  Here’s what he says: You only really KNOW as much as you’re willing to believe.  You only really know as much of the Scriptures as you’re willing to step into.  You will know the truth AFTER you obey the truth.  But only then.  There’s this aspect of truth that is absolutely objective.  True in every instance.  True in every case. And in post-enlightenment modernity, Christianity has sunk their anchor into THAT truth, but only into that truth.  We haven’t created space for the truth that’s, what we would call, a little bit more subjective.  The truth that you know when you get into it and start to live it.  THAT truth is just as true as the objective truth that we’ve built much of our faith on.  Jesus says it’s at least as important, if not more so.

This word “know”…..there’s a number of different words in the Greek in the New Testament that we would translate to “know”.  Three specifically, but the other two mean “to know something by reading a book.” To know something if you sort of perceive it from afar.  The word that Jesus choses, in this instance, is that we “know” the truth.  It’s this first-hand experiential knowledge.  We know it as we live it.  We know the truth AND the truth sets us free.  You know this.  You know this if you’re a follower of Jesus.  You know, that at the onset, Jesus’ teaching to forgive people as many times as they wrong you, felt confining until you lived it.  Until you lived it.  Until you stepped into and thought you know what, it really is a lot of work to continue to hate that person.  It’s sorta like running on a treadmill….I’m expending a ton of energy and I’m not getting anywhere. The same is true of generosity.  At the onset: you want me to be generous with my stuff that I’ve worked so hard to get?  You want me to be generous with my resources that I’ve worked really hard for…my time that I have a very limited amount of?  You want me to be generous with myself?  That seems so outside of where I’d actually want to go…until you step into it and you would affirm this is the best way to live.  But you only know it once you get into it.  Christianity is far more than an experience, but it’s never less.  We often want to take that out of the picture, but Jesus wants it front and center because when He talks about truth He’s talking about reality. The way that He created the world to function, the way He created you and I as human beings to live in His world, He’s talking about reality.  It’s extremely practical.

Here’s the way Tim Keller says it: “We don’t live as we should—not because we simply know what to do but fail to do it, but rather because what we think we know is not truly real in our hearts.”  What we know in our head and what we know in our hearts can often be different things, can’t it?  You only live as much of the truth as you really know.  That’s what Jesus wants to invite you to: to step into His way.  Here’s the way we’ll say it: The way to freedom…..by freedom we mean living in the way that we were designed to live.  We often will define freedom simply as being able to do whatever we want.  That’s not biblical freedom.  Biblical freedom has some confinements around it.  It’s living in the way God designed us to live and recognizing in that is ultimate joy.  You know if you want to live in freedom there’s some things you can’t do.  You also know, if you want to live in freedom there’s some things you MUST do.  If any of you want to live in the freedom of being a concert pianist, you MUST, you MUST discipline and train yourself.  There’s gotta be some confinement.  Jesus’ teaching is no different.  He says the way to freedom is through the walk of obedience!  And it’s the ONLY way to his freedom.

My question, as I wrestled with this, is does this make our obedience self-serving.  Should we obey because we get something from God?  Well, it’s interesting because Jesus doesn’t think that’s an issue.  WE think it’s an issue because of a perspective we have in our heads of God.  The perspective we often have in our heads of God is that He’d much rather take joy FROM us than lead us TO joy.  So the Commandments….they have to be hard. They have to be burdensome.  They have to be really, really difficult and they have to lead us to a place where we have less joy than if we wouldn’t have obeyed.  Right?  That’s why we ask the question.  That’s why I wrestled with the question.  In a sense, Jesus is inviting us to this hedonistic, for-your-joy endeavor to obey. To walk with Him….there is no greater life, there is no greater freedom and we only find it as we walk in His way. Obedience isn’t so much about appeasing God….it’s not about making God happy.  Obedience is about walking with God.  Being in relationship with God.  Living by faith.  John Piper says it like this: “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”  You can’t sorta dice these two and pit them against each other.  As you walk in obedience, you find freedom and as you walk in freedom, you live in joy and as you live in joy, God gets the glory.  This is the invitation of the Messiah.  Obey my words.  Find freedom.  Live a life of joy.  That’s his invitation.

So the question is:  What parts of the Bible should we obey?  We just established that our freedom is on the line here.  This is a HUGE question.  There is no bigger question for followers of Jesus in the 21st century.  What parts of the Bible should we obey?  Our freedom is on the line.  Our joy is on the line.  Our vitality and life is on the line, so therefore, this is a huge question, would you not agree?  Which parts of the Bible should we obey? There’s a number of different perspectives on that.  Let me throw some out to you.  No shame if you’re in one of these camps.  Let’s just walk together for a few moments today.  One perspective–We should obey the whole thing.  The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.  End of discussion.  There’s a lot of people that would say that.  I have not met anybody that actually lives that.  Let’s just be honest for a second.  This perspective, while we would love to believe it on a soul level, none of us actually live.  It’s caused us to lose our voice in any sort of public discourse because everybody else can see…you guys say that but you don’t believe it.  You don’t really do it.  Just a few things we don’t obey.  I’m not saying we should, but I’m saying these are a few things we don’t.  Exodus 21:17 — Any child who curses his parents should be put to death.  Anybody done that?  It was my son’s birthday yesterday and he didn’t exactly have a stellar day.  I don’t know if he cursed us, but it was pretty close.  Deuteronomy 25:11-12 — If there’s two men in a fist fight and one of their wives come while they’re fighting and grabs the other man’s genitals, she should have her hand cut off.  First of all, you have to ask the question was this an issue?  Evidently so.  Leviticus 19:19 — You shouldn’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric.  We could go on and on and on.  We could talk about bacon.  We could talk about Sabbath.  We could talk about you name it!  It’s too simplistic to say we just obey the whole Bible.  We don’t!

A.J. Jacobs wrote a book.  He was an editorial writer for Esquire Magazine.  He wrote a book recently called The Year of Living Biblically.  He tried to follow every single command given in the Old Testament.  This is what he says:  “It’s impossible to do everything written in the law.  Everyone must pick and choose.  The important things is picking and choosing the right things.”  I think after a full year….I agree with him.  It’s impossible.  The important thing is picking and choosing the right thing.  So the question is what are the right things?  Most of you may respond to me and say well, we obey the New Testament.  To that I say the only problem is….we don’t!  We don’t!  Case in point, I have been here three and a half years, South Fellowship Church.  The only person who’s greeted me with a “holy kiss” is my wife!  That’s not an invitation for anybody else!  Hey, if we were going to take the Scriptures literally and if we were going to follow….this is a command.  This is an imperative in the Scriptures!  Paul commands the church at Corinth:  Greet one another with a holy kiss. (2 Corin. 13:12)  In Romans 16:16 — Greet one another with a holy kiss.  1 Peter 5:14 — Greet one another with the kiss of love.  It was not unique to one church.  It was a command given across the board….and we don’t follow it.

You know what else is difficult as you get into the New Testament?  There’s some areas where, not only does the Bible not answer some questions that we have, but the Bible answers some questions with two different answers.  I’ll give you an example:  In Acts 15:28-29, the early church is wrestling with how do we create a way for Gentiles to be a part of the community of faith.  The big question was:  Are we going to require the men who’ve converted to Christianity to be circumcised?  You’d better believe that there was fasting and prayer on the other side of this conversation by every man going oh please, don’t let it be!  Please don’t make us go there! This is what the church decided after a season of prayer and seeking the Lord, dialoguing with the community of faith (which are all great principles…those are great ways to seek the Lord’s will and guidance, because Scripture isn’t always crystal clear):  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us  {Don’t you love how definitive they are?  It seemed good.  After a season of prayer and walking together and speaking into each other’s lives…..it seemed good.}  …and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:  that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.  Farewell. 1 Corinthians 8:7-8 — However, not all possess this knowledge.  But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  Food will not commend us to God.  We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.   Huh.  What do you do with that?  Should you or shouldn’t you?  In one passage, we shouldn’t and in another passage food sacrificed to idols is fair game.   What parts of the Bible should we obey?  Should we obey Acts 15:29 or should we obey 1 Cor. 8:8?   All this to say, it’s not as simple as “the Bible says it, so I believe it, and that settles it.”   It’s not that simple.

Here’s a third way.  How about we read the way that Jesus invited us to look at the whole law.  Matthew 22:37-40.  He’s getting pinned in by some Pharisees, teachers of the law, that really want to ask Him this question “what parts of the Bible should we obey?”  So, Jesus, give us the best, give us the highest commandment of them all.  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: {The word “like it” is “the second is a mirror of it.”  You can’t do the first if you don’t do the second.  These are intricately intertwined together.}  You shall love our neighbor as yourself.   {So Jesus says that’s the first and greatest and in your mind you’re thinking, Paulson, fine, Jesus says it’s the greatest.  But it’s not the only.  To that I say verse 40.} On these two commandments depend {Or hang. Or are suspended by….} …all the Law and the Prophets. Here’s the picture that Jesus wants to paint for you: That the ENTIRE Old Testament (611 commands) hang in the balance of these two….are you going to love God and are you going to love the people around you.  That’s what it all boils down to.  That’s the intent of the entire thing.  The rest of the Old Testament, the rest of the law, any other command we get is simply commentary on these two…love God and love the people around you.  So, which parts of the Bible should we obey?  We should obey the law of love.  You’re going, Paulson, that’s way too easy.  That’s way too simplified.  And to you I say, that’s fine.  How about we just start here?  We don’t need to take it to the nth degree, let’s just start here and once you nail this one—loving God and loving others—just come back to me and say Paulson, I have nailed that, I’m so dialed into that, I’ve checked that off my list, then let’s go from there.  You want to know why we’ll never have that conversation?  One of two reasons:  (a) Because you can’t perfectly live that out; (b) If you could, you would realize that there’s nothing higher and nothing better and nothing else really matters.

Just so you don’t think I’m lifting the words of Jesus out of context, the early church wrestled with this question too.  Listen to the way Paul writes to the church at Rome:  Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  (Romans 13:8)   Well, how much of the law?  Presumably, the whole law.  It would be akin to seeing a little thread hanging out of a sweater and going and pulling that little thread….if that little thread is love God and love people, you would pull it and if you pulled it long enough, you would be naked lying on the floor…you’ve come undone.  It’s all attached to that.  It’s all attached to these two things:  Love God and love the people around you.  Does it mean that we fulfill the law in every single little detail of it?  No.  Actually, it doesn’t.  Good thing for you that’s not what it means to fulfill the law period. That’s not how Jesus fulfilled the law.  Jesus did not fulfill the law by accomplishing every command exactly as it was written.  Case in point, Sabbath.  He didn’t fulfill the Sabbath exactly as it was written.  What he DID was that he accomplished the INTENT of the Sabbath, which was to find rest in the only One in whom our souls can truly be satisfied.  He fulfills the intent behind the law and in doing so fulfills it.

Here’s what he says to you.  You want to fulfill the intent behind every single law God has?   LOVE.  You go, Paulson, I don’t think you fulfill every single law God has just by loving.  Let’s keep reading, Romans 13:9:  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” {He’s just going “Ten Commandments” on us.  Very basic.  Very, sort of, elementary.  He goes let’s just start there.} …and any other commandment {That’s a lot of other commandments.  600+ in the law.} …are summed up in this word:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”    ANY. OTHER. COMMANDMENT.  Which part of the Bible should we obey?  Well, let’s start with the law of love and once we nail that, let’s start to ask what else, God, do you have for us?  You see, early disciples were convinced that love was the intent of the entire law.  Here’s the deal.  This is going to be a little bit difficult for us, but they weren’t as concerned about their interpretation, Jesus wasn’t as concerned with the early church’s interpretation of the law as He was with them understanding the intent behind the law.  The Pharisees wanted to split hairs; how much of our spices should we tithe on?  Let’s tithe on them all, so they’re bringing in a little bit of salt, a little paprika, a little bit of oregano and they’re putting that in the offering tray.  Jesus goes I’m not exactly sure that’s what I mean by that, thank you very much.  Did you know that you can actually fulfill the law, fulfill the commands and miss the heart of the commander?  It’s possible!  Read through Isaiah 58….You do all these fasts, you do all these ceremonies, you do all this religious stuff and yet you miss the heart of it.  You refuse to speak into those whose lives are in captivity.  You refuse to help those who are downtrodden.  You refuse the greater fast, which is offering your body to the one who paid it all.  There’s a way to execute the command without honoring the commander.  What Jesus wants to do, what the New Testament Scriptures want to do is point us back to this is what’s behind….if you were to dig down through all 613 different laws there would be one intent and only one. LOVE.  That’s the only intent.

Does this minimize the law of God, you might ask.  Absolutely not!  It clarifies it. It reveals the heart of what God intended for it.  When we talk about things like food sacrificed to idols, Paul will continue (1 Cor. 8:13): Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. What’s his guiding principle?  LOVE.  He goes it’s not really about the issue.  The issue is do I value people or do I value my position more?  Do I love people or do I love being right?    Romans 14:15 — For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.   As if to say this is the bigger issue and it will clarify any other sub-issues that you might have.  To quote one of the church fathers, St. Augustine: “Love God and do whatever you please; {Some might say that just leaves to licentiousness.  Not if you genuinely love God, it won’t.  These are the guardrails.} ….for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”

Lest you think I’m taking this too far, listen to the words of Jesus:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another {And it really wasn’t all that new.  It was all over the Old Testament.  It was the intent of the entire law, but what’s new is the extent to which the disciples are called to live this out.}…just as I have loved, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples…   It’s not by how much you know and what you believe, although those things are important.  Those things are extremely important, they’re just not the MOST important.  People will not know you are disciples of the Messiah because you have great theology and great doctrine, although I believe that’s really important.  They will not know you are disciples of the Messiah because you’ve memorized “x” amount of the Bible, although I believe that’s really important.  The way that they will know whether or not you are disciples of the King of kings and the Lord of lords is do you live in the way of love.  That’s what will define us.

Early disciples were known for how they loved, not for what they believed.   Now, if you read through the New Testament, you go well, what they believed was extremely important.  I would say yes and amen.  I couldn’t agree more.  It just wasn’t what they were known for.  They were known as people who were convinced of the resurrection.   That’s what they were known for as far as what they believed.  The way that shaped their community and their interaction with the world is the reason the church still stands today.  They were known for the way that they loved.  Listen to the early church father, Tertullian, reporting about what the Romans would say about followers of Jesus:  “See how they love one another!”  An anonymous Christian said to the Romans:  “We love one another with a mutual love because we do not know how to hate.”  Clement of Rome, one of the early church fathers said: “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”  Early followers of Jesus weren’t so much asking the question “what does the Bible say?”  The reason they weren’t asking it?  Because they didn’t have a Bible.  They didn’t have as much of the New Testament that you have.  They had the Old Testament on scrolls.  What does the Bible say? {Pastor Ryan acts out rolling out a large scroll.}  They were asking “what does love require of us?”  What does love demand of us?  What does it look like to love in this situation?  Let’s talk for a second.  You tell me that wouldn’t change….if we started to ask the same question “what does love ask of us?”…if that wouldn’t change our neighborhoods.  If that wouldn’t change our schools.  If that wouldn’t change our churches.  If that wouldn’t eventually, in the ripple effects of it, change our world.  What does love ask of us?

We have the tendency to read the Bible through a lens that we create and that tends to benefit us.  We can make the Bible say almost anything we want it to say.  If we had the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee and you disagreed with me, I would have the chance to walk you through some of the most grievous offenses that people have made and they’ve used the Bible to do it.  Here’s what they missed.  Here’s what they could not have done.  They could not have said the way of Jesus is the way of love and that is our guiding ethic and that is our guiding principle and those are the guardrails that He has set for us.  They could not have made those mistakes if they would have had THAT as their guiding ethic.  We use the Bible to justify our politics.  We use the Bible to justify some of our nationalistic endeavors.  We use the Bible to justify some of our personal soap-box issues.  {Will you look up at me for just a second?}  Instead of using the Bible as a mallet to hit people over the head with, what if we started using it as a mirror to discern the condition of our own soul and then to walk forward in the way of love that Jesus clearly commands us to.  The early followers of Jesus are convinced that this is what Jesus has called us to.

Let’s go back to where we started.  If you really are my disciples, you will abide in my word.  You’re going to obey my words, he says.  Then you will know the truth.  You’re going to step into it and you’re going to be like YES and AMEN!  This is truth.  This is the reality that you designed the human soul to live in and walk in.  And that truth will, in turn, set you free.  So let’s look at it again.  If you abide in my word and obey my words and that, at it’s very core, base level is love.  So if you love, but only if you love, if you love you will know the truth of God and that truth will free you to walk into his world for his glory and for your joy.  Living the law of love leads to a life of liberty!  We do not fight our way to freedom, ironically.  We love our way to freedom.  Can we all agree that it’s a lot of work to hate.  It’s a lot of work to be right all the time, isn’t it?  I know!!!  (Just kidding.)  It’s a lot of work to be right all the time.  It’s a lot of work to judge.  And it’s work that only leads to our chains.  But if you want to live in the way of Jesus, LOVE in the way of Jesus.  Love ridiculously.  Love lavishly.  Love people that you would normally hate and disagree with and want to push down.  Love people who don’t deserve it.  Love people who are unworthy.  Love people who don’t love you back.  Love period, no strings attached.  You know what will start to happen?  You will start to walk in the freedom of knowing THIS is why I was created!  Let’s pray.

(Prayer not included on this recording.)

BREATH OF HEAVEN: The One Thing that Changes Everything – John 8:31-32 & Romans 13:8-92023-06-27T12:47:57-06:00

BREATH OF HEAVEN:The Point is a Person John 5:39-40 & Hebrews 1:1-3

January 24th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

BREATH OF HEAVEN:The Point is a Person   John 5:39-40 & Hebrews 1:1-3

My wife, Kelly, and I met on a backpacking trail a number of years ago.  I felt like I made quite the impression on her.  Things had gone well on that trail.  I was convinced, if I could talk her into it, that I was going to marry her. I wasn’t sure she was as committed as I was, nonetheless, she had thrown out on the trail…if you ever want to come to Durango and spend some time and hang out, it’s an open invitation.  I filed that away in the very front of my file cabinet.  We got off the trail after spending a week together and I waited all of two days to call her.  I called her house.  This is back in the day where phones were attached to the wall.  You had to call and actually talk to somebody’s parents in order to ask them out on a date!!!  Her dad answered the phone.  He was a football coach for 20 years in Durango.  He said hello.  I answered, “Hi! This is Ryan. Is Kelly there?”  I hear him yell to Kelly, “Kelly, Ryan’s on the phone.”  Kelly yells back, “Ryan who??”  Evidently I didn’t make as great an impression as I thought.  I asked, “Does the offer still stand to come down and visit you?”  She said, “Yes, absolutely.”  This is also before you could plug an address in your phone and it would tell you how to get there.  I got a map and looked up Durango to figure out how to get there.  She said, “When you get into town, it’s basically one street in town, you’re going to make a left at Mustang and then you’re going to weave up and you’ll eventually get to where I live.”  She gave me the directions.  I asked my parents if I could borrow one of the cars.  They said they were using both of the them that weekend.  So I went out and bought a car!  Got in my car and drove…..I said—-I’d seen Goodwill Hunting a few times—“I gotta go see about a girl!”  I get in my car and drive to Durango.  I drive all the way through main street and I don’t see Mustang.  That’s the street I’m looking for….Mustang.  I come back through and still don’t see it.  I do that a number of times.  Kelly was at work at this point in time and there was no way to call her at work.  I go back through again and think I didn’t just buy a car to come down to see about a girl for it to end up like this.  As I’m driving back through, I see a gas station named “The Mustang.”   I realized that although Kelly is brilliant and beautiful, she is geographically and directionally challenged!!  I realized that if I have the wrong goal, I’ll never end up in the right destination!

Same is true for your life and mine.  If we have the wrong goal, we’ll never end up in the right destination.  You can plug an address into the GPS of your phone and it’ll take you there, but if it’s the wrong address, who really cares?  I read this book a while back by this guy by the name of Bob Goff and here’s what he says: “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”  The goal matters, doesn’t it?  The goal matters in life.  All of us have read stories or heard testimony of people on their deathbed who reevaluate everything they did.  Like a sandcastle built right on the shore, the wave is just going to come up and take it down.  It’s in significant moments in life that we have a clarity of the things that really indeed do matter.  The goal of making money really, in the grand scheme of things, pales in comparison to the goal of making friends.  But we very rarely have that goal in mind.  The goal of knowing and being known is far greater than the goal of being famous.  None of us are going to lay on our deathbed and go I wish I really would have updated my Facebook a few more times.  We’re just not.  I wish my social media presence had a little bit larger reach.  Never!  It’s not going to happen.  The goals that we embrace will eventually determine the destination that we end up at.

The same is true in the reading of the Scriptures.  The goal that we have when we come to the Scriptures is going to determine where we end up.  I think a lot of us have the wrong goal.  I think we have the wrong destination in mind.  I think we’re looking for a street named Mustang and we’re not going to find it.  This is the reason that as you interact with people….and if you tell people….if this is indeed where you’re at this morning…if you tell people you’re a follower of Jesus and they’re not, they’re going to respond with do you really believe the Bible?  Do you take the Bible literally?  How do you reconcile a portrait of God in the Old Testament that sometimes doesn’t look like what we see in Jesus in the New Testament?  Have you ever heard that question?  Have you ever HAD that question?  I’ll stand before you as your pastor and say I have!  Only every time I read it.  Regardless of how intellectual we can be and regardless of how much we think we can unpack the argument, there’s still some questions that we have.  God, sometimes it looks like you ordained things in the Old Testament like genocide that just don’t look like Jesus saying well, if somebody wrongs you turn the other cheek.  And if they take your cloak, give them your tunic also.  If they make you go one mile, go with them two.  God, some of this just doesn’t seem to add up.  Here’s why?  Because we’re looking for Mustang. That’s why.  We have the wrong goal.  My goal this morning is to reaffirm what Scripture says is the goal of you reading the Bible.  No small task and there’s no small disparagement amongst followers of Jesus about what the goal is, but here’s the thing.  There was no ambiguity in the life of Jesus as far as what the goal of reading the Bible was.

If you have your Bible, turn to John 5:39-40 with me.  Listen to the words of the one whom we’ve sung about and have declared as Messiah.  He’s speaking to the Pharisees who are trying to catch him in a tough spot.  They want to test him.  They want a reason to kill him.  He responds to them by saying:   You search the Scriptures (Old Testament) because you think that in them you have eternal life.  {That’s your goal.  That’s your Mustang.} It is they {The Scriptures.  They testify about me.  The whole story is about me, Jesus says.} …and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.   Here’s what Jesus wants to do:  He wants to redefine the way and the reason that you open your Bible.  He wants to redefine the goal when you read the Scriptures.  The goal of reading the Scriptures is NOT to know the Scriptures!!  You can know the whole thing cover to cover…..you can memorize the whole thing and still miss the point.  You can go to it and still be searching for Mustang and never find it.  That’s what he says to the Pharisees.  Remember, these are the religious elite.  When he says “you search the Scriptures,” he means you have plumbed the depths of them.  You’ve given your life to them.  You’ve memorized the Torah.  You recite Shema three times a day.  You are living into….you are giving your life to this book.  But you miss the point.  Jesus redefines the goal and having the right goal is the thing that leads us to the right destination.  Here’s what the goal is:  To come to Jesus that you may have life.  The whole point is a person!!  The whole entire point of the Scriptures is a person.  We’ll say it like this today:  The point of the Scriptures is to lead us to the person of Jesus.  PERIOD. If the Scriptures don’t lead us to Christ than we have missed the point.  So you’re saying Paulson, I can have my whole entire AWANA sash with all of the awards and miss the point?  Yes.  You’re saying Paulson, I can read the thirty days that we’re doing together at South Fellowship and miss the point?  Yes!  You’re saying I can memorize all the Scriptures and miss the point?  Yes, except that this is one of the Scriptures that we’re asking you to memorize in hopes that we don’t miss the point.  The point is a person.  His name is Jesus.

The goal of reading the Scriptures is not to find evidence that demands a verdict.  The goal of reading the Scriptures is to have an encounter with the One who says I’m over it all.  The goal of reading the Scriptures is not to acquire more information, although information is good and information is absolutely necessary.  It’s just not the goal.  The goal is not to acquire more information, it’s to receive and respond to the invitation of Jesus. “You refuse to come to me and have life.”  I think if we’ve missed it anywhere in modern, current evangelicalism it’s that we’ve confused Christianity with biblicism.  We take the Bible seriously, yes, but the Bible is not our Lord!  Jesus is Lord.  Jesus is Savior.  Jesus is the head of the church.  Jesus said all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the Bible!!  No, no, no, no, no!  Jesus said all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to ME!  It is He who holds the authority.  The Scriptures are not an end in and of themselves.  They’re not a cul-de-sac that we get into and go continually around.  They’re a portal into relationship with the Living God. That’s what they are.  They’re a portal into relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Post-enlightenment thinking has taught us to read the Bible for answers.  But Jesus invites us to read the Bible for encounter.  It’s absolutely clear!  Do we need answers?  Yes.  Are answers good?  Yes.  Will you ever bow down and worship an answer?  No!  Absolutely not!  We will bow down and worship a person for all eternity.  The Bible will not be on the throne, Jesus will.  And that changes the way that we read it and I think a lot of us are looking for Mustang.  We’re looking for the Bible to worship.  But the Bible says that’s not the point of the Bible. The point of the Bible is to lead us to Jesus and Jesus is who we worship.  I love the way that Dr. Mark Strauss puts it: “Our passion should not be for scripture per se, but for the One who reveals himself IN the scriptures.” We have a relationship with a person, not a relationship with a book.  In the great old hymn, Break Thou Bread of Life, by Mary A. Lathbury, she says:  “Beyond the sacred page I seek thee Lord; My spirit longs of Thee, O Living Word.”

So why is having Jesus as the goal so important?  Because whatever our goal is it shapes the direction that we go.  It shapes the course of our life.  If my goal in coming to the Scriptures is to know the Scriptures, I can get into a dead-end cul-de-sac where I know them but miss the point.  But if my goal is:  I want to hear the words of life that are Jesus, the Living Word, God incarnate, human flesh…..if that’s my goal then I can come to Jesus and have eternal life that the Scriptures point to. I would say, anecdotally, that a number of the discussions that we have about…well, I don’t get this about the Bible and I don’t get that and I don’t understand why God looks a little bit different in the Old Testament than He does in the New…could actually be answered if we understood this concept a little bit better.  Let me attempt.  I want to answer the question:  How does having an understanding of Jesus as the point shape everything?   I’ll argue today that it does.

Turn with me to Hebrews 1:1-2.  We’ll spend the rest of our time together in Hebrews to see that the Bible is indeed revelation and at its heart it is revealing not some THING, but it’s showing us some ONE.   Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. {I’m convinced that when he says long ago, many times and in many ways, he’s talking about the Old Testament.  He spoke to us through the prophets. They wrote things down for us.  They recorded the oracles of God, according to the book of Romans.}  …but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.   Here’s what the author of Hebrews just did.  He said in the past, the way that God declared things was through the prophets, was through the writings, was through the law, was through Torah, but now things have changed and God has a different word for us today.  His word has a name.  The name is Jesus.  So we’ll say it like this:  Why is it so important to have the right goal when we go to the Scriptures.  Because Jesus is THE definitive Word of God.  Did you know that the term “the Word of God” is used over 41 times in the Scriptures.  And less than a handful of those times does it actually refer to anything written down.  I’ll say that again.  The term “the Word of God” is used a lot of times in what we would call the Word of God, only what we call the Word of God the Scriptures usually don’t.  The Word of God in the Scriptures is the declaration and message of Jesus.  The apostles speak the word of God and what they’re not doing is reading from a book.  They’re telling a gospel message.  That’s number one.  Number two, the word of God in the Scriptures is the person of Jesus.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became a BOOK!  That’s often how we think about it.  No, no, no, no, no.  I’m just quoting from John:  In the beginning was the Word….and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  The word of God is the person of God, his name is Jesus.  So….implications.  When we go to the Scriptures, if Jesus is what God has to say, and that’s what the author of Hebrews just said, then we can’t read the Bible like we read a cookbook.  We can’t read the Bible and have everything mean the same thing.  We can’t give weight to everything.  If you read a cookbook, you need to put all the recipes…..or if you just open your Facebook and see all those ridiculous videos about recipes going around right now that make me real hungry….every ingredient is needed and necessary and each ingredient carries the same weight.  You can’t read the Bible like a cookbook.

If Jesus is what God has to say, which is what the author of Hebrews just said, we don’t read Jesus alongside of other passages in the Bible.  We read Jesus on top of other passages in the Bible.  He is our lens through which we read the entire Old Testament.  He is the lens by which we interact with all of the portraits of God that we have.  He is the definitive word of God, the lens through which we read all of Scripture.  We tend to read the Bible as a flat text.  It’s not.  At least according to Jesus it’s not.  It’s dynamic.  It’s living.  It’s active and we don’t put Jesus alongside of other texts in the Scripture, we put him above other texts in the Scriptures and He’s the lens.  Why?  Because He’s the point that we read the entire Bible through.  We only begin to see how Jesus reframes the storyline of God’s dealing with His people if we place His revelation over all previous revelations. That’s how we read the Bible.  Let me make three points on that, because I know some of you are either scratching your head or you’re picking up stones.  I understand.  These are difficult things.  Number one, here’s what we see:  The entire Scripture points to Jesus!  And all I’m doing is listening to the words of Jesus.  On the road to Emmaus, He’s interacting with people.  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)  Some other translations say he “unpacked” {that’s my words} how everything pointed to Him.  Can you imagine what this walk must have been like?  This would be like having a cup of coffee with William Shakespeare and walking through Hamlet or Macbeth with him and having him go yeah, did you catch that allusion there?  I didn’t catch any of them, Billy! Can you imagine Jesus unpacking the Old Testament with the point that this is all about me.  Always has been, always will be.

Second, the revelation of Jesus carries more weight than what we had previously in the law and the prophets. I’ll say it like this….I’m going to say it delicately, but you can write this down….this is where I stand. Everything in the Scripture is equally inspired, but not everything in the Scripture is equally applicable.  Here’s how I know you agree with me.  Because all of you are wearing clothes with two types of threads on them today.  Because most of us indulged in God’s gift of bacon at some point within in the last few days.  None of you have stoned anybody, right?  This is the way we read the Bible.  I’m just saying it.  We do not apply all sections of the Scriptures equally.  Now, that does NOT mean that they’re not all equally inspired.  We firmly believe that they are ALL equally inspired, but they are not all equally applicable today because of Jesus.  You read the Bible like this.  I read the Bible like this.  We just need to admit that this is true and then we have to sort of unpack a grid of…….well, then how do we decide, Paulson?  Are you just going to pick and choose then? Absolutely not.  I’m going to pick Jesus and then I’ll let Him choose.  Is that good?  Just so you don’t think I’m making this stuff up, here’s what Jesus says in John 5:36.  He’s speaking to the Pharisees:  But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John.  For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.   You know what’s interesting? Earlier Jesus said that there’s nobody more prominent, born among women, than John.  What Jesus just said is my words and my works are weightier than John’s and John’s are the weightiest we’ve ever seen.  He put them on a scale.

The entire Scripture points to Jesus.  The revelation of Jesus carries more weight than the law and the prophets. Three, the revelation of Jesus supersedes the law and the prophets.  Jesus is the FINAL word and he reframes the way that we see the entire Scripture.  Let me explain it like this.  Has anybody seen the movie The Sixth Sense?  Huge spoiler alert.  The whole movie…this little boy sees “dead” people.  We think the whole time that this one character, played by Bruce Willis, is alive the whole time.  The ring falls off at the very end and you realize he’s been dead the whole movie!!  You can never go back and watch The Sixth Sense in the same way.  Because you know that this is what it’s pointing to.  This is the culmination of the movie.  Once you know that all the Scriptures point to Jesus, you can never read it the same!  He stands above it all!  He reframes the whole story.  Let me show you two incidents where He does this explicitly.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He says:  You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you…{All he did was quote from the book of Deuteronomy 19:20-21.  What he’s not going to do is say yeah, let’s do that.  That’s a good idea.  If you want to say it crassly….Jesus….he doesn’t disagree with the Scriptures, he just takes it further than the Scriptures originally took it.  And further than anyone would have imagined.  See, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth….for this near east culture like Israel….was actually a way to limit retribution.  It was a picture of grace back then.  But Jesus says no, no, no, I’m taking this even further than limited retribution.  I’m taking it to no retribution.  “But I say to you”…..I’m going to reinterpret this.  I’m going to redefine it.  I’m going to take it further.  Why?  Because I stand above it.}  ……But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  {He goes I stand above it all.  I can do this.  I’m Jesus.}

In John 8:4-7, there’s a woman caught in the act of adultery.  The law in Deuteronomy 22:24 would say that they should stone this woman caught in adultery.  Technically, it said they should stone the man AND the woman.  It’s a whole other story as to why the man’s not there if they were caughtin the act, right?  There’s probably a guy there too, but…..they’re into redefining the law anyway.  Jesus calls them on it.  …they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  {Just write in your Bible Deuteronomy 22:24.  Yes and amen.  Yes, it did.}  So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sing among  you be the first to throw a stone at her.”    You really want to play this game of law?  Because all of you are guilty under the law.  {Pssst! Look up at me!}  That’s the point of the law.  We are ALL guilty under it.  We all fall short.  Tell me you wouldn’t tremble if you were in the same position and Jesus bent down to start writing in the dirt about YOU!  He stands above it!  He reframes for us the word of God.

Number one, why does it matter and why is Jesus the goal?  Because he is the definitive word of God.  If you don’t write down anything else for that point, simply write down Jesus is what God has to say.  Two, (Hebrews 1:3) He is the radiance, the splendor, of the glory of God!  {Oh, man!  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)  But they don’t even come close to displaying the glory of God as is found in the face of Jesus Christ.} …and He is the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe by the word of His power.  So, Jesus is what God has to say and Jesus is what God is like.  Jesus is, according to the book of Hebrews….and this is why it’s so important that we read the Bible through the lens of what is the goal? the goal is to know Jesus, because Jesus is the exact representation of God.  Jesus is the EXACT representation of God. {I’ll say this as carefully as I can.}  The Bible is not the full revelation of God….Jesus is.  Now, I’m not saying that the Bible isn’t completely true, it is.  I’m not saying that the Bible is NOT inspired, I 100% believe that it is.  But Jesus IS, not only what God has to say, but Jesus is definitively what God is like.  His glory….the glory of God…is captured in, and only fully in, the person of Jesus.  Glory is this idea of like weightiness or splendor or invisible attributes being made known and the author of Hebrews says if you want to know what God is like you look no further than his son.  Jesus would affirm this in John 14:9.  Philip says to Jesus, “Jesus, show us the Father.”  And He responds by saying, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen Him.”

In the ancient world, they would have these presses that made coins.  Typically, the coin would have on the face of it the picture of an emperor.  This is the illustration that the author of Hebrews is pulling into when he says he is the exact imprint of his nature.  It’s as if to say that throughout history, previous to Jesus, God has been sending sketches, but not He’s given a stamp—the exact representation of who He is in Jesus.  Jesus is what God is like!  In the book of John you’re going to see, even in the first chapter and the first 18 verses, most of what I’ve already said.  John gets a little more nuanced and intentional towards the end though.  Listen to what he says:  For from his (Jesus’) fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; {So he’s going to start making a distinction.  The law given through Moses.} ….grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.   {They have different points.  They have different purposes, but if you want to know what God is like, don’t look to the law….although that reveals a portion of what God is like, no doubt.  Is the law false?  No, it’s not.  It’s true.  It’s good.  It reflects God’s nature and character….imperfectly.  I’m not making this up.}  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.  But what has He made known?  God.  What is God like?  Grace upon grace.  That’s great news, church!  That’s breathtaking!  That this is what God is like.  So when we read portraits that don’t seem to line up with this…..people have issues with that.  I admit it, I have issues with that.  What we say and what the Scriptures say is not that the Old Testament, in any way, shape or form, is untrue or false or bad history…no!  What we say is that it’s a shadow of the reality that’s seen in Jesus.  But if you want to see the real thing, if you want to know what God is like, look no further than Jesus.

I love the way that N.T. Wright, the great New Testament scholar, put it: “When travelers sail across a vast ocean and finally arrive on the distant shore, they leave the ship behind and continue over land, not because the ship was no good, or because their voyage had been misguided, but precisely because both ship and voyage had accomplished their purpose.  During the new, dry-land stage of their journey, the travelers remain—and in this illustration must never forget that they remain—the people who made that voyage in the ship.”  But he’s going there’s two stages to this story and we need to read the Bible aware of that.  It makes all the difference in the world.  In fact, Paul would even say: For Christ is the end of the law….(Rom. 10:4)  The end in the sense that He’s goal, and the end in the sense that it’s terminated because He has fulfilled it.

He says: He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…  I love this because the author of Hebrews is going to circle around back to the fact that Jesus is the great High Priest and that He doesn’t offer sacrifice year after year, but He offered sacrifice once and for all in His body given and His blood shed on the cross.  And, friends, you have a Savior who is SEATED. That didn’t hit you the way I hoped it would.  Here’s why that’s huge!!  Because Jesus is done with his work. The work of salvation is accomplished in the person of Christ.  So, Jesus is what God has to say.  Jesus is what God is like.  And Jesus is the culmination of the mission of God to seek and to save the lost….of whom you and I are. Jesus is the completion of God’s salvation plan.  And the greatest picture we have of Jesus is in the giving of his life on the cross for you and for me.  His mission of self-sacrificial love redeems humanity, redeems humankind.  {Zoom out a second and circle back around to what I just said.}  If the mission of Jesus is completed, in the cross where Jesus would rather die for his enemies than kill his enemies, THAT’s what God is like.  That is God chasing after humanity saying I will not let sin, death, get the final word.  I love you enough to redeem you.  Paul approaches the church at Corinth and says I know nothing except Christ crucified and that’s enough. (1Cor. 2:2)  I love the way that Martin Luther says it:  “When I read the Scripture, I only know Christ crucified.”  And in Christ crucified what we see is the wrath of God satisfied.  Poured out on Jesus, taking the place of humanity.  We see in the cross that God indeed does hate evil.  He hates it enough to redeem it! That’s how much he hates it.  By his own blood to step into the story and to say I love my creation enough, not to condemn them, but to redeem them and to bring them back.  That’s what God is like.  He hates injustice.  He hates evil. He hates it so much that He steps into the story and says I refuse to let the story end without my blood redeeming humankind.  We have to read the Bible that way.  It reveals that God hates sin and it reveals the extent of his love for you and I.  “O praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead!” Amen!

Jesus claims to have fulfilled the Scriptures.  Yes, he does.  But not by accomplishing every command exactly the way that it’s written.  That’s not how he fulfills the Scriptures.  Just read his interaction with Sabbath alone.  He intentionally breaks the Sabbath {if you’re reading through Luke with us, you saw this} to make the point that Sabbath is not about taking a day to rest.  Sabbath is about finding true rest for your soul in a person whose name is Jesus.  He is what Sabbath was a shadow and He is what Sabbath is pointing to.  He is the true home for exiles.  He is both the judge and the defender.  He is the ultimate covenant saying you are now found and shaped by my sacrifice and my blood.  He IS the kingdom and everything that God is working towards and lifting up!  When Jesus speaks of being the fulfillment, he’s not meaning he accomplishes every command exactly as it was written, but that he completes the story of God’s redemption and love for humankind with his own body given and his blood shed.  That’s what he means.

I think a lot of us are looking for Mustang.  We read the Bible and we’re looking for answers that the Bible doesn’t even ask questions about.  And we don’t read it nuanced enough and we don’t read it intentional enough to see that the entire point of it is Jesus.  That he stands above it all.  He IS the point.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  In it we see love declared, sin atoned for and forgiven, and mission accomplished.  Jesus is what God has to say.  Jesus is what God is like.  And Jesus is the completed mission of God.  Therefore, the Bible leads us to:  A person to walk with, not a program to follow.  The Bible leads us to:  A community to belong to, not commandments to execute.  And I would say not PRIMARILY commandments to execute, because you’re going to go Paulson, are we suppose to follow the Bible?  Yes and amen.  Please come back next week, we’re going to talk all about that.  But the fact that you eat shellfish shows me that’s not as easy a question to answer as we might think it is.  The invitation is to a community to belong to, rather than just….well, what does it say…I’m going to do that.  No.  It’s a part of being a part of a community that preaches and speaks and encounters the Living Word, Jesus the Messiah.  And it’s a story to be found in, not strategies to implement.  I think a lot of us are looking for Mustang.  We’re driving down the road……   We open the Bible every single day and we drive right by the point.  The point is a person and his name is Jesus and he invites us to walk with him, to know him, to encounter him, not just to find evidence that would suggest that he existed.  That’s all there, but that’s not the point.  The point isn’t evidence, the point is encounter.  The point isn’t information, it’s invitation.  We can have all the information in the world…..and miss the point.  Because the point is a person! Always has been, according to Jesus, and always will be.  The point has a name.  His name is Jesus.  He, and he alone, sits enthroned above the universe.  Angels and saints bow down and they worship Him.  You and I join with ALL of creation in giving Him honor and glory.  He is the point of ALL of God’s creation….including the Holy Scriptures.  They point us to the Living Word better than anything else.  The Living Word’s name is Jesus the Messiah.  Read to know and encounter Him.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, it’s all about you.  You’re sufficient.  You’re enough.  You’re good.  Lord, in the difficulty in trying to understand how the whole Bible works together to point to you, would you open our eyes?  Would you shed grace on us that we might, not only understand, that’s really important, but Jesus, would you help us to see? Because we know that the same voice that spoke into darkness and created light, also speaks into our lives. You often speak into our lives through your Word and your Spirit illuminating your Word and we pray would you just continue to do that.  The same voice that spoke light into darkness would shine on our hearts and ultimately that you would show us the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  It’s all about Him.  Lord, help us know You through your Scriptures.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

BREATH OF HEAVEN:The Point is a Person John 5:39-40 & Hebrews 1:1-32023-06-27T12:47:45-06:00

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Pragmatic Wind – 2 Tim. 3:16-17 & Luke 4:1-13

January 17th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Pragmatic Wind  2 Tim. 3:16-17 & Luke 4:1-13

We’re in a series, started last week and over the next two weeks, and we’re exploring both the power and prominence of the Scriptures.  For millennia, this book….really, it’s a collection of writings….I think you should view it more as a library than a book…..it’s 66 different books, written by 40 different authors over the course of 1500 years….three different continents with one central message…whose name is Jesus.  We want to look at why the Bible is so significant.  Why has it transformed cultures, transformed lives, transformed cities for the last few thousand years?  What is it about this collection of writings that’s so significant?  Last week we said we don’t want to impose ON it, we want to receive from it.  We want the Bible to tell us why it’s such a big deal.

I did some research this week, though and I wanted to sorta answer the question and I want to pose it to you today also.  The Bible is……fill in the blank.  How would you answer that question?  So I googled that and anytime you google something Google thinks they’re smarter than you and so they’re like hey, we think we know what you’re going to say.  They want to just finish the sentence, so I just entered “the Bible is” and here’s what came up.  The Bible is……a lie.  The Bible is…..fake.   The Bible is…..bull(blank).  The Bible is…..the word of God.  How would YOU fill in the blank?  In a room this size with this many people, we come in with different perspectives and from different places on our journey of faith and different thoughts about who God is and at the onset, I just want to say regardless of how you walk in these doors, you’re welcome here.  However you would answer this question you’re welcome here.  Some of us would answer the statement “The Bible is……confusing.” And I would agree with you.   There’s parts of it that are very confusing.  The Bible is sorta difficult; it’s hard to know which parts of it we should still practice today and which parts of it did Jesus come and sorta redefine for us.  We’re going to talk about that next week.  The Bible, if you’ve read through it cover to cover, has a tendency to be fairly violent.  We’re going to ask that question over the next few weeks.  The Bible is….archaic.  It talks about a whole different world at a whole different time and not a lot of it is all that applicable to our situation today.  That one I tend to push back on a little bit and go I don’t know if you’ve read it well.  The Bible is….inconsistent.  I’ve heard that a lot.  Paulson, how can you take the Bible at face value when even in the resurrection accounts of Jesus there are differing accounts of the resurrection of Christ.  How do you interact with that?  How do you enter into that?   The Bible is………how would you fill in the blank? Throughout this series, I want to ask the question from the Scriptures….what do you say about yourself…..the Bible IS.

Last week we said one of the ways the Bible answered that question is by saying that it is “inspired.”  That it’s breathed out by God.  What we mean by that is that Scripture has its inception, not in the minds of men, but in the heart of God.  That God through his Holy Spirit speaks into the lives of people who write down what He wants them to communicate and then in the Bible we have exactly what God wants us to have.  But Paul writing to Timothy will expand on that.  He wouldn’t just fill in the blank the Bible is….inspired or the Bible is God-breathed, literally it’s the breath of heaven that gets in the sails of humanity and carries them to the destiny that God wants them to have.  It IS that!  But it’s MORE than that.

Listen to the way that Paul writes to his protégé Timothy to encourage him to continue to preach the Scriptures, to continue to live the Scriptures and to allow them to shape and form him.  He wants to tell us why they’re so significant.  He says this: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable {If you have an NIV translation, it says “useful.”} ..for teaching, for reproof, for correction…{So he’s going to say there’s an aspect to the Scriptures where we don’t only read the Scriptures, but the Scriptures read US.  Have you experienced this?  You dive into a passage and start reading it and although you’re the one reading, you feel like the Scripture’s reading you.  There’s something that shines on your heart, in your life, where God says that’s for you today, right now.  That’s the reproof and correction.  God, there’s some things that I need to repent of, some things that I need to change.  That’s the power of the Scriptures, the significance of the Scriptures.} ….and for training in righteousness….{The Scripture is useful for teaching us how to live in the way of Jesus.  How to walk with him.  Paul goes on to say…} ….that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.    What Paul writes to Timothy is that there’s a significant power in the pages of Scripture. Because it’s breathed by God (He breathed it into existence)….and as we said last week, He breathes through it into the lives of those who come to it by faith and filled with the Spirit….He breathes through it into the lives of believers, but he says in addition to that, the Bible has this unique ability to shape and transform by teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteous that we might walk into the world differently.  That we might be equipped for every single, good work.  Did you know the Bible has that type of power?   I started to wonder…has our neglect, or potential neglect, of the Scriptures blinded our eyes to the ways that we could make a difference in this world?  That’s what Paul’s writing to Timothy.  Don’t miss out on this wealth of beauty and transformative power and transformative knowledge that would get into your heart and life and allow you to see the world differently.  When you wake up in the morning and engage with God through his Scriptures, it’s not just a discipline and it’s not just delight, it’s a lens through which you enter into the rest of your day.  That’s huge.  That’s significant.

He says the Scripture is profitable.  If you have a NIV…..useful.   I was thinking of things in my life that are useful.  I do the dishes most nights in our house and my dishwasher is useful.  Especially if it’s loaded correctly!! I love the fact that we don’t have to wash everything by hand.  You know what else is useful in my life?  My coffee-maker!!!!  Very useful!!  I love the fact that I have a car in my garage.  I don’t have to ride my horse to work, right?!  My washing machine, our dryer…….useful!!  A lot of stuff in my life….useful!  I have NEVER put the Bible in that category!  Have you?  Useful.  Profitable.  For shaping us into the people that God would have us be for the glory of His name and for our joy as we walk with Him.  The Scriptures are useful, profitable for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness.  In fact, the psalmist says in Psalm 119:11–I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Your Scripture is useful, God, for helping me walk in a way that would honor you and that would allow me to walk in joy.  This is pragmatic.  This is practical.  This isn’t some ethereal, supernatural type of knowledge.  This is feet on the ground, boots on the ground, how do we live in a way that would lead to our joy and God’s glory.  What Paul writes to Timothy is that the Scriptures are useful.

When I lived in California, we would go out to the desert occasionally.  As you would drive east from L.A. to Palm Springs, you would pass by these wind farms.  These wind turbines.  On it there were these HUGE windmills.  (Ryan pulls out a colorful pin-wheel.)  Here’s what happens.  The wind blows on the wind turbine, on the windmill.  It starts to turn.  There’s a shaft that’s attached to a generator and as the wind turns it, there’s an energy that’s created.  The energy’s then stored in a battery and they do all sorts of stuff like this.  The point is the wind blows on something and moves it and it creates an energy.  It creates a force.  As we said last week, not only is Scripture God-breathed, but it’s also God breathing!  It’s the breath of heaven.  It’s the wind of heaven, if you will.  When we position our lives under the Scriptures to receive the breath of heaven on our life, it doesn’t just leave us stagnant.  It actually moves us!  It creates an energy in our life.  It creates a vitality.  It creates an ability to be shaped and formed by the very person of God.  This isn’t some trivial thing we do when we come to the Scriptures.  When Paul writes to Timothy and says it’s practical, it’s profitable, it can change you, he’s extending an invitation, both to you and to me.  I love the way that Martin Luther put it: “The Enemy’s main objective is to lead us to ignore and utterly cast away God’s Word and his work.”  If he can get you to ignore the Scriptures, he can cut off your source of life.  As God says through the prophet Isaiah: Incline you ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live… (Isaiah 55:3)  That He might, by his very word that is his breath, breathe on you and create a life in you, an energy in you, a vitality in you that wasn’t there before.  It’s to our own peril that we neglect God’s word.  This isn’t about feeling guilty, it’s about positioning ourselves to receive life.  This is a hedonistic endeavor.

I want to show you from the Scriptures how Jesus uses the word of God in His life to walk in victory. Will you turn with me to Luke 4:1-2.  I want to apply the idea that Scripture is useful to the life of Christ.  I want to ask Him how.   And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.  And he ate nothing during those days.  And when they were ended, he was hungry.   I love it when the Bible tells us the obvious stuff.  Here’s what Luke wants to prevent you from doing: from thinking that Jesus is somehow different than you.  That he’s not fully human. That he could go forty days without eating and not be hungry.  Luke goes no, no, no, no, no, he’s fully divine, but he’s fully man and he was fully hungry.  Notice Jesus…full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit into the wilderness and directly into the teeth of temptation.  I’ve talked to a lot of followers of Christ who assume that Jesus would not want them to go through anything difficult or hard.  Their theology is built around this idea that God wants life to be (A) comfortable and (B) always goes according to plan.  When it doesn’t we’re like what the heck, God!  Where are you in this?!  Part of what Scripture does is invites us into a different way of looking at reality and saying God is as interested in your formation as He is in anything else.  Before He launches Jesus into his public ministry, He says alright, you’re going to be in a place where you need to rely on me, where you need to trust in me, where you need to grow and where you need to start to learn how to walk in my truth in a little bit different way.  {Look up at me for just a second.}  If it happened to Jesus, might He do the same thing in our life.  That maybe not every trial and every temptation means we’re outside of God’s will, but maybe it means we’re right in the center of it and God is inviting us to grow by applying His useful word to our real situations.  So we see this in the life of Christ.  He’s full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where it’s dry and desolate, into temptation where he needs to use the word of God to fend off the Enemy.    There’s two things I want to say at the onset before we jump in.  What you’ll see is that Jesus is attacked or tempted by the Enemy and he answers.  The Enemy’s going to come and say you should do this and Jesus is going to answer with Scripture.  Here’s why that’s so significant.  I think we often answer temptation by ignorance rather than by actually giving an answer.  We’ll typically run from something.  There’s a Biblical place and time for that, but not of ignorance, but this is actually how I’m fighting.  But we’ll often just try to ignore the things in our life that are attacking us—the thoughts that are swirling around—rather than giving a definitive answer.  Actually, this is what God’s word says about that, thank you very much, Devil, you can go away now, because I’m going to ground my life on the truth of the Scriptures.  Instead of just ignoring our desires, I think we need to speak into them with the truth that God’s given us in His word.

So that’s number one…you see Jesus answer rather than ignore.  The second thing is the Scriptures are going to give Jesus victory.  Here’s the thing.  He wants you to walk in victory, too.  This isn’t health, wealth and prosperity.  This is simply truth.  It happens to be God wants to bless you because He’s a good father and he wants to teach you how to walk in that.  That looks way different in everybody’s life, but that’s the truth of the matter.  Jesus walks in victory that God provides.  You know what the Scriptures say:  Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory. (1 Cor. 15:57)   Part of the reason we don’t walk in it is because we don’t use the Scriptures right.  In the book of Ephesians, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus and he says:  …and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17) 

Here’s the way I want to say it for us this morning:  Using the Bible correctly allows us to walk in victory consistently!  You’re going to see it in the life of Jesus and it’s available and possible for every single life in this room today.  Here’s the truth, friends.  We can’t just read the Scriptures; we need to use the Scriptures.  We can’t just know the Scriptures; we need to use the Scriptures.  We can’t just study the Scriptures; we have to use them!  There’s a difference, right?  There’s an application that starts to come in the life of the believer where we say I’m not just studying and this isn’t just information, God, this is you speaking into my life in a way that causes transformation.  I’m different because of it.  I’m going to speak into the lies the Enemy would love for me to believe with the truth of who you are and what you’ve done.  I’m NOT just going to ignore it, I’m going to answer it…..based on what you’ve said is true about yourself and about me.

Jesus was in the desert for forty days.  At the end of that time, he’s hungry…..and that’s where we pick up the story.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written… {Now this is going to be all throughout…..it is written…it is written…it is written.  He’s going to point back to Deuteronomy 8:3 and he’s going to say…..}  …..”It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”  The passage in Deuteronomy goes on to say:  ….but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Here’s what the Enemy would love to do.  He would love to see an unmet desire in the life of the Messiah and propose that He satisfy that desire in a way outside of the provision of His Father.  That’s what he wants to do.  He wants to say,  “Jesus, use your power in order to turn this stone into bread.  We all know you can do that, right?  So why don’t you just prove it?”  That emptiness that haunts your soul….why don’t you just satisfy it by going there and by doing that.  Here’s what Jesus does.  Jesus takes the Scriptures, the Old Testament, and applies them to his life and he realizes I know that I need that bread, but more than I need that bread I need your word, O God.  He uses the Scriptures to point back to the King of kings and the Lord of lords and his desires are satisfied.  He’s realigned with the heart of his Father.

I’ve learned that I’m not Mr. Fix-it at all, but most of the fixtures in our home were original 1978.  I’m convinced they were going to come back around into style, but I cut them off at the pass and I said no, I’m going to learn how to do this.  I did.  My friend tells me that replacing light fixtures is easy.  You gotta make sure that the switch is turned off.  That’s important!   And make sure your kids don’t come back and turn it back on.  Then all you have to do is take the old fixture off and you just have to connect the black one to the black one and the white one to the white one and you gotta ground it and then you’re good to go.  He goes if the wires are connected, you’ve got electricity and you’ll have light!

I think Jesus’ interaction with the Scriptures are the same way.  He’s like you’ve just gotta be connected and know that the Good Father meets every desire He places in your soul and in your heart and if He can’t meet it….you don’t need to carry it!  Jesus uses the Scriptures to remind himself that the deepest longings of his soul are met in his Father.  That’s what he does.  I live by every word that comes from your mouth, O God.  I love this passage in Jeremiah 15:16—-Your words were found, and I ate them.  {Don’t you love that picture?  God, I just need your truth.  I need your transformative power in my life.  I’m hungry for it, God!}  ….and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.   Here’s the two desires that the Father speaks into and meets in the life of Christ.  They’re the two things the enemy goes after in our life as well.  Number one, in Luke 4:3, he says:  If you really are the Son God.   What does the enemy want to do?  He wants to erode his confidence in his identity.  He knows if I can erode his confidence in his identity, I can displace his victory.  The same is true for you.  So he says prove it!   Prove that you’re the Son.  Prove that you’re a child of the Most High God.  If the devil can make you prove your adoption, he can make you doubt your salvation.  If you need to prove that you’re a child of God, based on the way you behave, eventually you’ll come to the point where your behavior will not match up with who God says you are.  So you’ll have a conversation in your head that goes a little bit like this (the Enemy planting thoughts in your mind): How can you claim to be a child of God when you’re struggling with such egregious sin?  How can you claim to be a child of God when you treat your kids like that?  How can you claim to be a son of the Most High God, adopted into his family, when your life is in such shambles?  Am I alone?  Have you been here?  Thought this?  That’s why we need the truth of the Scriptures over the things we often believe.  The truth of the Scripture is:  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.  {All this means is it doesn’t mean because you were awesome!  It’s because He’s awesome.  He chose you, he adopted you.}   …according to the purpose of His will. {So he answers the question: God, why me?  God: Because I wanted to!  That’s why!} …to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:5-6)    He’s going to try to attack your identity and when he does the truth of the Scriptures needs to wash over you.

Second thing, he’s going to try to get you to doubt His provision.  Jesus is wrestling with I’m starving, I’m hungry…God, are you going to come through?   It would be easier to just subvert your plan and your will and do a miracle that would cause this stone to turn to bread.  And God says, “Absolutely wait on me….wait on me….wait on me, I’m good.  My covenantal faithfulness lasts throughout every generation and yours is no different.”  Psalm 100:5—For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.  He will be faithful.  (The enemy) wants to cause doubt in our identity and our provision, but Jesus says my desires are satisfied because He’s met the deepest ones of them by calling me His own and providing for me like his son.  That’s how the word starts to be used in our life.  In the same way it’s used in the life of Jesus.

Continuing on in verse 5: And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”   So here’s the next attack by the Enemy. Jesus, why don’t you just do something for yourself?  I’ve got all of this, it’s all mine, but it could be yours.  So he plays to a very human and innate desire for power and authority and prominence.  Have you ever experienced this in your life?  Maybe I should take the shortcut so I could get the promotion.  Or maybe—I could tell this little lie…it’s going to make me look a little bit better.   So here’s what the Scriptures do.  They invite us back into the reality that we often lose sight of and it’s simply this:  We are NOT at the center of the universe.  But He is and Jesus is and He points back and says: You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.  He uses Scripture to remember my devotion is tied to my Messiah.  My devotion is tied to my God.  My devotion is tied, as followers of Jesus, to the one who gave His life for me.  It’s this scripturally informed devotion and worship that provides a pathway for victory in the life of the believer.  If our worship wanes, our lives go off track.  I always say this, mostly because it’s true…you always worship your way into sin and you worship your way out.  Jesus says no, I’m informed by the Scriptures, they are shaping my worship and it’s grounding my life and allowing me to walk in the way of my Father.

I’m going to give three reasons why a scripturally informed devotion is worth your hedonistic quest.  This is ultimately for your joy.  To keep God on the throne of your heart and of your life, because He sits on the throne of the universe and to use the Scriptures in order to do that.   First, relaxing our devotion leads to compromise in our conviction.  Every time.  Before you fall to temptation, you fail in devotion.  Dr. John Piper writes this: “The way to fight lust {the lust for power, lust sexually, lust in every shape and form} is to feed faith with the knowledge of an irresistible glorious God.”  How do we fight temptation in our soul?  By feasting on the glory of God.  Keeping our worship hot for our Savior.  Why?  Because we’re most susceptible to sin and we’re most susceptible to temptation when we’re in the position that Jesus was in.  When we’re hungry, when we’re alone and when we’re at the end of our rope.  It’s those times that we need the Spirit to dwell on the wells of truth that we’ve deposited over the course of time.  To bring them to the forefront and remind us this is not about me…this is about You and I need to repent of my desire for power and authority and prominence and remember You’re at the center of it all.  Can we be honest for a second?  If we were able to do that, how much hurt and heartache would that prevent?  Those conversations we just wish we could take back.  The reason we have some of those conversations is because we ARE on the throne of our life.  So, number one, relaxed devotion leads to compromised conviction.  Before you fall to temptation, you fail in devotion every time.

Two, misdirected worship leads to distrust in God’s timing.  When my worship for God starts to wane, my confidence in God starts to shake.  So I started to ask questions like well, God, I FEEL like you’ve promised me this and I FEEL like you spoke into this and God, I FEEL like you’re going to be good to us.  You promised it.  We have every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You know what’s interesting?  The devil tempts Jesus by saying, “Why don’t you take authority and get something that you’re going to get eventually!”  Listen to what the devil tempts him with:  To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  It’s interesting that Paul writes to the church at Philippi, talking about Jesus, and says this: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)    So the Enemy wants to entice Jesus by saying why don’t you just subvert the Father’s plan for the cross and take what’s rightfully yours outside of the timing that God has provided.  This happens all the time, right?  We cut corners in our businesses because we believe that God has promised this.  We do things in relationships that we wouldn’t do if we were patient and confident in our Father.  Worship is the thing, a scripturally based worship, that stimulates the human soul to say back to God: God, you’re in charge here.  When my patience starts to break, what’s really happening underneath is my worship is starting to give way.  Jesus knows that.  He says no, my life is shaped and formed by my Father.  He has all of my worship and I’m going to serve Him.

The third thing is a fledgling worship always leads to failing service. It always does.  When my worship wanes I start to buy the lie of the American dream.  That’s just me.  That if I have a little bit more, I’ll be a little bit happier.  I met a lot of people that had some really crazy dreams about winning the lottery this week.  And I live in a glass house and I’m not casting stones.  It starts to shape and form us, but worship causes us to continue to serve our great God.  It’s Scripture that says hey, He sits enthroned at the universe.  {Look up at me for a second.}  Maybe, maybe He’s trustworthy on the throne of your life.

So it ends like this (Luke 4:9-13) —  And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God {Notice that he’s just going to wear away your identity.  That’s why almost every week I remind you that you’re a child of the Most High God.  That His blood has covered all of your sin.  You’ve been adopted into His family.  He’s placed His Spirit inside of you that cries out “Abba, Daddy, Father.”  Why?  Because one of the things the enemy wants to do is erode your identity.}  …throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you.’   {The devil breaks out the big guns here, because he starts to quote Scripture back to Jesus.  He’s like oh, you want to play that game?  Oh, I know some verses, too.  And there’s this verse in Psalm 91:11-12 that says well, angels will guard you when you fall.  So why don’t you climb up on top of the building and jump off and prove it!!}  ….and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”   {He’s quoting Psalm 91 directly. He’s proof texting directly. What the psalmist is writing about is God, you’re going to be faithful in the difficult seasons, even then your hand is going to come along side and it’s going to work and it’s going to move and it’s going to shape, so therefore we can have confidence in you.  Now, proof text is hey, why don’t you climb on top of South Fellowship church and swan dive off, because Psalm 91 says God’s going to catch you.  My hope is there’s something in your spirit that goes I don’t think that’s right.  And I want to affirm that!  Here’s the way Jesus responds.  He goes well, that’s interesting because I know not just some Scripture, but all Scripture and it also says….}  ….You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.      What’s he doing?  Good hermeneutics is what he’s doing.  He’s taking the whole of Scripture and using it to look at passages through that lens.  But on a bigger level, what’s he doing?  He’s taking the enemy’s desire to deceive and He’s washing it in the truth of who God is.  Scripture not only satisfies our desires, not only stimulates our devotions, but it also, when it gets inside of us, speaks into our deceit.  It starts to challenge some of the presuppositions and the things that we hold to be so true.  You know why that’s such a big deal, friends?  Because the things you believe will eventually determine the life that you live.  Jesus’ Scripture-shaped world leads him to a life of victory and the life of abundance and the life of joy.  Here’s what Paul writing to the church at Rome invites us to live into: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)  

Can we be honest for a moment?  I think some of us believe some lies that are from the pit of hell.  The symbolism of Jesus standing on top of the temple and hearing Scripture misinterpreted and misapplied is not lost on me.  Some of the ways we’ve started to believe and had lies ingrained in us is by some bad teaching. Some teaching that would say:  You’ve gotta earn God’s love by the way that you behave and perform.  Come on now.  It’s by grace that I’ve been saved through faith and this is not of my own, it is a gift from God.  It’s not about my performance, it’s about Jesus’ performance, thank you very much!  I’ve heard it said that because of sin and sinful lives that people are worthless….that’s a lie from the pit of hell!  Jesus places great worth on humanity….it’s the crowning jewel of his creation and He loves it so much He died for it!  When we start believing these lies, we’ve got to wash them with the truth of the Scripture.  Some people in here believe the lie that a shady past has determined your future.  What I’ll say to that is who in the Scriptures DIDN’T have a shady past?!  One guy!!  His name is Jesus!  What the psalmist will say is: …as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)  Thank you, God!!  God loves me if I perform and produce.  Well, God loves me because JESUS performed and produced.  And so it’s in that we start to see and believe….the greatest lie you and I believe is that we either don’t need a Savior or that we can save ourselves.  When Scripture starts to get in us and starts to turn in us, we realize not only are we people in desperate need, but we’re people dearly loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords by our Good Father. Scripture satisfies our desires, it stirs our devotion and it speaks into our deceit.

This week we’ve been walking through the book of Luke together.  I hope you’ve joined us.  If you haven’t, it’s not too late.  Join us.  Some of the ways that He satisfied and spoke these things into my life….I just want to share with you just out of our reading in the book of Luke this week.  He satisfied our desires:  I read about Jesus being baptized and the voice of God, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.”  I just heard God’s voice over me, too, saying Ryan, you’re my son, too.  It stimulates our devotion:  There’s a passage in Luke 11:34 that we read a few days ago.  It says if your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light and I’m going God, I want that!  I want every fiber of my being to be filled with your glorious light, so help me see you.  It was this turn-back-and-worship type of moment.  He speaks into my deceit:  I saw the kingdom of God coming with power throughout the first 14 chapters of Luke in a way that I’ve just never seen before.  I’m going God, you are living and active, alive today.  Holy Spirit, do a new work.  Blow in a new way.  MOVE in power because I believe your kingdom comes in power.

I want to encourage you…whether it’s in our little reading plan for the next 23 days or whether it’s in your own, invest time in the word because here’s God’s promise to you, friend:  It does NOT return void!  It will accomplish what He sets out for it to accomplish.  Allow it to satisfy you.  Allow Him to satisfy you through it.  Allow Him to stir your devotion as you see Jesus as glorious.  Allow it to speak into your deceit, because the things you believe will determine the life you live and the truth that God is FOR you will give you victory.  Using the Scriptures rightly allows us to walk in victory consistently.  Jesus wants it for you and He’s provided a way.  So let’s use His word to walk in his light.  Let’s pray.

Without any guilt, without any shame, without the thought that the enemy would love to plant in your mind…man, you should be doing more, you should be doing better or you’re such a failure and I’m so glad they’re teaching on the Scriptures because boy, you need it more than anybody else in this room.  Before you start going there, I just want you to PAUSE.  I just want you to hear the voice of your Father speaking over you that He loves you.  Inviting you to use this beautiful tool of His Word to walk in the victory He’s already provided.  So in a way devoid of guilt and shame, Jesus, we just want to say back to you, we love you and we’re so grateful that you’re for us.  And we admit that in many ways we’re learning what it looks like to use your Word in the way that you designed for it to be used.  This week would you speak into areas of our life.  Would you satisfy devotions, would you stir our worship, would you speak into the lies that we believe through your glorious Word, that we might walk more in the way of Jesus.  That we might be ready, prepared, for every good work that you bring into our life and we believe you’re bringing them.  Open our eyes to see them and step into them.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Pragmatic Wind – 2 Tim. 3:16-17 & Luke 4:1-132023-06-27T12:47:09-06:00

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Inspired Inspiration 2 Timothy 3:14-16

January 10th 2016

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Inspired Inspiration  2 Timothy 3:14-16

In 1494, William Tyndale was born in England.  He was, from a young age, a brilliant man.  He grew up in the kind of home that was able to provide him a way to go to school.  He studied at Oxford and got his degree at Oxford. He later went to Cambridge.  In 1521, he became a Catholic priest.  He always had had an affinity for the things of God.  You may or may not know that during that time, going on in the world, there was popping up in Germany a reformation against the Catholic church.  Martin Luther was a large part of that.  In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door, pushing back against the Catholic church and declaring things like the Scriptures teach that we’re saved by faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone and that only Scripture is our barometer for how to live as followers of Jesus.  The papal authorities and the church councils aren’t really the things that instruct us; predominately it’s the Word of God that we stand under and on top of as our foundation. William Tyndale grew in such passion for the word that he wanted to get a Bible in every single hand of his home country of England.  If you have your Bible, will you please grab it?  In England, in the 1520’s, it would have been illegal to hold this book.  William Tyndale graduates from school, has all this knowledge about language…he’s wired this way…he decides that he’s going to make it his life’s mission to get a Bible in every hand that he possibly can.  In 1524, he starts translating the Scriptures from Greek into English.  It was the first time this had ever been done.  He got so much push back that he had to flee his home country.  He went to Germany and started his translation work in Germany.  In 1526, he finishes his New Testament English translation of the Scriptures.  They print 3000 of them on the newly formed printing press—-less than 100 years old.  For the first time, England starts to have a Bible in their own mother tongue.  William Tyndale sneaks it into the country by way of hiding it on bales of cotton.  It just so happens that his family was in the cotton business so he had some connections.  He sneaks 3000 of these Bibles into England.  Word starts to spread about the Word.  The only problem is that it’s still illegal, at that point in time, to have one of these in your possession.  Not only did Tyndale put his life on the line to create the text that we now know as the English New Testament, but he also put other lives on the line.  There were people that gladly responded.  One of those was John Tewkesbury.  Listen to the account of John Tewkesbury as he was caught with a portion of an English Bible in his possession.  John Tewkesbury was converted by reading Tyndale’s translation of the Parable of the Wicked Mammon which defended justification by faith alone— so we’re saved only by faith in Jesus.  He was whipped in Thomas More’s garden—he (More) was a Catholic leader in England at the time—and had his brow squeezed with small ropes until blood started to come out of his eyes.  (Happy 2016.  Welcome to South Fellowship Church.)  You go, Paulson, that’s a little heavy handed, isn’t it?  But it’s historical, number one.  Number two, I just want you to feel how much they loved these books that we call the Scriptures.  I want you to know how much they gave.  John Tewkesbury has his head squeezed so tightly that blood starts to come out of his eyes.   Then he was sent to the Tower where he was racked till he was lame. He was beaten until he was lame.  Then at last they burned him alive in the town square.  1531.  Thomas More “rejoiced that his victim  was now in hell,” where he said “Tyndale is likely to find him when they come together.”  The animosity about this book is unprecedented.

In 1534, William Tyndale undertook to do a new updated translation of the Bible in English again.  He puts his life on the line once again.  In 1534 he finished it and says, “I never altered one syllable of God’s word against my conscience.”  He goes I took this so seriously because I wanted you to have in your hands an accurate translation of the Scriptures that are the word of God.  Will you hold them again?  Because I’m not sure we get just how significant it is to hold this collection of historical wisdom and prophetic books.  In 1535, William Tyndale was caught, was arrested, was imprisoned where for over a year he sat in prison under the charges of heresy….specifically for the reasons of translating this book into English.  In 1536 he was condemned as being against the church, the Catholic church at the time, and before he died he said this to the Pope:  “I defy the Pope and all of his laws.  {Don’t you love this?  He’s like in your face!  You want to kill me?  That’s fine.  But just know I’m standing up to you and I’m standing against you.}  If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, to know more about the Scriptures than dost thou.”  He goes every farm worker is going to know more about the Bible than you, Mr. Pope, if I get my way, because I’m going to get one in every single hand.  So people can search the Scriptures and know the Scriptures for themselves.  At the time, the church had a lock on translating the Scriptures and they would tell people things like: in order to be forgiven, you’ve got to pay up.  And the decisions we make, as the church, are on par with what God says and just trust us.  This is what the Word of God says.  Tyndale said no!  I want to get a Bible in every single hand.  In 1536 he was convicted of heresy, executed in the public square by strangulation, then his body was burned publicly at the stake. His dying words were a prayer and he said:  “Oh, Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.”

Statistics would say one in five (19%) of people who go to church, not sporadically but regularly, 19% of people open this book on a daily basis.  That’s one-in-five!  Would you agree that something is lost on us, on me, if I don’t have a hunger and a thirst for the Scriptures in the same way that William Tyndale did saying I’m willing to give my life so that you can hold it in your hands and I hold it in my hands.  Statistically, we have, on average, 4.7 bibles in our homes across America.  88% of homes have a Bible, but only 19% of people open it on a daily basis.  37% of people open it once a week.  I just wonder what’s going on.  I wonder where we’ve lost the passion.  This is not….please hear me….if you feel guilty right now, this isn’t about that.  The enemy would want you to feel guilty.  The Author of Life wants you to come to Him.  Guilts not going to take you there.  I want desire, I want a hedonistic quest to meet with the King of kings and the Lord of lords to push you, too.  I want to encounter God through His Scriptures, not guilt.  If you feel guilt, put it out of your mind, put it out of your heart.  It’s not going to do you any good anyway.  You’re going to be the 81% next year also.  Put that out of your mind.  It’s just reality.  Let’s just admit it.

In the 1970’s, the great apologist, Ravi Zacharias, was traveling around Vietnam and was teaching the Scriptures.  He had accompanying him a man by the name of Hien Pham.  Hien was a huge asset to Ravi Zacharias because he not only was a brilliant linguistic, but he was a theologian.  He was helping Ravi as they traveled around Vietnam.  After the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, he was thrown in prison for assisting in the translation and the teaching of the Scriptures.  He was put on bathroom duty…on cleaning the latrines in the jails.  This is the bottom-of-the-totem-pole job in the jail.  As he’s cleaning it, one day, he comes across a little parchment section of Scripture.  He digs it out of the toilet, puts it in his pocket and goes back to his cell.  By cover of darkness at night, he washes it off and he finds that it’s Romans 8.  He reads it and is reminded…for God works for the good of those who love and are called according to his purpose.  Well, Hien Pham went back to the keepers of the jail and told them he wanted to volunteer to clean the latrines every single day.  They’re like let’s check this guy’s mind……   Every single day he would find a little piece of the Scriptures.  Evidently, someone was ripping out pages from the Bible and using it to wipe themselves after they went to the bathroom. He would dig it out, put it in his pocket, take it back to his cell, wash it off and he had a growing collection from God’s word.  He wanted it that badly.  I don’t tell you that to make you feel guilty.  I just tell you that because I’m convicted.  I have the Word of God at my fingertips, but I wonder what’s been lost on me.  I don’t come to the Scriptures that way, that hungry, that passionately to say whatever it takes, God, to meet with you through the words of your Holy Scriptures I’m going to do.  Here’s the thing…I want that.  You might too. This isn’t just a book.  This is a library.  Sixty-six books.  Forty different authors.  Compiled over the course of 1500 years.  Three different continents.  With one central message and his name is Jesus!  I wonder what it would take for God to stir in us a renewed hunger for his Scriptures, for his Word, that we might, once again, say anything it takes to meet with you.  William Tyndale was willing to give his life to get this Bible in our hands.  Hien Pham was willing to wash off pieces of Scripture to meet with God through them.  What would it take for us to say God, would you reignite a hunger in our soul for this library, this collection of historical, prophetic wisdom documents that have helped abolish slavery.  That have fought for women’s rights and women’s suffrage.  That have helped lead Civil Rights movements.  That have helped to draft the Bill of Rights.  You know that the Bible’s been a part of all that.  It’s central in what it means to live as a follower of Jesus.  I love the way that Charles Colson said it: “The Bible—banned, burned, beloved.  More widely read and more frequently attacked than any other book in history.  Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it.  Dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it.  Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing that it’s more powerful than their weapons.  Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints.”  And in 51 countries still today across the globe, it’s still illegal to hold it in your hands!  You’re a rebel!!

So why is this book so significant?  What’s so significant about this collection of reliable, historical documents that you hold in your hand?  That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it.  I want the Scriptures speak for themselves.  2 Timothy 3:14-16.  I want to let the Scriptures speak for themselves and answer the question “What’s so significant about the Scriptures and why has it been part of societal, cultural and personal transformation for the last few thousand years?”  And here’s how Paul would answer that question.  He’s writing to his protégé, Timothy.  Somebody who he’s mentored, somebody who he’s walked with and he’s left behind in the city of Ephesus to lead and to run the church there.  Here’s what he says to Timothy:  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…{He’s talking about the Old Testament scriptures there.}…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.   {That’s a fascinating statement Paul makes there.  The Old Testament is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  We don’t have time to go into that….only to say that the entirety of Scripture is one central message whose name is Jesus.}  All Scripture is breathed out by God…. {So if you were to ask me why has Scripture been so significant, why has it been so transformative societally, culturally, personally, I would say that at the very base level Scripture is so significant and so transformative because it’s not a book that man wrote about God…it’s God’s thoughts on man.  At it’s very base level.  If you were to do a study of this word, the Greek word that’s translated “breathed out,” you would have a sample size of one place in Scripture to study that word.  Any guesses where it is?  Right here!  Here’s the Greek word:  theopneustos.  It’s two Greek words put together and not only that….not only can you not find it anywhere else in Scripture, but you can’t find it in any other writings before Paul uses it right here.  Which creates some problems for us.    It creates some problems for scholars because they go well, we don’t know exactly how to define this word.  Here’s the way Paul made up this word.  He put two Greek words together:  THEO which is God and PNEO which means to breathe out or to blow.  It would also be where we get the word that’s translated spirit or wind.   So, God-spirited, God-winded, God-breathed.  This collection of writings we hold has as its instigator the King of kings and the Lord of lords who sits above all of creation, who’s sovereign above it all.

Why is the Scripture so significant?  Because it’s inspired.  That’s how many translations translate theopneustos: it’s inspired by God.  God breathed the Scriptures into being.  John Wesley, in writing about this, said: “This book had to be written by one of three people:  good men, bad men or God.  It couldn’t have been written by good men because they said it was inspired by the revelation of God.  Good men don’t lie and deceive.  It couldn’t have been written by bad men because bad men would not want to write something that would condemn themselves.  It leaves only one conclusion.  It was given by divine inspiration.”  What does that really mean though?  Let me give you two things it DOESN’T mean and then one thing it does.  First, it does not mean that this Bible fell out of heaven and somebody found it in the mountains of New York somewhere.  It does NOT mean that God literally wrote every word.  It doesn’t mean that God dictated every word to the authors of the Scriptures.  We would call that verbal plenary inspiration…that every single word God spoke into the authors ears and said hey, write this next.  That isn’t how it happened.  I think we’ve done a disservice to our engagement with the intellectual community about not being honest about how we got the Bible.  So, let me give you a brief crash course about how we got….especially the New Testament….the Bible.  Within the first century, all of the letters and accounts recorded in the New Testament were written.  Within seventy years of Christ dying, being buried, being resurrected and ascending to heaven, we have the New Testament documents written.  By the end of the first century, there was not yet a New Testament, but particular documents were floating around the church and were being used in church, in worship, to teach and were seen as authoritative. By AD 170, we have (the first time it’s written down) four gospels that are pointed at to be the word of God. God-inspired accounts of the life of Christ.  Around AD 170, Irenaeus, for the very first time, uses the term New Testament.  But it’s not for another 200 years that we have a compiled New Testament as we now hold it in our hands.  So in 367, Athanasius, one of the early church fathers, first mentions all of the books of the New Testament in roughly the same order that we have them now.  Listen to what he says about them: “These are the springs of salvation, in order that he who is thirsty may full refresh himself with the words contained in them.  Let no one add anything to them or take anything away from them.”  In 397 at the church council at Carthage, the church declares this is the Bible.  These are the Holy Scriptures.

But, it didn’t just fall out of heaven.  God didn’t literally write every single word.  That’s the first thing inspiration does not mean.  The second thing it doesn’t mean….it does NOT mean that it’s absent of human influence.  We all know this if we read the Bible.  Different authors have a different point of view.  Different authors have different vocabulary.  Different authors write from a different perspective, in different places, at different times and that comes through in their writing.  They are taking pieces of what they learned and who they are and they’re bringing it to the pages that they use to write the Scriptures on.  At the beginning of Luke’s gospel, Luke says hey, I’ve done a ton of research here.  I’m compiling a great account for you, most excellent Theophilus, about the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle John says I’m writing for an explicit purpose.  I have a motivation that’s not so hidden here.  The motivation is that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  You have the Apostle Paul who says to the church at Corinth: I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.  Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) (1 Corin. 1:14-16)  If our perspective is that God just dropped it in our laps, we would have to say that God doesn’t remember who Paul baptized!  That’s a huge issue!  I don’t want to worship someone with that bad of a memory!!

What does it mean?  Here’s what it means.  I think Peter gives a great depiction and picture of what it means in 2 Peter 1:21—For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man… {He’s saying that this wasn’t man’s idea. This is NOT man’s thoughts about God.} …but men spoke {There are human beings involved.  That’s why you get a little different perspective when you read Peter than when you read St. Paul.  John has a little bit different flavor too.  He throws in some things that other people may have left out.  He says Peter and I were racing to the tomb and I beat Peter, because I’m faster than Peter.}   ….but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.    It’s a picture of wind coming into the sails of the sailboat and just pushing it and pushing it and moving it….some of your translations say “they were moved by God” to write this.  I love the way that Dr. Mark Strauss puts it: “This truth (the Bible) is protected through God’s providence and the guidance and oversight of the Holy Spirit.”  That God not only is the one who initiates and the one who ordains, but He is the one who sovereignly, by His hand, protects what we have.  So here is what we can say with full confidence…is that we have exactly what God wants us to have!  We can have extreme confidence in what we have, because it is God’s message to us.  It wasn’t literally every single word that God told them to write.  He didn’t whisper in their ears.  He led them and he guided them and he sovereignly ordained that we would hold the Bible that we hold right now.

If we look at the words of Jesus….Jesus seemed to think that the Old Testament Scriptures were the word of God.  If you look at Matthew 19:4-5…..Jesus is in a debate about marriage.  And he’s going to point back to Genesis 2 to make a point:  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said…. {So Jesus is going to attribute whatever comes next to the same person that created them.  That would be God.  The only problem with that is that this is recorded in the book of Genesis.  We think Moses was the author.  He’s going no, no, no, no, no.  What you hold in the Old Testament and the Scriptures…those are the words of God.}    …’Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?    He goes on to say in Matthew 5:18 — For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law (the Scriptures) until all is accomplished.   He says it’s so significant it’s not going anywhere, not the smallest letter, and not even a punctuation symbol is going to pass away.  I would argue that Jesus took the Scriptures pretty seriously, yes?  And I’m with Jesus.  He says this is the word of God.  If you want to hear God’s  voice, you MUST NOT neglect the Scriptures.  You can’t.  They’re inspired.  God breathed them into being.  He didn’t just drop them from the sky.  It’s this beautiful intersection between heaven and the earth where God uses the personalities of the authors, uses the times and places of the authors, uses the vocabulary of the authors to sovereignly ordain and carry along His message of redemption that Jesus is the Messiah and the king of the universe.  It’s an interlocking, N.T. Wright says, between heaven and earth.  Inspired by God.  Carried along exactly what God wants us to have.  So why is the Scripture significant?  Because it’s theopneustos.  It’s inspired.  It’s God’s breath through human words.

Second reason: All Scripture is breathed out by God.  I mentioned that this is the only time in Scripture that you see this word and indeed it is.  But it’s not the only time where we see this IDEA….that God would breathe out and that something would be created.  Genesis 2:7 — Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…  Genesis 2, God breathes and the man becomes a living creature.  God breathes on things and they come to life.  Psalm 33:6 — By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  He exhales and stars come into being. Galaxies exist because he breathes.  THIS is a beautiful picture, is it not?  Job 33:4 — The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  When God breathes on things, life happens.  Life is spoken into death…into dust things come into being.  So Jesus, in John 6:63, picks up on this idea and says:  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit (pneuma) and life.  They’re this creating force.  When you hear His words, when they sink into your soul, things start to come alive.  They are spirit and—he wants to reinforce this—they are life.

We don’t have anywhere else that theopneustos is used, but we have these ideas all over the Scriptures that when God breathes on something or through something, life starts to happen.  Not only are the Scriptures inspired, but the Scriptures are inspiring.  Not only did God breath life into them, but God breathes life through the Scriptures into human beings.  This is one of his methods for communicating with his creation, with his world.  When you open the Bible, it’s not just that God breathed into them to create them, but it’s that God breathes through them to your heart, to your soul, to speak to you.  Why are the Scriptures so significant?  Why are they banned in 51 countries?  Why, all across the globe for the last 2000 years, have people fought to get this book into people’s hands?  Because when we open them up….here’s the way I view it…..when we open them up, it’s the breath of God.  (Ryan turns on hairdryer.)  It’s just speaking through us, moving us, challenging us, teaching us, inspiring us.  I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten up in the morning, brewed your cup of coffee, went and opened your Bible, and thought man, breath of heaven.  Let’s do this!!  When you open the Bible, God is speaking.  He’s moving.  He is inspiring.  If you want to hear His voice…..friends, I don’t want to make you feel guilty, but I just firmly believe that we do not live by bread alone, but that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  So if you’re hopeless here today, you don’t need to hear my voice.  You need to hear His.  If you feel like life is pointless here today, I don’t want to give you your purpose for your life….I want you to hear it from Him.  If you feel dry, if you feel weary, if you feel like life is just running out of steam, there is a breath of God available for you.  Will you come and hear from Him?  William Tyndale did not fight to have the Scriptures translated so that we could read them and get up in the morning and have a daily devotional.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just so much bigger!  It’s so much better!  It’s hearing the voice of God.  The Almighty.  The King of kings and the Lord of lords.

{Ryan introduces a video about Cooper, a deaf 2-year-old boy, who receives his cochlear implant.  The video shows his jubilant reaction as he hears his mother’s voice for the first time.}

When was the last time you heard God’s voice in the same way?  Because He’s speaking.  He breathed into this book; He breathes through this book, yet only 19% of us (one-in-five) say God, I’ve gotta meet with you.  I want to give you three ways….because I think one of the things that happens is we don’t really understand how God meets us in the Scriptures.  I want to give you three ways that the Scriptures inspire.  The Scriptures inspire, first, through invitation.  In the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1, we see these three famous words: In the beginning….  It’s as though we’re being invited to a story.  And we are!  It’s not a story that we stand on the sidelines of though, it’s a story that we’re involved in happening in real time.  The drama of God unfolding in human history and the Scriptures…they’re not a magic 8-ball that gives us the answer to every question we have.  They are the invitation to the ultimate question we all have and it’s who am I? and who are you, God? and in light of who you are how should I live?  That’s the invitation the Scriptures give.  Come and be part of the story of God.  The story starts in the garden where God breathes life into humanity and creates good things and it ends with God being with His creation and in everywhere in between we see this is the invitation of God.   Come and be part of my story.  If I don’t understand His story, I’ll never know how I fit into it, because it’s His story.  I have this conviction that I’ll share with you, then I’ll get off my soapbox.  I think one of the things that postmodernism has given us, in a positive way, is this language of story that our souls relate with.  That we live a story.  Some of it’s good, some of it’s tragic, some of it’s beautiful and some of it’s devastating.  What postmodernism has missed is that there’s a metanarrative that overarches every single little story.  A metanarrative is just a bigger story that every story finds itself in.  I think postmodernism has missed the fact that yes, we all have these individual stories, but all of our stories are part of the grand story that God is telling throughout history.  He created things good and wanted relationship with his people.  We rebelled against Him in sin and fell away from Him.  We struggled along the way, but in His grace and in His goodness and for His glory, He has initiated our rescue, our redemption and our restoration through Jesus Christ.  That’s the narrative.  That’s the invitation.  And God’s saying come and as you go to the Scriptures, be reminded you’re part of something far bigger and better than just your 80 years (or how many God gives you).  When we lose sight of the Scriptures, we lose sight of the invitation.

Second.  Illumination.  We’re invited back into the way that God created the world to be.  Truth is what you always run into when you’re wrong.  What the Scriptures do is they teach us the way that God wired, designed and created the world so we can get in line with what he’s doing.  Peter picks up on this as he says:  ….you will do well to pay attention to….the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…(2 Peter 1:19)   Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)  I’m realigned with reality.  I’m invited back into God’s story and I see the way He’s wired us to be.  Jesus will say things like:  Forgive.  Harboring the bitterness and anger is just killing you.  So he’s inviting you into a better way of living.  Be a generous person.  It’s a better way of living.  They’re doing all this research right now, science, on how to be happy.  They’ve started to identify a few things that actually lead to human happiness.  One is to develop a rhythm for your life.  So maybe we should work six days and rest one, huh?  That we should be generous people.  That’s part of the science of happiness.  To be part of a community of other people where we just don’t do life alone.  To find a way that who we are fits into the common good and flourishing of society.  You know where they could have found all of that??  Right here.  Jesus wants to teach us how we live in reality, not in an ethereal understanding, but feet-on-the-ground how we live. We align ourselves with truth.  We’re reminded in the Scriptures that we are loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  (Hairdryer blowing in background.) That we are His children redeemed by his grace and by his mercy.  Our sin is atoned for by his blood.  I didn’t make that up.  That’s straight out of the book.  You are washed clean by His blood.  You are no longer under sin and condemnation, but those who are in Christ are therefore, right now, set free to walk with Him.  It’s not my idea.  But here’s the thing.  You can’t hear it from me and be changed.  You need to hear it from Him.

Finally…..so there’s invitation, illumination and I couldn’t think of another “I” word.   It’s not for lack of trying. Restoration.  If you’re tired, if you’re worn out, if life feels pointless and purposeless and passionless, the Scriptures are this invitation to come and receive the breath of God.  It’s like divine CPR.  Hear His voice.  Allow Him to speak life into…… restore your soul.  I love the way the psalmist says it:  The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)   He speaks life into dead things.  God didn’t just breathe into this book, God breathes through this book as His Spirit interacts with this book in the hearts of His people and makes it alive, quickening us, making us alive to the things and purposes and person of Jesus.  Illumination.  Invitation.  Restoration.

Friends, I don’t want to be part of the 19%.  I want to be like Hien Pham who says listen, I’m so hungry to hear your word, God, that I’m willing to do anything.  I’m willing to go anywhere.  I want to be like William Tyndale who said this is so precious to me that I’ll give my life to get it into hands who don’t have it right now.  I’m not asking you to do any of these things.  All I’m asking you to do is to commit to trying to hear from God through His word and I promise you the Holy Spirit will work through that.  He will!  I don’t want to be part of a church….I don’t want to lead a church…..I don’t want to pastor a church where people come and the only time they’re fed is on Sunday morning for 45 minutes.  That’s pitiful!  I want to teach you how to feed yourself.  This is a beautiful wealth of life-giving invitation, illumination, restoration for the human soul.  Oh man, friends, let’s be hungry for it.  This year: Through the Scriptures may we feel God’s breath and then may we be the type of people who, in turn, breathe His life to everything around us.

You got a little bookmark in your bulletin as you came in.  I want to challenge you over the next 30 days….really, invite you.  I want to invite you to hear the voice of God.  So we’re going to be journeying through a number of different books and different literature and different types of books in the Bible to give you an overview of some of the things in there.  It’s two chapters every single day.  Here’s the last thing I want this to be:  Duty.  And I don’t want it to be motivated by guilt.  If it’s that….just forget it.  I want us to engage, collectively, in the Scriptures.  I want us, collectively, to hear the voice of God.  Then I want us to respond. There’s going to be a way to write blogs on our website.  If you use #breathofheaven it will feed to our site.  I want you to engage with the Scriptures, with God and I would love for you to engage with each other as well. I’ll close with this quote from George Mueller:  “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”  It’s worth your time.  It’s worth your energy.  It’s inspired.  It’s inspiring.  Let’s pray.

Father, for these 66 books, 40 different authors, over 1500 years with one central message whose name is Jesus, we thank you.  For the fact that you initiated and you carried along the authors that penned the words of Scripture, we say thank you.  For the way that you breathed into them, we say thank you.  And for the way that you breathe through them.  Father, would you help us to hear your voice, maybe for the first time.  Lord, I just pray against the response of guilt.  We know that can motivate us for a short time, but it can never give us life. Instead of guilt, would you just override that with a sense of invitation to the breath of heaven, to the breath of life.  Your words are spirit, your words are life and we are people who do not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from your mouth, so we need to hear your voice.  Will you speak your love.  Will you speak your grace.  Will you speak your mercy.  Will you invite us, will you illuminate us, will you restore us all in the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Inspired Inspiration 2 Timothy 3:14-162023-06-27T12:46:52-06:00

Breath of heaven – COME HUNGRY Nehemiah 8:1-18

January 3rd 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

COME HUNGRY  Nehemiah 8:1-18

I hope you had a great break — time with family, time with friends.  Kelly and I and the kids had the chance to both get a way a little bit up to the mountains and to stay home and to do some things around Denver.  One of the things we love doing around Denver is going to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  We love taking the kids there.  We have a six-year-old (almost seven), a five-year-old and a two-and-a-half year old.  This time Ethan, our six-year-old, was on fire.  He walked in those doors.  If you have young kids you may have experienced this, but it was like walking through the threshold of the doorjamb, followed by a tidal wave of questions.  We walk in…..Dad, how far away is the earth from the sun?  I’m like ummm……Google!  Dad, why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?  We went in the mummy room……so wait, that’s a real body there?  Mmhmm.  Am I going to get mummified when I die?  Uh-huh.  No, son, you’re going to eventually turn into dust.  In about five minutes we see him sitting on this bench and he goes I don’t wanna turn into dust!!  What happens to us when we die?  (These questions are all in the mummy room.)  Why do we turn to dust?  I turn to Kelly and tell her we’re never going into this room again.  We went to the dinosaur room.  Dad, what happened to the dinosaurs?  How did they get the bones out of the ground?  Were there dinosaurs in Denver?  Where were the dinosaurs in Denver?  What would happen if you got hit in the face with the tail of a dinosaur?  There was this big display of insects on the wall and there was this young couple sitting there and he ran over to them and said something and ran back to us.  They were looking at him, laughing, as he ran back.  We said, “Ethan, what did you say to those people?”  He said, “Well, I asked them what they would do if that huge bug flew into their face.”   Who is this kid??  I have so much respect for parents who managed before Google.  God bless you!!  I don’t know how you did it!  I am always on my phone……how far is the earth from the sun?  93 million miles!  My son thinks I’m a genius…..just because I have an iPhone and quick fingers.  He walked in there (to the museum) and it was just this world of wonder that he entered into.  Question upon question upon question.  A few of them I had answers for, but if you ever want to feel really, really dumb, I’ll let you take my six-year-old to the museum.  Just soaking it all in.  I was worried about how cold it was and how far away I had to park.  I walked in and I’m like how many hours are we going to be here.  We’re going to do this, this, this and this and…….the wonder.

I don’t know what’s happened, but something’s different in the way that my son walks into the museum and the way that I walk into the museum.  I know a little bit more, but let’s be really honest for a moment, the percentage of “more” that I know than him and how much knowledge there is to have there….I don’t know all that much more.  Neither do you!  We don’t.  Something happens in us.  We lose sight of, as we get older and older, the fact that we live in this God-bathed world.  We should wake up every day and enter into wonder. Enter into amazement.  Enter into this God, where are you at work? and God, how are you at work?  The truth of the matter is, friends, we don’t just lose the wonder when it comes to the museum.  We also lose the wonder when it comes to walking with our Father.  You can probably remember, if you’re a follower of Jesus, a time in your life where you were just alive.  Vital.  Relationship with Jesus that was just growing.  You can probably remember going to the Bible and feeling like the words were just leaping off the page.  I wonder what it would look like for us to reawaken the wonder.  To start the year in such a way where we say back to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, we don’t just want to put it on cruise control.  I want to walk with Jesus in the same way my son walks into the museum.  I want to ask a lot of questions this year.  I want to wrestle with truth from the Scripture this year.  The truth of the matter is, friends, that God is speaking, not just in this place, but when you open up your Bible in the home in the morning, or whenever you do it, or when you’re out on a walk, whatever it is.  When you’re sitting around a table with good food and good friends, God speaks!  The question is…..Do we hear?

Jesus tells this parable in Luke 8:4-15 about a farmer that takes some seed and he goes out into a field.  He starts to scatter this seed around.  It’s one of the only parables that Jesus explains.  He talks about three types of people.  Some people the seed falls on and He says the enemy comes and sorta snatches it away before it can start to dig in and get roots.  There’s other seeds that a time of testing or trial come and the word of God is just ripped away.  You may have been through a season like that.  You’ve been through a difficult health crisis, you’ve lost a job and you’re just walking in a season where you’re saying God, I need to hear your voice and it’s so hard to hear you right now because there are so many other voices and other things going on.  It’s just so loud.  There’s this third type of person where the seed starts to sprout and grow and it starts to do the work it’s suppose to do as seed and there’s weeds that grow in and there’s weeds that choke it out.  The interesting part about this parable though, is that I believe it’s mislabeled.  If you have your Bible, Luke 8 is where Jesus tells this parable and it’s entitled “The Parable of the Sower.”  I really think it should be called “The Parable of the Soils.”  It’s a lot more about the condition of the heart that the seed lands on than it is about the seed or the sower.  There’s two constants in the parable.  One is the farmer.  He is just throwing seed.  It’s constant.  Everybody’s life.  The other constant?  The seed.  The seed in this parable Jesus tells—-the story He tells to illustrate this deep spiritual truth—-is the word of God.  It’s constant.  The variable, the differentiator, of every person in this room is NOT whether or not God is speaking.  The question is whether or not we have ears and soils and souls that can hear His voice.  Jesus comes to the end of this parable and says this:  Take care then how you hear….  {Be careful how you hear, as if to say don’t lose the wonder.  Don’t come to the Scriptures as if it’s some textbook.  Don’t walk into church expecting it to be just like last week.  Don’t go on your run or your walk in God’s creation and assume that He’s quiet.  Be careful then….take care then….how you hear.} Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given.  {So the person who ferociously receives from the Word of God, they’re just going to want more.  You’ve been there, probably, at some point in your life.  Where you’re going God, you’re filling me up.  More. More. More.  Then Jesus continues…} ..and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.(Luke 4:18)  I think what Jesus wants to say is His words…..and one of the way we hear His words are through His Word.  It’s not the only way.  It’s one of the ways we hear the voice of God speak to us.  I think what He’s saying is…..it’s sorta like the closet door to Narnia.  Once you get in it, you just want more.  The truth of the Scriptures and the transformative power of the Spirit as He interacts with the Holy Scriptures just make God come alive.  The sower…..he’s throwing seed.  He’ll be throwing seed 365 days this year.  The question is…..Can we hear?  WILL we hear?  Here’s the main point for today:  Coming hungry to God is THE thing that frees me to receive supply (sustenance, nourishment, life) from God.  The way I approach God determines the provision I receive from God.  The seed is consistent.  The sower is consistent.  The question is my soul.  Do I have ears to hear?  Do I have eyes to see?  Here’s what I want to do.  I want to start 2016 by saying back to God, God, we want to come hungry this year.  Anyone else want to say that with me?  God, we want to come hungry.  We want to hear your voice.  We want to sense your spirit.  We want to know your love.

Part of coming hungry means we need to disconnect some of the other things in our life.  I love going to Rodizio Grill. They have all this meat on skewers.  The gauchos come over and ask do you want more?  What a dumb question!  Yes!  There’s also a great salad bar there if you’re into that.  Here’s the thing.  I would never, ever, ever eat lunch if I know we’re going to Rodizio Grill for dinner.  It’s not going to happen.  I don’t want to get there and see all this deliciousness and not have room for it.  Right?  I think a lot of us fill our lives with some STUFF that prevents us from coming hungry to God.  Some of it’s really good stuff.  Family.  Friends.  The good stuff in life.  Some of it’s just the junk…..the Netflix binge marathon that you nailed this break.  That’s twelve hours of your life you’re not going to get back, right?!  We fill our lives with so many different things that it’s hard for us to come hungry to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, ironically, because His breathe, His Word is what we really need to hear.  Your approach to God will determine your provision from God.

Here’s an invitation God gives in James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  These are all things that fill up someone’s life and don’t create the availability for Jesus to fill.  You only have a certain amount of room in your life.  You only have a certain amount of time.  You only have a certain amount of energy.  You only have a certain amount of head space—emotional investment.  If we fill it with this other stuff, what we really do is take space from the One who has words of life.  James says draw near to God.  Push into Him.  I don’t think it’s like God says well, if you’re going to draw near then I’m going to draw near….   I think what happens when we draw near is we realize that the King of kings and the Lord of lords is ferociously in pursuit of us every moment of every day. We just get to notice it.  If I don’t come hungry, I leave empty handed and that is absolutely devastating.  Even if we come to church…..that was a great experience….that was fun to sing songs….I sorta enjoyed the message…..but if I didn’t approach it with a heart of God, I need to hear your voice and God, I need to hear you speak, then we probably walk out the door unchanged.   Coming to God hungry is THE thing that frees me to receive supply from God.  The seed’s going out.  The question is….is my soul ready to hear??  If you’ve gotten to the end of 2015 and you’re like my life is just sorta on fumes, this message is for you.  If you’ve gotten to the end of 2015 and you go I just sorta plateau’d out and God, I don’t hear your voice anymore and I read the Scriptures, but it’s more duty than delight and I’m not getting a whole lot from it…..this message is for you.  If you’re stagnant in your faith….this message is for you.  The word is hungry.  Come hungry!  He meets you in that place.  Hunger is a dangerous thing.  It’s a dangerous thing to come hungry, because that means we need to trust.  We need to trust that He’s going to be sufficient.  We need to trust He’s going to be enough.  We need to trust He’s going to be good on his word.  We need to say I believe every word that you say you are….in the good times and in the hardest parts…..I’m coming hungry.  My availability determines my supply.  God, work! God, move!  Jesus told us the issue is some of us can hear and receive and some of us can’t.  The Word’s going out.  The seed’s going out, but some of us can hear and some of us can’t.  We were instructed to hear carefully.

I just want to paint a picture for you of what that might look like.  Turn to Nehemiah 8.  I want to look at how we can come hungry.  You’re going that’s great, Paulson.  Come hungry.  That’s the imperative.  That’s the command.  How do we actually do that?  Nehemiah 8 gives us a great picture of what it looks like to come hungry to the King of kings and the Lord of lords and to receive provision.  To come hungry and receive supply. Nehemiah has led, with Ezra, a group of people back to the ancient city of Jerusalem.  They’ve been decades in exile and they’ve been released to come back and to start to rebuild the wall.  The first seven chapters of Nehemiah are Nehemiah rebuilding the wall with the help of the people in Israel that have come back with him. In chapter 8, we get to this point where the wall is built and instead of throwing a party, the Israelites throw a church service.  You’re going……well, that’s strange.  And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. {This was a public place.  Back in this day, if they were in the temple, they would have had to say men only in the temple, women and children outside.  They pick a public place so that everybody could come around and hear the word of God.  Most estimates are about 50,000 people hearing this Scripture read.  That’s a good church service.}  And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.  So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.   {The first day of the seventh month just happens to be, coincidentally, new year.  It’s the civil new year for the nation of Israel. Happy New Year!}  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the mean and the women and those who could understand.  And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.  {A six hour church service to start the new year!!!  You think it’s hard to keep your kids unsquirmy for an hour and 15 minutes!  You got nothing on them, man!  They’re like we brought a snack…we’re good to go.  Keep reading!}  And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose.  And beside him stood {Pray for me!} Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, (and Hashum’s brother) Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.    

It tells you in verse 3 that they were attentive for six hours.  These are hungry people, right?  They are attentive and they stand.  They go God, we want to give you reverence and we want to give you awe, but we also want to position ourselves so that the moment doesn’t pass us by.  We don’t want to just sit back and hear the word without hearing the word.  We want it to soak in.  We want to walk in the museum and just have our hearts light up.  Coming hungry to the Scriptures means coming and listening attentively.  That’s the picture that they paint here.  They come hungry and they listen attentively.  Here’s the deal.  To listen attentively, I need to come to the Scriptures with expectation.  That God, somehow I’m going to meet you in this place. Your Spirit’s going to work in the words of the Scriptures to make your Word, your living Word, Jesus’ word, alive in my heart and my soul.  I think the problem most of us have and the reason we don’t come hungry is we don’t come attentively, because we don’t come with any sort of expectation that we actually get to meet with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  That should be devastating to us!!  We just heard the story so many times, right?  That’s the other hard part about being attentive.  We’ve heard the story so many times.  I know what happens in every chapter of John.  God goes yeah, yeah, yeah, but you don’t know how my Spirit’s going to use my Scriptures in your life today.  It’s a new day.  I’m living and I’m active and you can come attentively.  Coming attentively means we come hungry.  There’s space here in me, God, for you to fill.

At the end of the summer, I was on a run on the Highline Canal trail near Heritage High School.  I was coming back home and I had my music on and I was cruising along.  It was real early in the morning.  There was a guy standing along the side of the trail.  He was just saying, “Stop! Stop!”  I thought we had an incident on our hands.  We almost did—I almost had a heart attack!  He’s going stop! stop!  I popped out my earbuds and asked him what the deal was.  He goes turn around.  I turned around and on the side of the trail, maybe a foot off of the trail, stood one of the biggest deers I’ve ever seen.  Eight points on his head.  Eight fuzzy points on his head.  Massive deer standing right along the side of the trail.  He goes you ran right passed it.     I think we run right passed it.  I think in the busyness of life, we are on the proverbial trail, head down, we know we just gotta get through the day and we’re just going.  Here’s what I want to do today:  I want to say STOP!  Stop!  The King of kings and the Lord of lords is speaking.  He wants you to hear His heart.  He wants you to hear His voice. He wants to sing over you with His love.  Come attentive.  Come expecting that this God will speak through His Scriptures to your soul.  When you come attentively, you approach it differently.  And when you approach it differently and come hungry, you receive supply.  When we come full, we don’t hear anything and we blame it on God.  The seed’s going out.  The sower’s not different.  We are.

We listen attentively.  Verse 6:  And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands.   {This is just from reading the Scriptures.  The Levites are going around in the crowd and asking people hey, do you understand what’s going on here?  Do you understand what’s being taught here?  They’re going around and teaching on a micro level while Ezra reads and teaches on a macro level. But they respond with Amen, Amen.}  And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  This is important.  They don’t worship the Scriptures.  They worship the God who is revealed in the Scriptures.  This is an important distinction, friends, because sometimes as evangelicals we can be pegged as people who believe in the Holy Trinity and then we add one more.  They don’t worship the Scriptures.  They worship the God whom the Scriptures reveal, but when I come to the Scriptures with expectation, worship is always my experience.  When was the last time you got up in the morning, brewed a delicious cup of coffee, opened the Bible and assumed you were going to worship?  Not just reading.  It’s very different.  But entering in.  Hearing His voice.  Allowing Him to speak and creating space to actually hear.  This is what it means to come hungry.  We listen attentively.  God, we believe and have this expectation that you’re speaking.  We worship passionately, God, when you speak and when we hear your voice, we want to declare back to you You are good.

Let me give you three ways that reading the Scriptures and encountering the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, stirs our hearts to worship.  One, when we read the Scriptures, it reminds us of God’s nature and His character.  You might read something on a given morning like:  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)  And it’s the very morning you need to hear it. And you go God, thank you.  I need that because I’m in a place right now where I just don’t feel like You care and I can’t hear your voice.  My response when I read that has to be God, you’re amazing.  You’re great.  You’re close to the brokenhearted.  The psalmist in Psalm 16:11 writes:  You make known to me the path of life.  So a reading of the Scripture where we’re worshipful is going God, thank you!  In your presence there is fullness of joy.  Jesus, teach me how to walk closer, walk deeper, take your hand, hear your voice, because I want the joy that your presence leads to.  This is a worshipful reading of the Scriptures: At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  (Psalm 103:11-12) For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.   So you read the Scriptures and you’re reminded of your desperate need and you’re reminded of His gracious provision.  And at THAT intersection is worship!  If we can’t read the Scriptures and worship as we’re reminded of the nature and character of God than we probably have bigger problems than being a little stagnant or dry.

It reminds us of his nature and his character. It reunites us to ultimate reality….to truth!  That’s what it does. The world has this way of pushing in on me where I start to think my life is the only thing going on.  You have the same problem?  Let me tell you….you have the same problem!!  We all have the same problem.  It just happens.  We walk through a health scare.  We walk through a job loss.  We walk through pain and our walls start to close in.  Here’s what the Scriptures do:  it reminds me that God is at work in ways that I cannot see, cannot comprehend and have no idea of.  So I praise Him for it.  God, thank you for working in ways that I can’t see and for doing things that I’m not in control of.  Thank you.

So, it reminds us of God’s nature and character.  Reorients our life to ultimate true reality–truth.  And it reengages us in God’s invitation to follow Him.  When we read the Scriptures, we read it and hear, on almost every single page, invitation.  Come!  Come!  Lay down your heavy load and pick up my light burden.  Come and learn from me.  My yolk is easy, my burden’s light.  Come! Come! Come!  When I hear Jesus inviting me to come, my response is: Me? First, I’m in absolute shock and awe that you want me.  It’s worship!  As we read, we’re reinvited into the reality that the way of Jesus is open for me today.   Come hungry.  Come worshipful. Come and ask God prick my heart with the truth of the Scriptures.  Leave me changed because of who you are and the way you reveal yourself in your word.

Verse 9: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “this day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” {Whatever they read had made them weep.  There’s a lot of scholarly debate on why they were weeping.  We don’t know why.  It could have been because the light was shone on them for who they really were and they were just in this mode of repentance and God, we are undeserving and You are holy, which is absolutely true, so we’re weeping because of that.  They could have been overjoyed at hearing the words of God.  We don’t know.}  For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.  Then he said to them, “Go your way. {So six hours is evidently enough.}  Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord.  {Don’t you love it.  Today is holy.  Stop your crying.  Go have a celebration.  Go have a party and invite people who have nothing to come and to feast around your table.  So as you hear the word of God, respond with joy.  Respond with celebration.  Respond with generosity.  But whatever you do, respond.}  And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”  And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

It’s really interesting growing up in a time and age where we have the Bible in our pockets at every moment. Not only the Bible, but we have access to information at an absolutely unprecedented level.  I don’t know about you, but I love that.  I’m curious.  I’m a learner and I’ll chase a rabbit trail….what does that mean?..what does that mean?  Kelly and I will be watching a movie and hear something and we’ll be like..(makes motion of checking devices)…we’ll be nerding out….I didn’t know that.  I love information.  I clip about twenty articles a day on my “evernote app” in different folders for different times and different stuff.  I LOVE information….information….information!  You may be the same way.  We’re flooded with it!  It’s at our fingertips at every single moment in time.  We live in an information saturated world.  You know what that means?  That the value, because of the accessibility, of information is drastically diminished in our time.  It’s hard for us to discern what information is actually valuable for me and what information is just something I should accumulate.  I think a lot of us treat the Scriptures with the lens of this is interesting and let’s accumulate information, but we don’t ever plan on doing anything with it.  In Nehemiah 8, what you see is listening attentively, worshiping passionately and then responding obediently……to the Scriptures that say don’t just be a hearer of the Word, but be a doer.  Be somebody who practices what you hear.  Is that the way you open the Scriptures?  God, I’m attentive.  You’re going to speak and God I have that expectation.  I’m worshipful.  You’re going to reveal yourself and when you do I want to see it and respond by saying you’re amazing and you’re great.  God, whatever you ask me to do here, I’m going to follow because you’re God!

The last time I went on a plane, I sat down and I wasn’t in the exit row.  I was in the middle seat.  I decided to observe.  You know the stewardesses do the safety talk, where they tell you the plane might crash.  Here’s what happens.  Every single person on the flight, even the people in the exit row, are checked out.  They’re looking at the Sky Mall magazine.  They’re (flight attendants) sharing real valuable information and nobody hears it. I started to think:  God, how many times do I approach Scriptures in the same way?  I want to respond.  I don’t want to just hear.  They respond with repentance.  They allow the Word…..they don’t just read the Word, they let the Word read them.  When was the last time we did that?  They respond with celebration.  God, you’re amazing.  You’re great.  Let’s throw a party.  They respond with obedience.  We read about the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles in the following verses.  They’re like we should do that.  Boom!  They do.

We listen attentively.  We worship passionately.  We respond obediently.  That’s how we come hungry.  And if we’re not hungry, one of those things or multiple is missing in our life.  So the prayer this morning is God, would you create space that you then fill.  Would you create hunger that you satisfy?  Would you create a desire that you supply the answer to?  In all of our lives because that’s where growth happens.  For 2000 years, followers of Jesus have been gathering around this table.  They’ve been gathering around this food—this bread and this drink—to remind themselves that this God satisfies.  They’ve been reminding themselves that the deepest hunger we will ever taste has already been quenched by the King of kings and the Lord of lords when He walked Calvary’s hill and He gave His life for ours.  Followers of Jesus have been reminding themselves, when they come to this table, that they hear His voice and they experience His love.  Followers of Jesus have been reminding themselves at this table that His story of redemption is our story by his covenantal love and faithfulness.  We’ve been reminding ourselves to taste and see that He is good.  We’ve been reminding ourselves in this table for 2000 years that it’s okay to come starving…….and to leave satisfied. Because He gives us the supply we ultimately need with His body broken and His blood shed.  As we come to the table this morning, friends, come hungry.  Come hungry and leave satisfied, because it’s when we receive His supply that we get to walk in His joy.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, in this moment, we want to be attentive.  In this moment, we want to be worshipful, remembering the sacrifice that you’ve made and then bowing down and declaring our love.  We want to respond.  Lord, if there’s a word you speak to us, if there’s an invitation you give us, we don’t just want to be people who hear it and then walk away.  We want to be people who follow.  So we’re coming hungry.  We’re asking, Lord, will you meet us in this place.  It’s with great expectation that we celebrate your grace.  Your table.  Your life given.  Your body broken and your blood shed.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Breath of heaven – COME HUNGRY Nehemiah 8:1-182023-06-27T12:46:28-06:00
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