Learn it, Love It, Live It
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
|By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2009|
|In this article we will consider a value that is very important to God and I trust to us as well – the subject of biblical authority. Orthodox Christians believe that God’s Word is the final authority for our lives – it is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.|
In this article we will consider a value that is very important to God and I trust to us as well – the subject of biblical authority. Orthodox Christians believe that God’s Word is the final authority for our lives – it is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Our text is Luke 5:1-11:
- One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
It’s a beautiful story of our Lord coming into the lives of the disciples and changing their lives. What will God’s Word do for us if we allow it to have the same place in our hearts that the disciples allowed Jesus to have on them? I’d like to share some observations about this story.
I. Five Observations about Luke 5:1-11
In this text, we see a dramatization of this core value in Peter’s life. As with Peter…
- Jesus makes requests of us to see how we will respond. Jesus comes to us and asks certain things of us and he’s very interested in our response. Now, just as then, Jesus gradually asked for the disciples’ obedience, that’s usually the way God’s Word speaks to our heart. First of all, he asked them to let him get into their boat. Then he asked them to take the boat out into the middle of the sea and finally, he asked them to cast their nets down. He gradually unfolded his will to them. As with the disciples, he makes gentle requests of us and is vitally interested in how we respond.
- Jesus challenges us to trust and obey. Jesus challenges us to obey him in the most important areas of our lives. Interestingly enough, when he came into the disciples’ lives, he talked to them about something they understood – fishing. Then he began to make requests of them, requests that were very important to their lives, things that they knew about. The question was, could they trust him? Could they obey him in areas in which they already knew something about? We never wonder if we can trust God in areas that we are uncertain about or if we can trust God to give us direction when we are kind of stumbling along and searching for answers. The question is always about whether we can trust God in areas that we are pretty sure about. Here in this story, Jesus walks into their life and talks to them about something that they have done all of their lives. They grew up on the water, they understood fishing. And he challenges them to obey in an area where they feel very certain and secure.
- We struggle in the areas where we have control and experience. The moment when Jesus walks into our lives through his Word or the voice of the Holy Spirit and begins to challenge us in the areas where we are secure, where we have control, there’s a tendency for us to struggle. We can see this in the life of Peter. When the Master walked into Peter’s life, and said, “I want you to cast your nets into the water,” the first thing that Peter said was, “We’ve already done that. We’ve been fishing all night and we’ve caught absolutely nothing.” In today’s slang he would have said, “Been there, done that.” We can all relate to that. Everyone of us knows what it’s like for God to walk into our life and tell us to do something that we thought we were already doing. We kind of say, “But, Lord, I don’t think I really need a lesson in this area.”
- We are called to give God’s Word final authority in every area of our life. Even if it doesn’t make much sense. In fact, in verse 5, after Peter said, I want you to know, Lord, we’ve been doing this all night, and we’ve already tried there, tried this, been there, done that. But, if you tell me so, I will let down the nets. In other words, this doesn’t make much sense and I don’t agree with it and I don’t think it will work, but God, I will let You be the final authority in my life. And that brings up a very simple question. Do we obey it? Is it really the final authority in my life? Chuck Colson, in one of his books, was talking about the fact that so many of us have Bibles, and yet the Bible doesn’t change us. 81% of the people surveyed in a recent poll said that they were evangelical, and yet only 41% of them knew that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount; and only 48% of them could name the first four books in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Out of 1,382 people that were surveyed, less than 1% of them said that their lives were directed and truly changed by what the Word of God said. In other words, many of us read it; but not enough of us apply it to our lives. And if we don’t apply it to our lives, it won’t change us! i.e. medicine. There was a guest lecturer at a University and before he lectured he was asked not to talk about the Bible, the Word of God. How paradoxical to speak at a University which is ostensibly committed to the pursuit of the truth and them be asked not to speak about the Bible which is the truth! (John 17:17) Especially since that evening when he went to the prison, the first words from the warden were, “As you talk to the prisoners, could you talk to them about biblical principles?” It seems to me like:
- The cart is before the horse. We’re not supposed to share God’s Word at the Universities, but when we speak to prisoners, who’ve already messed their lives all up, then we can talk about it.
- We’re building a hospital down at the bottom of the cliffs rather than putting fences at the top.
- We don’t really understand what God’s Word will do and how it can change our lives.
- 5. Consistent obedience produces consistent results. The disciples discovered this, when they brought up their nets so full that they began to break. They had to call their partners over alongside to share the load, and both boats still almost sank. The results they received that day were based upon their obedience to Jesus’ Word.
II. Answers to Three Common Questions:
Question # 1:Does the Bible claim to be God’s Word?
Answer: Yes! “All Scripture is God breathed!” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- All of it is God’s Word. The Bible is not half inspired and half uninspired. It’s not partly fallible, and partly infallible. Now, we all have favorite passages, but it’s all God’s Word. It’s all life-changing. I’ll admit there are passages of scripture I’ve never preached on. There are passages of scripture that I don’t understand; for example, I have never preached on the genealogies. But, it’s all God’s inspired Word and for every part of it there’s a purpose.
- It’s instruction is alive and profitable. The Word is profitable for you and me if we follow and obey it. In 2 Timothy 3:1617, Paul shares with Timothy the power of God’s Word, “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” There are four ways that it’s helpful: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. God’s Word teaches us what is right, correct us and helps us to get right and stay right. God’s Word and alive, active and powerful. Either God’s Word will keep us from sin or sin will keep us from God’s Word.
- It is comprehensive. God’s Word meets every need. When I look out at you I see hundreds of needs and as a pastor I often ask, “How can I meet the needs of everybody here?” And then I realize that it’s not my job to meet the needs; it’s my job to preach the Word. The Word of God is comprehensive. The Holy Spirit bears witness to the Word and He is the one that comes and ministers to our needs. Some of you have been struggling for a long time. In our walk with God we have times in our lives when God is especially real, I call them “grace moments.” When we sense God is working in our lives, it’s very important that we cooperate with what the Spirit is doing and not grieve or quench His activity.
- It can completely equip us for both life and ministry. God’s Word has the ability to come alongside of us and enable us to do that which we perhaps could not do ourselves. If we have the Spirit without the Word we blow up and if we have the Word without the Spirit, we dry up. But, if we have the Word and the Spirit together, we grow up.
Often, I wonder when we hold the Word if we realize what we have in our hand. God forbid that we should take His Word for granted or fail to heed its commands!
Permit me to give you some history of people’s treatment of the Word of God: In 600 BC King Jehoiakim is literally tearing the Bible up page by page and throwing it into the fire, and imprisoning all the prophets and priests. Then, 90 years after the death of Christ, John is banished to the Isle of Patmos. He’s in prison on that lonely island. Why? Because of the Word of God and the word of his testimony. In 300 AD John Wycliffe translates the Bible into English, then everyone who possesses a copy in English is killed. They became martyrs. As these martyrs in England are burned, they hold those scriptures close to their breasts. Forty years later, in 340 AD some are so upset with John Wycliffe that they dig up his remains and throw them into the river. In 1536, William Tyndale, who has again translated the New Testament is burned at the stake. It’s safe to say that literally thousands of people have written, translated and distributed this Word, and then died for their efforts.
- The Bible was written over a 1500-year span – by 40 generations, by over 40 authors from every walk of life including kings, peasants, philosophers, fisherman, poets, statesmen, and scholars.
- It was written in different places, including out in the wilderness, in dungeons, in palaces, inside prison walls, while traveling, on lonely islands, in the midst of war. It was written at different times, sometimes in peace, sometimes in battle. It was written during different moods, some writing from the heights of joy and while others wrote from the very depths of sorrow. It was written in three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. And it was written in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and Greek. It covered subject matters including hundreds of controversial subjects, yet with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation, there is one unfolding story, and that story is the redemption of man through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Voltaire, the French infidel who died in 1778, literally traveled the world, especially “enlightened Europe,” speaking against the Word of God. And he predicted that 100 years after his death, the Bible would no longer be on earth. Well, Voltaire died and 50 years later, the Geneva Bible Society bought his home. Using the presses he had to produce his atheistic treatises, they have been producing Bibles ever since. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never die.” [Luke 21:33]
Question # 2: How can I apply my study of the Bible to my daily life?
Answer: Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Four ways to take God’s Word and apply it.
- Ezra prepared his heart to approach God’s Word. He was devoted – dedicated and committed. He literally prepared himself in the way that he approached God’s Word. He wanted to make sure that he entered into the presence of God’s Word in an appropriate manner – teachable and trusting.
- Ezra prepared his heart to study God’s Word. As Ezra read it, he allowed his heart to be tender and open to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
- Ezra prepared his heart to practice what he learned. Ezra not only read it; but as soon as he read it, he practiced it. He began to apply it to his life.
- Ezra prepared his heart to share what he learned. Ezra not only learned it in his own life and practiced and applied it, but he took it immediately and he shared it with others, so they could apply it to their lives. (The best way to pray is to pray God’s Word – to meditate on it, personalize it and pray it back to God. It will literally change your life!)
Question # 3: What convictions should I have concerning the Bible?
Answer: Very simply to learn, love and live God’s Word.
There are three things we have to do when we come to the Word: Three key phrases:
- Learn It. We can’t change until we know it: hear, read, study, learn, memorize and meditate on it
- Love It. We’ve got to begin to embrace the Word and let it embrace us. Let’s esteem the Word!
- Live It. Let the Word that comes into our hearts, go out through your hands – share it with others.
The Psalmist said, “Your Word have I hid in my heart so that I might not sin against You.” When we learn, love and live God’s Word, we begin to develop biblical convictions. Permit me to briefly share a few of these convictions with you:
1. Even when I don’t understand it, I’ll trust what God said.
I will not ultimately place my trust in my own insight, even when I don’t understand God’s Word, I will still trust it. Proverbs 3:56 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Be careful about developing preconceived ways in which God is going to answer your prayer. Let God answer the way the seems best to Him not to us.
2. Although it seems illogical, I’ll obey what God has said.
I will obey what God has said, even if it doesn’t make sense. Remember Mary in John 2, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee? They ran out of wine and Mary looks at the servants and says, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”
3. While human opinions vary, God’s Word is consistently true – I need it more than physical food.
Would you not agree that spiritual food is more important than physical food? The Psalmist said, “I esteemed the words of Your Mouth (spiritual food) more than my necessary (physical) food.” When we give God’s Word its rightful place – it begins to change our lives!
Biblical convictions come into our lives when…
- We have learned what the Word says on a given subject.
- We have decided to apply and obey the Word in daily life.
- We have been honest with God concerning our areas of need.
- We have decided what is worth living and dying for.
- We have settled the issue, in advance, before we are forced to.
The bottom line: As we hide God’s Word in our hearts, it will change our lives, so I would encourage us today and every day to: learn it, love it and live it and then share it with others.