The following set of sermon notes reflect a message that I preached today at Jubilee Church London In some ways this sermon was connected to the three-part series on Revival I recently preached if only because the last message God’s Reviving Word was also based on Psalm 119. The earlier messages, “Revival” and “Reviving Prayer” are also available.
Often when I hear the word “Missional” I am afraid that I have to confess I think of a scene from one of my favorite films – “Blues Brothers”. In it the two rouges who are the stars go to church and “see the light” it is a little tongue in cheek to be sure but they conclude at the end of the sequence “We are on a mission from God!” Well we really ARE on a mission from God. Like so many great films, the rest of the film simply tracks the journey of its main characters – as they seek to complete the mission they felt God had gave them.
If you are not a Christian here this morning, we will give you a chance to join us on our great journey, but lets see what the writer of the longest chapter in the Bible had to say about making sure we don’t loose our way on this great missionary journey God has set before us…
Lets turn to Psalm 119
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it
according to your word.
It doesn’t say how can we keep pure – by sitting still and doing nothing…. We are meant to be “on a journey” doing something!
This book shows us the way – word is not just head knowledge we want to keep pure…by the word.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
James 1:19-27 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
There is a guarding, but a DOING in those verses…
How do we keep pure – guard hearts by the word – not just about keeping self away from certain people – At least part of how we learn to guard our ways is in the reading of the mistakes of others. If the man who wrote this wonderful psalm can become an adulterer and murderer we should be alert and careful!!!
Flee temptation….Like Joseph.
But not just do nothing – withdrawal from world is not the answer – the cry of the missionary should be to be “in the world but not of it” too many Christians are “of the world but not in it”
Religion is I obey so I can be accepted. The gospel is I am accepted so I can obey.” Tim Keller
But the Christian life is not merely about obedience and trying to guard and stop doing certain things. We are supposed to be looking for something positive too – lets see the next verse.
How then can we get this life-giving word into us? We will see in psalm 119 several ways in which we should respond to and appropriate Gods word. The first thing to note is that we have to have an attitude that when we come to God’s word we are in fact coming to him, and expecting to meet the risen Jesus through its pages. The psalmist says
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!(Psalm 119:10)
We must come to God’s word expecting to find him. We do not come merely to grasp some intellectual truths – to get our doctrine right – although of course that has its place. We come expecting the God of the Bible to leap off the pages of the bible to us. It is God we seek, and Him that we need. It is Him that our hearts long for! We try and fill our lives with all kinds of things.
The child who feels lonely and does anything he can to please his classmates. When it fails he starts to long to grow up and leave the torment that school is for some people. Then, he longs for a girlfriend, then for a wife, then for a better job a better car, a better house. All along the emptiness doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go away because it was meant to be filled by God.
Some of us try and replace God with other things. Dare I say it we can even do this with “mission” and “doing things for God” our work for God should not come out of an emptiness and a lack of purpose. No, we must first seek God be satisfied in him and then begin to reach others out of an overflowing fountain that is within. How do we seek God? We pray. We worship. We thank him. And, in the context of this talk , we seek HIM in the Bible. People say theology is boring. But theology is simply the study of God. Since when was God boring? No he satisfies us and gives us joy! So how do we get theology from out of this book and into our hearts? Lets read the next verse
I have stored up yo
ur word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
How do we store it up? First we have to read it! Be systematic – both big overview “the woods” and focusing in on one verse “the trees” Who here has read the Bible through from cover to cover at least once in your life? It is God’s love note to us. PICK A SMALL BOOK – eg Mark or Ephesians, Read it chronologically or From cover to cover (start in New Testament if you have never read it) pick a book and keep a check on which ones you have read when but BE SYSTEMATIC
Scripture memorizing is what is referred to here. But note it is not just a case of storing it in our minds – it is about getting it into our hearts. Wesley explains this as follows “I have laid it up in my mind like a choice treasure, to be ready upon all occasions to counsel, quicken or caution me.” John Wesley, John Wesley’s Notes One the Bible, Ps 119 Whilst Spurgeon says – “There laid up in the heart the word has effect. When young men only read the letter of the Book, the word of promise and instruction is deprived of much of its power. Neither will the laying of it up in the mere memory avail. The word must be known and prized, and laid up in the heart; it must occupy the affection as well as the understanding; the whole mind requires to be impregnated with the word of God.” C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Ps 119:11
Is it enough to know the word? I have met many Christians – no correct that – I have BEEN the kind of Christian who knew the word of God well but somehow it hadn’t affected my daily life as much as it should. Theology has to break out and show us how to live. The theology is where we start, but one thing I love about Tope’s preaching is he TEACHES us we need people to help us to learn how to live practically in the real world in light of this amazing book. We need teachers to help us, but ultimately our great teacher is God himself who has given us this book.
“Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!” (Psalm 119:12)
We need nothing else for all matters of doctrine and ethical conduct. But, we can learn practical wisdom from elsewhere and we should read books that help us understand the Bible. What is more, the bible also doesn’t tell us how to choose between two equally good alternative choices. We need people to help us and teach us. But God wants us all to become someone who can teach others at least something from this book. In many ways that is what missional Bible study is all about – learning this message, living this message and then giving this message to others. – even if just on a one-to-one. To put it simply God wants us to learn the message, live the message, give the message. The next verse of the psalm states
“With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.” (Psalm 119:13)
To ourselves – lets not forget that’s where Who are we meant to declare God’s truth to? I believe we should start with ourselves. Reading it aloud can help in that process as the powerful impact of the words will be more clear. We can also use it like medicine – perhaps three times a day even – if there are verses that have spoken to you and that you know you have to get into your head to change- why not take it like a pill
We can also declare God’s word in prayer. God loves us to declare his word to him – and in spiritual warfare, and we can even imagine ourselves declaring them to the enemy of our souls in spiritual warfare. But, perhaps more importantly we can declare God’s word to others. Our mission is to share the very words of this book with others – that is why we learn it so we have something to pass on. Our mission is to share the very words of this book with others –learn it so we have something to pass on – USE THE ACTUAL WORDS IN OUR COUNSELING AND EVANGELISM “Preach the gospel–and if necessary, use words.” That’s a falsehood and a misunderstanding of the gospel.
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3)
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4)
That second verse is an encouragement for all the children’s Sunday school teachers and perhaps more importantly to Christian parents. The word commend in that verse makes me think of the next verse back in psalm 119. If we want to learn how to pass on God’s word, it is vital that it is something we sound enthusiastic about – something we really believe in – something we love!
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all
riches. (Psalm 119:14)
Do we love the words of this book? If we are honest sometimes we don’t delight in it. If that’s true, that’s where prayer comes back into the picture. We need to pray and ask God to change us. Lets do all the things we have mentioned so far today, and one more that we will come to now, but I wonder if it is perhaps one of the most important ones of all. There is some But don’t wait for the delight to come before you begin to feed off God’s word. Instead read it, study it, memorize it, and declare it and you will find that you begin to value God’s word more.
Mediation on Gods word is the final thing that we can do with scripture and it is perhaps the most important of all in appropriating the resurrection-power of God’s word. Meditation helps us to guard our thinking, that will help us to seek God in a text, and will definitely help us to memorize and store up scripture, and will allow the words of the Bible to teach us, is in many ways simply about declaring . If we meditate often on Gods word it will help us to delight in the Bible and see its worth. Like good food God’s word needs to be chewed upon – it needs to be meditated on .
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (Psalm 119:15)
Christian meditation is about filling our mind not emptying it. It is easier than we sometimes realize. If you know how to worry you know how to meditate. If you like meditation is about allowing the words of scripture to go through our minds and be examined from every possible angle in the way we would when we are worried about something. We must let the words run through our minds, both consciously repeating them, and as we go about our business letting them soak into us. I love to program my mind with a few verses of scripture, think on them for a while then go about my daily business. Often later that day, if I consciously come back to the same few words they suddenly make more sense. This is about letting Gods word shape our thought patterns, its about replacing bad thoughts with whatever it is we are meditating on, its about making his words a part of us.
When we are meditating we can ask the text questions – who? What? Why? When? How? Where? We can ask the vital question – So what? We are asking what do I need to do, think or feel differently as a result of this?
As an example of how meditation might proceed, lets suppose I had just read in the scripture that we have been adopted as Gods sons. This is how my stream of consciousness might flow – “I am adopted by God” – Who has been adopted? I have. By Whom? By God! What does adopted mean? It means he chose me. Why has he done it? I suppose because he loves me!
When did he do it? Ephesians 1 says before the world was made. How did he do it? It was through Christ and his death on the cross. So what implications does this have? I suppose I should realize I am special after all if I am Gods adopted child- yes but remember you didn’t deserve it and it came at a great cost to Jesus- I guess I should be happy really – a child adopted by earthly parents would be how much more me if God has adopted me – wow – I should be really grateful too. You know what, I am grateful! What this day has in store for me doesn’t sound quite so bad after all….hey one last thought as I have to go now really – God never changes his mind – so I am safe, I am secure, he will never let me go! Wow….Thank you God! Later today when my boss is threatening me – I will remind myself “you are adopted by God!”
So we have seen that God’s Word brings revelation, it revives us, it strengthens us, it gives us hope. Is it any wonder that this Word is so precious to the psalmist? Is it any wonder that the Bereans are honoured because of their diligent attitude to God’s word?
“They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
We too should receive this reviving Word with all eagerness, and in every way, allow ourselves to be moulded by this wonderful Book God has given us. It’s the only Book that can give life, can save us, can show us how to live. It really is God’s reviving Word. As we have seen then, if we want to be connected to the power of Jesus resurrection, there is no substitute for faith-filled Bible study and prayer. If your prayer and Bible study has become a chore, then may God himself thrill you once more and fill you with the ability to understand and apply his word and help you to pray. Since prayer and Bible study are so crucial if we are going to live a resurrection-empowered life is it any wonder the Apostles declared, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4)