Introduction to The Practice of The Word
Our theme is “A Year (a Life) of Spiritual (Trans)Formation” – are you committed to this? How are you doing regarding Support & Accountability relationships? Are you praying… and linking up?
What is our highest value in being God’s Beloved? It is intimacy in relationship with Jesus (“Come, follow Me…”). And what is our highest priority & practice to grow this intimacy in following Jesus daily? It’s the discipline of The Word of God.
WHY the Word? WHAT is the Word of God? And HOW do we practice this discipline? These are the questions I will address in this teaching on our first priority and practice.
WHAT is “The Word of God”? WHY practice The Word?
Evangelicals think it’s the Bible, but it’s more than that.
The Word is essentially God’s self-revelation. And that self-revelation is Jesus. He is seen as the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God: Psalm 33:6, “By the word of YHWH the heavens were made, and the starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
God is revealed through creation – his Word to humanity – called general revelation.
God is revealed in history via Israel – the Old Testament – called specific revelation.
God is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth – the New Testament – called full-filled revelation. As John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God. And that Word became flesh and dwelt among us (in Jesus of Nazareth)… he who is the in bosom of the Father has revealed God to us” (John 1:1,14,18).
Thus the Bible is the inspired record of the Word/Will of God for humanity, answering the basic life questions that all people ask: Where did we come from (origins)? Who are we – why are we here (meaning and purpose)? What went wrong (the problem of evil)? How can it be made right (salvation)? What will become of us (the end)? God says through the prophet Hosea (4:6) that “people are destroyed from lack of knowledge (of God, of life, of reality).” Sadly, so true!
Here are some key texts showing us WHAT The Word is and WHY it’s so important for us. Take time to read them slow and carefully, prayerfully meditating on their meaning.
Paul says to Timothy, “From infancy you have known the Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
“The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God… all is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Jesus used The Word to defeat evil in testing and temptation, saying that we “live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from God’s mouth” (Matthew 4:4).
Jesus said, “If you continue in my word (hold to, obey my word), you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Jesus himself meditated on and memorized God’s Word (Old Testament) as described in Psalm 1:2-3 – he was a person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on his word day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” What a promise!
HOW do we practice The Word?
The million-dollar question! HOW do we do this? By setting a time and place for the daily discipline of prayer and bible reading – traditionally called a quite time, or devotional time (I will talk more about how to do this in another teaching). Thus we prioritise and practice The Word… in four different ways: By reading, studying, meditating, and memorising.
READING: you can read the Bible like you read a book. It’s made of up 69 ‘books’, letters and other writings. Reading gives you the overview story, the big picture. Read The Message for a modern version. Or do the year-plan to read the whole Bible in one year.
STUDYING: to dig deeper into the Bible book by book, a slower journey, using Bible commentaries and Bible dictionaries and other tools to look up words and verses, etc.
MEDITATING: mental reflection through using your imagination, asking questions of the text in your mind, developing associations of meaning, generally “hearing God” in the text. There are various ways of accepted meditation in the Christian Church (more next week).
MEMORISING: Hebrew meditation is memorisation of the Word – learning texts “by heart” committing them to memory by regular repetition. Then The Word slowly becomes flesh and literally dwells in your mind and heart, revealing God’s glory to all around you.
Questions for Personal Reflection and Group Discussion
How closely do you follow Jesus? How intimate are you with him?
Do you REALLY prioritise the Word of God in your daily life as a follower of Jesus – or not?
What is your understanding of “The Word of God? Why is it SO VERY, VERY important?
Do you do the spiritual discipline of The Word in your daily devotions? How do you do it?