Tag Archives: study

Trust Me!

One of the most often quoted verses in the Bible is Jer. 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The word “heart” (H3820 in Strong’s Concordance) is often used figuratively in scripture for the mind, will, or intellect, including our understanding and wisdom.

background image credit:  Mediajon CC BY-NC
background image credit: Mediajon CC BY-NC

This verse provides an especially valid warning in this modern “information age” we live in today, where so much DIS-information and chatter clamors for our attention. Modern revisionists with agendas are re-writing history, and even the Bible itself, to fit their own paradigms, which presents a very confusing array of choices for our minds.

It is usually very important to understand the context of a Bible verse to get the true, God-intended meaning implanted in our minds, and in this case, context proves to be especially important, as we can see a chilling warning from God Himself starting in verse 5.

Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. (Jer. 17:5-6)

I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind actually choosing to live their lives under a “curse” from God, but these verses indicate we can bring just such a “curse” upon ourselves by placing our faith, our confidence, our hope and trust in someone or something other than God.

There is a sharp contrast drawn for us though in the next two verses, as a great blessing is pronounced on one who chooses to put his trust and hope in God.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer. 17:7-8)

So we can be assured that God has left us with a positive choice that can lead us to a truly blessed life. Verse 10 goes on to assure us that God is in touch with us … watching humanity, and searching our hearts with the intent of rewarding our choices.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.(Jer. 17:9-10)

There has never been a time in world history when there have been more voices competing for our time and attention. The “greatest minds” of our day … atheists, agnostics, scientists, philosophers, politicians, evangelists, and apologists, surely all have their unique and attractive messages to preach, and all want us to put our trust and hope in their solutions to world, and personal problems.

And then there is this one incredible book, The Holy Bible, containing the time-tested words of wisdom from God, which have endured for thousands of years, and cry out to us with a still small voice, saying … “trust ME!”

Apples of Gold

Proverbs 25:11 says that “A word rightly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” How utterly true that is for all of us, myself included. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been in need of encouragement, and had a word, or a phrase from the scriptures jump out at me at just the right time to pull me back on course in this quest of faith towards God’s Kingdom.

And there have even been times when I’ve had the privilege of sharing God’s words of truth with others, and been told that it was just what was needed to get them through a tough time in their lives. What a great thrill God has given us to gain encouragement from His Word, and also, to share that with others who are in need.

I’ve been thinking about the direction I’d like to take this blog in for some time now. Up to this point, I’ve been using segments from sermons. The first 6 posts that began my “Baptism for Life” blog came from three 60-minute sermons by the same title, and there have been several other multiple-part blog posts taken from past sermons. While that might be good for regular followers, I realize it can be hard for others to keep-up with every week with the busy lives we lead, and all the distractions and obligations that we all have. Therefore I am going to make an effort to be more concise with my posts, using words and phrases from God’s Word that have greatly impacted my own life and relationship with the Godhead – things that have brought ME closer to God, and spurred me on to a more focused, personal study of God’s Word.

One of the biggest problems with ‘preachers’ is a tendency to want to “build up a following” for themselves among their readers, listeners, viewers … so those ‘followers’ become dependent on the ‘preacher’. The goal instead should be to lead those “followers” to a greater dependence on GOD.

I’ll just use the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:32. Paul said what he had to say to “influence” these Ephesian elders with very emotional admonitions and warnings, but here in vs. 32, he simply says, “…I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build YOU up, and to give YOU an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”

A few words fitly spoken can ignite a flame of curiosity that becomes a burning desire to dig into “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). I pray that my future posts will do just that for all who read them.

How Do Our Hands Handle The Word of Life?

My last post was based on 1 John 1:1, and I think we’ll start there again. It’s really amazing that you can look at the same scripture with a slightly different mindset, and open up a whole new avenue of understanding.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life (1 John 1:1)

Brethren, how do my hands and your hands handle the Word of life? What is our relationship with this Word? How do we respond to it?

Responses To The Word

Last week we talked about the Jews in Acts 13:46-48 who chose to reject God’s word as it was offered to them through Paul and Barnabas. These verses say they rejected God’s word, casting it from them, just as they did with Jesus Christ, and in doing so they judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life.”

Human beings have many ways of handling “the word of life,” and casting it aside and rejecting it is one of them. Another way people handle the word of life is to keep it at arm’s length. They believe in God, and may have 3 or 4 Bibles full of God’s written word in their homes, but they don’t read more than a few key verses, and they’re not comfortable with a personal relationship with God.

There’s also the atheist’s approach to handling the word of life. Some of them study the Bible with the intent of refuting its teachings and destroying the faith of those who do believe. You can also handle the word of life academically. Most colleges offer courses like “the Bible as literature” and just treat it as another textbook to be read to give one a “well-rounded education”.

Some study the word of life more seriously, but with a wrong attitude. Why did the Pharisees, Sadducee, lawyers and scribes that Jesus spoke with in the Gospel accounts study the scriptures? If you read through Matthew 23, it appears that there were a variety of motivations. These people used the word of life to control others and dominate their lives. Their studies of scripture made them appear righteous in the eyes of other men, and they used religion to gain status and wealth.

The Right Way to Handle the Word

There is another way our hands can handle the Word of life. We can embrace it fully, interact with its content, internalize its precepts, and allow the Word of life to transform our hearts, minds and spirits. This is the method of handling God’s word that David demonstrated in so many of his psalms.

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.

I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps. 119:97-105)

What David describes here is just a small taste of how he handled the Word of life. Acts 13:22 tells us that God described David as “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” We know from 1 Samuel 16:7 that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” This observation was made in the context of God choosing David as king, so you could say there was a connection between God’s and David’s hearts.

We also need this kind of “heart connection” with God. Jesus Christ Himself addressed this when He was speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well.

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

There is this intangible element to the relationship between us and God that is spirit-to-spirit, and heart-to-heart. Let’s turn to one more scripture to re-enforce this wholehearted approach to properly “handling the word of life”

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chron.16:9)

God’s eyes are searching whole earth looking for this heart-to-heart connection. The word “loyal” here is translated from the Hebrew shalem (H8003). It means complete, whole, perfect, peaceable, quiet and – this is the definition that really caught my eye – “especially friendly.”

That really is what God is looking for in the way that each of us handle the word of life. He wants us to be friends with Him and have a close, personal relationship with Him and with His Word.

The Word of Life

I’ve spent a great deal of time studying this word play between “the Word” as a title of Jesus Christ and “the word” that we can hold in our hands as our Bibles. The phrase “the word of life” can apply to both of them, brethren.

When discussing this topic, it’s most common to go to the gospel of John, but I’d like to start in another one of John’s writings.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us (1 John 1:1-2)

John and the Word

The apostle John seemed to have a special relationship with Jesus Christ, and a unique way of expressing it in writing. He describes Jesus as “the Word” here and in John 1:1, 14, and in the opening lines of this epistle he calls Him “the Word of life.” Jesus Himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That’s sort of a nutshell statement that covers the purpose of the Word’s supreme sacrifice.

In Revelation 13:8, John writes about this “Word of life,” Who is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” and the very next words in verse 9 are these: “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” So there is something more to understand about this phrase.

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

I don’t think it’s possible for us to even imagine the magnitude of God’s eternal love for His son, but it was there before Genesis 1:1, before the world was, before mankind was even created. And God the Father sent this beloved “Word of life” for us, and for all mankind because it was the most cherished thing He had ever known in all eternity. God so loved the world, that He gave “the Word of life,” and He made the commitment to do this at the very foundation of the world as we know it, at the same time They committed to “make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 126).

If we really want to understand the magnitude and value of Christ’s role as the sacrificial Lamb, we have to understand how highly the Father valued His Son, the Word of life.

Worthy of Life

Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:46-48)

Notice how important it is to seize every opportunity we’re offered to hear and embrace the word of life. In this example, the Jews were being shown favor by God. His word was offered to them free for the taking – they had “first dibbs,” so-to-speak – and they rejected it by judging themselves “unworthy of eternal life”.

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor. 11:31)

The word “judge” is translated from diakrino (G12532), which means “to separate thoroughly,” to distinguish ourselves by self correction in the light of God’s word and show that we’re worthy of life (we talked more about this in a previous post. Click to read). Diakrino is derived from the word krino (G2919), which means “to distinguish” or “to try,” and which is the word used in Acts 13:46 and translated “judged” in 1 Corinthians 11:31.

Fellowship With The Word

Let’s go back to 1 John again, and read a bit further.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:1-4)

What greater joy could we possibly have than fellowship with the Word of life? When we spend time in Bible study and prayer, we have an opportunity for unique, and joyous fellowship with the Father and His Son because Christ is the Word of life, who teaches us the words written in His Bible.

The Interactive Book: Working Out Your Own Salvation

We talked last week about the personal invitation God extends to each of us. In that context, we also looked at how Paul addressed the brethren in Philippi as “my beloved,” a name for Christians in fellowship with each other and God. Paul addressed the Ephesian elders in a similar fashion.

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:28-32)

Knowing that he was going to be absent from them, Paul says that he commends these elders to God, meaning “to place alongside of … to deposit, as a trust or for protection.” Look at what God, and the Word of His grace, is expected to do for us according to Matthew Henery’s commentary.

I commend you to God, that is, to his providence, and to the protection and care of that. It is enough that, from whomsoever we are separated, still we have God nigh unto us, 1Pe_4:19. (2.) He commends them to the word of his grace, by which some understand Christ: he is the word (Joh_1:1), the word of life, because life is treasured up for us in him (1Jo_1:1), and in the same sense he is here called the word of God’s grace, because from his fulness we receive grace for grace. He commends them to Christ, puts them into his hand, as being his servants, whom he would in a particular manner take care of. Paul commends them not only to God and to his providence, but to Christ and his grace…
He commends them to the word of God’s grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking: “I commend you to God, as your Master, whom you are to serve, and I have found him a good Master, and to the word of his grace, as cutting you out your work, and by which you are to govern yourselves; observe the precepts of this word, and then live upon the promises of it.”

Let’s take note also that Paul tells them here Who is “able to build you up.” The word able is dunamai (G1410), a form of a word used to describe the miracle-working power that emanated from Christ. Hearkening back to Philippians 2, we see that in the absence of an apostle, minister, church leader, or corporate church organization, you and I are supposed to be busy doing something very weighty and important for ourselves, and for the family of God.

Working in You

Let’s re-read Philippians 2:12.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)

The words“work out” are translated from katergazomai (G2716), which means to accomplish, work fully, finish or fashion. All of us independent macho Church of God guys are up for this, right ? Ready to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps? But have you ever tried that? Boy, you can reach down and grab those bootstraps, and yank for all you’re worth, grunt and groan and tug … and you might even clear the floor by a couple of inches, but you always end up with your feet right back on the floor where you started. Just about the same results you get from working out your own salvation on your own. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’re really not getting anywhere. And that’s why God immediately follows this phrase with verse 13.

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13)

This is one of those verses you can just breeze past, if you’re in a hurry to get your morning Bible study in before work … but this is one of the most encouraging and important verses in the entire Bible. And it is a grievous mistake to try to “work out your own salvation” if you ignore verse 13. Just think about this Being – who and what He is, and let the goose bumps run up your spine. I’ll quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary again.

“And because it is God who worketh in you, do you work out your salvation. Work, for he worketh.” It should encourage us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain. God is ready to concur with his grace, and assist our faithful endeavours. Observe, Though we must use our utmost endeavours in working out our salvation, yet still we must go forth, and go on, in a dependence upon the grace of God. His grace works in us in a way suitable to our natures, and in concurrence with our endeavours; and the operations of God’s grace in us are so far from excusing, that they are intended to quicken and engage our endeavours. “And work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for he worketh in you.” All our working depends upon his working in us.

This is the phrase I want to focus on: “all our working depends upon His working in us.” Going back to the Bible verse, this word “works” is energeo (G1754), and it means “to be mighty in,” active, efficient, effectual. It is one of four closely related Greek words – energeia, energeo, energema, and energes (G1753-1756) – that describe the absolute power of God and Christ over the flesh. The thoughts conveyed in these words speak of a God who is fully engaged with His called-out ones to work His divine miracles in us and bring us to the desired end. The Greek word eudokia (G2107) adds shades of meaning to the phrase “His good pleasure.” It means benevolence, gracious purpose, and good will.

Operation of God

Let’s look at another place where it would not be wise to ”work out your own salvation” without faith in the working of God. This verse uses the word energeia (G1753), which means “inner working.”

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (Col. 2:9-13)

The King James Version translates as this phrase in verse 12 as “faith in the operation of God.” This passage paints a picture of a fully engaged, hands-on God who has given us life in Christ, and is ever-willing to interact with us to bring us to the full realization of eternal life in Christ. The word appears again in Ephesians 1, speaking of an engaged God, who is as eager and willing to interact with and help us as He was to work with His own son.

making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:16-21)

To enhance this interactive work God is trying to accomplish in us, one of the things we ought to do is “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:125, KJV). So, one of the things we can do to work out our own salvation is to study God’s words and thoughts, and assent to them, submit to them, and be approved of by God for doing so.

Christ’s Work

For an example of this, let’s look at what a guy named Steve Buchanan called the “specific purpose statement of the entire Bible” in a sermon some years ago.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)

The end product, the goal of God’s word in us, is to accomplish God’s pleasure or purpose. That purpose is to give us eternal life, and the way for us to get there is through knowing these Two great Beings. In John 17:3, Christ defined the goal and showed us how to get there. And, as an example to us, He put Himself through the same process that we must go through.

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” (Heb. 5:7-10)

If you and I are going to “work out our own salvation,” it makes sense that we need the Author of eternal salvation “working in us to do and to will of His good pleasure.” This Being is a huge key to us being able to “work out our salvation.” God the father has empowered Him to help and assist us in every way by making Him the Head over all things to the church, by making Him Lord and Christ, Apostle and High Priest, King of kings, Lord of lords, and Shepherd and Guardian over our souls.

We are to be intimately interacting with both the Father and Jesus Christ, the One sent, and with the written Word of life – studying, reacting, responding in obedience, discussing it with Them in prayer, and “working it out with fear and trembling,” not wanting to fall short, to disappoint them.

So to wrap-up this blog series on “The Interactive Book,” God has sent the Word of life into this world for a purpose. He admonishes each human being on this planet to handle the Word of life responsibly, and to give Him a profit on His investment of the Word in their own lives. He provides us with the most personal help, aid, and encouragement that He can through His own son, and He Himself is at work within us each day to will and to do for His good pleasure … through the interactive book.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation