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Life is a Journey - Lesson 4

Listening to God

A crucial element of any relationship is communication, both listening and speaking. God has spoken to us two basic ways, through creation and through his Word, the Bible. What do the terms “inspiration,” “authority,” and “canonicity” mean? Can we trust the Bible? How do I listen to God as I read his word? Am I supposed to do anything beyond reading it?

Bill Mounce
Life is a Journey
Lesson 4
Watching Now
Listening to God

A. Revelation

1. General Revelation

2. Specific Revelation

B. The Bible

C. Four important topics

1. Inspiration

2. Authority

3. Canonicity

4. Trustworthy Message

D. What do you do with the Bible?

1. Read it!

2. Meditate on it!

3. Memorize it!

4. Obey it!

E. Conclusion: Trust it


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Quiz
  • Looking back over your conversion experience. It’s always a good idea to look back over your conversion experience. What do you think happened when you became a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you unclear about anything? Could you possibly have misunderstood anything? Did anything happen of which you might not be aware?

  • The change that is happening in your life. “Conversion” means you converted from one thing to another. In your case, you changed from not being a disciple of Jesus to being one. It also means that God is now at work in your life, starting to make you be more like Jesus. Does this surprise you? What actually happened when you became a Christian? What does this new life as a follower of Jesus look like? Does my life change automatically?

  • When you stumble in your new walk with God. Even though God’s power is at work within you, helping you to become more like Jesus, you will stumble. This is not to remove the joy of your new faith; it is to prepare you for the joy of spiritual growth that lies ahead. God knows this and is not surprised, and it does not affect his commitment toward you. What is “sin”? Is temptation sin? How will you tell God that you sinned and are sorry? Does he forgive? Can you be cleansed?

  • A crucial element of any relationship is communication, both listening and speaking. God has spoken to us two basic ways, through creation and through his Word, the Bible. What do the terms “inspiration,” “authority,” and “canonicity” mean? Can we trust the Bible? How do I listen to God as I read his word? Am I supposed to do anything beyond reading it?

  • Healthy communication requires not only listening but also talking. Prayer is simply talking with God, about anything and everything. He is our new Father, and he wants to hear from you. How do you pray? What do you pray about? What if I have trouble listening to him speaking?

  • When you became a Christian, you understood certain things about God. But did you know that he knows everything? That he is present everywhere? That he is all-powerful? How then should we respond to a fuller knowledge of God? What is worship? How should we respond to what we know of God?

  • Jesus is the best known person in history. He has had more affect on world history than any other leader or philosophy or political movement. Many people know the name, but who is he? What did he say about himself? What did his followers say about him? And what is the significance and relevance of these questions and our answers?

  • Jesus did many things while on earth, but the most significant of all was dying on the cross. But what exactly happened? What was accomplished? What does the Bible mean when it talks about Jesus being the “lamb of God”? Is there anything that can help me understand the significance of his death. Do I need to be reminded about it on a regular basis?

  • Christians are monotheists; we believe in one God. But we are also Trinitarians; we believe in three “persons” of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Who is this third member of the Trinity? What actually does he do? What is his on-going role in my life? What does it mean to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit? Do I have to do anything, or does he do all the work? Where would we be if it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit?

  • When you became a Christian, you started to walk with God. It is a day-by-day process in which sin has less hold on your life and you more and more look like Jesus. But some days are more difficult than others, especially when difficult things happen. Why do these “bad things” happen? Can I keep back parts of myself from God if doing so helps me avoid pain? Are there any consequences to allowing sin in some parts of my life? What does it mean that Jesus is both “Savior” and “Lord”?

  • While we become God’s children one disciple at a time, as children we are members of a new family with a new father, new brothers and sisters, and a new home. How do I relate to these people? Do I need to spend time with them? Is this an easy or difficult task? How does the early church help us understand these issues? How does my love for God show itself to others?

  • Disciples are to make more disciples. This is one of the most joyous experiences of your life as you share how God made you alive, and he will do the same for your friends, neighbors, and others. This isn’t a frightening process; it is in fact natural for people who have been changed and are living changed lives. How will people respond to you? What is a “personal testimony”? How do I tell people they too can be a disciple of Jesus? What if they don’t like me?

  • We are thankful that you have attended Life is a Journey. We trust that it has encouraged you to continue in your spiritual journey. Your next step is to take the next class in the Foundations Program, Bible Survey, A Big Screen Perspective. It will give you a broad stroke understanding of the basic structure of the Bible. Just be sure not to study alone. Get a group together that wants to learn the same information.

When we became a follower of Jesus, we started on the spiritual journey of our life. We went through the gate of conversion and started up the path of discipleship. As we travel the path, we will start to change, not because we have to but because we want to. We won't always make the right decisions; we will stumble, but Jesus and your fellow travelers are there to help you get back on your feet. The further you travel, the more you will learn about God,  how to listen to him and how to talk with him. You will learn more deeply who God is, who Jesus is and what he did, and who the Holy Spirit is and what he does for us. And you will learn about walking with other believers (the “church”) and inviting others to join you (“evangelism”). Because life is a journey, God does not expect you to get everything right the first time; we are all on a learning curve and God is patient with us. However, we were never intended to walk alone. We were saved into a new family, with new brothers and sisters, and a new Father.. In this study you are encouraged to find an older traveler and invite them to walk with you.

The "Notebook" to which Dr. Mounce refers in the introduction is the Student Guide that you can download or order in paperback form by clicking on the link on the course page on the website (not the app).

Be sure to download the chart (to the right) that aligns questions from the New City Catechism with Life is a Journey. This way, when you have completed each lesson, you can know which catechism questions you will understand. 

While the course was originally designed for new believers, we have found that it functions well as a foundation class for all believers. Here are a few testimonials to this point.

Course: Life is a Journey

Lecture: Listening to God


When you and I became a Christian, we entered into a new relationship. One of the crucial elements of any relationship is communication, both speaking and listening. Since we should always listen before we speak, I want to talk first about listening to God.

I. REVELATION

There are three terms I need to discuss before jumping into this topic. The first is revelation. “Revelation” is simply God making himself known to us. Revelation is God speaking so that we can listen to him. And God speaks to us and we hear him in two basic ways.

A. General Revelation

One way we called “general revelation,” which is information about God available to all people all the time. This is God speaking to all people, and all people being able to hear what he has to say.

In Romans chapter 1, Paul has been talking about the fact that people sin, and about their responsibility for their sin. Beginning in verse 19, Paul says, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and his divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Paul is saying that in creation, God is clearly, plainly speaking. And everyone who has ever lived, regardless of time and place, has been able to hear this particular voice of God by looking at and thinking about creation.

There are three things that God has been telling everyone. First, he has been telling everyone about his power. Secondly, he’s been telling everyone about his divinity. Divinity simply means that he is separate from creation, that he’s not part of creation, that creation does not hold the key to his own existence, but that the creator of creation lies outside of creation. Thirdly, Paul is implicitly saying that everyone knows God exists; otherwise, they couldn’t know his power and his divine nature. Paul is saying that in creation, God has been speaking, proclaiming to all people that he exists, that he is powerful, and that he’s separate from creation. And all people have been able to hear this message.

This is the same theme that the Psalmist picks up in Psalm 19. This Psalm is a celebration of God’s revelation. Starting at verse 1, the Psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Through creation, God is speaking. He is proclaiming not only his existence, but also his power and his divinity, his invisible attributes.

As we think about listening to God, we need to learn to listen, to pay attention to his voice in creation. It’s one thing to go out and stand by the ocean and say, “That’s beautiful!” But what we should be saying is that the ocean is beautiful because a beautiful God created it.

As we see the sunset over the beach, the view should turn our thoughts and heart toward God. That is what those beaches are doing. The beaches are declaring the glory of God.

We look at pictures of galaxies — one of my favorite things to look at — and we see the distance and the brightness and the power. But what we need to see more than anything else is the awesome power of the creator God who made millions of galaxies.

As we look at pictures of flowers and we see the intricacies and the delicacies and the beauty of the flower, we must learn to think of the God who is separate from the flower and yet proclaims himself to us through the flower.

We need to learn to listen and respond to what God is saying generally through his creation. And his words and creation are clear and profound.

However, you could stand as long as you wanted by the ocean and you’re never going to hear God say, “My son died on the cross for your sins.” General revelation doesn’t have the capability for teaching us that salvation is by grace through faith. For this type of information about God, we need another kind of revelation, or what we call “Specific Revelation.”

B. Specific Revelation

Specific or special revelation is information about God that is available only to some people some of the time. Specific revelation is what only certain people are able to hear. Specific revelation is a technical name for what we also call the Bible. The Bible goes by many names — Scripture, the Word, the Word of God — but it is this book that contains the specific revelation. And this is how we hear God speak to us even if other people in other places and other times are not able to hear the same thing.

If you continue in Psalm 19, the writer speaks a little more about how creation declares thinks about God. And then in verse 7, he switches to specific revelation and says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” The “Law of the Lord” is another name for the Bible. “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise this simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Go down to verse 10. “They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

Psalm 19 is a celebration of the fact that God has spoken to us. He has told us things about himself that we can never learn through general revelation. We hear of his existence and his power and his divinity as he speaks through creation, but we can learn so much more as he speaks to us through his specific revelation, the Bible.

II. THE BIBLE

I need to make it clear how we refer to sections of the Bible. The Bible is divided into two parts, what we call the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament tells the story of creation up to about 400 BC, and the New Testament picks up with the story with Jesus.

The Old and New Testaments are broken into books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. I encourage you to open your Bible when this lesson is done and thumb through the table of contents to get used to the names of the books. That way, if I say 2 Timothy, you’ll think, “Oh, that’s a book in the Bible.”

The books of the Bible are broken into chapters, and chapters are broken into verses. That way we can refer to a specific verse and scriptures and say, for example, “John 3:16.” What that means is that John is the name of the book, which happens to be in the New Testament, 3 is the chapter, and 16 is the verse. John 3:16, book, chapter, and verse.

There’s a handout that you can download for the BiblicalTraining website [https://www.biblicaltraining.org/listening/life-journey] and I encourage you to spend some time with it. It has the names of all the books of the Bible broken into general categories. That will give you a feel for what’s in the Bible and where.

III. FOUR IMPORTANT TOPICS

There are four topics that I need to discuss. If these concepts are important to you, I’d encourage you to go to BiblicalTraining.org and attend my New Testament Survey class in the Academy program to learn more.

A. Inspiration

We believe in the inspiration of the Bible. We believe that the Bible is inspired. What this means is that we believe the Bible comes from the very mouth of God. Inspiration is the doctrine that’s primarily concerned with source.

Paul tells his friend Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all of Scripture is inspired.” Another translation says, “All Scripture is God–breathed.” Actually, Paul makes up a Greek word to express his doctrine of inspiration. He takes the word for “God” and he takes the word for “breathe” — you can do this in Greek — and he just sticks them together, and says, “You figure out what it means.” All of Scripture is God–breathed. All of Scripture comes from the very mouth of God.

In another book called 2 Peter, in chapter 1, starting at verse 20, Peter says this about Scripture. “No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things, for prophecy never had his origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God.” There’s the origin: “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” When we talk about the inspiration of the Bible, what we believe is that different men sat down and wrote these words, but that they were carried along as they wrote by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit controlled what they were writing such that what they wrote were the very words of God. That’s the doctrine of inspiration.

B. Authority

We believe in the authority of scripture. If you continue to read in 2 Timothy 3:16, it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is [therefore] useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The word “therefore” is not in the text, but it is what Paul means. Paul is telling Timothy that if you understand the source of Scripture, that it comes from the very mouth of God, it therefore comes with God’s authority. When you go to teach or rebuke or correct or train someone, you don’t use human words and human wisdom; you use God’s words.

So the doctrine of inspiration is that Scripture comes from God. And because it comes from God, it bears God’s authority. I don’t preach and teach out of the Bible because it’s magical. I preach out of this book, and we believe this book, because we believe the words come from God, and therefore his words come with his authority. So my job is to proclaim what God has said and not what I think. As you can see, the doctrine of inspiration and authority are closely tied together.

Please understand that the Bible does not share its authority with anything or anyone, because God does not share his authority with anything or anyone. This book is not in competition with the Qur’an. This book is not in competition with the writings of Joseph Smith. This book is not in competition with human philosophy. This book is not in competition with church tradition and the edicts of the popes and the teachings of preachers. This book does not compete with anyone for authority, because God does not compete with anyone for authority. Scripture and Scripture alone is our source of authority and our source of truth and our source of guidance. It is to this book that we go because we believe it comes from the very mouth of God.

C. Canonicity

The third thing I wanted to mention is the issue of canonicity. “Canonicity” is the process by which the Holy Spirit worked through the church as a whole in helping the church recognize which books were truly from God. There were many more books than the 66 written, and we believe the Holy Spirit guided the early church as a whole in identifying these 66 as truly being from God. Likewise, we believe that the Holy Spirit guided the early church in rejecting all the other books.

Many people today are saying that we should include additional books, especially the Gospel of Thomas. And by the way, if anyone says to you that the gospel of Thomas should be in the Bible, just ask them if they’ve read it. All you have to do is read the Gospel of Thomas and you can understand that it can’t possibly be in Scripture. It was written in 180 AD and therefore not by the apostle Thomas, and it’s heretical in its teaching. For example, in the last paragraph, it says that women must become men if they are to have a soul and go to heaven. That’s not what the Bible teaches.

D. Trustworthy

The fourth thing I wanted to mention is that we believe the Bible is trustworthy. The Bible comes from God and not only has our allegiance, but we believe that the writers got it right. When they said, “Jesus did this,” or, “Jesus said that,” we believe that’s exactly what happened. Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would cause them to remember everything he taught them (John 16:13). We believe that. Therefore, the Bible is a faithful witness to what Jesus taught and it is a faithful witness to the growth of the early church and it is a faithful witness to what the apostles taught. When the Old Testament prophets say, “Thus, sayeth the Lord,” that the words that came out and the words that were written down truly came from the mouth of God.

I know it’s popular in some circles to say, “Oh, I can’t believe the Bible. It’s not trustworthy. It’s so full of contradictions.” One way to deal with this is simply to ask, “Really? It’s full of errors? Can you show me one?”

“Oh, it’s just so full of errors. I mean, they’re all over the place.”

“Well, if it’s so full of errors, then you should be able to point one out to me quite easily.”

The fact of the matter is that most people don’t know where the problems are. They just don’t want to trust the Bible. We believe the Bible is trustworthy, and that means it doesn’t contradict itself.

So these are the four topics I needed to mention upfront, inspiration of Scripture, the authority of God’s Word, the fact that the early church by the power of God’s Spirit got the right 66 books, and that is absolutely trustworthy.

IV. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE BIBLE?

What I really want to emphasize in this lesson is the whole question of what you do with the Bible. It’s all fine and good to argue about inspiration and authority and canonicity and trustworthiness, And some of us love to argue about these things. But the real question is, what do we do with this book? Let me encourage you to do four different things with it.

A. Read it

Some of us love to read. We love to read all kinds of things. We love to read about the Bible. We love to read people’s understanding of the Bible. We love to read biographies about how the Bible has impacted people’s lives. But do we love to read the very words of God? It’s easy to be caught up in reading things about the Bible, but do we read the words of God themselves?

Let me encourage you to read it for at least three different reasons.

First, healthy relationships require healthy communication. It’s kind of one of those, “No Duh?” kind of statements, but it’s true. Healthy relationships require healthy communication. And if we’re going to have a healthy relationship with our Redeemer, then we have to communicate. We communicate partially by listening to him, and we listen to him primarily by reading what he has said.

This is common sense when it comes to healthy relationships. My favorite time of the day is the very first hour of every morning. My wife, Robin, and I, after a few years of trying different things, developed a ritual where we get up early and the kids aren’t up yet and there’s no noise. Nothing major’s gone wrong yet. It’s still quiet, reasonably peaceful. And after several cups of coffee, we’re ready to talk. We have about an hour together. And it’s a wonderful, quiet time. We say things like, “How’d you sleep? How do you feel? What are you doing today?” That’s healthy communication. “What’s God teaching you? What did you read last night that might make a difference in your life that perhaps you’ve been mulling over this morning? That’s healthy communication. It’s regular. It’s every morning. It’s frequent.

The same thing that is true in our marriage is true in our relationship with God, because we are his bride. Men and women alike, we are together the bride of Christ. We must communicate with him if we are to have a healthy relationship. You may have heard the phrase “quiet time.” This is what quiet times are all about. You and I need to find some quiet place to get away on a regular and frequent basis where we can listen to God and speak with God. Healthy relationships need healthy communication. That means we have to set time aside to listen to him.

Secondly, I want to emphasize that if we don’t read it, how will we know what God is saying to us? If we don’t read it, how will we know what is truly best? If we don’t read it, how will we know what is true? If you’re not “in the word” — as the expression goes — if you’re not reading your Bible, how will you know what is the most important thing to do every day? What is the most important thing in life?

What is the greatest commandment that God has for us? To go to church? No, that’s not what it says. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. If you do nothing else today or the rest of your life, but you love God with everything you are, then you’ve done the most important thing. But you’re not going to know that if you haven’t been reading.

You’re not going to know that we’re into cloning. Christians are the primary cloners of the universe because disciples are to replicate themselves. But you’re not going to know that if you haven’t read the Great Commission. Jesus says, “Go make disciples.” That’s what we’re here for. To make disciples, to replicate ourselves, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Every one of us is to be involved in evangelism one way or another. Then all of us are to be involved in making fully-devoted disciples, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve taught you, Jesus said. These are things that you don’t know if you don’t spend time reading. So I encourage you, that if you want to know what our all-wise, all-good God is holding out to you and saying, “This is the best. This is the truth,” you won’t know it unless you listen to him, and you can’t listen to him unless you read his word.

Thirdly, you need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand. As you read the Bible, he’s your best teacher. He’s better than your preacher. He’s better than your Sunday school teacher. He’s better than all of those books you read about the Bible. Those are all good things, but the Holy Spirit is your best teacher.

Paul tells the Corinthian church that the God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Before you became a Christian, Satan blinded your eyes. But now, even though those blinders have been taken off, you still need the Holy Spirit to help you understand what God our Father is saying to you.

In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, Paul says this starting in verse 12, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” This covenant to be a people of the book. It’s not a hoop to jump through. It’s not a ritual to earn God’s favor. It’s none of those things. It’s common sense. We entered a new relationship. If we want a healthy relationship, we need to communicate. Part of communication is listening, and so we listen by reading.

B. Meditate on it

Secondly, let me encourage you to meditate on the Bible. There are many mornings in which I’m talking with Robin and she’ll say something to me and it doesn’t make any sense. What I need is time to mull over what she said. Robin loves to read dead people; what I mean is that she likes to read books written a long time ago, written by people who have since died. She’ll talk about things that the church was talking about in 1850. It takes me a while to mull over some of this stuff and think through it, but I’m so committed to our relationship and I trust her so much that I’m committed to meditating on her words. I’m committed to mulling them over, even if they don’t make a lot of sense to me at first. That’s meditation.

Some of you may have red flags that go up when I say “meditation.” You may be thinking of Eastern religious meditation. That is not what I’m talking about. That kind of meditation that you see coming out of the far east is wrong because they teach you to open your mind. That’s their meditation. All you have to do is talk to someone who’s been a Satanist, and he will tell you that there’s nothing Satan loves more than Christian kids meditating and opening their minds, because Satan will head straight for that empty vacuum.

Christian meditation is the exact opposite. Christian meditation is filling your mind with the things of God. It’s filling your mind with the things of Scripture, mulling over, thinking about what the Bible says.

So we listen to the Bible, we mull it over, we meditate on it. It takes work but it’s worth the effort. Our relationship with God is worth the effort. So whether you’re driving to work or you’re on a coffee break or it’s lunch and you need a break, stop and meditate. Stop and fill your mind with what you’ve been reading in Scripture. Repeat the verse that you’ve been memorizing and ask God to help you understand it and how to apply it to your life. If you do that, do you know what Scripture promises? It promises that you’ll be blessed. I don’t know about you, but I like being blessed by God.

Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” In other words, blessed is the person who stays away from sinners. But the Psalmist continues, “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law—on Scripture—day and night.” And here’s what a blessed person looks like. “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.

That’s God’s blessing. You and I are a tree planted by the streams of life that flow from him and flow through his holy Word. As we draw nourishment from that stream, we grow and we become oaks of righteousness. But you can’t get there just by reading it. It requires meditation, mulling, and reflecting.

C. Memorize It

Thirdly, let me encourage you to memorize it. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth it to have God’s truth on the tip of our tongue. It’s worth it when your mind is so saturated with the words of God that no matter what happens, we know what is true and we have a pretty good idea of how to respond in any situation.

The Psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (119:11). How will we know what sin is unless we have hidden Scripture, stored up Scripture in our minds and memorized it?

So we memorized Scripture. We memorize verses, perhaps paragraphs, perhaps chapters, so that when we face temptation, we can recall the story of how Jesus responded when he faced temptation. He responded the same way all three times Satan tempted him. He quoted Scripture.

When we face temptation and temptation is saying, “Oh, go ahead and do that. It’s kind of dangerous, but you can test God, and he’s promised to take care of you.” And the verse goes through your head, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7) because we’ve memorized Jesus’s response to Satan.

Or perhaps life is difficult, and the pressures are weighing in on you. And the thought goes through your head, “If this is what Christianity is about, I don’t want anything to do with it. It isn’t any fun and it’s too difficult.” But then the verse we memorize comes to mind. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29). Compared to the yoke of the world, Jesus’s yoke is truly easy and light.

Loneliness is an epidemic and an all-time high in Western culture. We are so connected, but most of it is a false or shallow connection. Texting, social media. There’s not the deep intimacy that we crave. So when the loneliness becomes intense, you remember the last words of Jesus to his disciples, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

This is the beauty of memorization. When these verses are on the tip of our tongue and our minds are saturated with the very words of God, when we get into a situation, there’s the answer, there’s the truth.

I’ve noticed that approximations don’t really help. I heard of an incident last night, it wasn’t my daughter, but where someone’s daughter was stuck in Albany. The airlines seemed to have no concern that she couldn’t get on the airplane. There was a tendency to be anxious. Now then the verse floats through our head, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer or petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6–7).

It’s one thing to have your daughter stuck in Albany and say, “Oh God, I’m getting anxious here. Okay. What’s that verse God promised me peace? But what about peace?” It just doesn’t work, does it? But we’re to not be anxious about anything, “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s the power of memory. I encourage you to commit Scripture to memory so it’s there on the tip of your tongue, your mind saturated with the words of God.

D. Obey It

Fourthly, let me encourage you to obey it. Sometimes we get this feeling that all I have to do is know it, but I don’t have to really do it. I may have memorized verses about not being anxious, but what happens when the temptation comes to be anxious? Let me encourage you not just to read it or meditate on it or memorize it, but we must obey it. When you know Scripture but you don’t obey it, there’s a biblical word for that. It’s called being a “fool.”

At the end of the most famous sermon in the world, the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had his foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house. And it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24–27). It doesn’t do any good to know it if we don’t obey it and put it into practice.

V. CONCLUSION: TRUST IT

You know what’s going to happen as you and I read the Bible and learn it and obey it? We start to trust it. The world has a lot of truth claims. There are a lot of things the world is saying are true, and we have to choose between the Bible and the world. Are you going to believe the world or are you going to believe God?

I was watching a TV news program a while back, and I was told that it is unreasonable to think that any human being could control his or her sexual urges. The commentator described us as dogs. He said, “You can’t expect a dog to control its sexual behavior. Well, you certainly can’t expect our teenagers to.” That’s what the world says. But the Scripture makes another truth claim and it says, “But among you, there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3). And you look at that and you think “Who do I believe? I know I’m supposed to believe this, but everything in me is telling me to believe what the world says.” And we must make a choice. And sometimes we choose the world, and we tell God that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And other times, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we choose to believe God. Has God ever been wrong? The answer is no, never.

Have you ever read Scripture and said, “Well, if I hadn’t read that in the Bible, I wouldn’t believe it.” Now, Ephesians 5:4 says there should not be any “obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” We may be tempted to respond, “Well, that’s not right.” But as we make the faith choice and as we choose to obey, we find out that God’s always true and that our mouth should be so full of thanksgiving that there’s no room for obscenity and course joking. He’s always right, and that builds trust.

As we obey and as we grow in our trust, we start to be transformed. That’s the ultimate goal of all this, isn’t it? Paul tells the Corinthian church that “we all, who with unveiled faces, contemplate the Lord glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (1 Corinthians 3:18). As we obey the Bible and as we grow in our trust of it, we start to be transformed because we start to look more and more like Jesus. May that be true of all of us.

May we all be people of the book.

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