“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full”. John 15:11
Autumn has begun and with it new opportunities to study and teach the Word of God. You might be finding it hard to slow down and lay your heart open to the Scriptures right now for many reasons. Whether it’s a busy schedule, doubt that the Word has answers for your situation or simply a numb indifference that has settled around you like a fog. Take heart, these struggles are not unique to you; they are part of our life as believers. God’s Word is called the ‘sword of the Spirit’ because we will encounter resistance from the flesh, the world and the devil and especially when we endeavor to take up and use this weapon. Moses’ words are filled with just as much pastoral love and warning for us as they were for those he was saying goodbye to: “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today…even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed, it is your life” (Deut. 32:46). Some of us will walk for miles, straight into the headwinds to learn this truth. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (Jn. 6)
Read through John 6 – picture the crowds, people running, the loud, angry voices. There is Jesus in the middle of it all, teaching with passion and authority that He is the living Bread and unless they ate His flesh they would have no life. These were hard words for the people and many disciples turned away from Him. Picture yourself as one of the twelve; watching, listening, weighing…wrestling with all of it. In that electric moment Jesus turns your way and asks, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered with a defining confession: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” This is the place God will always be bringing our hearts back to as students and teachers alike. By His Spirit and through His Word we have received eternal life and believed. Amazingly, in this new birth, we have come to know God. Peter has left us a description of a life that knows no other place to go, except after Jesus – “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1Peter 1:8)
And yet, with that wonderful verse, I admit it’s baffling to discover when I’m doubting in the valleys and thirsting in the desert, I can slowly become accustomed to an irritable and dehydrated existence! That is why it is a blessing that we do not travel alone. God has designed that we be a part of a local community of believers, a church. How apt then, is the counsel in Hebrews 3, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Calvin wrote:
“For as by nature we are inclined to evil, we have need of various helps to retain us in the fear of God. Unless our faith be now and then raised up, it will lie prostrate; unless it be warmed, it will be frozen; unless it be roused, it will grow torpid. He would have us then to stimulate one another by mutual exhortations, so that Satan may not creep into our hearts, and by his fallacies draw us away from God. And this is a way of speaking that ought to be especially observed; for we fall not immediately by the first assault into this madness of striving against God; but Satan by degrees accosts us artfully by indirect means, until he holds us ensnared in his delusions.”
In that light, I would read the passage in chapter 10 with more urgency than usual – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” There is no way around it…we need each other!
When I was fourteen, God, by His Spirit graciously gave me new life. Jesus made Himself known to me as Savior and Lord. I went to the Bible with a new expectation, that I would find Him there as He promised. Do you expect to meet Jesus there? I can tell you He has been true to His word! There have been seasons of silence, but there too, God has been faithful – “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.” (Lam. 3:25). This ‘Christ’ life within me has become a magnet, drawing, always drawing me toward that life of Christ in others. Christ has broken the barriers of age, status, race and preference. The topic of conversation is no longer ‘who I am’ but who we are in Christ; the people, the priesthood, the temple He is making us into! Christ in you, Christ in me the hope of glory! We experience this reality in worshipping together. I would also testify that we experience this truth in a unique way when we gather to explore Scripture together.
Even as a teacher, I need to often consider the priority of God’s Word in my life. Not what I believe about God’s Word, but how that belief is working in my everyday existence. I have read and listened to many great teachers and preachers. Calvin, Owen, Spurgeon and a host of others, those long dead and those still living…their ministry in my life is incalculable! But I’m learning when I gather, with even one other, to seek God in His Word, I find a multiplying grace at work: diversity of questions, insights, experience and yet one holy Word, one holy Truth, one Triune God. The time I spent in the letter to the Romans with a dying friend and studies in Exodus with a child are precious to me beyond compare. How rich my life in Christ becomes, opening Scripture face to face! I urge you to reflect on the place God’s Word has in your everyday – you have within your reach the Words of life. Feel and recognize the pull of the ‘magnetic’ life of Christ within your heart and dare to engage in God’s Word with your church family. You will not be disappointed.
“Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart…”