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About this series
Pathways to Intimacy with God
Do you need to restore your first love with Jesus, but the "world's system" has you stopped dead in your tracks? Do you yearn for that place where you and Jesus are so close that nothing can separate you; you're on the same wavelength and everything is clicking. This series will help you examine your direct line of communication with God.More from this series
Some of my very best memories as a child happened around a table about like this. It was a little bit bigger. But at six fifteen or six thirty every morning at my house, regardless of when you were leaving you had breakfast.
And we would eat a meal that my mom or sister or someone would fix and then at the end we took all the plates and we pushed them to the middle and even as early as, like, I can remember, this is probably is not good advice for parents but about three or four years old I didn’t like milk and so if I would drink part of my milk my parents would put a little coffee in there and then I would douse it with lots of sugar and I would sit around with a cup of coffee and with my mom and dad and my sisters and we would talk.
And there was a sense of belonging and affirmation and you talked about your day, and you talked about school, and you talked about what you were afraid of, and you talked about the dreams that you had, and it was just a time, where you really talked as a family.
And there’s something powerful and encouraging. I have no idea what it does in the life of a child, let alone a parent, but there’s something very, very powerful when you have a heart to heart talk with your mom or with your dad, or better, with both.
And there’s a sense of counsel, and direction, and affirmation, and now and then some rebuke.
But I asked myself, “Why, why are those the best memories?” And even today, I mean, people give me a hard time. I’m not sure I even like coffee. Some would say I’m lying.
But I think it’s so paired with the best experiences in relationships in my life that it’s always been around a cup of coffee that I’ve felt a sense of belonging, connection, and love with other people.
And, you know, as a kid, you know, you know it’s not true when you completely grow up but when you’re a kid it’s, your parents care. I mean they’re strong, they’ve been there, they’ve done that. And so, when you sit around a table like that and you talk, there’s a place where really you’re processing life and you’re being guided, and directed, and affirmed and, you know, getting little redirection.
And what I would suggest is that you never outgrow that need. And I think God knows we never outgrow that need. Because even though you may end up forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty as parents what you know is you’re always parents and you have kids whether they’re forty or fifty or not.
And you’re a kid. And you need a Father. You need someone to sit down and talk to that you can process life with, that affirms you, and loves you, and really listens, who’s been there, who’s done that, who’s strong, who’s committed.
What I always knew about my parents is whatever we talked about around the table it was unspoken but they were committed to help me make it through it. Now, sometimes they put it back in my lap and sometimes I owned my decision. But what I knew is they were for me.
And it’s interesting, when Jesus went to a church by way of the apostle John in Revelation chapter 3, and He wanted to explain to grown kids who have a heavenly Father about how important it was to have a relationship with Him, He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” He’s saying this to a church. He’s saying this to believers. He’s saying it to a church just like ours.
“I stand at the door and knock. If any man, if any woman, if any student hears My voice and if they’ll open the door,” He says, “I will come into them.” And then He uses an interesting phrase, I like the old English on this one. “And I will sup with him and He will sup with Me.” Or the idea is to dine or to eat.
See what God knows is I don’t care how old you are, you know what you need and I need? You never outgrow the need to sit down with someone who loves you and cares, and whether it’s over a meal or a cup of coffee but it’s where heart to heart connection time occurs.
And the God of the universe in Revelation chapter 3, you know what He does? He invites you, and He invites me to have personal, uninterrupted, intimate time where He can let us know how accepted, and loved, and affirmed we are.
He can say that, “I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve been tempted, I understand, I know your heart, I know your motives, I know your challenges, I know your family, I know your struggles, I know the inner recesses, I know where you’ve been, I know what you’ve done, and by the way, I even know tomorrow.”
Wouldn’t it be great if in a physical, resurrected body Jesus would sit down and I could be sitting here and I could offer Him a cup of coffee and He could get a cup and I could get a cup and I could say, ‘Lord, you know something? Theresa and I have been married well over twenty-five years and we have four grown kids but, you know, there’s a couple things that I’m really struggling with and I’d like to run them by You. Do you mind if I just kind of lay them out here for You?’”
And to have Him in His physical body make eye contact with Me and just nod and say, “Sure, Chip, I understand. Tell Me what’s going on.” And then lay out what I’m struggling with, and what I think, and where my fears are, and then maybe even He wouldn’t talk but have that look in His eyes like, “I got this one covered. Didn’t I already promise I’m going to be with you on this?” “Well, well thank you. Well, you know, since You’re so available there’s a couple other things I’d kind of like to run by You because there’s…”
But how does it work today? Because I’m not Peter, and I’m not Paul, and I’m not John. And so how does God speak to ordinary people? He said on the very last night on the planet something very powerful in John 16.
He said, “It’s really better for Me, and it’s better for you, that I go because I’m going to depart and go with the Father, and I am with you now, but the day is going to come when I will be in you.”
And He says, “Then the Spirit that I’m going to send, the paraclete, the one who is called alongside, He will be in you, and with you, and He will manifest My presence and My power, and He will reveal all truth to you, so instead of having to wait in line, like if Peter is talking to Me right now, John you had to wait in line. Or, James, you had to wait in line. Or, Bartholomew, you had to wait in line. You don’t have to do that anymore. I want you to know I’m going to be available 24/7. And you can talk to Me anytime and I’ll talk to you.”
And the question I have is how does that really work? How does the God of the universe, I mean, is this really real? Is this true? How does He speak to ordinary, regular, normal men and women like you and like me?
As Jesus spoke to the early disciples, so now the Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures. And remember it’s the Spirit who is going to make the truth known.
The apostle Paul is talking to a Corinthian church that is very carnal and they’ve had all kind of great experiences, and what He wants to teach them is, just as Jesus would sit down in His physical body and out of His lips would come words, and He would talk with a man, or talk with a woman, the woman at the well, the woman who lost her daughter, the people that are confused, the people overwhelmed, and condemned with guilt, and just as He would speak to them out of His mouth, so now He will speak to you, and He will speak to me, but it won’t be in His resurrected, physical body.
He’s going to speak to you, and speak to me, through His Spirit, and His Spirit is supernaturally going to take the Word of God and make it come alive in your actual experience, so that He’ll speak to your personal needs in your life through His Word, the Bible.
And you say, “Chip, that’s pretty far out. Where do you get that?” Notice what the apostle Paul writes to this Corinthian church. 1 Corinthians 2 verses 9 to 16. He says to them, “No eye has seen or ear heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Just let that soak in before you read further.
Eye hasn’t seen, ear hasn’t heard, or entered into the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him. God has a wonderful plan for you. God loves you. What He wants to do in you and through you, and your relationships, and your family, and your future, it is so beyond, so better than anything you could ever imagine.
Well then, how do you find out about it? Verse 10, “But God has revealed it to us,” how? “by His Spirit.” Well how does it work, Paul? “Well, see, the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within Him? Well, in the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Then notice what’s true of you and what’s true of me. He says, “We,” speaking of us believers, “have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God,” why? “that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
And then He goes on to explain. “This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit expressing spiritual truths and spiritual words. You see, the man without the Spirit, the unbeliever, he doesn’t accept the things that come from the Spirit of God because they’re foolishness to him and he can’t understand them because they’re spiritually discerned. However, the spiritual man, the believer, the person who has received Jesus and the Spirit of God dwells in him, he makes judgments about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” It’s the Spirit within us, as believers, taking the revealed Word of God, so that you actually have the mind of Christ. You can know what Jesus thinks. You can know what Jesus feels. You can know what is true and what is false. You can know what is wise, you can know His plans, you can know His direction. You can have as intimate a relationship with Jesus, in fact, more intimate than if He would come in the flesh and you could sit and talk with Him in these chairs.
He’s available 24/7 and He loves you, and He wants to reveal Himself to you. And His Spirit, dwelling in you, will illuminate your mind and your heart in such a way that as you get into His Word, He will reveal Himself specifically, and His plan for your life, and direction for your life, and wisdom for your relationships. And what I want you to see here is God’s Word is living and it reveals Jesus to us.
Notice what the writer of Hebrews says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of the joint of the soul and spirit of joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.”
Anybody ever have that experience when you read God’s Word? I memorized it in a little different version. It says, “The Word of God is living and active and is able to divide the judgments of the heart right down to the very depths of your motives and your heart.”
Have you ever been reading the Bible, and as you read the Bible, it literally acted like there’s a spiritual highlighter and a verse would pop up off the page almost? And what it would show and almost like a little video recorder goes off on your head and that truth out of that verse and your personal experience somehow connects, and God speaks to you about that relationship, or that thought, or that motive, in a way that is unmistakable, and you realize God has taken the written Word, that is the living Word, and He has spoken to me.
Now I’ve got to tell you, I did not grow up as a Christian, I never opened a Bible until I was eighteen. But I’ll never forget as long as I live the very first time that happened to me.
I was in a camp. It was a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. The football coach paid for me to go. I didn’t want to go. You could play all the basketball you want for free so I went.
And I remember they gave you this little Bible, you know? I had never read the Bible. And I looked out over this grassy lawn on this college campus, six or seven hundred athletes from all over West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky.
And I just thought, “I’ve been dropped into the land of Jesus freaks.” This is 1972. And I’m thinking, “Man, I’ve just got to get out of here as fast as I can. I got a Bible in my hand and some t-shirt that has Jesus’ name on it.”
I had never said Jesus’ name out loud except in a cuss word. I thought, “They’re going to indoctrinate me. This is probably one of those weird places. I’m not going to read this Bible.” So, for fifteen minutes every morning I would just close it.
And about the third morning I thought, “Oh well.” You’re not supposed to do it like this so I just opened the New Testament. Romans 12:1, “I urge you, therefore, my brothers in view of God’s great mercy, that you present yourself to Him as a holy and living sacrifice. For this is what God really wants from you.” It was a new translation.
“Don’t be conformed or molded after the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that the way you actually live could demonstrate what God’s will is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And then he went on to say, “And don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think but to think of yourself as to having sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
And I read those three verses and it was like as I read them a video recorder went on. Don’t be conformed to this world. And I just, it was like a picture of a dictionary came up. Chameleon: and my picture next to that little lizard.
And I was like this with this group, and like this with this group, and like this with this group. And then it said, “Don’t think more highly of yourself.” And like pictures in my mind came of acting arrogant, and big, and cussing in the locker room, and pushing people around, and just out of all my insecurities trying to impress people. And it was almost like, whoop!
Later, about three or four years, and I began to just read the Bible and I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where to read or where to start. So I started in Matthew, and I read it through once, and then I read it through again, and read it through again, and read the New Testament three or four times, and someone told me there was a bigger part that I should check out, and so I started Genesis, Exodus, got to Leviticus and went back to the New Testament and read it again.
And someone said, “You know, you really need to check out that older portion.” So I went back, you know, Genesis, Exodus, hit Leviticus again, made it about half way through, went back to the New Testament.
And I remember when I found the Psalms. I had no idea that other people got depressed, and angry, and had no idea that people had really up, high times with God, and then just felt like life just stunk, and you could actually say those kind of things to God, and it didn’t even offend Him.
And I’ll never forget when I found Proverbs and it was like this is a gold mine about how to treat people, and how to live, and what to do with your money and, wow, I mean the Bible talks this much about sex, are you kidding me?
And God began to speak to me through His Word. Why? Notice what it says in John 1. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
You see the Logos, the Word, the second person of the Trinity. John is telling us about before all time, before mankind, in the beginning was the Word, Jesus, and the Word, the Logos, was with God.
And then he goes on, look at verse 14, skipping down, “And the Word became flesh,” that’s Jesus, “and He made His dwelling among us.” Literally, He tabernacled among us. “And we’ve seen His glory, the glory of the One and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.”
And then the next verse says, “And He has explained Him.” That’s why Jesus came. To explain God. You want to know what God thinks, you want to know how God feels, you want to know how God thinks about you, just look at Jesus. His life. And how do you get to know Jesus? Jesus is the Word.
And so, better than having a physical body sitting in a chair to drink coffee with you, and someone you can ask questions… What the New Testament teaches is in the new covenant, the Spirit of Jesus, His actual presence, lives in you. You’ve been sealed with the Spirit.
God wants to speak to you. You actually possess the mind of Christ. You have been sealed, you’re a part of the body, and now this Book can be illuminated in such a way that you can know His heart and His mind, your direction, your counsel, how to live, how to spend your money, what decisions to make, what decisions not to make.
And the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and manifest the actual person, presence, and power of the living Christ in you and through you in a way that gives you greater intimacy than even the early apostles.
You have a better deal than if you could smell the dust of His sandals. You have the potential for a more intimate relationship with Jesus than any of the Twelve.
That’s how God speaks to ordinary people. And you might be saying to yourself, That sounds pretty good. But I got a problem. I’ve been a Christian three years and I would trade whatever He just said for, like, ten minutes with Jesus in a real body. And, you know, that happened to me a couple times. I mean, you know, those verses coming off the page? I mean, that happened a couple times in the last eight years. That’s not happening to me on a regular basis. God’s not speaking to me from His Word the way that guy just said. So, I don’t know if this really works or not.
See there’s a condition. There’s a condition. This doesn’t happen for everyone, all the time, in the same way. What I just described is God’s plan, it is available for one hundred percent of all Christians, all time, and that includes you.
But in point number two, here’s what I want to make is that we must come in earnest if we’re going to hear His voice. We must come in earnest. There needs to be a desire. There needs to be a level of focus. There needs to be a discipline. There needs to be a passion. There needs to be a sense of, “God, I want to hear Your voice. God, what You say means more than anything else and whatever it takes for Me to hear Your voice, that’s what I’m going to do.” That’s who God speaks to.
In fact, the average Christian that I meet – and this just breaks my heart – the average Christian that I meet not only doesn’t know this Book, is not even in this Book.
I finally, you know, in the last twenty plus years of teaching, and usually after I teach I’ll often, for a half hour or forty-five minutes, I end up talking with people and all the stuff, you know, that happens in their life and, man, I mean you name it, boy, I’ve seen it, heard it.
And so finally I got where I ask one question. I ask, “Well tell me, tell me a little bit about your time in the Scriptures with God.” And when they talk about they’re on their seventh marriage and, you know, their drug habit that they can’t lick and, you know, all this people approval addiction that they have and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.
And almost without exception the diet of God’s Word they had was not even sustainable for life. They weren’t in the Bible at all. David said, “How can a young man keep his way pure? How do you live this life? By keeping it according to Your Word. Your Word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”
The problem is not that the Spirit doesn’t live in a believer, and the problem is not that this is not powerful, and that the Spirit of God will not take this and make it the living Word, personalized for your life.
The problem is there isn’t “earnest” in most Christian believers’ life. The problem is they know a lot more about friends, about TV shows, about ESPN, about the Wall Street Journal, and a number of soap operas than they know about the Scriptures.
And so, because of that, when they long to hear God’s voice, and they need to hear a word from God, they don’t hear. And we say, “Well, what’s it look like to have “earnest?” Proverbs chapter 2:1 to 5 lays out very specifically the condition.
Notice He says, “My son.” Notice the word “if.” If you have a pen circle the word “if.” Then, go all the way down to verse 5 and circle the word “then.” He says, “If,” here’s the condition, “then,” here’s the results.
He says, “My son, if you,” notice, underline this, “accept My words and store up My commandments within you,” underline “accept” and “store up.” There’s an attitude and an action.
First of all, I’m going to come to God and I accept it. I’m not going to argue with You. I accept Your Word and I’m going to store them up, they’re going to matter to me. That’s the reception of God’s Word.
Then, notice verse 2, “Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding.” So now it’s beyond an attitude. Now it’s, “Okay, I really want to know. I’m turning my ear. I’m going to listen to You rather than all this noise out there and I’m going to apply my heart, I’m going to think, I’m going to ponder, I’m going to meditate, I may even memorize it.”
Notice verse 3, “And then if you call out,” the verb notice there, “for insight and cry aloud for understanding.” Is that how you approach the Scriptures? “God, show me what this means! I’ve read it, I’ve thought about it, I’ve memorized portions of it, I’ve done Bible study, I just don’t know what it means.” Cry out for insight. “Lord, show me. I’ve got a big decision. I’ve read all through Proverbs, I still don’t know what to do. Please show me what to do. I’m reading Your Word, speak to me today.”
And He says if you call out for insight, cry aloud for understanding, and then notice the intensity in verse 4. “If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure.”
What He’s saying is, if you bring the same kind of intensity and focus to wanting to know and hear God’s voice that you do to your job, for many of us men, at making money, of making the business grow.
Or for many of us, in our sports, you want to be good at something, what do we do? We watch videos, we read books about it, we watch the pros, we go to interviews, we go to pro games, we spend money, we do all kind of things to do what? Get better at a sport.
And He says, “If you want to hear My voice, accept My words, store them up, turn your ear, apply your heart, call out, cry aloud,” and then you look for a word from Me in My Word like a man that is searching for silver, or someone else who knows. I’m not sure where it’s at, but somewhere in this quarter mile radius, there’s a sunken treasure ship with one billion dollars-worth of gold bullion and I’m going to find it. And I’m going to stay out here every day, and I’m going to keep dropping lines, and I’m going to pay for divers, until I find it.
It’s that level of focus and intensity and “earnest” that says, “I’ve got to get it.” When you come to God’s Word with those attitudes, and that level of focus, notice the promise, “Then you’ll understand the fear of the Lord and find, or discover, the knowledge of God.”
God’s Spirit, living in a believer, will take God’s written Word, make it God’s living Word, and He will begin to speak to you, an ordinary person, about every single area of your life.
And a lot of it will surprise you. It won’t be all about challenge and get with the program. You know what His voice will say most often? “I love you. I’m for you. I understand. I’ve been there. I’m mindful that you’re but dust.”
We believe so many lies about ourselves. We believe so many lies about God. That’s why we’re on these unbelievable, you know, rampages toward trying to impress people and accomplish this and do this and that’s why we’re busy, busy, fast, fast, busy, busy, fast, fast, move, move, go, go, go.
You know why? Because down deep we think we’re going to miss everything. We think we’re going to blow it and so we’re just running faster and faster and faster to accumulate, and to gain, and to capture, because down deep we’re scared.
We’re scared that we really don’t know what life’s about, and we’re scared that we’re not going to measure up, and what you’ll hear most of all over and over and over is, “I like you just the way you are. I want to bring about the very best, but I’ve got a great plan, I’m not in a hurry. I have unlimited power. I know what’s happening next week, next month, next ten years, all of eternity. You’re My son, you’re My daughter. I want you to slow your pace, slow your heart, and come and get away with Me.”
And when you, with intensity, and focus, and crying, and searching, and applying of your heart say, “God, I want You, not just what You can give me,” not just the nice family, not just the kids that will come out right, not just the husband or wife that I really hope that He’s going to bring someday. You know, not just the good job, not just the blessings.
“I want You, I want to meet You.” Remember what Jesus said? “You search the Scriptures because you think in them you’ll find eternal life. But it is they,” the Scriptures, “that testify of Me.”
Jesus spoke to His disciples on the earth through His earthly lips, in an earthly body. Jesus now speaks to ordinary men, and ordinary women, by the Spirit of God by illuminating, by the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures to you and to me.
First, we need to know that His Word is living, and it reveals the person of Christ. So, we need to read it with a Christ-focus.
And second, we need to understand that God is not revealing Himself to casual thought, people who just casually come by and say, “Lord, I’m in a jam!” Drrrrr. “I really need to hear Your voice, it’s a really big decision! Oh, huh, okay. I need to hear something else. Let Me try it again.” Drrrrr. I need the ooey, gooey spiritual feeling. I know I haven’t read this in a while, I don’t know much about what it says but,” meerrrroowww, bump. “Oh, that didn’t work either.” God doesn’t play games. God wants your heart and my heart.
And the path of the Holy writings are people who rearrange their life, their time, and their thinking to get into this book in such a way that they hear God’s voice.
And you ask, “How do you do it? Okay, I’m open. Maybe I’m not doing it but I want to do it. How do you do it?”
Let me give you three specific ways to come to God’s Word. The first way is as a love letter. To cherish. The first way and I think maybe the most important. Not exclusively but is to come to the Scriptures as a love letter and cherish it as a personal reminder of your relationship with the Author.
I love what Jeremiah says here, “Your words were found and I ate them and your words became,” circle the word in your notes, “became.” It didn’t happen overnight. “Your words were found and I ate them and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.” Why? Because in His Word guess what Jeremiah learned? “For I had been called by Your name, O Lord.” Literally Yahweh, God of hosts.
Personal name, Adonai, God of hosts, of all power. “I came to Your Word and I ate it. I began to digest it. I began to devour it. I began to dig in. I began to search for silver and as for gold and I searched and as I did it became, over time, the joy and delight of my heart.”
It wasn’t making money as the delight of my heart. It wasn’t even my mate as the delight of my heart. It wasn’t success as the delight of my heart. It wasn’t what other people think as the delight of my heart. “Thy words were found and I ate them and they became, became, over time.
That means that there were mornings Jeremiah didn’t want to get up. There’s times he didn’t feel like reading. There’s times he didn’t want to look into the scrolls. In here was the author, he cherished it.
And when you come first and foremost to the Bible as a love letter, as to cherish.
I’ve got a little note here. It’s a Father’s Day card. I won’t read it but it’s from my wife. But it has a little picture, it’s from some years ago. And it says, “You’re irreplaceable.” And then it says, “My love for you is unshakable, don’t forget ever.” And then there’s a little note from Theresa.
I didn’t throw it away. I’m never going to throw it away. I want to remember, what she said to me about me about how she feels about me I never want to forget. I mean, I know all about Theresa, you know, I can tell you how tall she is and what her favorite colors are and what kind of furniture she likes and I can become an expert on Theresa.
And there are people that can become an expert on the Bible. But something happens inside their heart and it’s cold and it’s crusty. You know what? I want to be an expert in understanding how much Theresa loves me and I want to cherish what she has written to me because I matter to her.
And if you want to hear God speak to you, you must first come to His Word as a cherished love letter personally written to you with a sense of awe and wonder that you really are the object of His affection.
The second way to come is as an instruction manual. If the first way focuses on the who, how God feels about you, the instruction manual has the idea of the focus on the what, the content.
Here it’s an instruction manual not to cherish but to master, to prepare you to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. Notice what it says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God inspired,” or literally, “God breathed,” “and is profitable for,” what? “teaching,” giving you the right direction, “for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” why? “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
God has breathed, He has spoken life to you and to me. And all of this Scripture is profitable for teaching, knowing Christ, knowing God, knowing His will. It’s profitable for reproof. When you’re moving into a relationship as you’re reading it He’ll go, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! Don’t go there! That’s trouble!”
When one of your kids start running with this person or that person and as you’re reading, He’ll go, “Ding, ding, ding! Don’t go there!” Or correction. Not only that you’re off the path it teaches you how to get on the path.
Or training. It shows you how to develop the kind of patterns in your life that produce the kind of men and the kind of women and the kind of kids that you long to become.
But it’s an instruction manual for life. And so, you need to master it. One of the ways that I mastered it, because I was tired of stopping in Leviticus, this is in the book form. It’s called the Daily Walk Bible.
And I don’t know about you but since I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, you know, Hezekiah, Zechariah, Michachiah, Mookiemiah, you know, I mean, who are all these people, you know? Judah, Israel, the Assyrians, I mean, I didn’t take ancient Eastern studies. You know? I’m reading through here and, you know, in the land of Canaan and I’m going, “Yo…” You know? Where is all this stuff?
And after about I was a Christian for about two years, two and a half years, someone sent me a Daily Walk and I read through the Bible once a year with it, for the next ten or fifteen years. Just every year. Just read through the Bible. And there’s little charts and it would tell you, “This is what’s happening, here’s the historical context, here’s what you’re going to find today, here’s some historical background, here’s some specific takeaways, and here’s how to personally put it into practice in your life.”
And, you know, it took me about twenty minutes, I mean, way less than the sports page. And I just decided I would just, I just kept reading through the Bible every year, every year, every year, every year, every year, every year, every…
And pretty soon, you know what? It’s an instruction manual. Pretty soon, you know, you hear people talk and you think, like, they’re, like, born smart. They’re not born smart at all. I never opened this book. But now I can think my way through all the books, now I can think through a number, many books, all the chapters.
Well why? Because for about the last thirty years, this is the instruction manual for all, you want to have a good marriage? Here’s the instruction manual. You want to be a good parent? Here’s the instruction manual. You want to be a woman of God? Here’s the instruction manual. You want to have the kind of job and the kind of work that pleases God and honors your boss and makes a difference? Here’s the instruction manual.
And part of it is you just need to learn it all, and grasp it all, and you study the characters, and you study the history, and you study how it all fits together. And embedded in this is God’s Word. In fact, He calls it, “This is your life.” “Take to your heart,” Moses would say, “all the words with which I’m warning you today for in it,” His Word, “is your life.” And so it’s a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight but it’s a process.
And I’d encourage you, I remember talking with Howard Hendricks and asking him, “Prof, what do you do?” I mean the guy, I mean, he was old when I had him. I mean he was, like, sixty when, a professor when I was there. To me, sixty was, like, really old back then. And he had such wisdom. And, you know, I just looked at all the people, I mean, everyone I heard on the radio and all these people, missionaries and presidents of all these institutions.
All their lines went back to Prof. Hendricks and I thought, “How does this guy get to be so wise?” And he said, “Chip, it’s, you know, it’s, I just started doing something.” I said, “What did you do?” He said, “Every month I study a book of the Bible. You know like I taught you guys in 301?” “Yeah. Observation, interpretation, application, yeah.”
He said, “I just take a book for the last,” I forget what he said, back then it was only forty years, it’s probably about sixty-five years now.
But he said, “For every year each month I take a book. I’ll take the book of John. And, like, from scratch I’ll chart the entire book. And I’ll run themes through the whole book. Then I’ll think through the book. Then I’ll memorize key passages until I understand the entire message of the book of John. Then maybe I’ll take Ezekiel the next month.”
And he studied a book of the Bible every month, in depth, for about the last fifty or sixty years. And there’s a reason why he hears God’s voice. Does it happen overnight? No. Precept upon precept, line upon line – that’s how God speaks to ordinary people.
The final way to come is not only as a love letter, or an instruction manual, but as the wisdom of the ages. The first one had to do with who God is and how He cares about you. The second was on the content or the “what”.
This third one focuses on the principles. This is how God gives direction and guidance and wisdom for life’s biggest decisions in relationships. This is to ponder, and reflect, and meditate on what He gives you, in order to get His counsel, His direction, and His guidance, to live according to His design.
By the way, that’s God’s definition of success. Success in God’s eyes is this: Understanding how He created life to work and then following His path. That’s success.
This is how I want relationships to work, do it that way. Here’s how I want you to act and think about money, do it that way. Here’s the priorities in life, do it that way. Here’s what I think about parenting, do it that way. Here’s how you treat people who treat you terrible and unjustly, do it that way. When you do life according to God’s way, He says, “That’s what I call success.”
Notice the promise here in Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Do you get the idea? This is a passion. Meditate. The word means “to ruminate.” We get the idea from a cow has four stomachs and, you know, it chews its cud.
To meditate or to ruminate, the cow takes some grass, “Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom.” Swallows it, goes down to one of the stomachs, are you ready for this, ladies? Hold your ears. He burps it back up, chews it again, takes it back down to another stomach, and he does that. It’s called ruminating. And so you take a passage where God speaks to you, and you memorize that passage, and then you digest it. And while you’re driving, instead of talk radio or some lousy music, or this or that, you ruminate, and you think, and then you digest it.
Then, before you go to bed you think about it, and you ponder it, and then you pray that verse for you, and then you pray that verse for a friend. And you meditate, or ruminate, on it until the principles get embedded in your soul, and in your psyche, and your mind, and then you begin, by way of reflex, to treat people this way and respond this way, even before you think.
You see, you ponder the wisdom of the ages. “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth but you meditate on it,” when? How often? “Day and night.” Why? So that you may be careful to become very, very smart? Know more of the Bible than anyone else? Is that what it says? What’s it say? What’s the purpose of meditation? “So that you may be careful to do it.”
Ultimately, the organ of response of revelation with God is not knowledge. It’s obedience. It’s never about how much of the Bible that you know. There are people that know this book a lot more. There are people that are experts in this book that don’t even know Christ personally.
It’s not how much of the Bible you know, it’s how much of the Bible are you putting into practice? God gives light that’s truth. When you respond to the light He gives more truth.
“And so, I meditate on it in order that I could be careful to do,” what? “According to all that’s written in it.” Then look at the promise. “For then you will make,” does it say God will make? What’s it say? “For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”
And the prosperity here is the smile of God, the blessing of God, His benevolence, and His highest and best will getting played out in your relationships, in your job, with your family, in your life. The things, the wealth that is the greatest and matters the most He wants you to have.
We always think it’s monetary. It may include that. If you can handle it, it may include it. He entrusts a lot of wealth to a lot of people so you can spread it around exactly the way He wants you to. And to enjoy it deeply and know where it comes from.
But the key to a successful life, to wisdom. It’s where you say to yourself, “I want to know what God says.” This is where you ponder. “I want to know what God says about relationships, and work, and future, and marriage, and parenting, and money. I want to know what God says about sex, and children, and singleness, and spiritual gifts. I want to know what God says about grief, and depression, and forgiveness. I want to know about how to discover His will, about anger, about power, about lust, about education, about decision making.”
And you say, “I’m going to discover, I’m going to come to the wisdom of the ages, and in this book, I’m going to find out what does it say about relationships? What’s it say about parenting? What’s it say about money? What’s it say about sex?
And then I’m going to categorize those things and I’m going to make a life study and I’m going to get those principles in my heart, in my mind, and meditate on them so I can live that way.”
And when you do that, God will speak. You’ll find yourself in the middle of a sentence and a verse will come to your mind. You’ll find yourself, at times, sitting in a meeting, as I have, and being involved in something and ready to pull out a pen and write down on a sheet of paper, or sign your name to a contract, and have the Spirit of God bring something to your mind or a verse and you’ll go, “You know, excuse me? You know, I really can’t do this.”
Why? Because God speaks to ordinary people. He speaks to ordinary people. Doesn’t speak to smart people or super spiritual people. He speaks to ordinary people. How? The Spirit of God, through the Word of God, when you understand the Word reveals Jesus, and it’s living.
When you understand you must come to Him in earnest. You must accept His Word, you must store up his Word, you need to cry out for insight, and call for understanding, you need to search for it as for silver, and seek for it as for hidden treasure. Then, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.
Well, how do you do that? You come at it, first of all, personally. Never forget that. “Oh, God, this is your love letter. You’re for me. You care about me.” You need to cherish it way beyond what I cherish this, that my wife gave me.
And then you need to realize some of it’s going to be just plain hard work and it’s like the manual to a car, or the manual to a computer, and you just keep reading all the directions until you master it and understand it.
And finally, you come to it as the wisdom of the ages. To understand, and know, and figure, “What is it that God really wants to do in areas,” I don’t have any verses about who to marry, or how much to invest at which time, or who you ought to go in business with. You know what? That’s wisdom issues.
But as you ponder and meditate, day and night, in order that you might be careful to please, and do life according to God’s way, He promises that you will make your way successful and you will prosper, because God delights to reveal Himself. He delights to love you. He delights to express His favor upon your life.
And in a fallen world there will be plenty of challenges, and suffering, and pain that will allow you to become more and more like His Son and be dependent all along the way.
Let me give you three specific takeaways. Three time-honored ways of this path of the Holy writings. First of all, read God’s Word, write the name or the word in there, “devotionally.” Devotionally. That’s from the heart, the pondering, the enjoying, the relationship.
I mean, you know, maybe this is sacrilegious but I rarely, rarely have a quiet time in the morning that I don’t have a cup of coffee and part of that is I really want to remember this is about a person and a relationship. And I usually put my feet up and I get a good cup of coffee and I get my Bible and I, first of all, review a couple verses that remind Me that despite the crud that I see in my own heart that God really, really loves Me because of what Jesus has done.
And then I just tell him, “Thank You that today I’m the object of Your affection. That the prayer of the upright is Your delight. God, thank You, this morning, that the Lord Almighty is with me, that You’re mighty to save, that You will quiet me with Your love, and that today You want to rejoice over me with singing. Lord, You know what my day is going to bring, would You, would You speak to me?”
And I drink a cup of coffee and I want to remember that it’s me and my Savior, and He loves me, and I’m not here to impress Him, I just want to spend time with Him. And I want to read it as a love letter and I want to read it devotionally.
The second way to read God’s Word is to read it systematically. And that’s where the Daily Walk is the best “Read through the Bible in a Year.” Just decide, “I’m going to do it. I’m just going to read through the Bible this year.”
And the third way is to study God’s Word selectively. And that’s where you just take major topics, major issues, book by book. Or according to a need. Many times I’ve thought, “Man, I’m struggling with anxiety. I’m going to get out a concordance and I’m going to find out what’s the New Testament say about anxiety.”
Or I’m struggling with forgiveness and so I’m going to find out what’s the Bible say about that? Or once I thought, you know, the book of Luke was written to the ordinary guy and I just did a study where I studied the book of Luke and all I looked for was every time the word “prayer” came up. And I studied the life of Christ, in Luke, on prayer.
And just take what’s a need that you have, what’s something that’s on your heart that you want to learn and study it selectively. Or say to yourself, do it like Prof does and say, “You know what? I’m going to study, I’ll start with a small book.
You know, I’m going to study Galatians, or 1 Thessalonians, or 1 Timothy.” Or sometimes I decide I’m going to study the interviews in the book of John. And I’m just going to look at all the interviews.
Or I’m going to study the seven “I AM” statements in the book of John. Or I want to find out fulfilled prophecy in the book of Matthew. And you just say to yourself, “I don’t know much about prophecy so…” And selectively decide what you want to study, and block some time off, and here’s what I can tell you and no guilt intended I struggle too is, everyone here in this room has all the time you need to study the Bible.
Just unplug your TV for ten days, you’ll be bored stiff. I’m dead serious. Is it wrong to watch TV? No. I’m just saying what you’re going to tell me is your lives are full. I’m talking to a group of people that some of you are studying a lot. Some of you are skimming your Bible. And some of you, you know what? You don’t read it much at all.
And what I want to tell you is rather than you going, “Man, I feel really guilty and I bet God’s really down…” God’s not down on you at all. He wants to speak to you. But you’ve got to get the time somewhere, right? So why don’t you just hear God say to you, tell you what. You’re an ordinary person, this is about how God’s speaks to an ordinary person. If you’re ordinary you qualify. If you don’t know much of the Bible you qualify.
Tell you what, why don’t you just try this, and if you don’t have enough time and there’s no way you can get up in the morning, well, tell you what. Just say to yourself, “I’m not going to turn the TV on until I’ve had my quality time with God.”
And some of you are going to have so much fun you won’t even turn the thing on. But, I mean, you’ve got all the time you need. Or for some of us, it’s no ESPN until Bible. What I did in the early… it was so hard, so difficult for me to be disciplined, I mean, I’m telling you, over a year.
Now, I get up early now, and I love my time and that sounds real good up here. Man, the first couple of three years, man, I could not get myself out of bed. I could not, I couldn’t drag myself to the bathroom. And, you know, it was like a three minute quiet time was like, you know, what do, now what do I do? You know?
“Okay, I’ve prayed for three people. That’s all I know. I mean, you know, I read a whole chapter. If…” You know, it just, it takes time. Just jump in. Take your time. Let God speak to you. He’s not down on you. Block off the time and come with a heart that says, “I really want to hear Your voice.”
And here’s what I’m… I will guarantee the God of the universe wants to speak to you, and meet with you, and encourage you, and love you beyond anything you could ever imagine. Become a man or a woman of the Word of God because the Word is Jesus. And Jesus wants to reveal Himself to you.