Who influences you the most? Paul David Tripp says that you are. “No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. You’re in an unending conversation with yourself. You’re talking to yourself all the time; interpreting, organizing, and analyzing what’s going on inside you and around you…You are constantly involved in an internal conversation that greatly influences the things you decide, say, and do. What do you regularly tell yourself about yourself, God, and your circumstances? Do your words to you encourage faith, hope, and courage or do they stimulate doubt, discouragement, and fear? Do you remind yourself that God is near, or do you reason within yourself–given your circumstances–that he must be different?…Here’s the question: how faith-driven and Christ-centered is the conversation that you have with you everyday.”
Month: June 2013
Here’s another way to feast upon the word of God, and fight the fight for faith.
Memorize the word. Why memorize when we have easy access to a copy of the Bible? Jesus’ example in Matthew 4:1-11 offers the best answer. When Satan drew near to tempt him, what did Jesus do? He fought back by recalling from memory specific verses to combat the devil in this fight for faith. Just look at how many times we read the words, “it is written.” Like Jesus in the wilderness, and just like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we also hear some form of the serpent’s question, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’ (Gen. 3:1)?” So we’d better be able to recall what God has said–from memory, because the temptations are the toughest when we don’t have a copy of the Bible around.
For instance, what will you do when you’re on your way to work and temptations arise to doubt God? You’ve finished your devotions, said “goodbye” to your family, and are driving in your car. Then the enemy comes near to whisper into your ears, “Does God really have your best interests at heart? How could he let something like this happen to you?” You pull an arrow out of your quiver that reads,
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
And you let it fly.
But then he comes back with, “Are you sure that God loves you? Why should he? Didn’t you fail him this morning?” And so you grab another titanium arrow that reads,
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn. 4:10).
And still another one that reads,
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39).
And you keep firing away, arrow after arrow–withstanding the attacks of the enemy. As you do so, they leave an aroma of God’s faithfulness, of his worthiness, of his goodness that penetrates your very soul. The Holy Spirit takes those verses, and calms your soul. He builds you up, or convicts you of unbelief. He encourages you to endure and to carry on.
When you do this, you’re fighting the fight for faith. You’re waging war against unbelief. And through it all, you are feeding your soul with the word of God.
Jesus said, “But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matt. 4:4). Our souls need the words of God. They are as necessary to our spiritual life as food is to our physical life. Here are some ways to feed your souls upon the word of God.
- Hear the word. There are different ways to hear the word, such as listening to an online sermon or podcast. These are good, but God’s primary tool for getting the word into the ears of his people is preaching. When we gather together for worship, we come to hear what God has said in his word. We come with a sense of expectancy to understand Christ through the word of God.
- Read the word. In response to the question, “how often should I read the Bible?” British preacher John Blanchard said, “How often do we face problems, temptation, and pressure? Every day! Then how often do we need instruction, guidance, and greater encouragement? Every day!…an even greater issue [is], how often do we need to see God’s face, hear his voice, feel his touch, know his power? The answer to all these questions is the same: every day!” And I would add, how often do we need to trust God? Every day. How does God cultivate faith within our souls? “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom.10:17).
- Meditate on the word. Meditation may have gained popularity as a Far Eastern concept, but it is a thoroughly biblical one as well. The Psalmist says, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands” (Ps.143:5). And again, “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate” (Ps.145:5). Biblical meditation is thinking deeply over the truths of the Bible. It involves taking a verse or an idea you’ve read or are memorizing, and mulling it over in your mind. Taking it in hand, and turning it one way, and then another, in order to extract spiritual truth from it. Biblical meditation isn’t an attempt to empty your minds, but instead to fill your mind with God’s word. Donald Whitney compares hearing God’s word to dipping a tea bag into hot water. But “meditation [on the other hand]…is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown.” When you hear the word, you get it one time; but when you meditate, you let the word soak into your mind.
Feast your souls on the table God has spread out before you. Hear, read, and think deeply about what God has said.
The word of God is an incredible aid in prayer. There are several reasons for praying through the Scriptures. Here a few.
It’s biblical. Jesus did it. While on the cross, he prayed Psalm 22. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46)? And so did the early church. “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ (Acts 4:24-26). That comes directly from Psalm 2.
Praying Scripture helps to direct your train of thought. All of us struggle with maintaining our train of thought when praying. What do you do when this happens? Too often we’’ll probably give up after a while. But if you’re using the word as your guide in prayer, then you have an answer for this problem. If you loose track of what you’re praying about, or get distracted, just return to the Scriptures and pick right back up again. Simply go right back to the next verse, and start praying again.
It allows God to direct our prayers. Perhaps he has more insight into what we need than we do? Instead of going to God with a list of things to pray about, maybe sometimes it would be wise to talk about the things he wants to talk to you about. If you do, you’ll probably find that along the way he ends up addressing the very concerns that were on your mind to begin with.
The fight for faith is different than a fight for the faith. The fight for faith occurs within your own soul on a daily basis. Ours is a spiritual struggle–a fight for faith. This is different than fighting for the faith, i.e. defending the truth of the gospel against false teachers or the world. There is a different, more deadly fight. This fight takes place within our own souls. It’s a daily struggle within our own souls to trust in God and to believe his promises in the moment of temptation. It is a fight for faith. Scripture speaks of this fight:
- “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you” (Jms. 4:1)?
- “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom. 7:21-23).
- “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1Pe. 2:11).
We are fighting for faith on a regular basis. In other words, we are fighting to obey the command of Proverbs, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (3:5).
When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, the enemy slithered in close to Jesus’ ear and uttered something that should send a shiver down our spines. His words are shocking. They’re shocking because they are actually God’s words. He proves that not only is he familiar with the biblical storyline, but it seems that he has also committed portions of it to memory. He quoted Psalm 91:11-12. In verse six, he said, “for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
Now he leaves out a portion of those verses. It actually reads, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up…” But this isn’t why he mishandled Scripture. Often times even the NT authors use Scripture liberally. No, the danger here is in the fact that he misapplied the verses.
The Psalm is referring to the people of God who trust in him to deliver them, not to putting a test before him to see if he would do so. Let’s look at Psalm 91.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (vv. 1-2)…
“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent…. (vv.9-10).
“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (v. 15).
When rightly applied, it means that God will help those who love and trust him. He will help them when trouble comes. It doesn’t mean that we should go out and do something crazy–like jumping off a building–in order to see if God will protect us. That wouldn’t be trusting in him; it would be putting him to the test precisely because you’re not sure if he is trustworthy. That’s why Jesus responded, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Be careful in how you apply Scripture.