Devoted to God’s Word

  • Devoted to God’s Word
  • Acts 2:14-21, 42
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • February 12, 2017
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2-12-17 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Over the past few weeks here at LakeRidge, we’ve been engaging in a message series entitled, “Throwback”. The inspiration for it comes from our culture’s current fascination with the past. Radio stations have days like “Flashback Fridays” where they take a break from playing the Top forty hits of today and harken back to the music we used to listen to ten, twenty, even thirty to forty years ago.

 

There is also an entire phenomenon on social media where people will post old photographs under the hashtag #throwbackthursday. It is a way to have some fun while taking a moment to remember the past.

 

This morning I’ve got some throwback pictures to share with you. You know it is amazing what you can find when you pull up someone’s Facebook page and click on the pictures tab. I didn’t have to hack into anyone’s account.  This stuff is simply out there for anyone who takes the time to look it up. You can find Throwback pictures like this…

 

Similarly we have been looking at the book of Acts for the past several weeks because it holds for us several Scripture snapshots of what the early church looked like.

 

Pastor Brian kicked things off for us by helping us understand how the Holy Spirit is the main player in the book of Acts. It is all about what the Spirit is doing in the midst of the early believers.

 

Last week, we were blessed to have Dr. Terry Teykl with us. We’ve also looked at how, as the Spirit formed the early believers into community, they worshiped together, sacrificed for one another and how they encouraged each other, that supernatural things began to happen in their midst.  Dr. Teykl challenged us to  read his book entitled, Acts 29. Over 250 copies of his book flew off the table out in the foyer. If you are taking up that challenge to read a chapter of his book each week and to pray accordingly for God to do again what he did in the book of Acts here in our church, please let us know by indicating so on the insert in your bulletin today.

 

And next week, I’m excited because we are going to talk about how the early church was “For One Another” as we celebrate LakeRidge’s 38th birthday. We are going to have a party, complete with cupcakes, balloons and the whole “nine yards”. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to sign up today for our “Stop Hunger Now” food packaging event.  We still need about one-hundred people in order to fill up all of our available slots. I promise you will be glad you participated.

 

This morning, however,  we are going to take a look at how the early church was devoted to God’s Word and the impact it had upon them and the people around them.

 

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could have only one book with you, what book would you choose? Think about it. There are over twenty million books in the Library of Congress alone. Of all the books in the world, what would you choose if you were stranded on an island?

 

Someone once asked this question of G.K. Chesterson. He was one of the great and most influential Christian writers and authors of the 20th century. He was a man of vast education.

 

When he was asked, “If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have one book with you, what book would you choose?” He answered, “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Ship Building.”

 

The reason for this was clear. When you are trapped on an island, what you want is a book that will help you get home. Your heart longs to get home. You want to be.

 

You don’t want a book that will entertain you, no matter how enjoyable it might be. You don’t want a self-help book to improve your personality. You want a book that will give you the instruction you need to be saved.

 

Now, here is the truth for you and me. We are trapped on an island of sin and death. We are marooned, cast away, and lost. The Bible is the only book that tells us how to get home. The Word of God tells us that there is a whole other world, the Kingdom of God.

 

This world, our true home, is more real than anything we know in this life. The Bible tells us that God lives, He cares for us, and that we can know him. The Word of God tells us that we can be redeemed, saved from the island of sin.

 

The primary purpose of the Bible is to bring about spiritual transformation – the redemption of human hearts, minds and lives.

 

Every follower of Christ has discovered the importance of the Bible. Those who have been in relationship with Jesus for a longer time often have a deeper sense of the power of the Word. The Bible does not just tell us about God, but it becomes a place where we encounter Jesus and are changed.

 

ACTS 2:14-21,42

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.

18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.

19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below— blood and fire and clouds of smoke.

20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.

21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

 

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer.

In this passage, Pentecost has occurred. The Holy Spirit has descended on the disciples. Peter is explaining to the onlookers what is happening among the followers of Christ.

Peter interprets Pentecost in the light of Scripture. Remember, Peter had no time to sit in a study and write this sermon. He had no idea Pentecost was going to happen and that he would be called on to preach this sermon.

He was only able to give this message as led by the Holy Spirit, only because he was immersed in the Scriptures. The Scriptures were so much a part of his life that they were right there on the tip of his tongue. He was saturated in God’s word.

Peter clarifies their misconceptions and then tells them that they are seeing what was spoken of and promised by the prophet Joel. As he prepares his impromptu sermon, he begins to recite Scripture from memory. Peter was saturated with the Word and his mind was overflowing with God’s truth.

In Acts 2:42 we are told that the early followers of Christ had devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching. They also studied the Old Testament Scriptures and how they were fulfilled in Jesus’ teachings, deeds, death and resurrection.

Two thousand years later, we are still called to be a people who are devoted to the Word. This is a big part of why we gather together weekly for worship, in small groups, in classes, and in many other settings. God moves when the body gathers, the Scriptures are opened, and His truth is taught.

God’s word is powerful in that way. Pastor and author John Ortberg tells the story of some friends of his, a married couple who were hugely successful by any worldly standard – but inside they felt hollow and empty. They came to a point in their lives where they found even their money dissatisfying. They were not followers of Christ, were not involved in a church, and had no interest in God.

One day , their daughter was invited to a neighborhood club where kids would play games, build friendships, and learn about the Bible. The mom feeling angry about the invitation, talked with the people running the club, and they challenged her to read the Bible. Up to this point in her life, she had never read the Bible.

She woke up one night at midnight and could not go back to sleep. She went downstairs and read the Bible. She opened to the gospel of Matthew and began reading.

By three o’clock in the morning she was in the middle of the gospel of John and she had fallen in love with Jesus. There was no one with her, no one talking her into anything. Her only background was this three hours of reading about Jesus in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

In the early morning hours, she talked to God for the first time in her life. She said, “I don’t know what I am doing, but I know You are what I want.” She found her way to Jesus.

When you continue to read the book of Acts and you will see over and over again the power that is there for those who encounter God’s Word. In Acts 8:26-35, we find the story of Phillip and an Ethiopian man:

26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.

32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.

33

He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[c]

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.

Phillip meets a government official from Ethiopia who is reading the Scriptures. Through this experience, and with some instruction from Phillip, this man becomes a follower of Christ.

The Scriptures are not simply a place where we read about God, but rather, a place where we encounter God.  There is real life-changing power unleashed every time we read the words of the Bible. The Spirit speaks to us and we meet God face to face.

Our encounter with God in His Word is unique. God is active in all places and at all times, but a special work of God happens when we read, study, reflect and meditate on the words of the Bible.

There is no simple pathway to spiritual maturity, but there are disciplines that will help us along the way. If we are going to be deeply formed by Christ, we must become people of the Word. With the time I have remaining I want to suggest a structure that might help each of us to grow deeper in God’s Word.

  1. Begin with a moment of prayer.

Ask God to meet you as you study his Word. Ask for your heart to be tender, open, humble and repentant. Reading the Bible this way is a kind of prayer. You are reading, but you are reading together with God.

When you and I read in a repentant spirit, we learn to avoid the things Jesus loathed in the self-righteous leaders of His day. Read with a readiness to surrender everything. Read not merely to collect information or to gain some ammunition to prove your point.

  1. Don’t try to read a great deal.

The goal isn’t to try to cover a whole lot of the Bible, but to take a portion and go very deep. Or better yet, let it go deeply in you.

I encourage you to take a small section of scripture and to immerse yourself in it. I used to approach the Bible from the standpoint of, “Okay, I’ve read that before” and I would move on to something that I hadn’t read. For me it used to be about getting through the whole Bible.

I now realize that sometimes what God wants me to do is to linger with a passage of Scripture. In the same way that a sponge soaks up water, God wants me to soak up his Word. Sometimes, by lingering with a passage, I end up going deeper than I would have ever imagined the first time I read the Scripture passage.

  1. Take one thought or verse and live with it.

This kind of thinking does not come from a day and age as frenzied as ours. There are no speed-reading approaches to reading God’s Word. Live with Scripture and let it take root in you. Developing this love for God’s Word takes time.

Psalm 1:3 says, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Trees don’t hurry up and grow. They draw their life from the waters and grow over time. So it is with the spiritual life. There is no instant maturity or microwave spirituality. Slow down, meditate on God’s truth, and let it give you life and health.

As you abide in God’s Word, live with it, meditate on it, and fix your mind on it, you begin to bear fruit. This fruit blossoms naturally in you, because you are drawing from the water of God’s Word. Transformation happens.

  1. Respond to the desire that grows with you from god’s word.

As you start to understand the truth of God’s Word, when the Word is dwelling richly in you, you will experience transformation. Joy and longing begin to spring up within you. Your response, your changed life, grows naturally from encountering the living God in His Word.