So last week we were reminded of the many characteristics of the Bible.
It’s authoritative. It’s trustworthy. It’s without error. It’s alive. It’s powerful. It’s cohesive. It’s truth. It is the Word of God.
Simply knowing what the Bible is should be reason enough for us to want to spend time daily reading God’s Word – hearing what God has to say to us.
But we can’t stop with just reading it. Simply reading God’s Word isn’t enough. That’s a critical step #1, but step #2 is equally important – and that is that we have believe it and obey it. We have to live our lives in a way that reflects what we’ve just read.
James talks about this in James chapter 1, starting at verse 21….
So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
We can’t just read the Bible – we have to accept it as truth and then live accordingly! If we don’t, James says it’s like glancing at your face in the mirror. Most of us do this every morning, we get up glance into the bathroom mirror – and we’re usually appalled at what we see! Crusties in the corners of our eyes, hair looking like we just went at it with the weed-whacker, drool residue on the side of our face – maybe even some pimples that grew up over night.
When we look in the mirror, the mirror tells us the painful truth. We’ve got some issue that we need to deal with. The question is: What do we do when we see that truth?
Do we walk away and forget what we look like? Do we just go on through our day oblivious to the disaster on our face? Hopefully not! As I look out at your smiling faces this morning, it looks like most of you – when you saw the truth in the mirror this morning – you did something about it!
You combed your hair. You washed your face. You popped the pimples or whatever…. But you addressed the issues that you saw in the mirror.
Well, we have to do that when we read the Bible too! When we read the Bible, it’s very much like a mirror – it shows us the things in our lives that we need to change. It tells us the truth about our situation. It points out the areas where our attitudes and actions are out of line with God’s.
Like we read in 2 Timothy 3:16 last week:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16
The Bible makes those things quite clear. But the question is: what will we do about it when we see the truth?
When we read those things that point out where we’re off track, will we walk away and just ignore the issues in our life – or will we actually do something about it?
Like James says, we can’t just listen to God’s Word – we must do what it says. Otherwise, we’re only fooling ourselves!
But on the flip side of that, if we do listen to and obey God’s Word – James tells us that we will be blessed. He writes in verse 25….
25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
There are incredible blessings that come with reading and obeying God’s Word. You’ll remember from last week how we read in Hebrews 4:12 that the Word of God is alive and powerful. When you make it a regular practice to read God’s Word, trust it as truth, and then live accordingly – that’s when God’s Word really changes your life! You’ll see just how alive and powerful it is!
And so today, I want to take us through four ways that the Bible will change your life. Four blessings that we receive when we read and obey God’s Word! Last week was all about what the Bible is – today we’re looking at what the Bible does.
We’re going to do that by looking at a couple verses from Psalm 19. Now Psalm 19 was written by King David roughly 1000 years before Christ. So as you can imagine, much of the Bible as we know it was not yet written.
But there was some. Some early parts of the Old Testament had been written by this point and David would often read, he would memorize, he would think about, and he would praise God for His Word.
And so Psalm 19 is a psalm of praise – where David not only describes God’s Word, but he also praises him for the many benefits of His Word. For now, I just want to look at two verses – verses 7 & 8.
7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.
So in these 2 verses, we see four things that the Bible does in our lives when we read it, accept it as truth, and live accordingly.
So let’s quickly work through those four things: The first point that King David makes is that…
“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.” Psalm 19:7a
And there are two parts to this: The first part is that God’s instructions are perfect – and that describes what the Bible is – but what does it do? It revives the soul. In other words, I think we could say that “The Bible makes us alive.”
And I think this is true on a couple of levels. First of all, it is through God’s Word that we receive salvation. We would not know the way to have a relationship with God, how to be forgiven, how to have eternal live – if God had not reveal that to us through His Word. It is through the Scriptures that we learn how God so loved the world that He sent his only Son Jesus to live a sinless life, to die a terrible death on a cross, and to rise again to life three days later. And it is through the Scriptures that we told that we need only to put our faith and trust in Jesus to partake and receive that resurrected life for ourselves. So without the Word of God to tell us all that, we would have no way to know and make that decision to put our faith in Jesus. As Romans 10:17 says…
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV
The basis of our faith and the only way for us to have true life is found in hearing the Word of God. So that’s one way that we can say that God’s Word makes us alive. His Word reveals the only way for us to have life. When we hear and believe and obey God’s Word, God revives our soul and gives us new, eternal life.
But that’s probably not exactly what King David had in mind when he wrote this psalm. God hadn’t yet fully revealed his plan of Salvation, so David was likely thinking of something else. So what’s another way that God’s Word makes us alive?
When David wrote “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.” – the phrase “reviving the soul” has the idea of renewed strength or even rescuing someone’s life.
The NIV says “it refreshes the soul” or the NET says “it preserves one’s life”. It kinda comes across like God’s Word is a glass of cold water to someone who is dying of thirst in the dessert. God’s Word is just what we need to give us life and to renew our strength. And so certainly that fits with how we need salvation, but it’s also true for our day to day lives as Christians.
Daily reading God’s Word gives us the strength and the ability to get through our day. Reading the promises of God or being reminded of his awesome character are often just what we need as we face the trials and temptations and struggles of this life.
We need those reminders that God is good – that God is present with us – that God is faithful – that God loves us and cares about us – and that God is working out His good plan for our redemption. That’s the kind of stuff that refreshes our soul and gives us life.
The Word of God is just as important to our spiritual well-being as bread and water is to our physical well-being.
When Jesus was fasting and being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, Satan challenged him to turn some stones into bread – and how did Jesus respond?
4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
The Word of God makes us alive! I wonder how many Christians today – maybe even some in our church here today – who are basically starving to death? Sure their fridges and cupboards are full, but they are living on bread alone… They’ve neglected to feed themselves the soul-satisfying Word of God.
I would encourage you, if you’re counting on Sunday morning as the only time you’re being fed the Word of God – just try eating physical food that often! If you’re only eating once a week, I’m pretty sure that’s not a healthy diet….
Don’t try to live on bread alone! Feast on the Word God often – let it revive your soul daily!
The Bible makes us (and keeps us) alive! That’s the first thing the Bible does…
The second part of that verse in Psalm 19 says….
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7b
We talked last week about how, because God is trustworthy and true, we can know that God’s Word is trustworthy and true. And this is exactly what David is saying. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy – and because of that, look at what they do. They make wise the simple.
God’s Word helps us to be wise.
All the other books we read contain the wisdom of men (which is limited at best) – but God’s Word contains the wisdom of God.
God is the expert on every topic – He’s the expert on relationships, he’s the expert on raising kids, he’s the expert on managing money, he’s the expert on government, he’s the expert on reaching the lost, he’s the expert in growing the church. There is no topic that we would ever want to know about that God isn’t the foremost authority in that field!
And of course the Bible isn’t indented to be an encyclopedia of knowledge on every topic, but it’s amazing how much God speaks into every situation. And what He says is true. His decrees are trustworthy. If we want to be wise, we have an entire book filled with the infinite wisdom of God.
In Deuteronomy, after Moses received God’s laws for the new nation of Israel, He urges them to obey all the decrees and regulations that God had given them. As he does that, he says something that I hadn’t really noticed before… Let me read it for you…
5 “Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. 6 Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’” Deuteronomy 4:5-6
That’s kinda cool, isn’t it? When we follow the commands and the instructions and the principles of God, people will notice just how intelligent and wise we are. You know, I think at one time people may have said that about Canada and the United States – back when our society was founded and grounded in the Word of God. Back then they may have said, “How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!” But I’m not sure many people say that anymore…
The further we drift from God Word, the further we drift from wisdom. God’s Word truly does make us wise. Ignoring His Word makes us foolish. The writer of Psalm 119 emphasizes this point. He writes:
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are my constant guide.
99 Yes, I have more insight than my teachers,
for I am always thinking of your laws.
100 I am even wiser than my elders,
for I have kept your commandments.
God’s Word is clearly the primary source of wisdom. If you want to become wise, study God’s Word. If you want to know the truth about this world, if you want to know the truth about God, if you want to know the truth about who you are and how life is best lived – read God’s Word and become wise!
So that’s the second thing the Bible does – it helps us to be wise!
The 3rd thing the Bible does is this: #3. The Bible gives us joy.
The next verse in Psalm 19 says this:
8 The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8a
The Bible gives us joy.
Contrary to what many people think, doing whatever we want isn’t actually what brings us joy in life. Making our own rules – living however we think is best – that actually doesn’t bring us much joy.
But following the wisdom of God does.
You see, God’s commands are not arbitrary, random rules that He’s just making up for the fun of it. No. God’s commands come from his infinite wisdom and knowledge of how life works. His command are designed to show us how to live a life of peace, joy, and contentment.
It’s like if God commanded us not to walk off the edge of our roof. God knows that gravity is going to pull us to the ground we’re going to be seriously hurt if we step off the roof – and that would not bring us joy. There might be a thrilling moment as we plummet, but that’ll be followed by an extended period of unhappiness.
In the same way, all of God’s commands are based on his infinite wisdom and knowledge of how life works. Whether it’s his commands about our sexual activity or how we treat others or how we use our money – whatever it is – Following his commands will always bring joy to our hearts – ignoring his commands will not. Why? Because God’s commands are a reflection of reality. They are right and true. To act contrary to God’s commands is to invite pain and sorrow.
“The commands of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8a
The happiest people on the planet are not the people who have the most money or who gain the most fame or who live in the nicest parts of the world. The happiest people are the one who live their life according to God’s commands and instructions. Some of those people may not even be Christians – they may not even know that those commands come from God – but they recognize that this is how life works best.
“Loving other people makes me happy – Holding a grudge makes me unhappy.
Sharing with others makes me happy – Being jealous makes me unhappy. “
People who recognize these principles and live by them are going to have much happier lives than those who don’t.
So if you want to be happy – follow God’s commands! God has laid out all these principles for us in His Word! The commands of the Lord are right – they are true – they reflect reality – and if we follow them, they will bring joy to our heart.
So that’s the third thing the Bible does – it give us joy.
That takes us to the fourth point in this psalm and that is:
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Psalm 19:8b
And I think this is closely tied in with how the Bible helps us to be wise. The Bible gives us discernment. It’s helps us see things for what they really are. It gives us clarity.
The Bible helps us see clearly what is right and what is wrong – what is true and what is false. I think we need this ability more than ever today. I think this generation is probably the most confused generation in long time – being constantly told that right is wrong and wrong is right. How in the world will they ever know the truth?
They can find the truth in God’s Word. In the Bible, God tells us clearly what is right and clearly what is wrong. So much of the confusion in the world today would be quickly cleared up simply by examining the Word of God. And even on the issues that don’t seem to be quite so cut & dry, the Bible is still our authority and standard for discerning right and wrong.
Tim Challies writes:
“We are often confused, divided in our desires. But when we place our faith in God and commit to Him by submitting to His Word and obeying it, we grow in our ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil.”
The Bible gives us clarity!
The problem we often have is that we simply don’t know God’s Word well enough to have that clarity or discernment. The writer of Hebrews seemed to face that same issue – He was trying to teach Christians who simply didn’t know God’s Word well enough to discern right from wrong. He writes in Hebrews 5:11…
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
If we want to be able to discern between right and wrong, we can’t remain like infants – only ever learning the basic things about God’s Word. We need to train ourselves by spending time studying God’s Word – digging deeper than just the basics of the Gospel. Otherwise, we’ll remain like baby Christians who still don’t know how to do what is right.
To grow in our discernment, we have to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.
That means #1. we need to spend time personally reading God’s Word on a daily basis and #2. We also need to spend time studying God’s Word (perhaps with our spouse, or a friend, or a Bible study group) That’s why our church has a ladies Bible study group on Mondays and Justified on Wednesdays. We don’t want you to remain as baby Christians – we want you to grow in your discernment – knowing right from wrong.
As I said earlier, God’s command aren’t meant to be burdensome laws that weigh us down and cramp our style – but rather, they help us discern us the truth! They show us how to please and honour God and at the same time how to live lives full of joy & happiness!
Like David said, The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.
The Bible gives us clarity.
And we could actually go on and list even more things that the Bible does for us – in fact, the book visual theology goes on to list two more that we just don’t have time to get into today. It talks about how the Bible helps us to be pure and how it helps us to be godly.
But for our purposes today, I trust that you’re already seeing just how valuable the Word of God is! King David certainly held God’s Word in the highest regard!
In fact, right after these verses in Psalm 19, David goes on to summarize just how valuable God’s Word was to him. In verse 10 David writes about God’s Laws – He says:
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:10-11 NIV
It’s true. God’s Word is so valuable to us.
It makes us alive. It helps us to be wise. It gives us joy. And it gives us clarity and discernment.
No wonder David says “in keeping them, there is great reward.”
I want to encourage you today – as I have before – to make it your daily habit spend time reading God’s Word. But don’t just read it – like James says “You must do what it says!” Don’t just glance at your Bible and then go away and forget what you read.
Read it. Believe it. And then live it!
Remember that this is God’s message to you. He wants to speak to you personally through the pages of His Word. And His message can change your life – it’s alive and powerful!
And by the way, not only does God want to speak to you, but He also wants to hear from you too! We’ll talk about that next week as Greg talks to us a little bit about prayer! This personal relationship that God wants to have with us requires two-way communication. The Bible is how God speaks to us – and He’s invited us to speak to Him through prayer. So I’m excited to have Greg come and share with us next week about prayer.
But for today, God’s given us lots to think about as we’ve mentioned just a few of the things that God’s Word does in our lives. I trust God has spoken to you today – and I hope that you’ll act on what God has said. Don’t just listen to what He says – You must do what He says!