Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things. Preserve my life according to your word….How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life. (Psalm 119:33-40)
Growing in Jesus
Christ’s followers want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. We want our lives to bring Him glory both now and forever.1 Plants grow as they receive water, fertilizer, and sunlight. Once God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) makes us His children, He waters and nourishes our new life to make us grow more Christ-like.
In our last post, we saw Jesus commending Mary of Bethany for sitting at His feet and listening to what He said. How do we do that now? Christ has ascended to heaven and sent His Holy Spirit to be our Teacher. Now the Father, Son, and Spirit speak to us in the God-breathed Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible doesn’t automatically bless all people who read it or hear it taught or preached. Here are some tips for learning from Christ the message of His grace which is able to build us up and give us an inheritance with all those He has set apart for Himself.2
• Remember that the Bible alone teaches us how to glorify and enjoy God, what we are to believe about the Lord and what He requires of us.
The Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.3 And what does the Lord require of us? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.4
• We must study the Scriptures to help us love God and our neighbors.
Jesus said that the greatest and most important commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Knowledge alone, without love for the Lord and other people can puff us up and swell our heads. If our learning doesn’t help us to adore God and build up others, we’ve got it wrong and need to repent.5
• We must value and read the Bible with reverent esteem and relish its sweetness.
God’s Scriptures are more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. The Psalmist says: How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!6
• We must be absolutely convinced that the Scriptures are truly God’s word.
The Bible writers did not follow cleverly devised stories when they told us about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power. They were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Their message is completely reliable, so we must pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day of Jesus’ return. Scripture never came about by the writer’s own interpretation of things. The human authors spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.7
• We must realize that we need God Himself to enable us to rightly understand His Scriptures.
The resurrected Christ opened His disciples’ minds so they could understand. He showed them that the Old Testament was written about Him and that He fulfilled it. Jesus the Messiah suffered on the cross, rose from the dead on the third day, and now repentance for the forgiveness of sins is preached in His name to all nations. So we must ask God the Holy Spirit to illumine the Scriptures for us and to help us properly respond.8
• We should read with a desire to know, believe, and obey God’s will as revealed in the Bible.
The New Testament says: Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.9
• We should test all human teachers by the Bible itself.
The Bereans were people of noble character. They received the apostles’ message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was truly biblical. They were not naive or gullible, so they would not accept Paul’s teaching without checking for themselves. For them, the Bible was not just a pretty book of poetry, mystery, or nice spiritual inspiration. It was the book of God’s truth and they wanted to search out that truth for their salvation and sanctification. They were not skeptics. They received the word with all readiness, with clear heads and open hearts. Lord, help us all to be Bereans!10
• We should meditate on the Scriptures and apply them to our lives.
We are blessed when we delight in the Lord’s teaching and meditate on it day and night. Then we will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever we do will prosper.11 Thomas Watson says: As a hammer drives a nail into wood, so meditation drives God’s truth into our heart.
• We should deny ourselves according to the Bible’s direction.
Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” People who put off their selfish desires for serving Christ will receive a hundred times as many blessings and will inherit eternal life.12
A readiness to believe every promise implicitly, to obey every command unhesitatingly, to stand complete in all the will of God, is the only right spirit of Bible study. (Andrew Murray)
To be continued.
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 2 Pet 3:18. 2 Acts 20:32. 3 2 Tim 3:15-17. 4 Micah 6:8. 5 Mark 12:29-31; 1 Cor 8:1. 6 Psalm 19:10, 119:103. 7 2 Pet 1:16-21. 8 Luke 24:44-48. 9 James 1:21-22. 10 Acts 17:10-12 and comments by David Guzik. 11 Psalm 1:2-3. 12 Luke 9:23-25; Matt 19:29.