Welcome on this cold morning to the faithful who brave the elements!
This morning is a time for us to consider stewardship - our stewardship of the treasure that God has placed in our hands to use for His glory...
You think I'm going to talk about our money today - but I think that I need to put first things first! If we get the first things right, then the other will follow! (Matt 6:33)
Our opening collect is one which points us to our stewardship of the Word of God, perhaps the greatest resource mankind has ever been granted! Like we search for food and water or drill for oil or dig for other fuels, the Word of God is the place which has riches untold, and food and drink enough for the whole world!
I hope that you remember the illustration that I used last year - which comes from various teachers - Bill Bright and Billy Graham to name a couple - the "hand illustration" we talked about using the words from our collect regarding the reading and study of Scripture.
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
Pinkie finger = HEAR
Hearing is about 10% of our comprehension - if we are truly listening!
So often though, in church or in other venues, the Bible is read and
we've heard it before so we tend to tune it our, thinking that we know it
Paul tells the Romans that Faith comes through hearing and hearing
through the Word of God (10:17)
Ring Finger = READ
Reading the Word shoots our comprehension in the arm! All the way up
to about half! Half of what we read, we remember! It is a definite
improvement, but even half of the message of the Word, while better than
none or 10%, still leaves us sorely lacking.
Reading is something of a discipline! Something that needs to be done
daily, but often gets squeezed out by other activities - important things
like watching the news or a game show on TV!
Middle Finger = MARK
What? Mark in your Bible? Anyone here mark up, highlight, make notes
in other books? Why do that? Because it makes what you hear and read
stick! Sometimes I've looked for passages I've read before based on
where they were on the page! Ever do that? Underlining and highlighting
is essential to beginning to take special note of parts of the Bible that
speak more directly to you, or that you want to pay particular attention
First Finger = LEARN
Learning is what we are after, right? We are after an understanding of
the Word that shapes our understanding and then impacts how we
actually do things!
In John 5:39 Jesus says, "You search the scriptures because you think
that in them you will find eternal life; They are the ones that testify of
The point of our coming to scripture is to learn: 4 things (2 Tim 3:16)
A. Didaskalia - Didactic learning - the facts, the precepts, line by line,
brick by brick
B. Elegmos - Refutation, Conviction, Reproof, [STOP !!]
C. Epanorthosis - To set something UPRIGHT - Correction, to Set
Right (to help someone find True North!)
D. Paidaia - The whole concept of training a child - very
comprehensive lifeskill training that includes nurture, correction,
discipline, love and detailed instructions
(Prov: Train up a child in the way he/she should go...)
How do we LEARN the WORD? Well we start with listening and reading, bible study, intellectual inquiry, reading not just the Reader's Digest version, but the notes at the bottom of the Study Bible - How many of you have a study bible? Any do online bible study?
There are no shortage of ways into the Word of God today - we have absolutely no excuse!
And finally the piece-de-resistance!
THUMB = INWARDLY DIGEST
This is the process by which we make the Word come to life in our own
lives! It is an all of the above approach, but goes further and deeper.
The inward digestion of something means that whatever it is has
become part of you at a cellular level - nourishment, food, and drink
become energy for action, for great deeds and for righteous living.
Turn with me to 2 Cor. 3 for a second: I just want to put this all in a final perspective - Paul is talking to the Corinthian Christians here about them being his "epistle of Christ." V 2 he says:
[2Co 3:2-3 NASB] 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Paul takes a word picture here from Ezekiel 36, the promise of God to the people of Israel that He will write the law on their hearts - giving them hearts of flesh instead of their hearts of stone (EZ 36:26-27)
[26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.]
In the letter to Corinth, Paul refers back to the Jewish reading of the Torah, and says that a veil was over their hearts - but IN CHRIST, the veil is taken away. We have access to the WORD - The Law = the Precepts, ordinances, and instructions of GOD, as never before, through Jesus Christ by The Spirit!
V. 18 of 2 Cor 3 is clear:
[16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.]
As food is transformed inside our bodies by digestion, so the Word comes to us and begins to transform us - our minds, our hearts, our wills, and our actions. And the point of it all is Righteousness - Right living.
Dikaiosune - the state of virtue, integrity, purity and rightness in thinking, in feeling and in acting, that is approved by God and acceptable to Him.
Now to end, just one short passage from James:
[Jas 1:22-25 NASB] 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ:
You have given us Your Word and Your Spirit to instruct us in the Way we should go. Open our eyes, our ears, our minds and our hearts to hear, to read, to mark, to learn and finally, to inwardly digest that Word of God that can and will transform our lives into the very life of Jesus Christ.
Make us effective servants of Your purposes in the world, as we give daily attention to your Word. Give us Words in season, like apples of Gold in settings of silver. Help us to speak Your Word after you; cause us to hide your Word in our hearts, that we might not sin against You. Let your Word be our guide and our chief joy, a reflection of your Mercy made new every morning.
According to the power of God and the everlasting nature of His Word, we ask this