Bible Reading: As a Means of War and Worship | pt. 2

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The most significant day in my life was the day I was regenerated and sought the LORD for forgiveness of my sins. One of the things that I recall very clearly from that night was not just the strong conviction of my specific sin, but a conviction of sin in general. I had an acute awareness of what was morally right and wrong. Sins that I tried to justify in the past, I could now easily see that they were offenses against God. It was truly a sign of God’s work of redemption. Later, I would come to understand that I had been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). Despite my elation with Christ, I realized that I still had remaining sin that I needed to deal with (Romans 7: 7-25) as well as I needed to learn how to live in a world of full of sin.

At that point in my Christian walk, though I had the desire, I hadn’t yet found a church home. In many ways, I felt alone as none of my friends were Christians. Without knowing that Christians were commanded to share the gospel, I began telling my friends about Jesus and my salvation, but they were not interested. Again without knowing what spiritual warfare was, I began to experience mild persecution (i.e. name calling and social ostracization). I realized that my allegiance to Christ meant that I was at war against the world (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). Christ told His disciples, If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) and this was what I was beginning to experience. However, in my excitement and sadness, I diligently sought the Scriptures for understanding, comfort and as a means of war – war against the world, my flesh and Satan.

The Bible: A Means of War
Let me be clear – we will make no progress in the faith apart from life-long reading, memorizing and studying Scripture. Both testaments clearly state that God’s people are to be students of His Word, which not only instructs us about Him, but also about how we are to walk in holiness (the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai – Exodus 20-23; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalms 19:7-11; Psalms 119; Colossians 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12, etc.). We will make no progress in holiness unless we make it a daily practice to fight sin – sin within us and around us. One of the chief methods of fighting sin is fighting the lies sin tells us and fighting temptations by reminding ourselves of truth, which is God’s word.

As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10 – the weapons of our warfare are not flesh, but have divine power. He also goes on to say that we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. Though not the only weapon, I believe one of the weapons Paul has in mind that has the power to destroy thoughts against God is God’s word. Ephesians 6:10-20, also written by Paul, reminds us that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood, but instead are rulers, authorities and cosmic powers (i.e. demons) and the last weapon mentioned in the Christian’s suit of armor imagery is the sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God. The Bible is our means of war!

Jesus’ Temptation and War with the Devil
Before Jesus began his public ministry, he was baptized by John the Baptist to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22). After he was baptized, both accounts note that the Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove and the Father publicly affirmed that Jesus was indeed his beloved Son, with whom he was well pleased. In this Trinitarian scene, the Spirit descending on Jesus was very significant. As a human, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience to the Father. Yet, the Father publicly declared him to be his Son, which points to Jesus’ deity. This was a reiteration of the angel Gabriel’s message to Mary (Luke 1:26-35).

But what happens next is significant. Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil for forty days (Matthew 4:1-2; Luke 4:1-2). Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness for forty days is likened to Israel’s forty year wandering in the wilderness en route to Canaan – the promised land. Israel, God’s son, was called to faithfulness during the journey from Sinai to Canaan, yet failed. Jesus, God’s Son, remained faithful to God during that time of testing. Israel’s downfall was a failure to believe God despite all he’d done for them and shown them in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Jesus’ victory was rooted in obedience to God’s word.

At the onset of his public ministry, Jesus is tempted by the devil repeatedly. Both accounts detail the same series of temptations by the devil, but in different order. Two times the devil asks Jesus, “If you are the Son of God,…..” and one time he blatantly asks Jesus to worship him in exchange for the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:3-11; Luke 4:3-13). It is interesting to note that the devil’s questioning Jesus regarding his Sonship comes right after the Father publicly declared Jesus as his Son. What’s at the heart of the devil’s temptation is seeing what kind of Son of God Jesus will be – a faithful one or a faithless one like Adam and Israel. But note Jesus’ response. Jesus, the Son of God, empowered by the Spirit and the Logos of God quotes Scripture to the devil! “It is written…..” Jesus goes to war with the devil with Scripture! In response to the devil’s temptations and misuse of Scripture, Jesus responds to the devil from Deuteronomy.

If Jesus, the Son of God, relied on Scripture during his time of temptation, how much more do you and I need to have it written on our hearts and etched in our minds to fight sin that wages war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11) and to stand against the cosmic powers (Ephesians 6:12)?

If we will do our souls well, we will take up the joy and necessity of reading the Word of God frequently. For temptations will always be within and the devil waits for opportune times to assail us (Luke 4:13).

Read. Stand firm.

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Bible Reading: As a Means of War and Worship | pt. 1

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The Good Book, God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures – these were some of the monikers I heard growing up regarding the Bible. As a child, I remember thinking it was a special book for older religious people. I remember seeing several Bibles at my grandparents’ home. Back then, I didn’t understand why they had so many Bibles. To their defense, I did see my grandparents reading their Bibles from time to time, but there were so many other copies in their home that seemed to serve as decoration pieces. Some of their Bibles were red, green, maroon, and black. Some had praying hands or a sword embossed on the front. I wondered if those were the extra special Bibles.

Then it happened – I got my own Bible when I was about 8. It was hardback with an artist’s depiction of “happy Jesus” walking through a meadow with a staff in His hand followed by smiling children. As a teen, I received a modern looking NIV Teen Bible with a computer generated picture of the toughing fingertips from Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam”on the front and back with no words on the front cover. This definitely wasn’t my grandparents’ Bible! In fact, one wouldn’t know it was a Bible unless they read the spine of the book or opened it. I wrote my name on it and began to read portions of it. I was quickly surprised and pleased at the lack of “thees”, “thous”, “willeths” and “killeths”, which made the reading much more accessible. More than once, my grandfather encouraged me to read through the book of Proverbs by reading one chapter a day. I didn’t though. As a teen, I was unregenerate and had no desire to read the Bible, though I esteemed it to some degree.

By God’s grace, He saved me just a few months before my 24th birthday and one of the changes that I quickly noticed was a desire to know Him. I’d never been a voracious reader. I read enough to make good grades in school and earn an undergraduate degree, but reading wasn’t something I typically enjoyed. However, as a new believer, I now had a desire to read – to read the Bible. While I didn’t properly understand much of what I read, the Holy Spirit was allowing me to understand some key things I needed to know at that point in my life. This fueled my desire to keep reading the Bible and I noticed my affections for Christ being kindled as I pored over His word, sometimes for hours. That Bible I received as a teen was being put to use, but I soon got a study Bible that accelerated my understanding.

I remember taking my Bible to work and reading it during my lunch-break. After coming home from work, I would read for most of the evening only taking a break to eat dinner. Over time, I noticed new convictions for godliness and against ungodliness. I was being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) having my mind renewed (Rom. 12:2) by reading the word of God (Ps. 19:7-8; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). In my new found love, little did I know that the discipline of Bible reading would be so useful in times of great temptation and as a means of rejoicing through exaltation.

It would be some time before I understood the gravity these words spoken by Yahweh and the LORD, Jesus Christ –

“…. man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3)

It also would be some time before the thought crystallized in my mind that reading the Bible is a means of war and worship.