James Merritt - Fill the Tank
Over the next several weeks, and I don't do this very often. I don't try to over polish and under deliver, but over the next several weeks, four weeks to be exact, I'm going to share with you four things that I guarantee you, 'cause they've worked for me for a long, long time. I'm gonna share with you four things that if you will do them on a daily basis, they will revive you, they will recharge you, they will reenergize you, and you won't just endure life. You really will enjoy life, and the first one we're gonna start out with is really the most important one.
As a matter of fact, I'm not sure the other three really work that well if you don't do the first one, and the reason why I'm so passionate about it is because if you were to say to me of all the things you've ever done in your life what has made more of an impact on you, had a greater influence on you, and is more the reason why you are where you are and who you are today than anything you've ever done, it's easy. Apart from giving my life to Jesus, I mean, that's the starting point. I get that, but apart from that the single most important habit I've ever practiced in my life really didn't come from me. It came from my mother, and it goes all the way back to when I was a child, and it's something I did not want to do. It's something my mother made me do, and I'm so glad she made me do it, because once I got in the habit of doing it, I've never ever wanted to stop. And that is I read my Bible every day. Every day I read my Bible.
Now, I'm just gonna give you testimony what it's done for me. I can testify that reading my Bible and getting into God's Word every day has saved me more heartache. It has given me more wisdom. It has protected me from more mistakes. It has infused me with more comfort. It has provided me with more encouragement than anything I have ever done in my entire life. Now, if you're not in the habit of reading your Bible, and let's be honest, every day... most of us are not. We know that from all the statistics out there. If you're not in the habit of reading your Bible every day, one of the following, at least one, if not all or more of the following, have to be true about you.
Now, this is assuming you believe the Bible is the Word of God. If you don't believe the Bible is the Word of God, I get it. I understand. I can understand why you'd say, "Well, why do I read a book I don't even believe it's true"? Okay, I get that, but assuming that you believe the Bible is the Word of God, if you're not in the habit of reading your Bible every single day, one of the following must be true. You either believe your body is more important than your soul, or you believe that the material is more important than the spiritual, or you believe you can make it on your own and you can do life by yourself, and you really don't need God's help to get through a day, or you believe what God has to say is just not that important. It's just not that big a deal. Now, I'm sure many of you right now are going, "I don't believe any of those things. I deny all of it. None of that is true about me".
Then I have a simple question: if none of those things are true about you and you're denying everything that I just said, then the simple question is why wouldn't you daily get into the Bible? I mean, if you believe that what God says is a big deal, if you don't think you can make it on your own, if you believe your soul is more important than your body and the spiritual is more important than the material, why wouldn't you get into the Bible every single day? So, let me tell you what I'm gonna do up front, okay? I'm gonna give it my best shot. I'm going to attempt to do something today that someone attempted to do almost 2,700 years ago. I don't know who he was, but he wrote the longest chapter in the Bible. I want you to look over with me today. We're in the book of Psalms, and we're in Psalm 119, so if you brought a copy of God's Word, or wanna look on an iPad, or a phone, or whatever, we're in Psalm 119.
Now, let me tell you it's real easy to find if you have a Bible. It's Psalm. The Book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, and it's almost in the middle of the Bible, and Psalm 119 is almost the middle chapter in the Bible. Now, here is what's amazing about this psalm. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, it has 176 verses, and it's all about one thing: the Bible. It's a chapter all about the Bible, and when you read all 176 verses it doesn't take you, you know, very long to realize you get what this guy is trying to do, whoever wrote it. He is trying to motivate you to get you into the Bible and get the Bible into you. Full disclosure: I'm telling you right now that's what I'm gonna try to do this morning. I'm gonna try to so motivate you and inspire you and fire you up that you wouldn't even dare walk out of this building without thinking, "You know what? I need to get into my Bible every single day".
I'm gonna motivate you to fill your tank every day with the fuel of God's Word. Now, here is how easy and how simple that it is. Three things I'm gonna ask you to do. Number one, I'm gonna ask you to begin to look to the Bible. Just look to the Bible. Now, there is one thing the Bible has in common with every other book that's ever been written in history, and it's this: this book is useless if you don't open it and you don't read it. Take the greatest classics that have ever been written in the history of the world. It can be fiction, it can be nonfiction, it can be historical, it can be non-historical, it can be a business book, it can be a romantic novel, it can be a book on leadership, doesn't matter, it can be, you know, a great, great history book. If you don't open it and you don't read it, it's absolute useless.
The same thing is true about this book. If you're not going to open it and you're not going to read it, if you're not going to unlock it, it's not gonna do you any good. It's like having a treasure chest full of silver and gold. No good if you keep it locked, if you don't open it and you don't take it and you don't use it, so the psalmist says in verse 18, "Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law". Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law. It's amazing to me that more Bibles exist today than have ever existed in the history of the world. Here is our problem: we've got more Bibles in more homes, and we've got more Bibles in more hands than we've ever had before, and yet we've got less Bible in less hearts.
More Bibles in the home, more Bibles in the hand, but less Bible in the heart, and yet the vast majority of people who say, "Well, I believe this book, and I love the God of this book," the vast majority are suffering what I call scriptural anorexia, spiritual malnutrition. They're not feeding from this book. I mean, the psalmist says, "Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things," and the Hebrew word there gives us a picture of a treasure chest full of jewels. He says there are treasure-troves full of truth in God's Word, boxes full of jewels. They're just waiting to be opened, and he's saying all God wants us to do, would you just open your eyes? Would you just open it? Would you just look at it and look at all the wonderful things in it?
So, I wanna challenge you with a thought. I want you to think about something. There is not a day in your life that you don't need to hear from God. There is not a day in your life that you don't need to tune your ear and listen to what God has to say, and let me tell you why. The best place in life to be is in God's presence, and the best way to get into God's presence is to get into God's Word. The best place in life to be is in God's presence. Who can deny that? And the best way to get into God's presence is to get into God's Word. Now, I know some of you are trying to think I'm really overselling this. I'm making too big of a deal out of it. Let me tell you why I know it's a big deal. There was a time when the nation of Israel was what we would call a theocracy, okay? God was in charge. They only had one King, and it was God.
Well, the people of Israel got kinda restless, and they went to God, and they said, "You know what? We wanna be like every other nation. Every other nation has a king. We want a king". What they really were saying to God was, "You're not good enough. We want somebody else. We really want to have another king". So, God says, "Okay, I'm gonna warn you. You may get what you want and not want what you got. You want another king, I'm gonna give you another king". However, before God gave them a king, he said, "Now, there are certain requirements I'm gonna give a king. If that king is going to be a good king and a godly king and a wise king there are certain requirements that that king has to meet". Now, I'm gonna read something. I bet many of you did not, you're just gonna go, "I didn't know that was there". God said this ought to be true of every king that would rule over the nation of Israel.
Now, listen to this. "When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law". What law? God's law. The Word. "Taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of his law and all of these decrees". Now, think about that. God said, "Any king that you choose, here is what I require. I want that king to sit down, and I want him in his own hand to make a personal copy of this law. Furthermore, I want that king to take that book with him everywhere he goes". It's American Express. You don't leave home without it. "And furthermore," he says, "I want that king to read this book every single day".
Now, think about it. Imagine if we said to the president of the United States, which may not be a bad idea, "We want you to write out a copy of the Constitution in your own handwriting, and we want you to carry that copy with you everywhere you go, and we want you to read something out of that constitution every single day". That's exactly what God required of the king. Now, here is my point. If God required a king, a king, the most powerful, the most influential person in the entire nation, if God said to him, "You read this book every day if you wanna rule this nation right," how much more should we be reading the Bible every day to rule our life right? He said, "Every day you get into this book".
And, by the way, I can tell you personal experience what happens when you open this book and you look at it. I've seen it. God will open up principles, and God will open up precepts, and God will open up practices that will enhance you. They will enrich you. They will enable you to be better than you ever thought you could be, to do more than you ever thought you could do, and to take you places where you never thought you could go, and be happier than you ever thought you could imagine. You know, I just wanna say this real quick. I got thinking the other day as I was going over this message. One of the saddest things that's happened to me as a pastor, and it happened when I first started pastoring, and it's happened throughout my ministry. It really is. It's kinda heartbreaking. It's I'll get up, and I'll preach, you know, on something, whatever, and I'll get through, and inevitably somebody will come up to me, and they'll say something like this. They'll say, "You know, I wish I knew that before I got married. I wish I had known that before I had kids. I wish I had known that before I drew my first paycheck".
And I never do say this 'cause I don't wanna sound, you know, like Baker Mayfield, but you know what I wanna say to people like that? Can I just be honest? "It was all right there before you. You didn't have to wait on me to tell you. All I'm telling you is what God told me. I'm just the messenger boy. You could have gotten it for yourself". It's all right there. It's all waiting for you. You got to look to the Bible. That's step one, but it's not enough just to look to the Bible. Step two is you gotta learn from the Bible. You look to the Bible so you can learn from the Bible. Lemme tell you why. When you quit learning, you quit living. Let me tell you something. You know the old saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? That's why they're old dogs. You won't be an old dog if you'll be willing to learn new tricks. That's why people grow old. That's why they think old. They won't learn new.
When you quit learning, you quit living, and listen. I've learned there are always...no, always new truths to learn. Nobody knows it all. Some of you young people, that we've had young people that are leaving. They're going back to college. In fact, we've got some, it's hard to believe, we got some of our students that left four years ago. They're gonna graduate this year, and I've already had one of their parents say to me, "You know, they think that when they graduate from college, school's out". I got news for you. When you graduate from college, school just starts. You think you quit learning. You never quit learning. You better not quit learning, 'cause when you quit learning you quit living, and there are no greater life lessons to be learned anywhere than from God's Word.
That's why the psalmist goes on to write this. He said, "I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your," now this is a big word, "righteous laws". Why should I learn the Bible? Why should I not just look at it? Why should I learn it? Because when I'm learning what's in this book, I'm learning something that's righteous. Now, the word "righteous" has a double meaning. It means, double one, it's always true, so it always tells the truth. And number two, it's always right. It is never wrong. Now, I'm gonna give an illustration, very practical. I go to this book, and I learn lesson after lesson after lesson. How can you have a good marriage? How can you be a good husband? How can you be a good wife? How can you be a good parent? How can you raise wise kids? How can you find good friends? How can you be a good friend? How do you handle your enemies? How do you deal with conflict? How do you manage your money? How do you face the storms of life?
There's all these lessons that I'll read in this book and let me tell you the great news. You ready for this? They worked 2,000 years ago, they work today, and they'll work 2,000 years from now. They're always relevant. They're always right. They're always on target. They never steer you wrong. As a matter of fact, this book is so great and the truths in it are so life changing. Let me tell you this. They'll not only teach you how to live. They'll teach you how to die, because the psalmist later on in verse 33 wrote these words: "Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end". To the end of what? To the end of life, 'cause you're gonna find as you grow older it's just true. It's true about everybody. You think about dying. You think about it more. You don't think about dying when you're 10, 20, maybe 30, but I'm telling you at 40, 50, 60 you start thinking about dying, and you all of a sudden realize, "You know what? I've got a lot less rope toward the end than I had at the beginning.
And you know something else? That rope is passing through my hands, and do you know what else is true? It's gonna be before I know it I'm not gonna have any more rope". I'm not ashamed to tell you if I happen to come to that point, and I don't know how it's gonna be, but I've had to meet one of those people that lay, they're laying on their deathbed, and they know they're going to die, and the doctors came in and basically told the family, "There is nothing else that you can do. You better kinda be saying your goodbyes and all of this". I'm not ashamed to tell you this. I want a Word from the God that put me here. I want a Word from the God that created me. I want the God that gave me physical life, and I wanna hear a Word from God that's got life for me in the life to come, but lemme just stop.
This is where even people that read their Bible, they kinda stop here. Well, they read it, some memorize Scripture, but they never take the third step, and there are some of you right now and I promise you there is, I don't know who you are, but you're saying, "You know what? I do read my Bible. I do look to it, and I've learned from it, and, you know, I've memorized Scripture, but I've never had real victory in my life, and I still can't hit on all the cylinders, and I don't know what the problem is". Well, the problem probably is you don't take the third step, which is the most important step. The reason why you look to the Bible and the reason why you should learn from the Bible is so that you can live out the Bible, that you could actually put it into practice, 'cause you can't just look to the Bible, and you can't just learn from the Bible. You gotta live it out, so the psalmist says this, "How can a young person stay on the path of purity"?
I want my kids to be pure. I want my grandchildren to be pure. You're a parent, a good parent, you want the same thing for your kids. You're a grandparent, you want the same thing for your grandchildren. Yeah, I want my kids, I want them to live a good, holy, godly, decent life. How do you do that? "By living," not looking to, not learning from, "by living according to your word". See, you can love the Bible, you can look at the Bible, you can listen to the Bible, you can learn from the Bible, but I wanna tell you right now this book will not change your life that much until you start living out the Bible, until you start saying, "You know what? I'm not only gonna read it. I'm not only gonna hear it. I'm gonna do what it tells me to do". Later on James, the Lord's brother, wrote these words. Some of you remember them. He said, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says". That's interesting. He said, "Do you know what? If all you ever do is open it, you're deceiving yourself. If all you ever do is just look at it, you're deceiving yourself. If all you ever do is just learn from it, you're deceiving yourself". He said, "You haven't really plugged in until you start living it out".
See, here is what we like to do. We love to claim the promises of the Bible, and we love to enjoy the blessings of the Bible, and we love to get peace from the Bible. We just don't want to obey the commandments of the Bible. We just wanna listen to it. The Latin word for "listen" is the word that gives us the word "audit". Now, if you were in college, I did this one time. If you ever audited a class, you know how that works, right? You go to class, and you sit there, and you look. You listen to what everybody else is listening to. You're taking notes or what everybody else is taking notes from. You're learning the same thing that they're learning. The difference is when the class is over you don't have to do any homework. You don't have to apply any of what you learned. You don't have to write any papers. You just listen, and you just took notes, and that's why you don't get any credit for that class, 'cause you don't get credit for what you look to or learn from or listen to. You get credit for actually living it out.
God says you know what? The same thing is true. You don't get any credit for just looking to it. You don't getting credit from just learning from it. You get credit when you live it out. The same thing is so true, 'cause it's one thing to look at it, and you should. It's one thing to learn from it, and you should, but what really makes a difference in your life is when you say, "I'm going to live it out". That's when the Bible becomes powerful. That's when the fuel starts the engine. That's when the spark ignites the fire. That's why I've come to this point. I wanna ask you a super tough question. What's gonna have the final say in your life? And how you're gonna live your life this year when you're cornered, when you're forced to face reality, when your back is up against the wall, when you've gotta make a decision in a given situation, when you've gotta decide, "Am I gonna do this or do that? Am I gonna take this path or take that path"? My simple question is who's gonna call that shot?
There is a professor at North Carolina University. He's a distinguished professor of religion. His name is Dr. Bart Ehrman. Some of you may have heard of him. Some maybe you've not. His name is Bart Ehrman. He's really popular. He's really well-read. All his books sell like hot cakes, and the reason is because he claims at one time he was an evangelical Christian like you and I. He claimed to be a follower of Jesus. He actually, he went to two very conservative colleges, but by the time he got out of Princeton Theological Seminary he had abandoned the faith, he had become basically an agnostic, and he's a very, very, very harsh critic of the Bible and a very, very harsh critic of pastors like me, and a very, very harsh critic of evangelical Christians like us, okay? I mean, he has really gone the other extreme.
Well, Dr. Ehrman, it's hard to get into his class. People love him. He's a very engaging professor, and so you have to sign up early. You can't get into his class. They limit it to 300 students, so in his book, one of the books that he wrote, he tells the story of how he begins every class, and I want you to listen to what he says, 'cause I thought, "Man, he couldn't say it any better than...I couldn't say it any better than that". I want you to listen to what he says. He said, "The first day of class, with over 300 students present, I ask: 'How many of you would agree with the proposition that the Bible is the inspired Word of God?' Whoosh! Virtually everyone in the auditorium raises their hand. I then ask, 'How many of you have one or more of the Harry Potter books?' Whoosh! The whole auditorium. Then I ask, 'And how many of you have read the entire Bible?' Scattered hands, a few students here and there. I always laugh, and I say, 'Okay, I'm not saying that I think God wrote the Bible. You're telling me that you think God wrote the Bible. I can see why you might wanna read a book by J.K. Rowling, but if God wrote a book wouldn't you want to see what he has to say?'"
How do you argue with that? And, yes, more people read Harry Potter than read the Bible. More Christians read their newspaper than read the Bible. More Christians read fiction and romantic novels than read the Bible, but Dr. Ehrman is right on target. "So, you really believe this book is the inspired Word of God? You really believe God wrote these words"? "Yeah, I really do". Then why wouldn't you want to see what he has to say? So, I close with this. So, why wouldn't you and why should you? And why don't we all start first thing tomorrow? Why don't we say, "You know what? Yeah, let's read a book that tells the greatest story ever told, about the only Savior who ever came to take care of the greatest problem the world has ever had by conquering sin, death, and the grave so we could have the only life worth living in this world and eternal life in the world to come"? Yeah, why don't we start tomorrow, if not today, and why don't we fill our tank with the fuel that will leave us never empty again?