Robert Jeffress - The ABC's of Spiritual Hygiene
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory where the Bible is the centerpiece of our program every single day and for good reason. For one, we know that the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to accomplish the will of God in our lives. But in order for that to happen, first we have to read the Bible. Today, I want to show you four ways to make God's word a part of your everyday life. My message is titled "The ABC's of Spiritual Hygiene" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You know, most of us talk about good game when it comes to the Bible. We all say, oh, yes, the Bible is important for our spiritual growth, we are ready to argue with anybody who doubts the in-errancy, the inspiration of the scripture, we're happy to fight about the Bible but the deep, dark, dirty secret of Christianity is that very few Christians are actually reading the Bible.
Now, Charles Spurgeon more than a half a century and a half ago, roared to his congregation, "You know, more about your ledgers than you know about the Bible, you know more about your day books than what God has written. Many of you will read a novel from beginning to end and what have you got? A mouth full of froth when you are finished. But you cannot read the Bible, that solid, lasting, substantial and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect. I believe it is that neglect of reading the Bible that explains why so few Christians are experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives".
In our series on unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit in your everyday life, we've said that there are four channels, four conduits through which God pours his power or into our life. And the first of those channels is the Word of God. Remember what we said? We said, the Spirit of God, uses the Word of God to unleash the power of God, to transform us into the image of God. Now, I'm going to assume this morning that most of you here today realize you should really be reading the Bible more than you are, okay? Can we all agree on that? We ought to be reading the Bible more than we are. My purpose today is not to load on a heap of guilt to your already buckling shoulders, okay? Instead, what I'd like to do today is give you some practical ways that you can make God's word a part of your everyday life.
I'm calling today's message, the ABC's of spiritual hygiene. If we're going to get cleaned spiritually and become like Christ, we all agree. God's word is essential. But how do we make God's word a part of our everyday life? Now, take out your outline, I want you to write these ABC's down. First of all, let's start with a. To give God's word the place in your life it deserves, first of all, the a stands for appreciate the uniqueness of the Bible. You will never make God's word a part of your everyday life until you realize how unique and different this book is from any other book. God's word is God's complete revelation of himself so that we can know him and have a relationship with him. But even though you may believe that this Bible is the Word of God, to really be convinced that it's different from any other book, there are two things you have to come to grips with.
First of all, you have to believe in, write it down, the trustworthiness of the Bible. To really appreciate this book, you have to believe that it's true, that it's trustworthy. How do we know that this book really is God's letter to us? That it's different from any other book? Let me just give you this morning two evidences for the trustworthiness of scripture. First of all, the unity of theme in the Bible, the unity of theme. The Bible was composed by 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years, in three different languages and most of those 40 authors did not know another. And yet there is one theme that is found from Genesis to revelation and that theme is the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.
How do you explain that? 40 different authors writing over 1500 years in three different languages, authors who didn't know one another and yet they all have the same theme. There is no way to explain the unity of theme in the scripture when the Bible written over centuries of time by dozens of different writers. There's no way you can explain it except God is the author of this book. The unity of themes that you find in the Bible.
Secondly, a second evidence for the trustworthiness of scripture is archeology. Now, again, I wish I had time to talk about all of the archeological evidence for the scriptures. I think we need to be careful to realize archeology cannot in and of itself prove the trustworthiness of the Bible. For archeology to prove that the Bible is true it means that you would have to find archeological evidence for every single event in the Bible. That hasn't been done and that will not be done. However, the important thing to note is this any archeological discovery that has ever been made has only confirmed the trustworthiness of scripture. There is not one single archeological find that has in any way contradicted the truth of the Bible.
Through archeology we have confirmed things like the wall that was built around Jericho or remember in 1993 a monument was discovered that had the inscription of king David being the king of Israel. In 1961, the stone was discovered there, a tablet that listed Pontius Pilate as being the Roman preferred, when Jesus Christ was crucified. Before 1961, there was no external evidence for the existence of Pontius Pilate. 1990, it was discovered the Caiaphas stone that listed Caiaphas as the high priest when Jesus lived and was crucified. Every single piece of archeology has only confirmed the trustworthiness of the Bible.
What I'm saying to you is you will never make this Bible central in your life until you're first of all convinced of the trustworthiness of scripture, but secondly, you have to be convinced of the completeness of the Bible, the completeness of the Bible. In other words, how do I know for sure that this is God's complete and final word to me? There are a lot of Christians out there who view this book as a collection of old love letters. They think this book is filled with previous communication from God that is sweet and helpful, but it's old, it's irrelevant. And so, instead they're looking for fresh revelation from God. They want to hear it a new word from God rather than what is written in this book.
So, the question is, is God giving new information, new revelation about himself? Well, let's let the Bible answer that question. Turnover to Jude 3. Jude is the next to the last book of the Bible. If you're not careful, you can miss it real quickly cause there's only one chapter in it. Look at Jude 3 and let's settle this issue of new revelation about God once and for all. Jude writes, "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints".
You ever hear people say, "Well, we shouldn't fight about doctrine, we shouldn't argue for the truth, we ought to be Caspar milquetoast you know, when it comes to the truth of the Bible". No, Jude says we need to contend for, we need to fight for the faith, that body of doctrine which was, notice this, once for all delivered, past tense, to the saints. Jude is saying everything, every truth you need to know about God has already been delivered to the saints and deposited in the Bible. There is no new truth or revelation or information about God that's being given. It has been once for all recorded and delivered to the saints. Peter said the same thing.
And see, 2 Peter 1:3. Look a this, "Seeing that God's divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and Godliness through the true knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence". In other words, you have everything you need right now in order to live a godly life, you have everything you need to know everything about God you need to know. Now, the b stands for this. Be committed to you mean the Bible. If God's word is going to unleash God's power in your life, you have to be committed to reading the Bible. I came across this statistic this week, I thought was fascinating.
Did you know that 82% of Americans say they believe the Bible is the Word of God. 82% of Americans believe this book is a Word of God. And yet of those 82% who believed the Bible is the Word of God, only half that number say they read the Bible at least once a month. And of the half the read the Bible once a month half of those could not name one of the four Gospels or identify who delivered the sermon on the mount. No wonder we're not experiencing the power of God in our life. If we're going to experience God's power, we have to be committed to a regular intake of God's word. And to do that, we need two things. First of all, we need discipline. If you're going to make God's word a part of your everyday life, it requires discipline.
I've heard a lot of definitions of discipline but here's my favorite, discipline is doing what you know you should do even when don't feel like doing it. Discipline is doing what you know you should do even when you don't feel like doing it. Remember this, it is a lot easier to act yourself into a feeling than to feel yourself into an action. If you wait until you feel like it to start reading the Bible you can go longer than you can ever imagine without ever opening the Bible. Instead if you will act yourself into the feeling, if you'll just do it even when you don't feel like doing it, you'll find soon you realize how spiritually hungry you are. In order to make God's word a part of our everyday life we need discipline. But secondly, we need a plan. We need a plan to make the Bible a part of our everyday life.
Now, there are all kinds of plans out there. Some people like to read through the Bible in a year, other people like the method that I use and that is find a book of the New Testament, take a book and read it once a day, every day for the entire month. By the way, did you know two-thirds of the books of the old of the New Testament, two-thirds of the books of the New Testament can be read in 20 minutes or less. And if you know... If you read the same book of the Bible once a day for 30 days, by the end of that month you'll know that book backwards and forwards. And when you get to a longer book like Mathew or Romans just divide it into thirds. Read the first third one month, the second third the next month, the last third the last month. That's one way to make God's word a part of your everyday life. But beyond whatever plan you choose, a plan for reading scripture needs to have these two components to it. Write this down. First of all, there needs to be a specific time that you devote to reading the Bible, a specific time of the day.
Now, some people like to read in the mornings, that doesn't work for me. When I get up in the morning, I'm ready to get going. I don't want to sit down and try to read the Bible because I find myself rushing through it so I can get on to do what I think is really important, you know? We all can dilute ourselves into thinking certain things are important. So, I find myself that the best time to read the Bible is at night before I go to bed. I want the last thing I think about to be God's word. The key is whatever time works for you, devote a particular time to reading the scripture. We need a specific time.
Secondly, a fresh translation. A fresh translation of scripture. Have you ever heard the saying, familiarity breeds contempt? Familiarity also breeds boredom. When you read the same thing over and over and over again you can become bored with it. It can lose its punch. Many times if I'm reading a passage of scripture from my regular Bible, I'll read that scripture and then I'll look out and I'll read a note I made about it and I'll look maybe at a sermon that was delivered and I'll think about a pastor I liked or didn't like who delivered that message? And all of a sudden I'm thinking about things I shouldn't be thinking about instead of what God is trying to say to me.
A pastor friend gave me this suggestion, he said, "At the first of the year buy yourself a new translation of the Bible for your devotional reading". When you want God to really speak to you find a new translation. If you're used to the King James Bible, buy the new living translation of the Bible for your devotional reading for that year or the new international version or some different translation, it's a way to make God's word fresh in your life. Now, when I talk about commit yourself to reading the Bible every day I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, you know, pastor, that's easy for you to say because you're paid to read the Bible, but if you had a real job like we do, you know, you wouldn't find that easy to find time to read the Bible.
I understand that sentiment, but Gordon Gilkey has a great illustration of why we all have time to do whatever we need to do. He said, "Most people imagine their lives like this, they imagine themselves standing in a circle and they imagine all of these problems and challenges and people are rushing at them at one time while they stand in the middle of a circle". But he said, "That's really not a good picture of what our lives are like". Instead he said, "Imagine an hour glass on your desk. There's a bulb at the top with sand in it, there's a bulb at the bottom to collect the sand and there's a thin tube connecting the two bulbs and that sand comes through that thin tube one grain at a time". He said, "Your life is composed of moments and those moments don't come to you all at once, they come one moment at a time and you get to choose what to do with those moments".
The Bible says, "If we're going to make a wise use of our life, we need to invest that, those moments into things that will last". You can choose to make the Bible a part of your everyday life. Be committed to reading the Bible. The c, number three stands for concentrate on smaller sections of the Bible. A lady approached her pastor one day and said, "Preacher, I want you to know I have been through the Bible 50 times in my life". The preacher looked at her and said, "Lady, the issue is not how many times have you been through the Bible, but how many times has the Bible been through you"? See, that's why I have a problem with these read through the Bible in a year program. I do it occasionally, but I mean, let's face it, don't you find yourself a lot of time just trying to rush through it so you can say, I did my assignment for today? I tell people the Bible took 1500 years to write, why do we feel like we have to go through it in a year? I mean, isn't it better to concentrate on smaller sections of the Bible so that God's word can truly speak to you?
Years ago, Madame Guyon wrote, "If you read the Bible quickly it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depth of the flower, you plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar". And that leads to D, determine to listen and follow God's commands, determined to listen and follow God's commands. When Madame Guyon talks about extracting the nectar from the truth of God's word, what is she talking about? That nectar is the timeless principles you find in scripture that apply to your life. Remember the purpose of reading the Bible is not information, it's transformation. It's to make you like Jesus Christ. And so, when we read the Bible we ought to always read it with a view toward application. How does this passage apply to my life?
Now, some people try to short circuit that process, they'll try to immediately look at a Bible verse and say, "Okay, what's that saying to me? What do I need to do"? I read a story about a man who was trying to decide which branch of the service to enlist in, the army, the air force, which branch he was going to enlist in. And so, he thumbed through the Bible and he came to Psalm 107:23. "They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters". He said, "Aha, God wants me to enlist in the navy, there it is right there in the scripture".
Well, obviously that's not the purpose of Psalm 107 to tell us what branch of the service to enlist. When you pull back and read the complete Psalm, it's talking about the goodness, the power of God. God's goodness is poured power upon everybody in the world including those who go down to the sea and do their business in the waters. That's the purpose of Psalm 107. If we're going to read the Bible correctly, when we finish reading a passage, we ought to ask ourself, what does this passage, first of all, teach us about God or ourselves? What are the timeless truths? And then after we discovered that timeless truth about God, we ought to ask the next question, what am I going to do differently as a result of this truth that I've discovered?
Let me illustrate that for you. We read just a few moments ago Ephesians 5, "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it". The timeless truth in that passage is we are to love our wives with the same sacrificial love with which Christ loves us. Now, that's the truth. But if we stop short there we haven't really allowed the Bible to do transforming work. We ought ask ourselves the question then after that, okay, given that truth, what am I going to do differently because of that truth? How am I going to love my wife in a selfless, sacrificial way? What am I going to do differently? Maybe it means that I offered to take the kids to school in the morning so my wife can sleep a little later or maybe I offered to take her out to dinner several times during the week so she doesn't have to prepare a meal. Maybe it means that I make the ultimate sacrifice, spend Saturday at the mall with her instead of watching a game on television.
See, that's really the purpose of scripture, not information but transformation. What am I going to do differently because of the truth of God's word? Author John Stott writes, I don't want you to miss this, "If we come to the scriptures with our minds made up expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God's thoughts, then indeed God will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices". Now, get this, we must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior. Overthrowing our patterns of thought and behavior, that's the radical transformation God wants in your life. The Spirit of God, using the Word of God to transform you into the image of God. That's the washing of the water with the word.