James MacDonald sermon: The Discipline of Personal Bible Study

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Transcript of James MacDonald sermon: The Discipline of Personal Bible Study

James MacDonald: Hey Harvest, great to be with you this weekend. I'm so excited to get into God's word with you. Before I do, a couple of really exciting announcements. Number 1, Harvest Aurora starts today. All you other Harvest campuses why don't we just raise our voices and say how excited we are about all of this coming to pass, all right?

Congratulations to Craig Steiner and his family and the church family. A lot of people have sacrificed, stepped up by faith and people are going to get saved, I say even prophetically. People are going to get saved, and lives are going to be changed because we have stepped up by faith and responded to God's call to Aurora so congratulations on that great milestone.

Hey all you men in Aurora, as well as all of you men on all of our Harvest campuses in Crystal Lake and Niles and [Elgin 00:00:50], and here in Rolling Meadows, Chicago North. Get to Elgin next Saturday morning. The details are in your bulletin but I've got a word for you, all right? I have a word for you to say to your wife, to your family, I've got to church, [inaudible 00:01:01] got a word for me. If that little registration to cover the lunch and stuff is a cost problem you, call my office this week, I will make that happen for you. I want to see you there, let's fill the house, and I really believe there's something on my heart God wants me to share with you. You're going to be blessed and encouraged and strengthened. Get there, you'll be glad you did.

We're going to turn out attention to God's word now. Last week I just was so blown away by you guys so open hearted, so genuine, so sincere in the way that you received the word about hypocrisy. It was hard to teach that, but our series is called Authentic, Developing the Disciplines of a Sincere Faith. You can't appreciate the light until you know what it's like to be in the darkness. You've got to see the problem before you can embrace the solutions. We don't want to be hypocritical, we want to be authentic.

Authentic isn't something you feel first, it's something you do. Do it first, feel it later. We're going to develop the disciplines of a sincere faith. Authentic, Developing the Disciplines of a Sincere Faith. [00:02:00] We're going to be in psalm on 19, but before we get there, let's just begin.

Father, thank you for the privilege of calling upon your name. Thank you that in your great wisdom you have made yourself known to us. Grip our hearts afresh with the reality that you have written a book that reveals your heart, your will, your way to us. Thank you God that you have made us in such a way that we are nourished by it's truth. Thank you father that you have sent your spirit into this world to guide us into this truth. We feel his pursuit when we neglect it, and we sense your spirit's pleasure when we absorb it and devour it.

Immerse our church afresh in this important discipline. The discipline of your word. This I pray in the strong and precious name of Jesus, amen. Amen? Do you agree?

All right, well get a Bible then. Let's open our Bible's together to psalm 19. If you've been coming to Harvest for awhile, you know that normally we are in one passage for the whole message. That's not going to be the case here. I'm going to hear the lovely sound of Bible pages turning. That is my favorite sound in all the world, to see God's people opening God's word. We're going to turn to some passages.

I want to suggest that you need to do 3 things in developing the discipline of God's word. Here's the first one, this is kind of obvious, you need to pick it up. If you don't have a Bible, share with a person beside you, reach down to the chair in front of you there. Let's all hold up a Bible, do you have a Bible in your hand? Let's hold that up. Do you have one? Look at all those Bible's, isn't that great? Let's hold up the word of God together. That's the first thing that everyone has to do is you have to actually pick it up. You have to actually pick it up.

The Bible ... Do you know what you have, do you know what you're holding? Do you have any sense of that at all? The Bible, actually, is beyond any other book. It's not even worthy to be [00:04:00] compared. I have some specific quotes in this regard, many could be given if you study any secular literature at all. George Washington said it is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. John Quincy Adams, another president said, so great is my veneration of the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society.

Many other examples could be given. Charles Dickens said, the New Testament is the very best book that ever will be known or written in the world. Andrew Jackson said, that book sir is the rock upon which our Republic rests. Abraham Lincoln said, I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower said, to read the Bible is to take a trip to a fair land where the spirit is strengthened and faith is renewed. I've been reading recently, Decision Points by George Bush and he has many things to say about the importance of God's word in his life and his thinking.

Great men, great women, great people have found their greatness through being affected by this great book. The first thing you have to do is pick it up. While it's exciting to hear what people have to say about the Bible, I don't think there's really any better way to appropriately understand what we've picked up and comprehend what we're holding than to look at what God's word has to say about itself. Psalm 119 is the longest statement in all of scripture about the Bible and its value. Many, many, many verses there about there. A good summary of that is in psalm 19. Let's look at that together, starting in verse 7. Here we have 6 titles of scripture, 6 descriptions of scripture, and 6 results of [00:06:00] scripture.

Look at the first one, psalm 197. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. Jot this first one then down, it transforms us. Let's pick it up and see what it does for us. God's word, it transforms us. It transforms me. It transforms you. That's what this statement is saying. Look at it again in your Bible. The law of the Lord. The law is the word there. [Torah 00:06:34], law for life, rule for living. God's word is the norm, it is the standard by which every other truth is measured or assessed. Notice it's the law of the Lord. Think about through the centuries how men have laid down their laws, men have laid down their rules. This is the way society should be governed, this is the way that things should be done. People come and people go, but the law of the Lord remains.

Notice there also in verse 7, the law of the Lord is ... What does it say, everyone say it. The law of the Lord is, what's it say?

Many Speakers: Perfect.

James MacDonald: The law of the Lord is perfect. That kind of summarizes it doesn't it? That word means literally all-sided, many-faceted, all-encompassing, comprehensive. The law of the Lord is so perfect, notice that it revives, or one translation is that it converts the soul. Your soul, just go like this. Your soul is the inner part of you. It's the immaterial part of you. You understand that you're not just a physical person, there's a part of you that is spiritual, there's a part of you that will live forever. That's the part of you that needs to be converted.

I'll tell you, I've been so blessed to pastor this church for so many years and one of the things that blows my mind, I hardly ever reference this, but I see it every weekend. There's a guy that I have in [00:08:00] my mind. When I'm making my message I think about this guy. Privately, I hope this doesn't offend you, but I call this guy Joe Screwdriver. That's the guy that comes to Harvest. Joe Screwdriver. Regular guy, work in his garage, kicking around, trying to make life work.

He comes to Harvest and the first week he's like this. I'll tell you, when weeks become months, and months become seasons, I see God's word transform Joe Screwdriver. First he unbends his arms, then he leans forward. At the beginning he's like, I'm not singing dude. I'm flat out not singing. You can't make me sing, I'm going to show you I don't like what's happening right now. We watch the guy. We watch God change the heart of people. Here's how he does it. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. God's word is so powerful. This is what you're holding, pick it up. God's word is so powerful that it's able to take an unsaved, [unregenerated 00:09:03], uninterested, hard hearted Joe Screwdriver, and absolutely turn that guy's life around. Put him on his head, raise him up a new person.

That's an awesome thing by itself why we would pick up God's word. God's word transforms us. How many people could say that God's word has transformed them. How many people could say, I'm a different person because of the impact Go'd sword has made in my life.

Here's the second thing, and how needed this is. God's word gives us wisdom. Notice at the end of verse 7 the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The word here testimony, it pictures God as witnessing to himself. If you want to know what God's like, it's nice to near from people, but what about God himself taking the witness stand. God saying, this is what I'm like, this is who I am, this is what I [00:10:00] will do for you. The testimonies of the Lord is God bearing witness to himself.

Here's what it says about that, the testimony of the Lord is sure. It's reliable, it's durable. [NIV 00:10:16] says that it's trustworthy. It's similar actually to the verb that is translated amen. Let's all say it, the testimony of the Lord is amen, say it. The testimony of the Lord is?

Many Speakers: Amen.

James MacDonald: Let's say that together, that's fantastic. The testimony of the Lord is sure, it is amen. It is reliable. Here's the thing, you're like, how reliable is it exactly. I'd like to answer that question. The testimony of the Lord is so sure that it makes wise the simple. The problem with Joe Screwdriver, and we've all been that person. Just turn to your neighbor and say, you were that person. We've all been that person. The problem isn't just that we're stubborn and hard hearted, the problem is that we're simple, we're foolish. The idea of this word simple is actually taken from a word that is the idea of openness. To be open or to be spread out. The simple person, biblically, is the person who is easily led astray.

Their mind is like a house with the front door open, and the back door open. A thought comes in, and the simple person is like, that's amazing, I think that's what I'll spend my life on, and then another thought blows in, they're like, I want to be this guy now. Have you seen this latest book from Oprah, have you seen this latest thought, I just was at Barnes and Nobles and I got this how to fix my life thing and this simple person can't hang onto what matters. They don't have the capacity to feel the weight of what is substantive and feel the absent of what is [00:12:00] light and fluffy and foolish. They have no discernment. Now, that's a big problem, and we were all that person. The testimonies ... I've got to get my Bible in my hand again. The testimonies of the Lord are so sure, that they can take a foolish, vacillating, discerning person, and make them wise.

My friend Joe, he used to be ... He's so wise now. The things that he says, the insight that he has, the understanding that ... Where did this come from? We know where it came from. The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.

Now check this. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. God's word, it transforms us, it gives us wisdom, here's the 3rd thing, from the beginning of verse 8. It gives us joy. God's word brings joy to our hearts. Notice again, I'm not making these things up, right? They're coming from the Bible. Are you looking at your Bible? I don't sit in my office and say, what should I say about the Bible? No, we're looking into the word to see what God says himself about this book he's given us. Here he says, the precepts of the Lord are right. The idea here is that some translations here have statutes or precepts ... It's the idea of divine principles. God's rulings, God's prescriptions and pronouncements, God's charges ... The world has a lot of principles. Can you think of some principles that the world has? Anybody? What are some things the world says?

The world says [00:14:00] you only go around once. You've got to go for all you can get. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, everybody knows, shame on me. There's all these kind of, honestly, stupidisms that cronies revel in that are really such nonsense. When you put those things up beside God's word, notice the precepts of the Lord ... Here's the bottom line, they're right. They're right. Who's right? Everyone say God is, lift up your voice and say that God is right.

Many Speakers: God is right.

James MacDonald: God is the one who's right. The precepts say there's no discussion anymore. Well, let's have a debate, you know, is the latest atheistic tripe, is that right? Tell me who's right.

Many Speakers: God is right.

James MacDonald: God's right. The precepts of the Lord, they're right all the time. That's a pretty phenomenal thing to have in your hands but the best part of this is, that they're so right that they rejoice your heart. That's such a summary of my life. I was a stupid, foolish, pot smoking, rebellious teenager. The first thing that changed about me, was I gave this book a chance. It caused my heart to rejoice. It gave me a joy that I had never experienced before, like the disciples when they were walking with Jesus on the road to [Hmayus 00:15:46], and the Bible says that, Luke 22, that he expounded unto them from the scriptures, all the things concerning himself. When he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread and he left them, this was their comment, they said, did not our hearts burn within [00:16:00] us while we walked with him on the road, and while he expounded to us from the scriptures all the things concerning himself?

That's how I got to be in training for ministry and a youth pastor and seminary and then started this church. All that was going on there was the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. God, stirring a joy within me, in his word. Something I had never really experienced before. It transforms us, it gives us wisdom, it brings us joy.

Notice at the end of verse 8, and this is so needed. God's word dispels the darkness. Notice that it says, the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Obviously part of God's word is commands. Are you okay with that? I'm fine with God telling me certain things. I trust him. God's like, do this and you'll be blessed, do that, you'll suffer for that. We always say, choose the sin, choose the suffer. Every time God says don't, he means don't hurt himself. I've been saying that so many times I hear the echo even when I'm not saying it. Those are important truths. God's word is a commandment. It's a commandment that is so pure ... Actually I wish that word had been translated there clear. It's clear, it's not cloudy, it's not uncertain. It's obvious.

Hey look up here for a minute. A lot of people have the sense that the Bible is a puzzle. This Christmas, the family knows that I am very famous when we're unwrapping present that I'll get a little puzzle and I'll get over here in the corner and I'll spend like 4 hours figuring out this puzzle instead of enjoying the family. They're like, there's your box dad, do not open that. I didn't, and we had a great time together. Afterwards I had to get into these puzzles, but I haven't solved one of them yet. These little things all knotted up and you can't quite ... I'll bring one and show you, they're crazy maybe you can help me.

The Bible's [00:18:00] not like that. Just turn to your neighbor and say, it's not like that. The Bible's not like that, it's clear. You can understand it. It yields its message to the normal ... You don't pick up a magazine and go, I don't think I'm going to be able to figure this out. Be done with all the people who have put the Bible on such a high shelf that you feel like you can't get to it. There's not one person listening to me right now on any of our campuses who isn't in a position to understand the Bible. You can understand it. You can understand it, and be blessed by it, and be changed by it.

The commandment of the Lord is, let's say clear, enlightening the eyes. How many people could stand to give testimony if we set up microphones and say, I used to see it like this, but now I see it like this. I used to think about marriage this way, but then God's word, and now my eyes have been enlightened. I used to think about parenting like this, and all my thoughts about spanking and discipline and loving your kids, I had all these thoughts about it, but then God's word, it's so clear, the commands of the Lord. They enlightened my eyes. Absolutely. It dispels the darkness.

All right. Let's summarize where we've been and get 2 more things here. What a great passage. The law of the Lord is so comprehensive that it is able to totally transform the inner man. It transforms us. Number 2, the testimony, God's testimony about himself is so reliable, that it can take a vacillating simpleton, and make them skilled in daily living. God's word gives us wisdom. God's divine principles set a right path through the maze of life, so that it can cause our heart to experience joy. It brings us joy. The [00:20:00] commands of the Lord are so crystal clear that they bring light to the darkness in every human heart.

How many people, here even, this week, this month, you have had such darkness in you. Laid awake, you've tossed and turned, you've puzzled and fretted, and worried and paced about confusion, perplexity, fear, something up ahead, it's coming, I don't know what it is. God's word is the light that he's given to dispel that darkness in you. Pick it up. Do you know what you're holding? Do you understand the resource that's at your fingertips? Before you can ever rightly utilize God's word, you have to pick it up. 2 more things here from psalm 19 quickly. I noticed now we're in verse 9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The fear of the Lord is clean. The fear, of course, we've talked about this many times. The fear of God is just that, it's the fear of God. Don't let anybody tell you about, it's respect for God. Well, it becomes respect, but it starts off as fear. You say, well James are you afraid of God? Yeah, yeah. At the base I am. In my foundation, I am afraid that if I make the wrong decision, I know I'll experience the consequences. God is not mocked, I will sow what a reap, you will too.

I'm fearful of being on the wrong side of God. The fear of the Lord is the attitude of heart that seeks to be in a right relationship with the fear source. Here, God's word is being called the fear of the Lord, it's the understanding of who God is.

Do you remember the 2 thieves on the crosses with Jesus? One said, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus said, today I'll be with you in paradise, and the other guy was like, it's hard to believe but there he is, and the Son of God's being crucified right beside him and he says, if you're really God, why don't you get us down off these crosses. The one thief was so offended by the [00:22:00] other one, he yells around and says to him, don't you even fear God? We're here because of what we did, but this man has done nothing. He had a sense of who God was, and who he was. He wanted to be in a right relationship with him. That's the fear of the Lord.

Notice that the text says the fear of the Lord is clean. Without blemish, undiminished, consistently uncompromised, without dilution or defilement. It's full strength. It's not ... Everyone say, it's not watered down, say that.

Many Speakers: It's not watered down.

James MacDonald: It's not watered down. It's clean, it's pure, it's undiluted. Notice that the result is that it endures forever. It's a source of stability when circumstances shake our world. It endures forever. In every place, in every generation, in every century, in every millennium, this book has been a source of stability to all who turn to it. It can be that for you. It adds stability.

Lastly, this so resonates with my heart. It promises justice. Notice here in the text, it says, the rules of the Lord are true, and all together righteous. The rules, that means really the rulings. One translation says, the judgments of the Lord, God's verdicts, his pronouncements, his consequences, his decisive actions. Man acts, and then God acts. Man chooses wrong, God administers consequence and ultimately judgment. Man turns from that and repents, and beliefs, and God administers grace. These are the judgments of the Lord. Do A, get this result, always, do B, get this result, always. [00:24:00] The point here is that God's word, it transforms you, it gives you wisdom, it brings you joy, it dispels the darkness, it adds stability, and it promises justice.

I don't know about you, but one of the things that I find hardest to manage is that I have in my heart, a longing for justice. If I see something that's wrong, I want to make it right. If I see somebody do something they shouldn't do, I feel it in my heart ... Make that right God. If I read the paper or watch the news and I see that this rape or this murder or this awful kidnapping or this ... I was reading this morning about an abortion doctor who had, through years, since 1993, been a known murderer of babies, 8th month, 9 month, he would birth them live and then murder them. I want that fixed. I want that fixed. If you know what it is to have a longing in your heart for justice, you need to understand that God's word is those pronouncements.

What God thinks about everything that happens, what God will do about everything that happens, this is the word of God. The judgments of the Lord are true. Part of the problem is that we all know that criminal acts, bad person Y, if they go to court, how many people would agree, hold up your hand if you agree, that he probably won't get what he deserves. Probably is not going to get that. That's not the final court of appeal. In the end, God will balance the books of justice, and this is the declaration of his intent. That should comfort our hearts. We should leave these matters of vengeance with the Lord.

All that to say this, pick it up. [00:26:00] Oh that I could be God's Holy Spirit to you, and that you would pick up this book. Let's just talk, we've surveyed 100 people, and the top 4 answers are on the board to this question. Name a reason that people give for not picking up the Bible. I didn't just start thinking about this yesterday, you know that right? We've got to have a feeling why some of you, sometimes, why some of us, sometimes, don't pick up the Bible. I love this graphic, very nice, Family Feud. Say hello.

Number 4 answer is, ding, it's not interesting. That's clearly a statement from someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. How many times have you been in the Bible again? Well one time I read it in 4th grade. You need to give that another look, okay? You're not the person you were then. When your heart's right, when your heart's ready, God's word is gripping.

Number 3 answer, reason we don't read the Bible, I forget. I think that's a little more legit. I get up, I get busy. How many people have intended to get into the word and got onto their computer instead, in the last month? How many people have intended to get into God's word, but instead got into their cup of coffee and some little detail that had to be taken care of around the house? Put up your hand if you've done that. How many people have intended to get into God's word, but instead they got on their phone, and found out they got a text message from someone. Before they knew it it was noon, and they didn't do it. Put up your hand if you've done that. We all understand that intent doesn't always become reality. Reasons people give for not getting into God's word, I forget, I get off track.

Number 2 answer, I don't understand it. Well, it's hard for me to remember what that was like. I just want to say that I think that's legitimate. I think people genuinely feel that way, and I'm going to address that a little bit later in the message.

Lastly, reasons people give, number 1 answer, too busy. Not [00:28:00] great. Not great. If you're ... We all agree we're not too busy to do the things that really matter. If we're too busy to get into God's word, then clearly we are, what? Say it, if we're too busy to get into God's word, then we're what? We're too ... Correct. Turn to your neighbor and say that. Say, you're too ... Yeah you are. We all are. We're too busy if we're too busy to get into God's word. We're going to conquer some of these obstacles.

Here's the 2nd part of it, you have to pick it up, and secondly you have to size it up. You've got to actually know what you're holding in your hands to be able to appreciate it. In order to help you do that, we're going to do something we don't normally do here, we're going to turn to some Bible passages. Let's make that great sound, and turn all of us, can we, in our Bibles, look this verse up first of all. Jeremiah, chapter 5, verse 14. Jeremiah 5, 14 says this, behold I am making my words in your mouth a fire. This people wood, and the fire shall consume them. Other passages could be given, but this is the statement that God's word is fire. It's the idea that God's word is hot. It is aggressive, it is purifying. It is not to be trifled with. It consumes all of the obstacles in its path. It takes away the dross, and what is useless. I can't tell you how often I have got into God's word with my mind in a muddle. Straw and cobwebs and dust, and God's word vaporizes the nonsense in my thinking, and gets me on subject. That's the idea of God's word like a fire. It's a fire, everyone say it, [00:30:00] say, it's a fire.

Many Speakers: It's a fire.

James MacDonald: Here's the second thing, turning to the New Testament, toward the end of the New Testament, the book of Hebrews. Several years ago we went through this verse by verse, and taught on this exact passage, but Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12, says this ... Hebrews 4, 12 says, for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any ... There it is, do you see it? God's word is a sword. God's word is a sword. As kids, we used to do these sword drills. You ever do these in church? You had to hold up your Bible, and you had to hold it by the Spine, and then you had to give the reference, John 316, everyone charge. We practiced opening and finding the verse in our bible and the first kid would stand up, I've got it, I've got, and you'd get some little reward. I can remember my mom having us do that so often in Bible club and teaching kids. Here's the point. Not sword drills, the Bible is something, Hebrews 4 says, that it is living and active, sharper than any 2 edge sword, penetrating, or dividing, the joints and marrow. Getting right to the heart of the matter. Getting to the ... How often do we discuss things in our home or in the marketplace or in our small group and we're off in tangents and alleys and off on the side ... The word of God gets to the heart of the matter. That's a wonderful gift that God's given. It's a fire, it's a sword.

Back to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a wonderful spokesman for God, and much of what he said is about God's word. In Jeremiah 23, I'm turning to it just like you are. [00:32:00] Jeremiah 23, just to the right of the center of your Bible begin the major prophets Isaiah and then Jeremiah. Jeremiah chapter 23, verse 29, God says this through Jeremiah about his own word, he says, is not my word like fire? We've seen that already. Declares the Lord. Here's another thing, and like a, here it is, a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. God's word is like a hammer. How many people experience God's word like a hammer?

I was so stubborn. I remember a youth speaker coming to our church, it was maybe just a year after I had really given my life back to the Lord. One of the thing that had happened when I recommitted to the Lord was I lost one of my best friends. He just wasn't where I was, and he wanted to stay where we had been. I'll never forget this youth evangelist standing up. I was sitting over in this section here, and he was up in the balcony, this friend of mine. How shocked I was that as the word went out and thinking about him, his name was Dan, and praying for him, and then seeing Dan come right down the aisle and right down to the front and kneel at the front. Afterwards, when I talked to him, I didn't even know of this verse then, but afterwards when I talked to him, Dan said, he broke a hard rock tonight. He had seen the stubbornness in his own heart. Maybe you're here listening right now, or you're on one of our campuses, and your heart has become hard. Maybe your heart has become resistant.

Give God's word a chance. If you say, but I'm so stubborn, I'm so stubborn, open God's word, it is the hammer that will break the rock in pieces. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to let God's word do its work in your life? Pick it up, size it up. It's fire, it's a sword, it's a hammer.

Let's turn to first Peter. First Peter chapter 1, verse 23 says this [00:34:00] ... First Peter 1, 23, are you there? Everyone turning? Mark these in your Bible. He says, you have been born again, not as perishable seed, but of imperishable through the living and abiding word of God. Jesus told parables about the word of God being a seed and here Peter, who heard Jesus teaching, is repeating that message under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That the word of God is a seed.

When we say the word of God is a seed, what we say is ... This is why we're sizing it up right now. You look at this little book, and yet this truth has satisfied the greatest minds in human history. We're not even capable of framing questions that the Bible doesn't answer. It is so far beyond us. We have not ... The greatest student of scripture in our church has not begun to plumb the depths of what's in God's word. It can satisfy the greatest minds for a lifetime and beyond. That's why it's called a seed. It appears small, but we all know the power of a little seed and what it has the potential to become. How it can multiply and grow and spread. It's a wonderful picture God's given to us in his word. It's a seed. It starts small, it needs good soil, it takes time, but it produces great food. Its seed ... Here's another thing, also in First Peter, just look across the page to First Peter 2, 2. It's milk.

Have I mentioned ... I've been meaning to mention in church, have I mentioned that we have grandkids now? Has that come up in a service? I'm not sure if I ... I decided not to bring pictures today. Have I brought pictures before? I'm obviously pretty fired up about these grandkids. I had forgotten that ... Not for days, not for weeks, but for months, [00:36:00] these kids eat nothing but, tell me ladies, nothing but ...

Many Speakers: Milk.

James MacDonald: Really? Nothing but milk? I keep saying to Abby, when are you going to give that kid some food? Not yet dad, not yet. Give the kid some food, man. Not yet, not ... Just milk, milk, milk, that's all they need. Here, the word of God says, that we're to be like that in regard to the scriptures. As newborn babes, how many ... What was it almost 1,000 adults baptized in our church last year. If you're a babe in Christ, if you're a young believer, like a baby needs milk, you need the word of God. You need it so desperately, you ought to wake up and cry for the word of God. Not once a day, but several times a day. You ought to be calling out for it, desiring it, longing for it, looking for it. Just like a baby's body needs milk, so a new Christian's soul needs the word of God.

We're sizing it up. This is really quite something that God's ... It's like we're walking around it, and we're looking at it, and we're asking the question ... I picked it up, now I'm sizing it up, what is it exactly that God has given to me here? It's a fire, it's a sword, it's a hammer, it's a seed, it's milk.

Back a couple of pages from Peter, back into Hebrews again. Chapter 4 said that it was a sword. Chapter 5, verse 12 tells us that God's word is not just milk, it's meat. Hebrews 5, 12, says, for though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic oracles of God. You need milk not solid food or meat. For everyone who lives on milk. See, for some of you, you've never graduated to the solid food, the meat of God's word. When I think of meat, [00:38:00] I'm not thinking of something like this. God's word is not like that. Not raw and unprepared, God's word is like that, all right? I haven't been having as much of that lately, I don't know if you've noticed that. We all understand that that is very attractive to us. God's word is like that. It is satisfying, it is nourishing. I grieve for Christians who have been living on milk, like our little grandbabies, but they're school age. They're in junior high, but they're in high school chronologically, but they're still eating the diet of a baby.

Some of you need to arrest your health spiritually by digging more deeply into God's word. It's not just milk, it's meat. 2 more things quickly, from psalm 119 that I mentioned earlier in the message, the most comprehensive statement about the value of God's word in all of God's word, psalm 119 is 176 verses, each one making a value statement about scripture. Psalm 119, 105 says ... My grandmother taught me this verse. Your word is a lamp to my feet, your word is a light to my path. How many people here are standing over milk that's been spilled, plans that went South, bad decisions that were made, and why were those bad decisions made? Because you made them in the darkness. You didn't consult God's word, you didn't get the counsel of the Lord through the Lord's people through the word of God, and you made a bad decision and you experienced the consequences.

God's word is a lamp to our feet, that means it shows us the next step. It's like a little lamp, I'm walking in the dark, and God's word is this light to my feet. It's a lamp to my feet, but it's a light to my path. Not just the next step but where am I going with my life? What is my life to be all [00:40:00] about, where am I heading, where will I end up, what matters the most? God's word is a lamp to my feet, it's a light to my path. No more stumbling, no more wandering and walking down dead ends and getting ripped off. It's a light, and then I've experienced this last one so frequently.

A fire, a sword, a hammer, a seed, a milk, it's meat, it's light, it's a mirror. God's word is a mirror. This comes from the book of James. Last scripture, don't be tired, turn there please. Make that sound, I'm listening. Make the lovely sound of the pages turning. Make it. I love to hear that. Knowing that you're digging into the scriptures for yourself. James, chapter 1, verse 23, tells us this about the Bible, and the scripture ... Pardon me, wrong chapter. Here we go, sorry, for if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. If you only come to church and hear what the word says, you're like a person who looks at a mirror and goes, dang I have ... You just come and you ... You know, I have some mustard on my face. I should probably take that off, and I will, tomorrow.

That's a foolish person. That's a hearer of the word. The person who allows God's word to be truly a mirror is a person who allows God's word to reveal who they really are, and then they act upon what it says. Notice here again from James, chapter 1, for he who looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets who he was, but the one who looks into the perfect law of liberty and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be [00:42:00] blessed in his doing. My prayers for the message this weekend is that God's word would be convicting you about the neglect of God's word in your life.

You pick it up, you size it up, now here's the last thing. You eat it up. You've got to eat it. It's not enough to hold it. I carry my Bible everywhere I go. I have one in my purse, I have one in my glove compartment. It's not enough to even size it up. I respect it, I revere the word of God, I value the word of God. You have to eat it up. You have to imbibe it yourself. I have quoted many times here at Harvest my life verse, which is Jeremiah 15, 16, which says, your words were found to me. A 19 year old stubborn, rebellious student, but your words were found to me. I did eat them, and they became in me, the joy and rejoicing of my heart. I long for every person here to have that experience. I long for every person listening in Niles and in Crystal Lake and in [Elgin 00:43:12] and in Chicago North, and in this great new campus in Aurora celebrating today, I long for us to be a people, a church family, that devours the word of God for itself.

Let me just give you some quick things as I close on how you can do that. First of all, this is fairly straight forward, but read it. Read it. Read the Bible. The Bible's a lot like a text book in the sense that, you've got to start in the right places, but unlike a text book, it doesn't have the easiest stuff at the beginning of the book, and the hardest stuff at the end of the book.

There's a lot in the Bible that is 2 plus 2 equals 4, and there's a lot in the Bible that's algebra. [00:44:00] Algebra's no problem, but you've got to brush up on 2 plus 2 equals 4 before you can get to algebra, okay? Let me tell you where the simple equations in the Bible are. For sure remember this, John. First John, the Gospel of John. Those are easily understood, available to anyone, passages of scripture. Don't jump into a [cleasey asteeze 00:44:22], you're going to be like, what? What? Don't drop into [Song of Solomon 00:44:26], all right? You can get there. You can for sure get there. That's available to everyone too, okay?

Start with something understandable. I'm in the Gospel of John again this year. I'm in the Gospel of John right now. Why don't we do that together? Why don't we read it and, what I would suggest is, a chapter a day. Not 3 versus, not 300 versus. I know a lot of people like to read through the Bible in a year, but I'm trying to get more people onboard the Bible train here, okay? A chapter a day. No guilt about anything other than just a chapter a day. Open with a brief word of prayer, I sit in a chair, I lean forward, I don't read the Bible laying down.

I don't know about you but when I lay down I pass out. I sit up and I lean forward and I put my Bible on my desk and I have a pen in my hand and a journal and a place to write things because that's the 2nd thing you want to do. Read it, jot this down, question it. You've got to question the Bible. What do you mean man? I don't mean object to it, I mean jot these questions down. Is there an example for me to follow? Every time you read the Bible just say, is there an example for me to follow? Is Jesus doing something I should be doing? Is [Hared 00:45:40] doing something I shouldn't be doing? It could be a positive or a negative example. That's a really important ... Question the Bible, ask yourself, is there an example for me to follow.

Secondly, is there a sin for me to confess? Is there something here that I need to acknowledge or confess? Lord I'm like that. I'm wrong, God, and just right there confess that to him. Is there a truth [00:46:00] for me to understand? Sometimes, God just wants to expand our thinking. I didn't know that about God. I didn't know that he was like that. He's so tender, he's so loving, he's so forgiving, he's so insistent, he's so pursuing, he's so truthful, is there a truth for me to embrace, or to understand would be better.

An example to follow, a sin to confess, a truth to understand, and then lastly I have found this to be true, is there a comfort for me to embrace. Is God's word assuring me about something? I can be anxious, I can be fearful, I can be uncertain, I can be vacillating. Is there a strength here, a comfort, is there something that I can ... All right I think you get that. I hope you're going to be doing that this week. Read it, question it, but if you really want to get to where the Bible takes you, you got to go to this level and most people do not.

Plan it. Read it, question it, plan it. Make a plan of action. If God's word says something about anger stirs up strife. A week ago I had to acknowledge to a couple of my staff members, I was angry with you and I'm sorry for that. Please forgive me. I'd written that in my own time with the Lord. I'm going to deal with that because when God's word convicts you, you have to make a plan to do something about that. Not just to agree with it, but then plan it. Make a ... Okay.

Let's say these together, Number 1, what?

Many Speakers: Read it.

James MacDonald: Read it. Number 2, what?

Many Speakers: Question it.

James MacDonald: Question it. Number 3?

Many Speakers: Plan it.

James MacDonald: Plan it, make a plan of action. A goal, a time, I'm going to take some action in this regard. Then this has always really helped me, pray it. I always have my prayer time, we're going to talk about that next Lord's day weekend. For now, I pray that part of my first part of my prayer time after worship is thank you Lord for speaking to me from your word today. Thank you Lord for [00:48:00] challenging me about this. I agree with your word when it says ... Pray that out to the Lord.

Then share it. I don't do this every day, but I'll frequently say, Cathy I got this out of your word today, or Tony or Landon, I got this out of the word today. This is what I've been studying, this is what it meant to me. I'll just take someone aside and say Andy, Andy look what I've got out of God's word today. This is what this meant to me, what do you think about this? Isn't this a great verse? I'll tell you, not just with your small group, but just with people you come in ... I found this in the Bible, isn't this incredible? I'll tell you what, I've been doing that for over 30 years and I'm never lacking for content. It's always alive and fresh.

Read it, question it, plan it, pray it, share it. With me? Let's use God's word to stir one another up to love and good works. I'm almost done, now we're going to practice. We're going to practice it, okay?

Everybody just turn over to this last passage and I'm done. Colossians chapter 3. Colossians chapter 3. Here's a passage of scripture that everyone can understand. Read it, question it, plan it, pray it, share it. Let the peace of Christ. The peace of Christ. Do I have the peace of Christ? I don't know if I really have that. I definitely should ... I'm asking myself a question about that. Is there an example there for me to follow? Is there a sin, anxiety, the opposite of peace, for me to confess. You know, I need to have more of the peace of Christ in my ... Ruling, being in charge, ruling over my heart. Sometimes my heart's like a furnace and sometimes my friends are ... Sometimes my heart's like a tornado and my friends are like a fan. I need the peace of God to rule in my heart, not other people, not circumstances, I need Jesus to speak peace to my heart. [00:50:00]

I need to be thankful. Gratitude, gratitude, I need to be thankful. I need to let the word of Christ dwell in me, richly. How many here are wealthy in a human sense? Wealthy in a relational sense, but you're impoverished, you're poor, you're penniless in regard to God's word. I'm going to let the word of Christ dwell in me richly. I'm going to share it. I'm going to teach and admonish ... I think you get the point. We've been talking about God's word for a long time, I couldn't be more excited about it.

Will you get into God's word this week? Will you dig into it afresh? I am not an authentic Christian unless I am authentically, regularly connected to the word of God. I have that sense of authenticity when I develop the discipline of God's word. Let's be authentic, let's develop the disciplines of a sincere faith, all right? Why don't we all stand together for a word of prayer.

Let's all pray. Father, thank you for this great privilege that you've given us, to call upon your name. To dig into your word, and we would just confess in this moment Lord, too often we have neglected the word of God, too often we have fattened our souls on things that don't satisfy. The hunger that we feel, the aching inside, is a hunger that you've placed there by your spirit for your word. Help us God to pick it up. Pursue us by your spirit this week. Every morning when we wake up, stir it within us God, pick this book up, size up its value, eat it [00:52:00] up. Feed us God. Feed us on your word, and help us as we develop these disciplines of a sincere faith. We want to be authentic God. We don't want to look the part, we want a real, growing, dynamic, personal relationship with you. Meet us as we meet you in your word. This week, I pray in Jesus' precious name, amen.

read all comments

1 Stephanie C = "This video suggests you cannot entirely see the light without first seeing the darkness. By experience understanding and becoming aware and familiar with Gods' word and love."
2 Cary W = "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.  We are daily transformed by the renewing of our minds, through the washing water of the word, giving us a new man and mind in Christ, one that is in step with grace, love and the heart of God."
3 Cary W = "The testimony of God, spoken by David, is what God says and reveals about Himself.  And when we receive this testimony from God about God, it makes even the most simple of us, wiser than our scholars."
4 Cary W = "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes, bringing joy and courage to the listener, and dispels the darkness of confusion and error."