Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Believing Better? You Better Believe It!

Based on Romans 10:17
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

There are two repeated words in this short sentence from Paul’s letter to the Roman believers. Read it again. Did you catch them? Hear (hearing/heard) and message. As I’ve been thinking through this week’s Bible study on Believing Better, I keep coming back to the concept of listening.

Listening relates closely to both of these words. Hearing is a familiar concept. Most of us hear things all the time. We relegate a lot of the noise in our lives to background noise, picking and choosing to give our attention to things that we deem important, while ignoring the rest. Some noise, of course, is so insistent that whether we want to or not, we are forced to pay attention: fire engines, police sirens, or a person screaming.

What makes these things stand out? Let me suggest that it’s because we believe there is a message that cannot be ignored in them. We know that there is an emergency, something is wrong, someone is in pain or in danger, and so we pay attention.

Among all of the noise that surrounds us, there are certain noises or voices that we choose to give attention to, even without them screaming out or calling for our attention. The voice of a loved one, someone or something that we have decided is important because it is a priority for us, like a boss, or a teacher, or a close friend. While their message may not be as urgent as the emergency signals, when we choose to listen to someone, it’s because we sense that they have something worth saying. They have a message we need to hear, and we want to hear it.

I’ve been thinking about all this because as believers, we hear a lot about the Bible being God’s Word, and the importance of reading it. Do you remember Jeff’s first point about how to develop our faith?

1. Reading the Bible. Yet, many of us don’t read the Bible. And I’ve been thinking about that. Why is it that we don’t read the Bible?
• Have we allowed the noise around us to drown out its voice?
• Have we decided that God doesn’t really speak through the Bible?
• Have we decided that the Bible’s message isn’t relevant to our lives?
• Have we decided that we’ve read enough of the Bible and decided to settle for living based on what God has said to us in the past, forgetting that we have a relationship with a living God?
• Does reading the Bible not seem urgent enough—given daily news reports, iPods, self-help books, video games, business deadlines, family time, hanging out with friends, and school projects that are due—so we keep letting it fall off our radar?

What might be different about your life if you read the Bible more? Try listing at least three things—

See, the big deal about reading the Bible isn’t about reading the Bible. The big deal about reading the Bible is that by reading it, we get to know the God of the Bible, so deeply that our lives become defined by His presence and power, by our growing knowledge of, love for, and relationship with Him. We are transformed!
Reading the Bible is about listening for and hearing the message that God has for you in the Bible.

In Psalm 81, the writer records God pleading and lamenting—

Listen to me, O my people… O Israel, if you would only listen… But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around… But oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me…--verses 8, 11, 13

The writer of Proverbs exhorts us to listen. (Exhort is a stronger word than suggest or encourage. It includes a passionate appeal to do what is in our best interest.) Listen to his words—

Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles…. Wisdom shouts in the streets. “Come here and listen to me! I’ll pour out the spirit of wisdom upon you and make you wise... I called you so often, but you didn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered.”—Proverbs 1:5, 6, 20, 23-25

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all quote Jesus urging His listeners to listen to His words, saying, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 15, 16, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 8:18; Luke 8:8, 14:35). Jesus longs for you to hear His message and receive it into your life so that it can transform you.

Paul prays for the Philippians—

9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.—Philippians 1:9-11

What is your love for Jesus abounding in? Are you seeking Him in His Word? Is your love abounding in knowledge and depth of insight?

Paul tells the Corinthian believers that they “have the mind of Christ” by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance, teaching them about spiritual truth. See 1 Corinthians 2:12-16.

In what area of your life do you want to have the mind of Christ?

To the Romans, Paul writes—

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.—Romans 12:2

Where do you want to experience transformation in your life as you read and listen to the message of God’s Word?

In his final letter to his disciple Timothy, Paul points Timothy back to the power of God’s Word—

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17

What do you need most in your life—teaching, rebuking, correcting, or training? How is God’s Word shaping and equipping you to touch and change the world?

Do you want to “believe better”? (By the way, want is another key word. Wanting isn’t wishing. Wanting implies making an effort in line with your desire.) Here are just a few questions to think it through.

Where are you reading in the Bible?

What is God saying to you as you listen for His message in His Word?

What questions do you have about what you are reading in the Bible?

What steps are you taking to get your questions answered?

If you would like help in developing a personal Bible reading or study plan, contact us at cccreach@aol.com.

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