When I graduated from high school an older pastor and his wife took me out to lunch. They bought me a cheeseburger and gave me a Bible. In the cover he wrote to me: “This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.”
We can only serve one god: Jesus or else not-Jesus. Let’s stop kidding ourselves that there is a middle ground. That there is some sort of neutral zone or time-out. There’s not. We are sowing to the spirit or sowing to the flesh. Period.
In John 5, Jesus rebukes the pharisees for their closet atheism:
And the Father Himself, who sent me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
Those verses describe the vast majority of western church goers. Gosh, I feel like they describe me most on days, too. We just don’t have the Word abiding in us. And we wonder why our pastors are having affairs, why all the men’s groups are losing the battle against pornography, and why all the women are hiding their bondage to covetousness.
We are simply not alive in the Word.
Jesus made a covenant with us. He promised us that the truth would set us free and that whom He set free would be free indeed. Free indeed — Not free for the next 24 hours, or 6 months or even 5 years. Free forever. Most of us still aren’t even free the sins that so easily entangle, let alone the little foxes.
You and I both know that the idea of the Bible keeping us from sin (see intro paragraph) is not a new idea. But even though we have “searched the scriptures” we are still struggling with the basic issues of coming to Jesus and believing in Him. The good news is that we’ll always have that struggle, it is part of working out our salvation. The bad news is that we’ll always have that struggle.
As weak and fallen humans, we have to fight our closet atheism. We can recite Bible verses without the Word of God living and being active in our hearts. It’s not burning within us. It’s not alive yet. It hasn’t consumed us and made us true disciples.
And that is why so many of us are still powerless against temptation and powerless to lead others to Jesus. We’re not living true Christianity.
So what’s this about abiding…?
What does it mean to abide? Simple: It’s just having a relationship with Jesus through the Word. Abiding is not as mysterious as we think it is. Pray-read the Bible as a dialog with God.
For me, the most difficult resistance to spending time in the Word and in prayer is the seeming foolishness and weakness of it. I so often feel like I could be spending my time in a more productive matter — especially as a man with a type “A” personality (capital “A” at that, too). I feel like I could be putting initiatives into motion or helping come up with strategies or casting vision or creating something. Anything but shutting my door and praying to an invisible God while reading a book that is centuries old and wasn’t even originally written in my language.
This seeming waste of my time is precisely what God wants from me. Living a life of true Christianity is, at its core, living a life of weakness. (Which is precisely what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.)
I have been on the journey of leadership training for a while and I am continually reminded by God that the Heavenly prerequisite for leadership is friendship with God; and friendship with God is cultivated in the secret place.
A good friend of mine says over and over and over that the Bible isn’t boring, we’re boring.
Being men and women of the Word isn’t always easy. It’s work and lots of times it is boring. But not because the Bible itself is boring or because God is making Himself un-knowable — the trouble is that we are boring and we have dull spirits.
Something else important to note is that knowing the Truth and abiding in the Word is not an event, but a journey. It’s a daily choice to simply say yes to God and no to sin. It’s following through with our commitment to pray-read the Bible and to ask God to make our Spirits alive.
And don’t forget that we can certainly do a few “tricks” to help speed up the journey and help ourselves out. Things like fasting and praying in the Spirit. Fasting helps tenderize us and make us more sensitive to the Lord. Praying in the Spirit helps unlock the scriptures to us and invites the Spirit of revelation.12 comments