Transformed by Truth


During the Munich Crisis of September 1938, as Hitler rallied his forces and the world slid inexorably toward war, more radios were sold than in any previous month. In this atmosphere of tension, Orson Welles and his staff prepared for their weekly Mercury Theater radio play. Auspiciously, on the night before Halloween, listeners found themselves listening to the innocent sounds of “Ramon Raquello and his orchestra”, only for the music to be interrupted by the first of a series of increasingly alarming news stories.

First came reports of several explosions of “incandescent gas” observed on the planet Mars, then after a brief interlude of more music came a hook-up to Princeton Observatory professor Richard Pierson (played by Welles) who assures the listeners that there is nothing to be alarmed at. Then there are reports of a meteor impact in an unassuming place called Grover’s Mill. Even today Grover’s Mill is a sleepy little hamlet…, but that night it was going to become the centre of the universe as the beachhead for a Martian invasion advancing on New York City, brushing aside American defenders and destroying dozens of familiar place names along the way. An emergency government announcement gave credence to the story, and huddled about their radios, panicked listeners (all over the USA) began to bombard local police stations with calls. From Trenton comes the account.

We were petrified. We just looked at each other, scared out of our wits. Someone was banging on our front door. It was our neighbour across the street. She had packed her seven kids in their car and she kept yelling, come on, lets get out of here.”

Henry Sears, then just 13 years old, was doing his homework when he heard the first news flash of the invasion. Taking the radio down into the tavern below which his mother owned, he and a dozen or so patrons listened with mounting fear to the broadcast, until the men jumped up and announced they were going to get their guns and join in the defence at Grover’s Mill[1]. People packed the roads, hid in cellars, loaded guns, even wrapped their heads in wet towels as protection from Martian poison gas. In an attempt to defend themselves against aliens, listeners were oblivious to the fact that they were acting out the role of the panic-stricken public that actually belonged in the radio play.

People were stuck in a kind of virtual world in which fiction was confused for fact. H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds in 1898, in response to the unification and militarization of Germany. The reaction to the dramatic retelling of Wells’ story, shows that what we believe can affect how we behave. The truth transforms us. One reason Wells was so popular, is because his book was based indirectly on fact. We are indeed at war. But I don’t mean against the so-called “Axis of Evil” made up of Syria, Iran and North Korea, which our politicians tell us is the cause of the terrorism and threats to our democratic peace loving values. The ultimate ‘War of the Worlds’, behind which every other war is merely a skirmish, is described in Ephesians 6.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12).

And our only weapon in this war of the worlds is what? Verse 17, “The sword of the Spirit. Which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17). These Sunday mornings in June and July we are exploring the Pathway to Spiritual Transformation. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)  Sanctification requires revelation. We are going to see from James 1, how the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must feed on his Word.

I am a trustee of  Biblica Europe. I care passionately about giving people the word of God in their own language like the new NIV. So, it is somewhat ironic that there are more Bibles in print today than ever before, yet millions of believers, especially in the West, are plagued with spiritual anorexia, starving to death from spiritual malnutrition. Why? Because a bible on the shelf is about as beneficial as bread in a pantry. Its only of benefit when we take it out and feed on it. To do so we must:

  1. Accept its authority (James 1:17-18)
  2.  Assimilate its truth (James 1:19-21)
  3.  Apply its principles (James 1:22-27)

1. Accept the Authority of God’s Word

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:17-18).

We must accept its authority. The Bible must become the authoritative standard for my life: the compass I rely on for direction, the counsel I listen to for making wise decisions, and the benchmark I use for evaluating everything. The Bible must always have the first and last word in my life. Many of our troubles occur because we base our choices on unreliable authorities:

culture “everyone is doing it”,
tradition “we’ve always done it”,
reason “it seemed logical”, or
emotion “it just felt right”.

All four of these are flawed by the Fall. Which is why they will never provide ultimate solutions for the wars of the world, merely perpetuate them . What we need is a perfect standard that will never lead us in the wrong direction. Only God’s Word meets that need. God’s Word is unlike any other word. It is alive. In fact, without God’s Word we would not even be alive.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created..” (James 1:18)

God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change, frightens the Devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever! We cannot live without the Word of God! Never take it for granted.

The most important decision you can make today is to settle this issue of what will be the ultimate authority for your life. Decide that regardless of culture, tradition, reason, or emotion, you choose the Bible as your final authority. Determine to first ask, “What does the Bible say?” when making decisions. To become spiritually mature we must first accept the authority of God’s word.

2. Assimilate the Truth of God’s Word

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)

 It is not enough just to believe the Bible; I must fill my mind with it so that the Holy Spirit can transform me with the truth. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. It as essential to our life as food. God’s Word is the spiritual nourishment needed to fulfill our God-given purpose. The Bible is called our milk, our bread, solid food, and sweet dessert. This four-course meal is the Spirit’s menu for spiritual strength and growth. Here are four ways to do this (think of them like your four fingers): You can receive it, research it, remember it, and reflect on it.

2.1 We must receive God’s word

“humbly accept the word planted in you” (James 1:21).

“In a humble (gentle, modest) spirit, receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted in your hearts contains the power to save your souls.” (James 1:21 Amplified)

 The parable of the sower illustrates how our receptiveness determines whether God’s Word bears fruit. Jesus identified three wrong attitudes – a closed mind (hard soil), a superficial mind (shallow soil), and a distracted mind (soil with weeds). Then he said, “Consider carefully how you listen.” (Luke 8:18).  We can’t watch television for 3 hours, then read the Bible for 3 minutes and expect to grow. If you will read the Bible just fifteen minutes a day, you will read completely through it once a year. If you cut out one thirty-minute television program a day and read your Bible instead, you will read through the entire Bible twice a year. Daily Bible reading will keep you in range of God’s voice. The simplest way is to use a daily Bible reading plan. It will prevent you from just skipping around the Bible arbitrarily and missing the flow of revelation.

If you would like an electronic version visit www.laridian.com or a paper version see

www.navpress.com/Magazines/DJ/BibleReadingPlans.asp

To assimilate its truth, we must first, receive God’s Word.

2.2 We must research God’s word

“Those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continue in it.” (James 1:25)

The difference between reading and studying the Bible involves two additional activities: asking questions of the text and writing down your insights. These can be done alone, but are best achieved on a consistent basis through being in a small group. If you are not part of a small group bible study you cannot grow as a Christian as quickly or consistently the way God intended. Can I invite our home group leaders and assistants to stand? Men’s and women’s group? CBSI?

One of the first and things I did as a young Christian was to buy a box file and make 66 dividers – one for each book of the Bible. When ever I found anything in a Christian magazine about a bible passage into the file it went. Whenever I heard a sermon on a particular passage, into the file went my notes. Pretty soon I had to buy a second hand filing cabinet. Then I decided to buy one recommended commentary on each book of the bible. That was my way of researching God’s Word.

The secret of good Bible study is learning to ask the right questions. You will discover far more if you ask such simple questions as who? what? when? where? why? and how?  And there is no better place than in a small group. To assimilate its truth, we must first, receive God’s word, second, research God’s word.

2.3 We must remember God’s word

“… not forgetting what they have heard.” (James 1:25).

Your capacity to remember is a God-given gift. You may think you have a poor memory, but the truth is, you have millions of ideas, truths, facts, and figures memorized. Our problem is not remembering but retrieving information. You remember what is important to you. If God’s Word is important, you will take the time to remember it. There are enormous benefits to memorizing Bible verses. It will help you resist temptation, make wise decisions, reduce stress, build confidence, offer good advice, and share your faith with others. Your memory is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. You might begin by memorizing a key verse each week. I recommend you write them down on a small card you can carry with you. Then review them aloud throughout your day. You can memorize Scripture while working or exercising or driving or as you doze off to sleep. The three keys to memorizing Scripture are?  Review, review, and review! The best memory programme has been developed by the Navigators.

I’ve used it on and off for many years.  Its called  the Topical Memory System. You can buy it online from [2] http://www.navpress.com/Store/Product/990073369X.html

To assimilate its truth, we must first, receive God’s word, second, research God’s word, third, remember God’s word.

4.4 We must reflect on God’s word

The fourth way to abide in God’s Word is to reflect on it, which the Bible calls “meditation.” Biblical meditation is simply focused thinking. This isn’t complicated or difficult – in fact you already do it all the time – you may indeed be doing it right now. If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate. Worry is focused thinking on something negative. Meditation is focused thinking on something positive. If you are going to do it anyway, you might as well focus on God’s Word instead of your problem. No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture. The pathway to spiritual maturity?

1.     Accept the authority of God’s word (James 1:17-18)
2.     Assimilate the truth of God’s word (James 1:19-21)

To do that, we must receive, research, remember and reflect on God’s word. But as you know it is very difficult to hold onto anything even with all four fingers. There is one more thing we must do.

3. Apply the Principles of God’s Word

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

To become like Jesus, we must become “doers of the word.” This is the hardest step of all, because Satan fights it so intensely. He doesn’t mind you studying the Bible as long as you don’t do anything with it. That is as bad as someone who:

“… looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25)

Jesus said,

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

Jesus also pointed out that God’s blessing comes from obeying the truth, not just knowing it. He said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 17:13). This is why it is so important to share with others what you are learning. I cannot overstate the value of being a part of a small Bible study discussion group. We always learn from others truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. The best way to become a “doer of the Word” is to write out an action step as a result of your reading or studying or reflecting on God’s Word. Develop the habit of writing down exactly what you intend to do. This action step should be:

  • personal (involving you),
  • practical (something you can do), and
  • provable (with a deadline to do it).

Our passage ends with some very personal, practical and provable application:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

Every application will involve either your relationship to God, with others, or your personal character. And in many cases, as here, all three simultaneously. We must not drive a wedge, for example, between evangelism and social action. We have been learning about the pathway to spiritual maturity. To find ourselves on the victorious side in the war of the worlds, we need to:

Accept the authority of God’s word (James 1:17-18)
Assimilate the truth of God’s word (James 1:19-21)
Apply the principles of God’s word (James 1:22-27)

D. L. Moody once said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” Today we have been considering the role the truth of God’s word plays in our spiritual growth. We are indeed at war. The question is, can we handle the truth, the sword of the Spirit, so that we can be victorious no matter what the enemy throws at us?

Lets pray.

 

 


[1] Taken from an article published on http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/radio.htm

[2] Navigators Topical Memory System www.navpress.com/Magazines/DJ/BibleReadingPlans.asp

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