It’s Time for Action!

Psalm 119:97-103

97 Oh, how I love your law!

I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

I would imagine that most, if not all of us here today have heard of what has become an annual event here in Salem and in thousands of other communities across this great land of ours.  It’s called Relay For Life.  I’m always amazed at how our community comes together for that event and raises huge sums of money, all for one purpose.  And that is to stamp out a disease that has touched and impacted so many lives in our area, our churches, and our own families.  That disease of course is cancer.

Well, what Relay For Life is trying to do in a positive sense is very similar to what a French philosopher by the name of Voltaire tried to do in a negative sense.  While Relay For Life is trying to stamp out cancer, Voltaire wanted to stamp out the Bible.  In fact, he once made this rather audacious boast.  Referring to himself, he said, “I’ll show how just one Frenchman can destroy it (the Bible) within 50 years.”  On another occasion he said that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would disappear from the face of the earth.  Well, Voltaire died in 1728, but the last time I checked, the Bible still lives on. In fact, the incredible irony in all this is that 20 years after Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible Society purchased his house for the sole purpose of mass-printing the Bible. And it later became the Paris headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Society.  Sometimes God has a real sense of humor, doesn’t he?

Well, just as Voltaire was passionate about stamping out the Bible, you may have noticed that I’ve been pretty passionate lately about stamping out something else that I’ve been calling biblical illiteracy, which is the failure on the part of so many Christians today to read and study and know the Bible.  So we’ve been spending a lot of time last year and this year focusing upon this subject and we’re now at the point where it’s time to get real practical.  So the question we want to deal with as we bring this sermon series in for a landing is this:  “What can we do?”  Or better yet, “What can you do to help stamp out biblical illiteracy in your life?”  To answer that question, I want to offer you some very practical suggestions.  Now understand, these are only suggestions.  Like I said in my sermon 2 weeks ago, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of biblical illiteracy, so while one or more of these suggestions may not be to your liking, hopefully some of them will be and they will help you do what this sermon series has been encouraging us to do all along, and that is to get back to the Bible and start using it not as a dust collector in your home, but as your chief consultant, guide, and help in this journey that we call life, a journey that will not end at the grave but that will continue on into eternity.

The first suggestion I have is this: Tithe your free time to God.  Back in the beginning of this sermon series we looked at some reasons people give for not reading the Bible.  And topping the list was this one: “I’m too busy.  I don’t have time.”  Well, that may sound like a good or legitimate excuse, but let’s be honest with ourselves.  We make time for what is important to us, don’t we?  And what could possibly be more important than spending time with your Heavenly Father each day, allowing him to speak to you about things that matter for eternity?

So I want you to consider tithing your free time to God each day.  Now let me explain what I mean by that.  Most of you are probably aware that a tithe equals 10%.  We typically think of tithing in monetary terms – giving 10% of our income to the Lord, which I’ve always thought was a pretty good deal.  For the Bible clearly states that everything we have belongs to God.  So he’s being more than generous with us when he says “You can keep 90% of what I’ve given you.  I’d just like 10% back so I can get my work done in this world.”  Wouldn’t it be great if the government did that?

But let’s get back to what it means to tithe our time to God.  What exactly would that entail?  Well, mathematically, there are 24 hours in a day, which equals 1440 minutes.  If you gave the Lord 10% of that time, he would receive 144 minutes every day, or just shy of 2½ hours.  Now I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve got to be crazy if you think I can give that much time to God each day.”  And I know that would be a lot.  So let’s be fair.  Just for the sake of illustration, let’s divide your day into 3 eight-hour time frames.  You work 8 hours and you sleep 8 hours.  During those times you can’t exactly read your Bible, right?  So that leaves you with one more 8-hour period.  Well, there are 480 minutes in 8 hours so a tithe of that would be what?  48 minutes.  Now does that sound a bit more reasonable and a bit more manageable?  To some of you it may, but I suspect that others of you are still wondering where you’re going to find even 48 minutes in the day that you can give to God.  Well, it might mean watching one less television show in the evening.  It might mean getting up earlier in the morning.  It might mean spending less time on your cell phone or Facebook or that computer game.  And if you don’t think you can start with 10%, try 5% or 2%.  Try something because the goal here is to just get you started spending time in God’s Word each day.

When I first started out in the ministry, I’m ashamed to admit this, but you know how much time I spent reading the Bible each day?  Zero.  You see, I felt that my sermon and Bible class preparation time qualified as my devotional time.  But eventually I realized that they are 2 entirely different entities.  And for me, if I was going to spend that devotional time with God each day, it meant having to get up earlier.  So that’s what I did.  And I cannot tell you how much that time with God has come to mean to me.  Makes me think of something Martin Luther once said when he got up one and saw that he had a very hectic day ahead of him and he said, “It appears that I shall be so busy this day I believe I will spend the first 3 hours in prayer.”  Sometimes we feel like there’s no way we can afford to spend that time with God each day, but Luther would say, “How can you not afford to spend that time with God each day?”

Then a 2nd suggestion I have for you is this: Allow the Bible to transform you, not just inform you.  I think when a lot of people read the Bible, they’re just doing it to get information, to get facts.  Kind of like when they read the newspaper.  And while it’s nice to know those facts, as I tell my confirmands every year on the night of their oral examination, that head knowledge needs to make about an 18-inch journey down into our heart so that it then impacts and influences the way we live.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  So we’re transformed how?  By the renewing of our minds.  And how are our minds renewed?  Through our reading and study of God’s Word.

That’s what happened to the Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip encountered one day and that we heard about in our 2nd reading before.  This fellow had been to Jerusalem, probably for one of the religious festivals that was held there throughout the year.  And while his chariot was stopped on his way back to Ethiopia, he started reading from the scroll of Isaiah.  We’re not told where he got this scroll from, but I suspect he purchased it while he was in Jerusalem.  It would have cost a pretty penny because each scroll had to be hand-copied by a scribe, but this eunuch was “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.”  So in his high position he would have had no problem affording one of these scrolls.  Well, while he was reading it, the Holy Spirit directed Philip to his chariot.  Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading and the eunuch said he did not.  So Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and explained to him the good news of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.  He must have also mentioned something about baptism because the eunuch asked to be baptized and we’re told that he went on his way rejoicing.  The head knowledge he had received that day about Jesus had become heart knowledge and had led to a dramatic transformation in his life.

This is something that I’ve seen happen many times throughout the course of my ministry.  I recall one situation in particular years ago when on a Sunday morning I’d just gotten home from church and sat down to eat lunch with Marilyn when the phone rang and it was one of our members asking if I could come over to her house because her grandson was there and he was going through a very tough time.  His wife had left him and he was extremely distraught.  As I visited with him that afternoon, I shared a lot of Scripture with him.  And he began to see how those ancient words spoke to his life and his current situation.  Well, to make a long story short, the Bible became his lifeline.  He started reading it.  He started attending church.  Soon he was using his lunch hour in St. Louis to pass out Christian pamphlets in Forest Park.  Put simply, he had been transformed by the life-changing power of the Gospel.

And that really leads right in to a 3rd suggestion I have for you as you read the Bible.  And that is, Metabolize the Word.  Metabolism is the process of changing energy sources into energy. For example, when we eat, there are proteins in the food we consume that are metabolized into energy or heat to be used or absorbed by the body.  Well, the Bible is the equivalent of a spiritual food source.  In fact, there were several times in the Bible where some of God’s most faithful servants were commanded to literally eat the Scriptures as a way of symbolizing this.  In the 3rd chapter of his book Ezekiel was told by God: “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.”  Ezekiel’s contemporary Jeremiah was instructed to do the same.  And in chapter 15, verse 16 of his book he says to God: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” 

Now what does it mean that they ate the words of God?  Well, basically, I think it means that they didn’t just read it, as though it were some burdensome chore.  Rather, they devoured it.  They looked upon the words of God as a veritable feast that would satisfy their spiritual hunger just as a literal feast would satisfy their physical hunger.  And as they digested, absorbed, and metabolized what God had to say to them, it began to affect the way they thought, the way they lived, and the decisions and choices they made.

That’s what the author of our text for today is getting at when he says to God: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.”  That word meditate carries with it the idea of chewing it over and over again.  Kind of like a cow does with its cud.  It chews its cud, then swallows it.  And after a while it brings it back up again and chews on it some more, then swallows it again, and so on.  When we read God’s Word and metabolize it, or internalize it, there are going to be times when something happens in our lives and that Word is going to come back up again; it’s going to come to our memory because it speaks directly to that particular situation.

But getting back to our text, notice what metabolizing God’s Word does for the psalmist. He says: “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies… I have more insight than all my teachers… I have more understanding than the elders… I have kept my feet from every evil path… I have not departed from your laws.”  And then he concludes by saying: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Oh how I pray that every one of us here today would discover for ourselves the sweetness of God’s Word so that we might derive from it the same benefits the psalmist did: wisdom, insight, understanding, and obedience.  And next time I preach, we’ll wrap up this sermon series by taking a look at a few more good practical suggestions to help us get to that point.  Until then, may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds firmly anchored to the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ, and his Word at all times so that it might make the earthly and eternal difference in your life God intends it to.  Amen.


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