Monday, January 4, 2016

"A New Year in God's Word!"

As the new year is about to begin I want to invite you to join me once again in reading through the Bible.  I believe (and I hope you do) that the Bible is the very Word of God.  I believe that what the Apostle Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago is still true today ...

"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" (II Timothy 3:16-17).

And I can't help but think of the importance of God's Word as I look at the world around us and see the growth of Islam and other religions, and of atheism and secular thought, including the movement of "Freedom FROM Religion"!!  In the midst of all of this, I encourage you to think about the importance of the study of God's Word, as it is explained in Paul's letter to the believers in Ephesus, Ephesians 6:10-18:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  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.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

You would think that Paul thought we were at war ... and we are!!  But unlike those who use physical force and manmade weapons, "though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (II Corinthians 10:3-4).  Even before Jesus was born God told His people through the prophet, Zechariah, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit" (Zechariah 4:6).  And the "sword of the Spirit" IS the Word of God!

The writer of Hebrews testifies that "the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:12-13).

God has given us His Word to equip and empower us for all that He has for us to do in this world.  Everything you need to know about the one true God, our Creator, is found in this book.  Everything you need to know to put your faith in Jesus Christ and to live for Him as His disciple during your life in this world is found in this book.  True hope, peace, joy and love are found in this book as it points to Jesus Christ, the one Mediator, Savior and Lord who is coming again soon to reign on the earth over all His enemies and ours.

Already in the Garden of Eden God promised that He would send One who would be the "Seed of the woman," who would crush the head of the serpent, of Satan.  You cannot and will not understand your life or the world in which we live without this book, and you will not have hope beyond the grave without knowing what this book and this book alone teaches you.  The author and teacher of this book is the very Spirit of God working through those who wrote it, as Peter declares in II Peter 1:20-21:  "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
As we approach the end of another year, you may have some regrets.  How did you use the time God gave you over the past twelve months?  We read in II Corinthians 5 that we who believe in Jesus Christ today "live by faith, not by sight" (verse 7).  Paul goes on, "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it" (verses 8-9).  Are you living a life that is pleasing to the Lord?

God has given us His Word to help us do exactly that.  If you commit yourself to reading God's Word in 2016 you will not regret doing so.  Each day you will be reading words written hundreds, even thousands of years ago, that speak of God and of His plan to save those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ from His coming judgment.  Each day God will call you to trust and obey, and each day you will be assured that because God has not changed, He is able and willing to work in you and through you for His glory as you put your faith in Jesus Christ.

Because God's revelation of Himself and His plan to save some out of the human race for Himself is "progressive," we will look at each passage in the light of the rest of God's Word, referring often to other portions of the Bible to help us understand the chapters we are reading.  Knowing God means understanding Who He is and how He has worked, is working and will work in our world ... HIS world!  There is wisdom here for the ages ... wisdom that you and I desperately need as we are bombarded with "counterfeit wisdom" from those around us.

Far from being "out-of-date," the Bible is the most relevant and up-to-date book available to our modern age.  "These things happened as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come" (I Corinthians 10:11).  So welcome to the study of God's Word ... 2016!!  May God bless His Word to your hearing and your understanding, and may you "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To HIM be glory both now and forever.  Amen!"  (II Peter 3:18).

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