Get a grip!
We do that every day.
We get a grip on our child’s hand when we walk them across the street.
We get a grip on an axe before we start to cut wood.
We get a grip on our emotions to avoid saying inappropriate words.
Getting a grip helps us to excel in whatever we attempt.
Let’s transition to the spiritual world.
What do we have to do to get a solid grip on the Bible
so that we understand it, obey it, and live successful Christian lives?
How does that come about?
…..which might trigger another question:
Why the big differences in maturity levels among believers?
Some people always seem to be in the fast lane
leading others to Christ,
saying no to sin,
providing great leadership in their churches,
keeping their families moving forward for God……
while others are constantly, endlessly spinning their wheels.
struggling with the same sins today as they were 5, 10, 15 years ago.
Unreliable. Undependable. Unusable.
When Jesus comes back to rapture His church, will He find we have become spiritual Schwartzneggers bulging with huge spiritual muscles? Or will we be clueless why we are still spiritual babies in diapers, feeding on baby food, still in the spiritual nursery?
Why the huge difference in the spiritual levels among believers?
What can we do to change our spiritual level?
How can we get in good shape and stay in good shape?
We need look no further than our hand for a good illustration of how to get a
solid grip on our Bibles with each finger representing an essential part of a
Finger #1 – Hear the Bible.
2 Timothy 4:2
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season……..
In this last chapter of the Bible that Paul writes why is he so strongly commanding preaching in good times and bad? Whether it is well received or rejected?
Because all of us need good preaching in our lives on a regular basis.
Because preaching is foundational to a strong church. Preaching is the careful explaining of the Bible followed by strong encouragement to live the Bible. Preaching has always been the foundation of a strong church.
A friend was telling me about a book he is reading on church history the major point of the book being all throughout church history when preaching has been ignored for a while, the result is weak churches. When preaching has been emphasized for a while, the result is strong churches. We all need to hear the Bible preached.
But what attitude do we have when we hear the Bible preached?
I used to ask one particular elder what he thought of this preacher or that one. His responses were always so odd. “Oh, that preacher had only 3 points but should have had 4. Oh, that preacher didn’t approach his topic the right way. Oh, and that one, not what I would have done.”
Do you catch what he was doing? He wasn’t hearing the sermons to learn, to be fed, to be blessed. He was hearing the sermons to evaluate them to see if they measured up to how he would have preached them.
Could it be possible that the Lord had lead some of those preachers he heard to preach a little differently than he would have?
Do we listen to sermons to critique them, to see how dynamic this guy is or that guy,to see if we can catch them making a mistake, or do we hear sermons with a nice simple plain old teachable attitude?
You and I have taken pictures from time to time and have been disappointed they turned out vague, underexposed, faded which is exactly how we’ll turn out if we don’t hear with the right attitude. Why not pray that your own attitude would be teachable when someone starts to preach?
Hearing with the right attitude is the place to start in getting a grip on the Bible.
As a baby Christian I loved the sermons at the local church. They were awesome. I couldn’t wait to go to church on Sunday. Unfortunately, by Wednesday, my spiritual life had run out of gas.
Why? Because just hearing isn’t enough to get you through life. Hearing is important, but I needed to start using finger #2.
Finger #2 – Read the Bible.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Did you notice here you have finger #1 and finger #2?
Hearing and reading. Reading helps to drive the message even more powerfully into our hearts.
Note that the promise here centers on the book of Revelation. But you don’t have to look hard to find blessings for reading the rest of the Bible.
When you see this verse you realize why bringing your Bible with you to church, if possible, is encouraged so much. It deepens your learning.
But wait a minute. What did Jesus say repeatedly to his enemies? He said, “Have you not read” this or that in the Bible?Of course they had read their Bibles. They were known as experts in the Bible.
So why did Jesus ask that question? Because they didn’t read with receptive hearts.They read their own biases and prejudices and ignorance into the Bible.
You and I can do the same thing.
There is also the temptation when we open the Bible to start praying OK, God, give me a blessing. Tell me how you’ll use me. Show me something neat. All “me” centered prayers.
Those are OK prayers. But there is a better prayer to start out with when you open the Bible each day: Lord, please teach me about you. Help me to understand you more. Show me your greatness. Help me to know you.
“Probably the most widespread, persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of retarded growth. Why after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no further along than when they first believed? The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.
The temptation to make our relation to God judicial instead of personal is very strong. We treat God only as a judge. Nothing more.”
The Christian life is often, tragically reduced to saying a prayer receiving Jesus as Savior. Period. Nothing else. That makes about as much sense as reducing marriage to one ceremony and forgetting about the lifetime relationship. Whatever happened to walking day by day through life with a Savior who is to be obeyed and adored?
The truth is that making progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we have of God in our personal experience. “The more we see God in our everyday experience, the more we grow. A thousand distractions would woo us away from thoughts of God. But if we are wise we will sternly push them away and make room for the King of Kings and make time to be with Him. It is altogether a matter of how much determination we bring to the task.”
When we see a physically challenged person, we get sad. But when we are spiritually retarded because we have not taken the time to get to know God, whom do we have to blame?
Some people don’t like to hear this, but the ball is in our court. The Bible has incredible goodies. Come and get ‘em. They are waiting for you.
OK, we are off to a terrific start in getting a grip on the Bible:
Finger #1 – Hear the Word.
Finger #2 – Read the Word.
We’re on to Finger #3 – Study the Word.
2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
This is an in your face message that there is a real possibility that one day we might stand before God ashamed for how we treated the Bible. If we have felt free to change the Bible, pervert it, mutilate it, distort it, or use it carelessly or with the wrong motive, whether in our own personal lives or as we have explained it to others –we are on notice. Rightly dividing or handling accurately or handling correctly or cutting it straight, depending upon your translation, are words that refer to good carpentry or brick laying or stone cutting.
Every time a remodeling project is completed we take a serious look and ask is it straight? Does it line up with the rest of the building? Well, one day God will do the same thing to the way we have used the Bible.
Did we handle it accurately? Or did we butcher it so we could get away with things? Did we work hard to apply it and teach it well? And this includes every parent and youth workers and all of us who try to explain the Bible to others.
The story is told of the teacher who came to class and set a jar on his table where everyone could see it. The teacher was teaching medical students about the importance of being observant. Picking up that jar he said, “This bottle contains a sample for analysis. It is often possible by tasting to determine the disease from which the patient suffers.” He then dipped one finger into the contents of the jar and then into his mouth. Then he passed the jar around the classroom telling each student to do exactly as he had done. Row by row, student by student the jar made its way as each student poked his finger into the jar and then into his mouth.
Every single person who stuck his finger into his mouth grimaced immediately except the teacher. Once the teacher had the jar back in his hand he said, “Students, you really need to be observant for if you had looked carefully you would have noticed that I stuck one finger into the jar but stuck a different finger into my mouth.”
I hope you have already guessed the point. How often do we hear people say that they don’t get anything out of the Bible. It doesn’t make any sense. One reason for that might be unconfessed sin. But here we have another. Laziness. Refusal to be diligent, to notice carefully, to be like a detective looking for clues, examining the evidence, searching for more. Become a glutton for details.
When you see Jesus in the Bible, see the One who has done more for you than anyone you ever met. When you see Him on the cross, look carefully until you see your sins on Him. When you see that blood dripping from Him, don’t stop looking until you see the perfect sacrifice for your sins. And when He says “Come follow me”, don’t turn that page until you realize He is talking to you.
Be a glutton for details. Your spiritual life will never be the same.
I’ve got a good Christian friend who when trying to explain something is always saying, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say such and such?” Let’s be gluttons for detail. Where does the Bible say such and such?
Know the verse cold with the address. Let’s get it right.
Are we studying the Bible so carefully that God will one day approve of how we treated the book He gave us?
Finger #4 – Memorize the Word.
Several weeks ago I was encouraging a good friend to memorize Bible verses, and he said, “OK. Sure, I’ll do it, but it is not really that important.” I wanted to scream.
Where did he get such an awful attitude? He is in bondage to lust and pride and laziness. I know that because he told me. He frequently doubts that God loves him, he is not a happy person. But he does not see memorizing verses as a key part of the Christian life.
Now take a look at Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect
An important, challenging verse. I hope it is already underlined and circled in your Bible.
Transformed is a powerful word. It comes from the Greek word “metamorphosis” which is what we call the drastic change a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly.
It is how the disciples described the change in Jesus at the transfiguration.
Write this down: This word means to be changed into another form – which is exactly what happens to a butterfly and to Jesus on that mountain of transfiguration. His face shown like the sun, and His clothes became white as the light.
For a Christian to be transformed doesn’t mean we will glow like He did on that mountain but it means we’ll become like Jesus, we’ll let the Holy Spirit work through our lives. We will be a participant in building God’s kingdom, not just a spectator.
Transformed believers are eager to live adventuresome, costly Christian lives.
Transformed believers are not concerned about getting the approval of the world, just the approval of God. Transformed believers have a different set of values than their conforming friends. Transformed believers are not running from one Christian fad to the next but are willing and eager to stick to the basics that work. Transformed believers – look at the verse – have had their minds renewed.
During winter weather we see cars sliding all over the place, into one lane and then another. We gasp in horror But the guard rails alongside the road keep the car from tumbling down the hill into a pond or valley or some other danger.
Well, when Satan attacks us, we slide all over the place and very likely will slide right off the road straight into a spiritual ditch if we haven’t built guard rails along our path to keep us on God’s road.
Early in my Christian life when a trial would come along, the first thing I would do was to doubt God’s love and goodness, and I’d go right down into the ditch of being bummed out. It was only when I took time to memorize verses on the love of God and the goodness of God that those verses became my guardrails to keep me on His path.
Now when something bad happens, bam, I grab a hold of the goodness of God or the love of God immediately. For me to defeat Satan I must do that.
Yes, trials have come after I memorized verses, but the guard rail memory verses give me immediate life-savers to hold onto and guidance how to deal with the situation.
And my friend who by his own admission is in bondage to lust and other sins needs to take the time to build guard rails into his life.
Also, how effective a witness will we be for Christ if we are saying, “Well, let me show you that verse – it’s just I don’t know where it is.” Or how effective an encourager will we be if we say, “Um, you are depressed? Well, there is a really good verse that will help you, I just forgot what it is.”
Let’s face it. Our main obstacle to memorizing verses is our own laziness. Be sure you won’t be the first person to memorize a verse and say, “Wow, did that verse help me!” We need guard rails all around our lives.
If you are not going through trials now, take time to install guardrails now so you are prepared for rough times that will come.
A renewed mind is so saturated by Scripture that when it is tempted to sin, it grabs hold of a verse and stays on God’s path. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think our world is headed for a rough future. Are we preparing now by having God renew our minds?
So we have looked at 4 fingers:
Finger #5 – Meditate on the Bible.
If someone tells you he is meditating, the first thing that comes in the average person’s mind is either that he is depressed or that he is humming “mmmmmmmmmmmmmm” like some cult or eastern religion.
That response is proof how effectively Satan has distorted something so important and blessed in the Christian life.
Look at Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
You want God to one day pat you on the head and say, “Fine job. We’ll put your life down in the success column.”
That is what God promises you in this verse if you make this 5th finger part of your life.
So what does meditate mean? It means to take a verse of the Bible or a couple of verses and think seriously about them, think deeply, ask yourself what it means. ask yourself what it tells you about God? How should your life be different because of that verse?
Pray about what the verse means. Think about it more. Are you obeying that verse?
What is holding you back from obeying that verse? Who is a good example of that verse? Why did God include that verse in the Bible?
You are taking a part of the Bible and assaulting it with prayer and questions so you can pull that verse into your behavior.
Why do we hear so little about meditation today? “A generation of Christians reared on push buttons and every machine imaginable finds something as slow and quiet as meditation to be out of style whereas from the Bible’s perspective our culture is out of style.” There is no fast lane to maturity. Meditation is not fast.
Every fall I look forward to the harvest celebration. The meat is moist, tender, saturated with juice all because that meat was cooked slowly with the juice allowed to seep all through that meat.
Modesty prevents me from telling you how many pieces I usually eat, but the teenagers at that table are sure to announce every time I get another helping.
Meditation allows the juice of the word of God to seep through your heart making you tender, saturating your entire life with the Bible, touching every nook and cranny of your life. making you more Christlike than you could ever have imagined. A choice tool in the hands of God.
Try it. It will change you.
So precious should glorifying God in our lives be that we ferociously resist the tides of the world. Ferociously we give up everything that holds us back from God.
“If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present by using all 5 fingers”
A famous author of many best-selling books was invited to speak at a college to students who planned literary careers. So he stood up to speak and asked the students, “How many of you really intend to be writers?” Every single student raised his hand. “In that case, he said, my advice to you is to go home and write.” And he put his notes in his pocket and walked out the door. I doubt if any of those students ever forgot that.
The point was clear. You learn to do something by doing it, not by talking about it.
Similarly in the Christian life we need to obey not just talk.
What will Jesus find when He comes back for us? Will He find that we really mastered our five fingers, got a solid grip on the Bible, and rose to our full potential? That we lived transformed lives that impacted many people for Him?
Hear the word
Read the word
Study the word
Memorize the word
Meditate on the word.
If I try to hold onto a Bible with one finger, you’ll have an easy time getting it away from me.
If I try to hold onto the Bible with two fingers, you’ll have a slightly more difficult time.
Three fingers, even harder.
But if I get a solid grip on the Bible with 5 fingers, I win. You lose.
Satan works hard to get this book out of our hearts and heads. If I grip it with all 5 fingers Satan loses. God wins.
Let’s make that happen!