Sanctify them in The Truth…..Your Word is Truth
An Olympic athlete sets him or her self apart to train, filtering out anything that detracts from pursuing a gold medal. Holiness, which means, “wholly set apart” whether to a cause or person, embraces similar discipline, yet requires more than our effort. Jesus prays in John 17 that God ‘sanctify us’ because God alone sets us apart for Himself, forgiving our sins and giving us a new heart with new desires and new eyes to pursue His glory. Near of the end of His prayer, Jesus prayed, “I sanctify myself that they (His followers) might be sanctified. Living ‘set apart’ for God’s ways remains impossible apart from the grace God gives us as He applies the death and resurrection of Jesus to our life. God also identifies ‘means’ for how He accomplishes this in our life. Jesus prayed, ‘Sanctify them with THE truth. Your word is truth. (17:17). An hour earlier, Jesus told His disciples that after His death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit, whom He called the ‘Spirit of Truth’, would come and teach us all things and remind us of what Jesus had said. The Scriptures – the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18) – are what He uses to teach us so we might be ‘set apart’, undivided and unpolluted, in our pursuit to live for God’s glory in all things.
Therefore, God sanctifies us as we live in and under the truth of God’s word. Hence, Paul taught Timothy to read and study with great discipline. God told Joshua to not let the word of truth depart from His mouth if He wished to succeed in Moses’ footsteps. Psalm 119 contains 176 verses and 174 remind us of the good God works in our life through the Scriptures. Psalm 1 says the ‘blessed” (i.e. anyone receiving the grace to believe in Jesus) delight in God’s Word. Living set apart for God’s Kingdom, loving Jesus and walking in His ways, requires a relationship with God’s truth. Some of the ways God invites us to know Him in His Word are listed below:
1. Read it: God instructed Israel to ‘read’ the Old Testament law with its blessings and cursing. (Exodus 24:7; Deut. 31:11). Paul told the churches He wrote, to read aloud His letters to all (Colossians 4:13; I Thessalonians 5:27) and He instructed Timothy to devote Himself to the public reading of Scripture (I Tim. 4:13). Reading the Scriptures is a great place to begin. Specific plans – Reading the Bible through in a year, Reading a chapter a day, reading one proverbs a day and/or five psalms per day for a month –help us start and stay on course. Reading out loud and re-reading chapters and books help us remember what we read. Sometimes a few good questions guide your reading, and I list a few under ‘Meditation’ below. Personalizing the Scriptures, a regular trait in the Psalms (i.e. The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want), brings God’s word closer to our hearts. This involves putting your name or someone else and/or personal pronouns in passages, so you read as God speaking to you. For example:
The Lord your God is in your (MY) midst,
a mighty one who will save (ME);
he will rejoice over you (ME) with gladness;
he will quiet you (ME) by his love;
he will exult over you (ME) with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
2. Write it: In Deuteronomy 17, God gives instructions to future kings of Israel. In verse 17 – 19 He tells them to ‘write out their own copy of the law’ and then ‘read it regularly’. Writing the Scriptures helps put them into our memory and recall them later. Buy an inexpensive notebook and copy a chapter a day from one of Pauls’ 16 New Testament letters, or copy the psalms.
3. Sing it: Singing the Scriptures uses a different part of the brain then reading and aids us in memory. Christian Schools, home-school parents and organizations aimed to strengthen families often build Scripture memory around music. If you Google this subject, you will find resources.
4. Meditate on it: The Psalms encourage us to mediate on God and His Word. (Psalm 1, 63, 77, 119, 143, 145). The Hebrew word for mediate means: ‘to mutter’. As part of meditation, the Hebrews would ‘mutter’ the Scriptures to themselves over and over, pondering it’s meaning, reflecting on what it revealed about God, and praying it into their life. As you meditate, use a few good questions to reflect on:
a. What does this passage reveal about God?
b. What does this passage say about man (i.e. me)? This is not asking what it says for me to do, but rather what is says about me so that I understand how God describes us.
c. What does it reveal about God’s work for me through the good news of Jesus Christ?
d. How might these truths influence my relationships with family and friends and church?
e. How might these truths lead to the confession of sin?
f. How might these truths increase my worship of God?
5. Pray it: God’s Word reveals God – His promises, character, and ways. Reading these as prayers of praise and thanks reminds us to exult (boast) in God as we read. God’s Word also reveals us, describing us in our sin and darkness and providing truths and commands we need to live as His followers. Reading these as prayers of confession and praying specific commands into our life reminds us that our purpose with God’s Word involves ‘doing’ not just ‘hearing’.
6. Study it: Paul told Timothy to ‘Study God’s Word (II Timothy 2:15). The key to studying God’s Word involves observing what it says and seeking to find God’s intended meaning in the meaning of the original writer to His audience. For example, God’s intended meaning for Philippians comes through understanding what Paul in His circumstances meant as He wrote to the church of Philippi in their circumstances. Once we arrive at the meaning, then we can apply that. This helps protect us from finding applications not rooted in the text. We seldom arrive at the perfect meaning (I Corinthians 13:10), but in prayerfully studying well, the Holy Spirit guides us. Commentaries and books from Bible scholars guide us to mine out the Scriptures. In studying we can use the same questions under meditation but write our thoughts and answers. John Piper on desiringgod.org provides some video clips that teach how to study and diagram sentences in the Scriptures. For further Bible study resources Google and/or contact me.
7. Obey it: Pray and ask God to reveal wondrous things in His Word (Psalm 1119:18). Ask God to show you one degree of glory after another as read about Him and His work through Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18). Finally, pray hard and work hard (Philippians 2:12-13) to be a ‘doer’ of the Word and not a ‘hearer’ only (James 1:21) – since that is the aim of God’s work in your life.
Beginning is often the hardest step, and the second hardest is continuing. Begin. Pick a specific place, a specific time, and start with a few minutes each day. Encouragement and perseverance often come from reading and studying with others. Therefore join a Grace group or meet with a couple of friends to pray and discuss what you gained from your reading and study. Ask a friend to pray for you for your ‘stick-to-it’ ness. God’s all-you-can-eat buffet of grace, joy, and fruit is spread out in His Word, climb up to the table and start eating! Your sanctified life depends on it.
Delighting in God’s Word with you,