I Want To Follow Christ!
“When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of the Heaven’s Armies.”
What is your favorite food? A few of mine are steak, tacos, enchiladas, fettuccine alfredo, lasagna, chicken parmesan, pepperoni pizza, orange chicken, Swedish meatballs, Italian beef and sausage sandwiches, cheese omelets, French toast, cheesy potatoes, baked sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar, bacon cheeseburgers, bacon… Come to think of it, there’s not much that doesn’t taste better with bacon and cheese on it.
From the time we were children, we were all taught that a healthy diet consists of a daily balance of the five basic food groups: Grains (bread, rice, pasta, cereal), Vegetables, Fruit, Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), Meat (including other proteins like eggs, nuts and legumes). Growing up, I had my own five basic food groups: Candy, Cookies, Chocolate, Ice Cream, Cake. I have a definite weakness for bakeries! Of course, feeding on my five basic food groups, like sin, offers short term pleasure but produces long term pain… like cavities!
We need to eat to live, and we need to eat healthy to be healthy. When it comes to feeding on God’s Word, it’s no different, and there are five basic ways that we can do this: Listen, Read, Memorize, Meditate and Study.
When Rich began discipling me as a fifteen year old, I had grown up in the church and knew all the Bible stories, all the Sunday School answers. I had memorized the books of the Bible for Sunday School brownie points. I had never read or studied the Bible for myself though, but that was all about to change. After a few months, I began to notice Rich’s Bible. It looked like a bag of Skittles had been dropped on it, and a rainbow was exploding off the pages. I asked Rich about his Bible, and he began to describe for me how he studied God’s Word. He had all different colors of highlighter pens. Each represented a different theme. Red was God’s love, green was for growth, purple was for God’s promises, etc. Line after line was underlined in different colors, and his margins were filled with notes, comments and questions. I was fascinated. I went out and got my own highlighter pens, and I began to study God’s Word for myself. I learned to love God’s Word and study God’s Word from what Rich modeled for me. I was learning how to FEED myself spiritually!
As we consider what it means to FEED on God’s Word, we’re continuing our five part series that examines some of the basic concepts a new believer must grasp to establish a strong foundation for their new spiritual life. As we disciple them, we want to help them understand their spiritual IDENTITY, learn how to WALK with God, learn how to TALK to God and about God, learn how to FEED themselves spiritually, and learn how to CLEAN up after they make a mess of their life spiritually. Sonlife has developed disciple-making conversation tools for each of these five foundational concepts: IDENTITY, WALK, TALK, FEED, CLEAN. We’ve been introducing these basic discipling concepts in our current five week series on disciple-making titled I Want To Follow Christ!
Jesus modeled for His disciples and for us the importance of FEEDING on God’s Word, knowing and doing what God says. Consider Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:17-19
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”Matthew 7:24-27
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” Acts 2:42a
We listen to God’s Word when it’s taught in church, youth group, or a small group. We also listen to God’s Word when it’s taught through podcasts, blogs, videos or books. In what ways are you regularly consuming God’s Word through others’ teaching? Most believers never move beyond this most basic way of consuming God’s Word. Like one in perpetual spiritual infancy, they settle for the milk of God’s Word and never move on to the meat.
“for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” Hebrews 5:13
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9
There is no substitute for reading God’s Word. Just as it was for the children of Israel, God’s Word is to be integrated into our everyday lives. I always recommend reading out loud to yourself. In doing so, you are taking God’s Word in using three different senses. You are reading it with your eyes, speaking it with your mouth, and hearing it with your ears. It takes an average reader about 10 minutes to read three chapters of Scripture. If you did this morning and night, you could read through the entire New Testament in about 6 weeks. What is your favorite part of God’s Word to read? The Psalms? The Gospels? Paul’s letters? The YouVersion Bible App has dozens of Bible reading plans, including several for reading through the entire Bible in a year. At the conclusion of each year, I think through what my reading plan is going to look like for the coming year. In the past, I’ve read through Psalms and Proverbs on a monthly basis (5 Psalms and 1 Proverb a day); the Bible in a year using the Read Scripture App; all four Gospels every month using a different harmony of the Gospels each month; the Chronological Bible, etc. This year, I’m reading through a chapter each day and picking one verse from that chapter to meditate on and journal about. What’s your plan? As they say, “A failure to plan, is a plan to fail.”
“I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
Jesus memorized God’s Word. We see this evidenced when Satan confronts Him with three specific temptations, and each time, Jesus combats the temptation by quoting from God’s Word. “It is written!” When we commit God’s Word to memory, it begins to transform the way that we think and speak. It offers us comfort and strength in times of discouragement, hope in times of despair, and weapons and willpower in times of temptation. One of the hidden dangers of having God’s Word in the palm of our hand, easily accessible, on our mobile device, is that it can make us lazy when it comes to memorizing God’s Word. We think, “I don’t need to memorize it. I can find it when I need it. It’s right here on my phone, easily searchable.” What we don’t realize is the transformation that takes place in the way that we think and speak when we’ve hidden God’s Word away in our heart, not just in our pocket.
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8
To meditate on God’s Word is to ponder it, to think deeply about it. One of the best ways to meditate on God’s Word is to journal. Write each day about what God is teaching you in His Word. I journal digitally. I share what God is teaching me with my family for encouragement and accountability. Another way to meditate on Scripture is to pray through a passage, Pray with your Bible open. Read a few verses, and then talk to God about them. Then read a few more, and keep the conversation going. Pause and listen with your Bible open. What is God saying as you read? What thoughts or questions is He bringing to mind?
As I meditate on a passage and journal, it will often lead me into the fifth way of taking in God’s Word, STUDY. God’s Spirit will prompt a thought or a question, and that leads me to dig a little deeper.
“I will study Your commandments and reflect on Your ways.” Psalm 119:15
It is easier now than ever before to study God’s Word. There are so many tools available on the web, as well as amazing apps for your phone or tablet like BibleGateway, YouVersion, ReadScripture and more. There are guided studies like Sonlife’s Knowing Him or 40 Days of Disciple-Making Journal, or other classics like Experiencing God. Then there are some basic Bible Study formats that can be used with any passage. A simple, basic approach is to just answer two questions from the Scripture passage: What does God want me to know? What does God want me to do? A popular Bible Study method used in disciple-making multiplication models is Discovery Bible Study.
- Read the passage/story aloud.
- Retell the passage/story in your own words.
- What does this passage say about God, Jesus, or His plan?
- What does this passage say about us?
- According to this passage, what am I doing well?
- According to this passage, what do I need to change?
- Who else needs to hear this passage/story?
I’m humbled when I travel to other parts of the world where God’s Word isn’t as accessible as it is here in North America. I’d be embarrassed if I began to go through my home and count up all the copies of the Bible we have, knowing there are believers I’ve met who would long to have just one complete copy of God’s Word. I’ve been in villages in the Philippines where only 20,000 people in the world speak their language and the Bible is still in the process of being translated. Before the Iron Curtain fell, I was in Eastern Europe where believers were followed by the secret police and couldn’t read the Bible openly. I have a friend who helped to smuggle Bibles into communist China years ago. For believers like these, God’s Word is treasured. They drink it in like a sun-scorched traveler who’s found an oasis with cool, clear water in the middle of the desert. When I was fifteen, I learned to treasure God’s Word like that. May we never forget the treasure we possess when we hold God’s Word in our hands, opened on our lap!
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:7-10