Our basic, most fundamental purpose is to know God, and make him known. That’s been my little phrase for a while. What I’m learning is that making him known is not a task or a purpose we do. It isn’t a ministry we take on, and it isn’t something we do for God. Romans 1 is very clear that God’s creation is doing that just by virtue of the fact that he made it. Making God known is simply becoming like Jesus by the grace of God through the work of the Holy Spirit as we love him. When we come to know God and love him, when he is the focus of our lives, we will stop clinging to the things of the world and to our own little kingdoms, and become more like him. The more like him we become, the more clearly we will make him known by virtue of who we are and how we live. And through our fellowship with other children of God, the church, we give the world an even brighter, clearer picture of who God is by how we live, and how we live with one another. It’s called our “witness.”
In order to become like God and make him known through the simple living of our lives in him, we have to know him, we have to set our gaze and focus on him. Psalm 115:8, speaking of those who worship idols, says, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” We become like what we worship. Likewise, Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). In other words, if you focus on and worship God, you will become like him.
God has revealed himself through the Law, the Prophets, and most completely, through his Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). All these revelations are recorded for us in the Scriptures. If we are to gaze into the face of God and see him for who he is, we need to start with a devotion to God’s word. That means we need to read it with a fresh mind and an eager heart, and not with the lazy spirit of, “Whatever, I know this.” Forget what you think you know, and plunge deeper, beyond the version of God you’re comfortable with. Step out from your circle of friends and teachers that tell you what you want to hear, or what you are accustom to hearing, and encounter God in the wilderness of solitude.
Therefore, I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.
This is a picture of God wooing—seducing—his bride, Israel, and now, the church. With his word, he will draw us to him, which means we need to give him our undivided attention. We need to silence the voices of other lovers and listen for his voice. When we hear him, we need to be committed to respond.
Today, one person may own several Bibles without the word of God having any real ownership of them, or sway over their heart. Honestly, when was the last time you read the Bible and were utterly compelled to change the way you live? It’s a question I’ve been wrestling with and the answer has stirred me to search my heart and begin surrendering more and more to Jesus.
We read the Bible to finish, checking it off the list; we don’t read the Bible to change. Typically, I read something, agree it’s true and good, and then just assume I’m good soil and move on without letting the Spirit of holy God come and have his way; without letting conviction do its good work. Treating the truths of God’s word like concepts is denying its power.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
This passage describes, to a tee, our day. It describes many churches, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” That isn’t a conscious denial, it’s a practical denial. We deny the power of God and his word because we are more devoted to loving ourselves than we are to loving God. We are more devoted to our plans, pleasure, comfort, and preference than we are to knowing and obeying the truth of God’s word. In fact, we’ll too often sit in judgment on God’s word, calling it “outdated” or “culturally irrelevant” in our effort to live more comfortably in our disobedience. “I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something foreign” (Hosea 8:12).
Without devotion to the word of God we will compromise. That sounds like such a friendly word, “compromise.” It feels like finding a neutral, middle ground, and that’s good, right? That sounds like the nice thing to do … among peers.
God has a different word for what we call compromise: adultery. When we try to live with the Bible in view, and both feet in the world, we are committing adultery. We need devotion to the Word in how we read it, believe it, trust it and live it.
Remember that Jesus himself is the living word of God. He goes with you everywhere. The Word of God is not confined only to the written page (though he will never contradict what is revealed to us through the Scripture). There is so much more to this devotion to God’s word than reading your Bible. We need to experience God’s word as we actually believe it, trust it, and live it. To treat God’s Word like a book to be studied and memorized only, is like saying marriage vows are only to be recited, not lived.
Some of our adulteries have led to great abuses of God’s word. The victims of such abuse often come to reject biblical truth and holy conviction because of the wounds afflicted by other people. “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but he who ignores correction leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17). We must be committed to the word of God above our own preference, our favorite pastor, our own church, or our denomination if we are to be disciplined, or trained, by it. Anything less undermines the work and purpose of God and we actually find ourselves in opposition to him. “If anyone loves … more than me, he is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).
This is also why our devotion must be to God’s Word, not fallen man. People will fail you and sometimes betray you, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Your hope and trust are in God, not man. Misuse of God’s word to advance preference, tradition, or reputation is evil.
We cannot look at and interpret God’s word through the lens of our experiences and hurts. Our enemy is hard at work to use our experiences to cast doubt on God’s word and put enmity between you and God in every situation—particularly the hard stuff. We must interpret our experiences and hurts through the immutable truth of God’s eternal word, not allow it to work the other way around. That’s what devotion looks like. Recognize those abuses and failures, forgive or confess them, and cling to God’s word like your very life depends on it … because it does.
People and their traditions will come and go. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33). Devotion to the word of God, devotion to Jesus Christ, will be a firm foundation and a secure refuge in a turbulent and decaying world. It’s not a nice little accessory to adorn your life, like earrings or a tie tack, or a cool Christian t-shirt. It is Life and it will keep anyone from putting bars around your life.
We are talking about the Living Word of God and it speaks to you. It’s not meant to inspire you like a Hallmark card, or inform you like the Sunday paper. If we treat it as such then we deceive ourselves and have bought into a lie that will keep you caged and lifeless. The Word of God is the standard by which you measure, judge, and discern; and it will cause you to see your captivity, and show you the way out.
The living word of God is given to transform and refine you through record and evidence of God and his amazing grace throughout human history. It is written, encountered, and experienced. It leads beyond the sacred page into full and abundant life as we walk with Jesus by his Spirit, and we need to be devoted, not just to know it, but to live in it.