Studying God’s Word

Stephen Arterburn

When we receive an email or letter from a good friend, we usually find ourselves doing two things: first, we read the letter with eager anticipation, hanging on every word; and second, we read the letter over and over again, hoping each time to gain insight into, and intimacy with, it’s author. The same should be true with regard to God’s Word, for in it we find a message directed to us by One who loves us. And by reading that message intently and repeatedly, we can know the One we delight in truly and more accurately.

In Psalm 119:105, David likens Scripture to a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Men, the Bible is our map or instruction manual to godliness, and we need to keep it close by and read it often. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves walking in darkness. And if that happens, we’re sure to stumble and fall.

Furthermore, how badly we stumble and how hard we fall will likely be proportionate to how long it’s been since we’ve feasted on God’s Word. King David knew this truth, so in Psalm 119:103 he exclaims to his beloved Lord, ‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’

Like David before us, we need to feast lovingly, enthusiastically, and consistently upon God’s Word. Just as you need physical food in order to sustain your body, you also need spiritual food to sustain your soul.

Ongoing Disclosure

In our society of instant communication–cell phones, text messaging, etc.–we have lost the significance and meaning of words. We rarely think about the significance of the words we use to get our message across. This was not always the case. In earlier writings throughout history men labored to be exact in their choice of words so as to be clear in their meaning and intent of their message. An example is seen in the words of the Constitution of the United States of America. The words had to be exact and precise in order for the document to endure as the foundation of a country and society. If this is true of a man made document for a country, how much more meaningful are the Words used in the Bible.

In the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, when God speaks through the Prophets and Apostles the very words He uses are packed with meaning and significance. In light of using and understanding the words we choose, I want to address the importance of ‘ongoing disclosure’ and its significance for us today.

Let’s first examine the meaning of the word disclosure.

1. To uncover; to open; to remove a cover from, and lay open to view.
2. To discover; to lay open to view; to bring to light.
3. To reveal by words; to tell; to utter; as, to disclose the thoughts of the heart.
4. To make known; to show in any manner.
5. To open; to hatch.

American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828

Now why would it be important to disclose the thoughts of the heart? Why is it important to live an open life before others? Why can’t some things just remain hidden in the heart?

To answer these questions lets begin by taking a look at the beginning of time (from Genesis ch. 2).

When God spoke into existence all of creation, He made a declaration that it was ‘good.’ What God calls good means excellent ‘ perfect ‘ without flaw! (see Jesus’ conversation about the word ‘good’ with the young man in Mark 10:17 ‘ 18). Yet when He came to the creation of man, He chose not to speak him into existence but said ‘Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness.’ He took dirt and ‘formed’ man out of it. He ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being.’ Wow!

What did this man, Adam, have? God planted a garden and put the man in it. Adam had a ‘good’ place to live. ‘Good’ food to eat. ‘Good’ water to drink. There were four rivers listed running through this garden. This was no acid rain ‘ in fact there was no rain at all at that time. There was no pollution in the water or poison needed to spray for insects on the plants. All food was ‘good’ for the man. Remember, ‘good’ means perfect.

What else did the man have? He had ‘good’ companionship. He talked openly with God. God gave him instructions on how to live in the garden. Apparently it was the custom for God to walk with Adam. He was not afraid.

In fact the only thing that God said of Adam that was ‘not good’ was that he was alone. After naming all the animals, Adam discovered that none would ‘fit.’ Then God took Adam’s rib and ‘fashioned’ (literally the word ‘built’) Eve and brought her to Adam.

There was a perfect relationship between God and man and between Adam and Eve. They apparently walked together in the evening in the garden. Everything was open between them. There was nothing to hide, not emotionally, not mentally, not physically. Everything was ‘good’ in Eden.

Then the temptation and the fall. They ate the forbidden fruit. Their eyes were opened and they saw nakedness! Their first natural (fallen nature) response was to cover and hide. They sewed fig leaves and made loin coverings. They tried to cover themselves from each other. There was no one else around except the animals. Then they heard God walking through the garden for the evening stroll. They now had fear for the first time. Their new natural response was to hide, to close themselves from God and from each other.

When we sin it is no different today than it was with Adam and Eve. We go underground. We bury our actions and thoughts hoping desperately that no one will find us out. Where are your hiding places? In the computer room or into password protected files and places of access that no one must ever go but you? Perhaps it is on the phone with a phone actress? (look up the word actress). Maybe it is a certain area of town or another town when you are traveling.

God did not leave Adam and Eve hiding. He sought them out. He called them out; they were guilty and had to face the consequences i.e. death, cast out of the garden (see Gen 3). What was true for them is certainly true for us. The ‘wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23). If I face the penalty of death, we are going to hide! We want life. God intends for us to have life, so much so that He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place. The life that God would have for us is a life open to Him and to others without fear. The debt has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. If your faith and trust is in Him, the debt is paid. You have been declared not guilty and set free. Free to run the race set before you, laying aside every encumbrance (Heb. 12:1) and sin that entangles you.

Secrecy is one of the major factors that keep us in bondage to our sins. Exposing our sins to one who is a trust worthy companion, accountability partner or group keeps us from hiding and covering up with deceit and lies.

Consider if God made us in His image what characteristics should be incorporated in our lives.

John 14: 21 Jesus said:

”and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.’

Jesus indicates clearly that it is His purpose and desire to be known personally and intimately. Love my Father, I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. Wow! Jesus wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him, to know all about Him. In effect He tells us that He will reveal things previously hidden from your knowledge about Him. This is not just a New Testament concept. God from the beginning of time had a purpose to declare His glory to us. Consider the following from Psalm 19:

‘The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.’

God through His creation declares His glory. He desires for you to know Him.

For us to experience the freedom of walking with Him and with others without fear we must live a life of ongoing disclosure. God reveals His glory to everyone in His creation. But when Jesus was talking about disclosing Himself it was only to those who love His Father in Heaven. Thus it is prudent to disclose your life to those who will love and support you. If you don’t have anyone who you could trust, perhaps meet with a trusted pastor or counselor.

Remember covering and hiding were the original and natural responses of sin. To live freely is to know that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins and were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2), BUT GOD! being rich in mercy, made us ALIVE!

Being alive is not to live a life of secrecy and bondage under cover. We were intended to be like Him, for His glory.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.
For more helpful resources for men click here.

Craig Boden

Preach the Gospel to Yourself Daily

Jim Phillis

I was introduced to the practice of preaching the Gospel to myself daily 15 years ago in a sermon. My first thought was, ‘I can see how some people would really be helped by this.’ Over the last couple of years, I have come to see that the first three steps of the 12 Steps reflect the basic affirmations that Christians make when they ask Jesus to be their Savior. As a result, I have learned that I need to preach the Gospel to myself every day as an essential part of my recovery.

I am a sinner. OR ‘I am powerless and my life is unmanageable.’

No one wants to be powerless and find that they are working for something but are accomplishing nothing. This is true in our jobs, in our relationships with family and friends, and in our spiritual lives. If I am in school, I want my studying to result in grades that will permit me to graduate. As I parent, I want to nurture my children so that they grow up to become healthy adults. I want my participation in church to help me grow spiritually.

While all these desires are appropriate, I have come to see that I have no control over the outcomes of my efforts. I may think that I am working very diligently for my company, but my efforts may go completely unnoticed. I may seek to parent my children well and still find myself struggling with a prodigal. I can and should give my best effort, but I cannot control the results of anything I do.

This can lead to frustration, which is compounded by the belief many Americans embrace that God helps those who help themselves. When faced with a situation that is unpleasant, we often try to adjust some feature of it or some person in the situation. We become mechanics; we are trying to fix things. Sadly, our efforts often only make the difficult situation more difficult and can create doubts about God’s promise to take care of us. Finally, we must acknowledge that our lives are beyond our control.

I need a Savior. OR ‘Jesus alone is able to save me from my unmanageable life.’

Several years ago I became aware that I was very dissatisfied with my walk with God. I felt things were hopeless as I struggled with sins that I had first become aware of when I accepted Christ as Savior’more than 25 years before. I felt like a spiritual failure.

I then realized that my basic struggle was with spiritual powerlessness. I was attempting to do what Paul suggested the people of the Galatian churches were attempting: to finish the spiritual work of salvation through human effort (3:1-3) I was attempting to manage my own spiritual growth.

The Gospel confronts me with the reality that I am truly helpless and I need someone to rescue or save me. I had accepted that, but I was expecting that now that I was saved I would have the power to get better.

I have access to spiritual power by faith, but Jesus says that the power flows only as long as I am living in spiritual union with Him. ‘If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) I don’t get plugged in like a cell phone to get re-charged so I can leave the power source and function. I am more like the lamp that must remain plugged in to work. I can’t disconnect from Him and expect that I will become spiritually healthy. So I must declare my need of Him each day and moment by moment.

I believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. OR ‘Lord, I am turning my life over to you so that you can direct me.’

The familiar proverb reads, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’ I have been placed in some situations that I could not maneuver in. I was clearly powerless and watched for a way out but I depended upon Him for courage as I waited. And I waited some more.

As I was waiting, I wasn’t still. I did have to have some difficult talks and live in some hard places. My human assessment was that the path wasn’t straight. It looked more like one of the Family Circus cartoons in the Sunday paper, in which one of the kids wandered all over the yard or the neighborhood before accomplishing the task that he had been given.

As I look back on these times now, I can see how the path was straight’straight to Jesus. I didn’t have any advice for Him; I just asked Him to be with me where I was. I was constantly looking for Him. I was not trusting in my feelings. I didn’t wait until I felt a particular course of action was right or comfortable. (My feelings can’t be trusted. Jeremiah declares: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.’ 17:9) Instead, I spent time reading His Word in order to know His will’both what kind of character God is seeking to work in me by His Spirit and what actions are appropriate to my situation. I also listened to those I knew who walked with Him and was nurtured by their encouragement. And the Lord showed Himself to be faithful in providing everything I needed to survive and thrive in those difficult circumstances.

When I have had a good day spiritually, I am tempted to relax the next day. I become casual about prayer and Bible reading. I am careless about my boundaries. Then, I find myself having a bad day’powerless and struggling to do well. And I am reminded of the Gospel all over again.

Yes, Lord, I am a sinner who needs a Savior. I thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and being ready to help me right where I am. I’m choosing to trust you with my life. AMEN.’

For additional help and encouragement, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.