Sermon Date: Nov. 7, 2010
Sermon Title: Gearing Up
Sermon Text: Psalm 1:1-3
Small Group Text: Psalm 1:1-6 Who doesn’t want success? One way or another, most people are tracking down some semblance of meaning and significance in the daily grind of life. And yet the reality is such that God has placed inescapable limits on human achievement so that true fulfillment eludes even the most successful people until they are spiritually connected to the God who made them. In other words, when the lone pursuit of “success” becomes life’s endgoal, more often than not, the days are filled with weariness and disappointment. A cursory review of Ecclesiastes will underscore the point. On the other hand, the Scriptures make it clear that successful living is the byproduct of another endeavor altogether. A flourishing life requires a commitment to personal conversations with God. Read the following Scripture passages and find the common denominator to every reference of success, prosperity and wisdom. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.  Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.  I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. Psalm 119:97-100
Did you catch it? Meditation (Bible reflection) is the key. It’s a commitment Successful living begins with a commitment to consistently encounter God through the reading of His word. We need to view the Bible as a most prized possession – but not simply as an accent piece on the coffee table. Rather, the Scriptures are to be known and treasured as the standard for Christian life and service – the ultimate source of moral and spiritual strength. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.  With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.  I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:9-16
Committed to a time Fitting Bible reflection into the hectic pace of one’s daily routine is a challenge for even the most committed person. But what if we changed our perspective so that rather than “fitting it in” we prioritized our time with God and wrapped our day around it as the first and most important part of our schedule?
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
For most of us, this would require slowing down long enough to offer more of ourselves to our personal relationship with God. We would find a quiet comfortable place to meet our Lord where we’d be assured of no interruptions. If possible, we’d reserve a time when we’re most awake and alert. Of course, intrusive thoughts would tend to distract us in the quietness; but over time, we’d learn to calm our hearts and clear our thoughts — focusing on the privilege of having a conversation with God. Committed to His agenda It would be tempting to arrive to a conversation with God with a preconceived notion of what should happen and loaded with things to say. In essence, an agenda. But the Scriptures teach that the most wise posture we could assume in the presence of the Lord is to humbly come near to listen rather than to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. The most important question when conversing with God would be, “Lord, what do You want to say to me?” Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. Eccles. 5:1-3
Invite the Lord’s presence and listen for His voice in the form of an impression, a thought, or a feeling. God won’t speak in some obscure heavenly language. He will use our very own working vocabulary to communicate with us. And most of the time, the voice of His Spirit will come gently – quietly (1 K. 19:11-13). Therefore, we must learn to cultivate the ability to listen deeply, in silence – not with our physical ears of course; but with the ears of our hearts. It’s a personal encounter In our day, God has chosen to use the Scriptures as the primary means for connecting deeply with His people. He speaks uniquely to each one of us the exact words we need to hear. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
He knows us Read Psalms 139:1-16. God is both immanent and transcendent – existing with us and at the same time not bound by the physical constraints of the material world in which we live. He is very far away – beyond the realms of time and space – and yet, He is as close as our own hearts. And wonder-of-wonders, He knows us intimately, loves us dearly and desires fellowship with His people. He wants us to know Him Since the beginning of time, God has presented us with a standing invitation to live an abundant life through fellowship with Him. In fact, to know Him is to have life: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
And hence, God calls each generation of believers to grow in their knowledge of Him. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephes. 1:17 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deut. 4:29
It’s conversations God speaks - I listen
Jesus was returning to the Father, but he comforted his disciples with the knowledge that he would continue to guide and direct their lives through the promptings of his Holy Spirit. They would have to listen – attuning their hearts to his voice: "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:12-13 Conversations with God can take various forms: 1. As we read a verse or phrase in the Bible, we might hear the Holy Spirit put our names in the place of pronouns and personal references in the passage. For example, read John 3:16-17 like this: For God so loved (your name) that he gave his one and only Son, that if (your name) believes in him (your name) shall not perish but (your name) will have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (your name), but to save (your name) through him.
2. Or, perhaps God will use a passage of Scripture to challenge us toward life-change. Is there: • • • • • • • • • • • •
An attitude to adjust? A promise to claim? A priority to change? A lesson to learn? An issue to resolve? A command to obey? An activity to avoid or stop? A truth to believe? An idol to tear down? An offence to forgive? A new direction to take? A sin to confess?
When God speaks and we listen through reading His word, He fits timeless truths to our lives at the deepest levels and in very immediate and personal ways. To achieve this depth of conversation, we’re not speed-reading through the Bible as we might a newspaper or textbook. We’re not covering a certain number of chapters within a given period of time. This conversational manner of reading takes the form of listening attentively – honing in on words or phrases that engage our attention. Stay there in the moment, committing the principle/precept to memory without being too concerned to memorize word-for-word. Locking away the main idea will suffice. Allow the words heard to be absorbed into our minds and hearts – to grip us with encouragement, or conviction, or even a command or commissioning. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17
I speak - God listens God invites us not to His monologue but to a dialogue. "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. Isaiah 1:18
As God speaks through His word, we can carry on a discussion with Him in prayer. In this sense, prayer is simply a dialogue with the Lord – a deep/intimate conversation similar to the verbal exchange we would have with a personal friend who knows, loves and accepts us.
No doubt, conversations with God will awaken new thoughts and emotions. Don’t hold back: express them! Even in their most raw form. Any and every conceivable thought and feeling can be laid bare before God: confusion, confession, questions, thanksgiving, praise, worship, or myriad of mixed emotions. We can ask the Lord for clarification – for further insight and practical application of His truth. And He’ll answer. Before long, we’ll find ourselves entering into an on-going conversation with God. Is it really God conversing with us? …or are we just talking to ourselves? Over time, as we practice Bible reflection, we will come to recognize the unmistakable voice of God in our lives. But until then, a little test can put our hearts at ease. Simply ask these questions: • Is this prompting – this impression – life affirming; or does it diminish life (ours or someone else’s)? • Is this prompting Biblical; or is it in conflict with the overall teaching of Scripture? • If we were to ask other spiritually perceptive people about this prompting, what advice would they offer? Responding to God’s Word The successful life God promises is intrinsically keyed into responding positively to what He says throughout our conversations with Him. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. James 4:17
How we respond to God’ word is a personal decision; but to experience success in life, our response must always culminate in submission to the will of God. • Try keeping a journal – perhaps writing/typing in different colors of ink: one color denoting God’s words to us and another color representing our words to Him. • Share newly learned insights with another person (a friend, spouse, or date). We might even share insights over lunch with people at work – if appropriate. But let us always respond by endeavoring to obey God’s word. The more we align our wills with His truth, the more we’ll grow in every area of our lives – and that’s the “success” to which the Scriptures refer. Keep in mind that God never lets us skip steps in the maturing process – let’s not even try. If He puts his finger on something that need to be addressed – respond accordingly because we will be held accountable for the truths He has shared through our conversations with Him. Where to begin? • The New Testament Gospel of John is a good place to start; as are the books of James and Philippians. • The 31 chapters of the Old Testament book of Proverbs can be read in a month if we read the chapter that corresponds to the monthly calendar date.