God’s Desire

Sometimes when we are struggling to please someone we may exclaim, “What do you want from me?” This is an expression borne of frustration over trying to do what is expected, but failing to accomplish that goal. The reasons for one’s failure in such instances are usually because he has not been clearly told what will satisfy the other person, or the instructions he received were unclear, conflicting or incomplete.

Fortunately we do not have this issue in spiritual matters. God has been perfectly clear and complete in what His desire for us is. In 1 Tim. 2:3, 4 Paul said, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of god our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In very simple language, Paul revealed God’s ultimate desire for all mankind. He wants us to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. This is a significant statement, because one cannot be saved without coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Our Lord Jesus Christ made this same point when He spoke to some believing Jews in Jn. 8:31, 32. He said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In other words, in order to be a true disciple of Christ, one must continue in His word. This means not only learning it, but also living by it. One who knows the word of God but does not live by it is not a true disciple, and such a person will not be saved in that condition.

If we were to boil down God’s desire to a single word it is obedience. God desires us to obey His word. This has been the case since the beginning of time and will continue to be so until the end of time. God’s desire for Adam and Eve in the garden was that they obey His prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s desire for Noah was for him to build the Ark according to the instructions given him, and that he take the animals and his family into the Ark before the flood. His desire for King Saul was that he obey God’s commands as king of Israel. When Saul failed to obey, God sent His prophet Samuel to rebuke him.

In 1 Sam. 15:22 Samuel told Saul, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Saul did what he thought was best and tried to make up for it by offering massive sacrifices to God. It didn’t work, because God wants obedience more than He wants sacrifice.

This principle still applies today. When Jesus gave the Great Commission to the apostles, Matthew recorded it in these words: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19, 20). When the Lord said to teach the disciples to observe all that He commanded, He meant to teach them to obey. We cannot please God unless we obey Him, and we cannot accomplish His desire in our lives unless we know the truth and obey it.

When Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, he warned them of what would happen when the Lord came again. In 2 Th. 1:7, 8 he said that when the Lord returns He will deal out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is not way around it. God’s desire is that we be saved, but the only way we can be saved is if we know and obey the clear instructions found in His inspired word. Will you obey and allow God’s desire to be fulfilled in your life?

How To Study The Bible

A recurring theme in the scriptures is devoting oneself to God’s word. Moses commanded the people of Israel to speak of God’s word in every activity of their daily existence (Deut. 6:6-9). The anonymous writer of Psalm 119 used 176 verses to extol the virtues of God’s word and his devotion to it, summarizing his attitude in Psa. 119:105, where he said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” In Jn. 8:31, 32 Jesus told some believing Jews to continue in His word in order to be His true disciples, so they would know the truth and the truth would make them free.

Paul in 2 Tim. 2:15 gave what is the definitive statement for Christians on this subject. He said, “Be diligent (or study, KJV) to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Our responsibility as disciples of Christ is to devote ourselves to God’s word so we know and understand it, and so we will accurately employ it as we share the good news with the lost.

Most of us are aware of this responsibility, but few of us become as proficient with God’s word as we ought to be, or would like to be. The reasons for this are many, perhaps, but one of the chief reasons is that we simply do not have any idea how to go about studying the scriptures. This is likely due to the fact that we talk a lot about studying the scriptures, but we talk very little about how to do so. Consequently, Bible study, beyond surface level reading, seems like an insurmountable task.

In reality there are only a few simple principles that one needs to follow in order to enhance his or her knowledge of and expertise in the scriptures. The first principle is consistency. We must make time on a regular basis to spend in the study of God’s word. We understand the value of this principle in secular subjects, and the same is true with God’s word. Regular meditation on God’s word is a key to spiritual growth.

The second principle is to study systematically. Skipping from one subject or book to another with no plan or goal in mind will not enhance one’s awareness of scripture. The Bible is not a book of random, disconnected sayings. It is a cohesive, unified, single message and we must study it systematically in order to fully understand that message.

Third, we must study the Bible contextually. This means we look at every statement in the paragraph, chapter, book and testament in which it is found. We must understand it in the setting in which it was made and then apply it to our current circumstance. Verses or statements taken out of their context become a pretext for false beliefs and teaching, and must be avoided.

Fourth, we must study the Bible reverently. Some people treat the Bible like a cafeteria. They go through it as though only the parts they like or agree with are applicable to them. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 knew that the words he read in scripture were the very words of God and he treated them with the reverence and respect they deserve. So also should we. Our attitude must be, “God said it and that settles it.” As we study the scriptures we are reading words that were breathed by God to the men He inspired to write them (2 Tim. 2:16, 17). With such an attitude, we cannot help but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17).

Let us each employ these principles as we study God’s word so our faith will be built up and we will be more effective in our efforts to seek and to save the lost.

The Living Word

The writer of Hebrews made the following statement about the word of God: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). In the context, this statement was made as the conclusion of his exhortation in vs. 3-11 that his readers must not fail to enter God’s rest because of disobedience. The not too subtle inference is that it is the power of God’s word that keeps one from disobedience.

When we analyze this statement we are struck by the awesome power that is attributed to God’s word. To say that the word of God is living and active suggests power. That it is sharper than any two-edged sword is also an attribution of power, but it is the next descriptions that are the most amazing of all. The word of God is able to divide between soul and spirit, and joint and marrow. The word of God also judges the thoughts and intentions of one’s heart.

These are distinctions that are virtually impossible for humans to grasp. How does one distinguish between soul and spirit? Theologians and lay people alike are unable to adequately comprehend the difference between them, yet God’s word is able to. How does one separate bone from marrow? Again, humans know the two are distinct entities, but we can hardly conceive of one apart from the other. God’s word, however, has the power to divide the two. And when it comes to one’s thoughts and intentions, we are well aware of our short comings in this aspect of human nature, but God’s word sees clearly even into this difficult realm.

There is no question as to the power of God’s word, whether it is His spoken word, as when He called the universe and everything in it into existence at creation, or when He commanded the flood gates of heaven to overflow the earth in the flood, or the word He gave by means of the Holy Spirit to be written down for our guidance and edification. God’s word has the power to accomplish whatever God intends for it to accomplish, in whatever form He communicates it. In Isa. 55:11 He said, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Nevertheless, there is one important factor that must not be ignored. God’s word is powerless if His people do not avail themselves of it. James exhorted his readers to “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). Paul exhorted Timothy to “be diligent” (or study) so as to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). And the Bereans were considered more noble-minded than the Thessalonians because they received the word with great eagerness and examined the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).

This is the salient point. The power of Gods word may only be exercised in our lives if we take up His word and make it a living part of our daily walk. In ancient times the people of Judah strayed from God’s ways because they neglected His word. Young king Josiah called them back to God’s word and they became faithful once again under his leadership (2 Chr. 34). If we today ignore and neglect God’s word, we, also, will go astray and the power of God to save us will lie useless in our unopened Bibles. Implant God’s word in your heart and the power of the living word will carry you to the eternal rest God has prepared for the faithful.