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The Supremacy of God’s Word – Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series on the supremacy of God’s Word. After seeing a new resource for young adults called The Bible Study by Zach Windahl, I recognized four fundamental errors regarding our approach to reading God’s Word.

In the first part of this series, I addressed the areas of Presumed Authority and our Fear of Discomfort. In this article – The Supremacy of God’s Word, Part II – I will be discussing the issues surrounding our tendency to add to the Bible remedies of euphoria and mountain top experiences, exciting encounters, and spiritual highs as well as our growing propensity towards ‘the Instagram bible.’

the bible and…

Windahl decided to move to Australia to spend time only in God’s Word; reading the Bible for 70 hours every week!  As he explains his decision to move to Australia and the impact that it had on his life and faith, he makes the point very clear that it was in fact, life changing.

I greatly appreciate and applaud Windahl’s dedication to the study of Scripture and I think it is incredible that he utilized the resources, time, and opportunities that he had to pursue deep, personal study and understanding of the Bible. However, there is something that I wish he would have made more clear.

When it comes to true change, there is no ‘and…’ The Word of God which reveals the glory of Jesus Christ stands alone, for the Lord is exalted over all nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth (Psalm 113:4-6, NIV)?

The Bible drives this point over and over again throughout the entirety of Scripture. There is no one and no thing like our God. The holy Word of God stands alone when it comes to true, deep heart change (ref. Jeremiah 10:6; 1 Samuel 2:2; Deuteronomy 33:26, 3:24, NIV).

Ezekiel 36:25-27 says that it is the Lord who will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; He will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. He will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; He will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And He will put His Spirit in you and move you to follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws.

So often we feel it necessary to add to Scripture the remedies and euphoria of mountain top experiences, exciting encounters, and spiritual highs. Experiencing God and encountering his glory are good things, however they are not what actually change our hearts.

2 Corinthians chapter three reminds us that it is only when we turn to the Lord that the veil over our hearts and minds is removed and we are able to, with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory; being transformed into his image with an ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:12-18, NIV).

It is the glory of Jesus Christ which stands above all else that saves us, changes us, sanctifies us, and refines us. No experience can add to or subtract from the God of the Scriptures.

So whether it is a trip to Australia or to your living room; whether it is 70 hours per week or half an hour a day…the Word of our God on high is what reveals the glory of Jesus Christ, reaches into our muck and mire, removes from us our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh that is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and daily refines us into the image of Christ.

the instagram bible.

I first stumbled across this concept of ‘the Instagram bible’ as I read through some of Jen Wilkin’s writings not too long ago.

In her October 2, 2016 article, Jen Wilkin explains that what is often presented as gospel truth according to Instagram ‘comforts but rarely convicts; emotes but rarely exhorts; warms but rarely warns; promises but rarely prompts; moves but does not mortify; builds self-assurance but balks at self-examination; chooses brevity over breadth, inspiration over intellect, and devotion over doctrine.’

This is dangerous and Jen Wilkin persistently warns us against the pomp of ‘relatability’ and encourages us to be devoted followers of Christ and students of the Bible who daily affirm and submit to the supremacy and entirety of God’s Word, which means even the parts that don’t leave us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

As he encourages his audience to check out this new Bible study, Windahl excitedly describes his Bible study as being ‘super instagramable, because hello…its 2018 and things need to look good.’

I understand the need to market to one’s audience, but it is concerning that this component of his Bible study is held in higher regard than the actual, life-giving truth of Scripture. While I have not actually utilized this resource on my own, the fact that it’s ‘instagramability’ finds a place in the promotional videos before there’s anything mentioned of God, Jesus Christ, and the true life-changing reality of Christ crucified and raised to life raises several red flags.

Where does our worship and devotion lie?

What do we consider as having upmost importance?

What is it that attracts our attention and devotion?

I fear a resource that is described as being ‘super instagramable’ might fall severely short of helping its readers understand the fullness of God’s Word.

I so often see this in young adult groups, ministries, and Bible studies and have caught myself several times pondering the external factors that are likely to draw an audience rather than the deep, foundational  truths of God’s Word on which we base our relationships, our discipleship, our gatherings, and our worship; the foundational truths that bring about deep change.

There is nothing wrong with posting an encouraging Instagram post with a verse or a passage. There is nothing wrong with double-tapping that image with Jeremiah 29:11 on it.

But, brothers and sisters, let’s not neglect the very breath of God for that which temporarily satisfies our self-bent desires for approval and affirmation. Let’s be men and women who know what we believe, why we believe it, grounded in the very Word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As followers of Christ and students of Scripture, we must daily return to and submit to the entirety and supremacy of God’s Word.

The Supremacy of God’s Word – Part I

I’ve seen a number of promotions on Facebook lately for a new Bible study by Zach Windahl. This study caught my attention because a) I’m a book hoarder; and b) I love seeing new Bible studies and resources come out that help people deepen their faith and strengthen their pursuit of the Lord.

However, as I considered this new addition to my personal library and watched a couple promo videos for this product, there were a few things that seemed fundamentally out of place.

I have not actually utilized this Bible study yet, therefore my opinion of it is solely based on how it was marketed to it’s audience. However, there were some overarching themes that stood out to me which I’ve noticed more and more frequently, primarily among young adult groups.

presumed authority.

As he describes his new Bible study, Windahl explains that it is “a one-year Bible Study that focuses on how each book relates to your life.”

With a primary focus of revealing how the Bible relates to our lives – 21st century American millennials – I fear this study might fall severely short of the purpose for which the Bible was originally intended, which is to reveal the glory of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and raised to life by the infinite wisdom and loving power of God Almighty.

It is the human nature to be self-consumed and self-aware, even as we read the Bible.  We presume upon an authority that does not belong to us; that is, we believe that we have the right and the ability to alter, change, or redefine something, in this case, the Word of God, to fit our preferences.

If we approach the infallible Word of God in this manner, it is near unavoidable that our self-bent nature will attempt to alter, change, and/or redefine the truths of Scripture to justify our cause rather than convict and to only encourage rather than challenge.

Ben Schapiro discerningly points out during a political debate that “facts are often being trumped by what we wish were facts in order to push certain [political] agendas.” 

Though this point was made to address a political debate, I think it is relatable to all facets of life, including faith and Christianity. We presume upon the Word of God, disregarding truths that make us uncomfortable and believing that in order for the Bible to be considered valid, it must first and foremost relate to us…today…in 21st century America…as if that were its primary objective.

It is important that we approach the Bible in an appropriate manner and handle it responsibly. The Word of God is not something that shifts and changes over time. Rather, it remains timeless; enduring forever despite the ever-changing, ever-elusive nature of society (ref. Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17, NIV).

“The Bible, from beginning to end, is a shameless and glorious declaration of the nature and character of God before it says anything about who we are.”  – Jen Wilkin

I have nothing against resources and supplemental guides that help us study the Bible. While the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, it is also a book that reveals God’s love for us. Therefore it is important to see how such a love relates to and changes us. However, when our desire for personal revelation and ‘relatability’ trumps our desire to know the God of our fathers, we have just identified the Bible as a means to our own self-awareness.

fear of discomfort.

As he continues promoting his new resource, Windahl addresses the issue of how difficult the Bible is to read, especially for younger generations.

“A lot of people struggle reading the Bible,” Windahl says, “because let’s be honest, it can be tough reading such a big book; especially if you don’t know how to make it personal.”

Yes! To be quite honest, I can relate to this and say that I struggle reading the Bible for these exact reasons. It’s tough; it’s a big book; what’s up with Leviticus; and seriously, is KJV even English?

However, it is the struggle that often yields the greatest reward.

Something that I believe this generation has lost is the ability to sit in the struggle; to dwell in the uncertainty; to be at peace in the questioning. Simply put, we hate not knowing.

But it’s the moments of struggle; the seasons of uncertainty; and the times where we seem to have so many questions that ultimately yield the strongest resolve; the deepest trust; and the most profound answers when it comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

And so it should be when reading the Bible.

Yes – you might read through the book of Deuteronomy for the first time and wonder what on earth it has to do with anything, but if we truly believe that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…’ (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV), then we know that even the laws of Deuteronomy, the genealogies of Leviticus, the judgment of Judges, the beauty of Genesis, and the astounding love of the Gospels all speak to the glory of Jesus Christ and are profitable for our growth, refinement, and sanctification.

Yet, we run from this. We set aside the incredible opportunity to grow from the struggle and discomfort for the immediate yet temporary remedy of quick answers and supplemental materials.

Now please, don’t hear me wrong…Bible studies are not a bad thing. In fact, they are incredibly good and certainly beneficial.

They are not, however, foundational.

We lose a sense of the raw, ‘brick and mortar,’ foundational truths of the Bible when we lather them with topical studies and additional resources before first allowing ourselves to get lost and confused in His Word, which will eventually allow us to experience the grace of revelation by the Holy Spirit as His Word comes to life (ref. Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 119:130; Proverbs 3:2, NIV).

As followers of Christ and students of Scripture, we must daily return to the Supremacy of God’s Word.

*               *               *

The Supremacy of God’s Word -Part II, Coming Monday, November 12.

In Part II of this two-part series on the Supremacy of God’s Word, I will be addressing the issue of having a mindset of ‘The Bible and…’; a mindset that believes that the Bible can only change your life if it is coupled with other experiences and encounters. Additionally, I’ll be addressing the rising tendency towards The Instagram Bible; believing that the Bible only consists of passages that are ‘instagramable.’

All Things New – Part III

This last weekend I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, Iowa. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

session three, October 6

James 1:5 says that ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’

This is an amazing verse, but one that is quite often misinterpreted. We read James 1:5 and convince ourselves that all we must do is ask, and God will deliver. Rarely does it actually happen this way though, and not due to a lack on God’s part, but because we’re asking the wrong question.

As human beings, we are notorious for asking the wrong question. We want to know exactly what to do; how to do it, and when. Because of this, we start to believe that this is how we must discern God’s will for our lives and follow it. However, asking God to tell us what to do, how to do it, and when is not wisdom as James 1:5 describes it.

Wisdom is an internal mechanism to make decisions. Knowledge is just facts.

So often when we kneel to pray and ask God for wisdom about any decision we may be facing, rather than asking for the humble discernment we need to make a wise decision with the information we have, we ask God to tell us what only God knows – facts, details, and outcomes of the future.

With this kind of approach, we mistreat, misuse, and abuse the Word of God by viewing it as more of a ‘how to’ manual for our lives rather than the glorious, shameless, infallible declaration of the glory and majesty of God Almighty. We miss the real purpose and process of sanctification and start believing that the decisions in life – where to live, who to marry, where to work, etc. – are the main focus.

We convince ourselves that ‘if only we could make better decisions, then we’ll be better people’ right?

I’ll admit it, I’ve spent years believing this and striving for this. If I could just train myself to make better decisions, then I would become that gentle and quiet, godly, wise woman described in Proverbs 31.

What does this actually do though? Eventually, with this kind of approach to discovering God’s will, my success, my obedience, my faithfulness, my righteousness, my everything —it is all left up to me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s good news…at all!

Because failure is in our nature, we become a nervous wreck when trying to discern God’s will because if it is in fact left up to our own decision making whether we stay within God’s will or not, we know that we’ll eventually fall to the wayside.

So rather than asking God and trying to discern what to do, where to go, and when, perhaps there’s a better question that we could be asking.

Rather than inquiring of God to show us what to do, let’s be men and women who daily seek to discover who He wants us to be, because…

God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than He is with the decision itself.   -Jen Wilkin

And when you start asking this question, I promise that you will be pleasantly surprised to find that it is quite clear what the will of God is.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…for God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).

God’s will for our lives is to be holy, because He is holy’ (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:1-2, 20:26, 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Haven’t we already been made holy though? Doesn’t it say in Hebrews 10:10 that ‘we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’?

This is true, as we have been given positional holiness in and through Jesus – we have been delivered from the penalty of sin and granted righteousness before God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

However, we are directed to pursue practical holiness in a life of faith, trust, and righteousness before God; working out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting that it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:12).

When Jesus instructed us to ‘ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,’ he was not talking about the daily decisions that we face throughout our lifetime.

Rather, God was saying that the answer will be given; the secret will be found; and the door will be opened to the one asking, seeking, and pursuing holiness. What good is the ‘right decision’ if I’m still the ‘wrong person?’

As believers, we have the power to choose rightly; the wisdom to credit God with those right decisions; and wonderful grace for when we get it wrong.

The will of God for our lives is to be holy, because He is holy, and we have been given the power, wisdom, and grace to do just that through Jesus Christ. Through the amazing grace of Jesus Christ, we have been justified through faith and reconciled to God. We have been granted new names and a new purpose for which we are to live. And finally, we have been set on a new path; on the path of God’s will which is to be holy, because He is holy.

All Things New – Part II

This last weekend I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, Iowa. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

Session two, October 6

Day two of the ONE Conference began with another session by Jen Wilkin where she discussed the different implications of Revelation 21:5 – “And He who was seated on the throne said “Behold I am making all things new.”

A part of being made new in Christ is that we, like the saints who have gone before us, are given new names.

Having a ‘name’ implies a number of things. Names allow us to establish or demonstrate ownership, authority, affection towards others, association with another person, relationship to someone or something, personality, and most of all, purpose.

I was given a plaque when I was younger with my name printed on it in nice, flowing cursive letters. Below that was a description of the meaning my name had. The English meaning of my name is Follower of Christ; or in its original Greek, The Anointed.

Not only is this really significant for me personally, but it also gives me a deep sense of purpose; of direction and single-mindedness. I want to live up to my name.

There are many Bible heroes who experienced similar affection and deep association with their names, primarily their God-given names which elicited great purpose in their lives. For example…

Simon was given the name Peter, which means the Rock. He would later become the rock on which the church was built.

Abram was given the name Abraham, which means the father of many nations. Through him God would bring forth all the nations of Israel and ultimately, the line of Jesus Christ.

We see another name change in Genesis 32 when God appears before Jacob, the son of Isaac. The name Jacob means he grasps the heel. This makes sense, since a few chapters earlier we read about how Jacob came out of his mother’s womb grasping the heel of his twin brother.

When we look at the entirety of Jacob’s life leading up to this point though, we can see that he was, in fact, a ‘grasper.’ He deceived, he lied, and he manipulated his way through life; having very little faith in the sovereignty of God and constantly trying to make things happen on his own and for his own good.

We eventually find Jacob broken and waiting; wrestling with himself and God as he struggles with his guilt and shame (Genesis 32:24). Jacob recalls all of his mistakes, all of his sinful ways, and every single time that he had ever messed up. He barters with God; wrestling with conviction and trying to negotiate his way through the consequences.

There comes a moment in this passage however when God reaches out and touches Jacob, crippling him and causing him to cease his fighting and struggling. It took but one touch from God for Jacob to stop wrestling and listen to the voice of God.

When asked what his name was, he responds with ‘Jacob’ as if to confess who he really was…a grasper; one who deceives and lies and manipulates.

As Jacob confesses his sins though, God changes him. He takes that which was broken and sinful and refines him into an overcomer. God took Jacob in all of his sin and deceit and changes his name to Israel, which means he struggles with God and that God contends with him; an overcomer.

In this simple act of authority, God establishes ownership, affection, association, and relationship with Jacob. But more significantly, God gives him a new name; a new identity and a new purpose.

Like Jacob, we have been made new. We have been given new names as children of God. This is who we are. We will forever and always be found holy and righteous before God because He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Now, you may be thinking as I was in that moment- “this is all fine and dandy, but I know myself and I know I’m going to slip back into old habits and patterns before too long, despite this ‘new name’ that I’ve been given.”

Perhaps that’s why the next portion of this passage was so powerful for me, because Jacob did exactly that…he backslid. In an attempt to manipulate the situation and exercise some degree of control over God, Jacob asks God to tell him what His name was (Genesis 32:29, NIV).  Remember, names allow us to establish or demonstrate ownership, authority, affection, association, relationship, personality, and purpose.

Jacob returned to his old habit of manipulating a situation and reaching for power and control over another. How often do we do exactly that? We know we are redeemed; renewed and made new and what do we do? We return to our old ways.

We become afraid.

We entertain anxious thoughts.

We gossip.

We judge others.

We blindly follow our perfectionistic tendencies.

But God remains faithful and even though Jacob backslid, He extends a gentle rebuke. “Why do you ask me my name?” He asks. And in that moment God blesses Jacob and leaves (Genesis 32:30, NIV).

God gently reminds us that we are no longer who we once were. We have been given a new name, a new purpose, and a new identity. This doesn’t mean that we will never sin again or that we will never fall into old patterns and habits, but that when we do, God will remain the One who contends with us, prevails, and makes all things new.

All Things New – Part III – Now that we have been made new in Christ and been given new names, we are set on a new path and given a new purpose and focus. How do we find that though? How do we go about discovering what God’s will is for our lives? Perhaps it’s not as hard as we often make it out to be…

All Things New – Part I

Earlier this month I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, IA. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend away was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

session one, October 5

And He who was seated on the throne said “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

From the first creation account in Genesis 1 to the final redemption account in the book of Revelation, the Bible consistently and shamelessly speaks of the glory and majesty of Christ; of His beauty and holiness in all of creation; His limitless nature, and His perfect wisdom and love.

We know this, but often I find myself (and I can imagine that you might too) reading the Bible as if it were a book about me – designed to tell me what to do, how to do it, and when to do it (be sure to stay tuned for part three of this series for more on that particular topic 🙂 ). However, if everything in all of Scripture points to the glory of Christ; speaks of the glory of Christ; and testifies to the glory of Christ, then we might just want to start reading it that way.

All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…(2 Timothy 3:16).

This doesn’t just mean the New Testament or the Gospels or the Psalms. This verse literally means that every word of Scripture is the voice of God and should be treated as such.

While I have always believed 2 Timothy 3:16 to be true, the manner in which I’ve approached certain portions of the Bible has not always submitted to such belief. For example, I have always read the creation account in Genesis 1 as strictly historical and nothing else.

However, as we rediscover the creation account through the lens of 2 Timothy 3:16, we  realize that the pattern and shape in which this account was written very intentionally speaks of the greater glory of Christ; foretelling the divine purposes of God Almighty for His church.

*          *          *

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…(Genesis 1:2).

We were formless and empty; void of any righteousness or light. Apart from Christ, we were consumed with darkness; with sin and wretchedness from birth. Yet just as God did not leave the world void and formless; taking chaos a bringing order with His Word, He does not leave us as we are. He takes our chaotic brokenness and makes us whole once again. Indeed, in Him all things are being made new…

Light (Gen. 1:3) – God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Just as God shed light into a dark world, He revealed His light into our dark souls through His Son Jesus Christ. As John 8:12 says, “I am [Jesus] the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Separation (Gen. 1:4, 6, 9, 14) – God separated the light from the dark; the earth from the sky; the sea from the land; and the day from the night. And so He separates us, His children of light from the darkness of sin and death. He sets us apart from the world, inviting us to “be holy, because He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Fruitfulness (Gen. 1:22) – Just as God instructed the animals of the earth to “be fruitful and increase in number…” so too does He instruct us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us” (Matthew 28:19-20). We are called, first and foremost, to be fruitful in our faith; increasing in number as we share the good news of the Gospel; making disciples of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

Image Bearing (Gen. 1:26-27) – “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” As image-bearing works of creation, we have the inherent responsibility and great pleasure of bearing forth the image of Christ. And as we are reminded in Revelation 21:5, He is making all things new, giving us the hope of future restoration into the fullest, clearest, image of Christ Jesus for all of eternity. Until then, God’s will for our lives is to bear forth His image for all the world to see.

Dominion (Gen. 1:28) – God gave mankind dominion over the earth; to rule over it and take care of it. In the same way, Christ has established for us dominion over sin. “For sin shall no longer be our master, because we are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). We have been saved from the penalty of sin by the cross; we are being saved from the power of sin through sanctification; and we will one day be delivered from the presence of sin once and for all in final glorification.

Rest (Gen. 2:2-3) – A day of rest concludes the creation account, which foretells of a greater rest for our souls in Christ Jesus. When all of creation was complete, rest was ushered in. Similarly, when the entirety of Jesus’ work on the cross was finished, ultimate rest for the souls of mankind was made known (John 19:30).

*          *          *

This may be an entirely new ‘creation account’ for some of you. I know it certainly was for me, as I had never considered how the creation of the world foretold of life and renewal and eternal hope in Christ Jesus.

From beginning to end, God is showing us Himself through His Word. Even from the first accounts of the Bible, the greater work of Christ Jesus is being glorified; pointing us to His ultimate act of creation on the cross, that through His sacrifice he was reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19) and making all things new.

 

All Things New – Part II – We all have an old name; something that identifies us with our sin-filled past. However, He who is sitting on the throne has said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And therefore, we have been given a new name in Christ and are called to bear forth that image to the rest of the world.

Now What? How to Effectively Reflect on a Sermon

I was recently asked to write an article on ‘reflection’ for my church. While a lot of people have participated in a church service where a time of reflection was in place, I have found that many actually have not. Therefore, before providing some practical steps to help us use our time of reflection effectively, I want to first identify what ‘reflection’ is, primarily within the context of a church service.

Reflection, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is ‘the production of an image by or as if by a mirror.’ A little further down the list of definitions we can also see that reflection is ‘a thought, idea, or opinion formed as a result of meditation.’

In Genesis 1:27 we see the creation of mankind as the very image of God; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

In other words, God created mankind to bear forth His image; to reflect His nature for the rest of the world to see. As Matt Chandler explains it, ‘our presence on earth is akin to rulers sand authorities of ancient lands placing a statue or an icon of their image in distant regions that were also under their rule, so that there would be an image of the reign and rule of that king. You and I, as mankind, are that icon; that image of God that shows that there is a creator who is reigning and ruling.’

As image bearing creation, we have been made to reflect God’s nature to the rest of the world. However, with sin and temptation, we get easily distracted and can quite often start reflecting the world rather than God.

Therefore, it is important for us to take seriously what James tells us in chapter one verse 24-25…that we should not be ‘like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.’ Rather, we must ‘look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it – not forgetting what we have heard, but doing it.’

As we’ll read later on, ‘all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’ that most accurately reflects the righteousness of God.

A time of reflection is vital to this because as we look to produce the image of God as if by a mirror, we must know; we must have a thought, idea, or opinion regarding the One we are reflecting in order to conduct our lives accordingly, and the only way we can do that is by deep, meaningful meditation and reflection on the Word of God.

This kind of meaningful reflection however is not intended for the last remaining minutes of a church services, but is rather a continuation of dwelling on His truths and promises; meditating on them, and allowing them to change the way we live our lives. Our time in reflection should be about how we approach the Word of God beforehand, how we respond as it is planted in our hearts, and how it changes us into a clearer image of Christ Jesus.

So how do we conduct our lives as James tells us; continuing in the Word preached each Sunday morning and doing what it says?

Here are five reflection and study habits that I encourage you to put into practice:

be expectant.

We do not instinctively hear preaching as the actual voice of God, but rather as the message of a man. When we receive the Word, we need to be like the church in Thessalonica and ‘accept it not as a human word, but as it actually  is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in those who believe’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NIV). As you approach each Sunday morning, consider…

  • Reading the designated Bible passage ahead of time;
  • As you read, praying that God would open your eyes and ears and prepare your heart in expectation to hear from Him;
  • Praying for your pastor as they prepare this week’s message; and
  • Preparing your mind prior to the sermon by using the minutes leading up to the service for quiet prayer and preparation.

humble yourself.

To listen humbly is to admit that the Bible is right and that you are wrong; that God is God and we are the ones that need to change. The Word of God is not intended to make us feel good, but rather to cut at the core of our being (Hebrews 4:12-13, NIV); to challenge us to ‘get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and to humbly accept the word planted in us…’ (James 1:21, NIV). In order to humbly respond to the message, consider…

  • Identifying certain points of the message that challenged your beliefs and/or lifestyle;
  • Continuing to pray that God would help you submit to His Word in obedience; and
  • Seeking further guidance and accountability regarding these areas of conviction that you have identified.

fact check.

It is a wise practice to question everything except for the Word of God, including those called to serve, preach, and teach. Listening is active, not passive, therefore it is wise to continually ask yourself how the sermon is validated and supported by God’s Word. To help prepare yourself to approach the Word of God wisely and thoughtfully, consider…

  • Reading the passage prior to the sermon and asking yourself the following questions:

What is the main point of the passage?

Why was the passage written? To whom was it written? What is it intended to achieve for its audience?

  • If you notice large variances in how you understood the passage and how it was delivered, consider asking for further guidance as you continue praying as Martin Luther did: ‘Lord, teach me, teach me, teach me;’ and
  • Do not allow discrepancies to go unchecked. As Proverbs 4:7 (NIV) says, ‘the beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom.’

be active.

James tells us in chapter one verse 22 that we should not ‘merely listen to the word, and so deceive ourselves,’ but to ‘do what it says…’ The ultimate goal and purpose of hearing God’s Word is ‘for teaching’ what we ought to believe, ‘rebuking’ what we ought not believe, ‘correcting’ how we ought not behave, and ‘for training in righteousness’ in how we ought to behave (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NIV). Therefore, it is important that we actively seek conviction rather than entertainment and obedience rather than validation. To allow God’s Word to change you, consider…

  • Writing down at least one area of conviction or some action that you need to take in order to obey this Bible passage (a change in attitude, an alteration in how you speak, etc.); and
  • On a daily basis, revisit what you wrote down and pray that God would work obedience in your heart and mind through His Word and conviction.

Be urgent.

We read in Deuteronomy 30:15-16 (NIV) that life and prosperity, death and destruction has been set before us today; that we are commanded to love the Lord our God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws today; that we may live and increase and be blessed by God. One of the easiest lies to believe is that there is no hurry – no hurry to confess our sins and no hurry to change our ways. What we fail to recognize however is that every promise we make to start tomorrow, we guarantee that tomorrow will never come. In your time of reflection right now, consider…

  • Immediately confessing the things that the Holy Spirit has convicted you of;
  • Acting on at least one way you can change your behavior, attitude, or lifestyle to come in line with God’s Word today; and
  • Thanking God for His gracious invitation to walk with Him and rejoice in His grace, forgiveness, and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, conviction, and redemption.