March 22, 2016

How to Receive God’s Word

by Jordan Standridge

Have you ever stopped to think about how often you are exposed to God’s word?

Every time you open up the Bible for time with the Lord, the God of the universe speaks. Every time you go to small group and discuss a passage of Scripture He is speaking. When you quote verses in your head that you have memorized, He is talking. When exposed to His word He tells you who He is, He tells you how to live, He tells you what other people are like, He even tells you about the future.

It’s a dangerous thing to be exposed to the word of God, because every time one of two things happen. Either you will become more like Jesus Christ, or you will be hardened to the truth and become cold towards Jesus.

Steve Lawson in his biography of John Calvin says,

“We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.” This was the unshakable foundation of Calvin’s preaching-the authority of divinely inspired Scripture. He firmly believed that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”

Because of how dangerous it is to be exposed to Scripture, James, the brother of Christ, in James 1:19 is concerned for the Church. He’s already warned them to be prepared for trials, and temptation and now he wants them to be prepared to receive the word of God. In this verse he gives three short imperatives, that will remind us about the importance of how to react to God’s word when exposed to it.

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

Quick to hear

dog listening with big earPeople have a hard time listening in this day and age. I was recently watching the movie Bambi with my kids. I was shocked by how slow the characters were, how little was going on on-screen. Modern day cartoons are so different. Everything is faster, bigger, brighter, with so much more happening. We just have to face the fact that we have a hard time paying attention. And James wants us to make sure that we are alert and listening each time we come to hear from God.

We need to prepare ourselves before hand. To hear the word we must be alert. We must get enough sleep, we must pray, we must repent of all wickedness and we must work hard to tune out temptations and distractions so that we can be fully prepared to sit under Scripture.

In James 1:21 he tells us to put aside all filthiness, in other words we need to clean out our ears. You’ve seen a child’s ear full of nasty gunk. I’ve had to clean a couple myself. In the same way we must clean out our wrong presuppositions and replace them with God’s. We must come to the word ready to listen and ready to be changed, because nothing can change us but the word of God.

Slow to speak
In other words, “shut up!” Stop talking to your self. If when someone confronts you, you right away get defensive and start defending yourself or change the subject, chances are you are talking to fast or not listening. During preaching we are all tempted to think, “Wow I wish ____ was here to listen to this!”, instead of allowing the word of God to break us. slow to speakOr maybe mid-sermon you’re already thinking about what you’re going to be doing after the service or after Bible study. Or during Bible reading, somehow you read an entire chapter and don’t remember a word that you read because you were thinking about something else the entire time. Stop, shut up and listen to the word.

Receiving the word means that you aren’t so quick to say what you think. You aren’t a talker who gives his opinion on everything before you’re even asked. We need to practice being a listener and practice not talking, because the less you think of what you have to say, the more you’ll think of what God has to say.

If you value your opinion a lot and think highly of yourself then the word won’t mean much to you.

Slow to anger

hulkYou must be willing to admit to yourself that you are imperfect. It’s easy at salvation. At salvation we said that we were terrible sinners and we deserve hell. But the sanctification process can only happen if you are willing to continue to say that you are a sinner. That you continue to need help. One of the ways you are able to know if you are receiving the word of God with the right attitude, is if you are slow to anger when confronted with the Bible. Whether it’s the preacher, whether its in your Bible reading, or more appropriate to us maybe, when someone confronts you, we must be slow to anger when faced with the word of God.

How do you react to confrontation?

The key to receiving God’s word is humility. Look at James 1:21 he says, “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.“

So the point of this passage is to receive the word of God but the only way you will receive rightly is through humility.

  • Being quick to hear can only happen if in humility, you realize that you need to hear the word. You are in absolute need of it!
  • Being slow to speak can only happen if in humility, you believe that what you have to say is not that important and what’s really important is the Bible.
  • And finally, you can really judge your humility when confronted by God’s word and you don’t get angry but humbly admit that you need to change.

So how do we know if we are receiving God’s word and it is bearing fruit in our lives? James 1:22 says that there is a result. You will do what it says! The right response to God’s word will always result in application. When we are exposed to God’s word, if we apply these verses, we will be more than ready to obey our Lord in everything.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • jim mazick

    Good stuff Bro,good stuff!

  • Fibber MaGee

    First I’ll say, another good one Jordan.

    Someone help me out here.

    I have a difficult time with Lawson’s position as quoted here. I stand with him in his statement that we are “bulldogmatic” about sola scriptura. I understand and agree with his commitment to every “jot and tittle”. But, how can he say that God’s word deserves the same reverence as God. Where does God tell us that the scriptures are to be worshiped? How can Lawson say (about scripture), “and has nothing of man mixed with it.” That is just not true.

    • Read Ps 56, and especially note verses 4 & 10. Amid many other necessary implications in the Bible – to reverence Gods Word is to reverence God. You cannot separate Him from His Word.

    • “I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” – Psalm 138:2

    • Also Psalm 119:48: “And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments.” To lift up one’s hands is a posture of worship that is also to be directed toward God (cf. Ps 63:4; Lam 2:19; 3:41).

      Regarding the Lawson quote, it sounded like Lawson was quoting Calvin there. And regarding Calvin’s statement, Paul also can say in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 that the Apostolic word, though delivered by men (indeed, by Paul himself!), is nevertheless “not the word of men, but what it really is, the word of God.” So obviously, no one is denying that men wrote Scripture, but Scripture itself has a category for the Word which is proclaimed by man to not be the word of men, but God’s Word. Most probably Calvin was emphasizing that there is no error from men, nor any purpose or intention that is apart from what God was intending to say.

      • Fibber MaGee

        Praise, according to some of the definitions in Strongs are; glory, give thanks, honor. One meaning of reverence that I like is; a feeling of deep respect with awe. I have all that for scripture. In fact, I find a lack of this among Christians I know to be one of the most pressing problems. But what I’m trying to reconcile is the nuance in that reverence. We don’t worship the bible and we don’t pray to the bible, so obviously there is a difference. I understand what you guys are saying and it helps, so thank you, but Lawson’s quote; “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God”, is difficult for me to grasp. That certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t have reverence for God’s word. Tovlogos says, “When people become apprehensive about such reverence, they underestimate the engagement of the Holy Spirit. “ That is not the case, not even close.

        I agree with you Mike and really, I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. The quote Jordan used did not make the context which you are using clear (to me). I also stand by what I said, but I think that’s probably a rabbit hole we shouldn’t go down since it’s off topic. Sorry about that.

        • In Psalm 56:4 and 10, if the psalmist wanted to communicate the concept of “reverence,” it’s far more likely that he would have used the term yare’ or gur rather than halal, which is the root in “Hallelujah,” a very worship-oriented word. You can see all three used alongside one another in a “fear-praise-revere” sense in Psalm 22:23 (22:24 MT):

          You who fear [yare’] the LORD, praise [halal] Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of [gur] Him, all you descendants of Israel.

          In other words, when it seems that an author wants to use all of those nuances — fear/worship, praise, and awe-filled reverence — he uses halal (in the piel stem) for praise, and not merely for reverence.

          Also, Psalm 138:2, which Justin mentioned, and Psalm 119:48, which I mentioned, seem not to be dealt with in your reply. “Lifting up one’s hands” to God’s commandments is certainly worship-type language. It may blow our circuits a little bit, but we have to adapt our prior conceptions to what Scripture actually says.

          That doesn’t mean that anyone’s saying we pray to the Bible. Of course not; the Bible is not a personal object, and prayer is only properly addressed to a person. But those texts say (and therefore mean) something more than just highly esteeming the Word. Scripture is the perfect expression of God’s mind, and therefore is holy, as God is; is infallible and inerrant, as God is; is as authoritative as God is; it perfectly reflects God’s omniscience such that it can be personified as judging the thoughts and intentions of men’s hearts (cf. Heb. 4:12-13). We’ve got to grapple with that.

          Hope that’s somewhat helpful.

          • Fibber MaGee

            Thanks for your patience, that does help. Especially the explanation of the translation details.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    It is so true that the louder and busier this world becomes the more difficult it is to be disciplined in quieting ourselves and letting God speak to us through His word. Thank you for this critical reminder, Jordan!

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  • tovlogos

    Solid mature piece, brother. Yes, I revere the Lord’s words as I revere the Lord, with the knowledge that it is His communication. When people become apprehensive about such reverence, they underestimate the engagement of the Holy Spirit. A typo here, an elusive grammatical nuance there, doesn’t change the δύναμις/power.
    Since reading the Scripture is literally medicinal, it deserves reverence.

  • Paula Coyle

    excellent.

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  • Pope of Geneva

    Let’s not forget how Calvin thought about his own Institutes:

    Calvin’s Institutes are a “ holy doctrine which no man might speak against”
    – Geneva Council: November 1552

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