By Pastor Josh Kirk
“I just don’t understand!” she said. “I read my Bible and pray every day but nothing seems to change. My Christians friends seem to expect that if I just read my Bible in the morning things will get better, but they just don’t.” Can you relate? Have you ever tried to put off sin by summoning up some extra will power to read and pray daily, believing that will make you holy? It sounds nice. It sounds spiritual. But reading the Bible is not a silver bullet. It doesn’t make problems go away. So what does?
Believing the Bible. Hearing doesn’t do anyone any good until they believe what it says and act accordingly. Having the Bible means nothing until the Christian who has embraced the message by faith, exercises that faith in daily life. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith hears the promises of the gospel and believes they are true for me. It’s a strong confidence, a conviction that since God said it, it’s true. What does this have to do with growing more like Christ?
If we want to lay aside sin we have to believe what God says about sin and what God says about himself. Take for example, 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Paul makes 4 statements about enduring temptation in this verse.
- All temptations are common to man. The circumstances might be unique to you, but the temptations at the heart level are common. We all seek to please ourselves rather than God; we all struggle with fear of man; we all seek escape and comfort. We all believe lies about ourselves or God instead of embracing the truths given in Scripture. This is hugely important because it reminds us we’re not alone. It’s not as if nobody knows our pain. At least one other person does: Jesus. He was tempted in all things just as we are yet without sin (Heb 4:15). Others have been tempted and have persevered, which means you are not alone!
- God is faithful even in the midst of temptation. Part of us wants to believe in the midst of our struggle that either “God doesn’t know or appreciate what I’m going through”, or “he doesn’t care. I am alone.” Neither of these is true. God said he would be with us even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And he will be.
- God is active in your temptation. He doesn’t sit back and hope that you can stand the crashing waves. He intervenes, so that no circumstance will be so overwhelming that you can’t endure using the resources God has given you. It can be tempting to believe the only relief is to sin, but God says that’s not true. He will never allow you to be put in a situation where the only options are sinful.
- A way of escape wherein you can endure and please God will always be available to people suffering temptation.
In the midst of temptation, if you hear Paul’s words and believe them, if you exercise your faith, you will live a certain way. You can endure. You can look for a way to escape. Your heart will be drawn toward the God who is faithful and present.
This last weekend we hosted a counseling conference here at the church (you can find audio recordings of those sessions here). One of the things we learned is “we do what we do because we want what we want, and we want what we want because we’re deceived.” Whatever dominates our minds will eventually dominate our hearts.
Reading our Bibles helps us when we grasp hold of the truths in Scripture and believe they are true for us. As we think on, remember, and meditate on them throughout the day, it is God’s Word which begins to dominate our hearts and become the controlling thoughts, desires, and commitments that determine the trajectory of our lives. Simply reading the Bible does nothing. Remembering what you read and believing it’s true for you is what changes hearts.
If you’ve never done this, give it a try this week. Read a smaller portion of Scripture than you might normally and ask the Lord to give you one or two verses that speak to your heart and that you can carry throughout the day. Meditate on it and see if it doesn’t change you, helping you respond graciously in situations when you might not have, or speaking kindly and patiently to your kids when earlier you would have responded in anger. And if you’re interested in learning more about how God changes us, check out last week’s session on Sanctification which you can listen to here.