A Pastor by the name of Tom Patton recently told a story about a time he was in seminary and the school president preached a message on the importance of God’s Word from Psalm 19.
During the message he spoke about a very large, sixteenth century Bible that he had seen and held. When he opened it the first thing he noticed was that every page had been stained. There was discoloring everywhere. You could tell that at one point, the Bible had been submerged into liquid about three quarters of the way up. But this wasn’t just any kind of liquid. The waterline on each page had faded a bit, but the reddish-pink hue was still visible.
In the sixteenth century, Bloody Mary, the Catholic Queen of England, massacred hundreds of Protestant Christians. Owning a Bible was illegal, as was believing the true, Biblical Gospel. In some cases, before a person was burned at the stake, his wrists were slit and placed over a bowl into which his blood would pour. Then his accusers would take his Bible, and, as an act of contempt, dip the Bible into the blood.
Blood-stained pages were the result. What was originally intended as mockery now stood as a beautiful example of the faithfulness of the martyrs. To the martyrs of the 16th Century, like King Josiah, the Word of God was precious. They treasured it.
Whether you are paying attention to the Word is no small thing! I urge you to answer this question in your heart today: What am I doing with the Bible? Do I read it daily? How do I read it? Do I appropriate it?
Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
The Greek word for “accept” means an inward welcome; a readiness to apply it, whatever it is.
The Thessalonians received God’s Word and shaped their lives, their homes, their pursuits, their goals by it. They didn’t shape it. It shaped them. Paul was thrilled about this. He was constantly thankful for it.
When my son finally puts his shoes in the closet on his own after being told every day of his life to do it, there’s a certain warmness about it. A certain sense of, well, victory. He took our command and appropriated it. He added it into his life. It shapes his routine now.
The Thessalonians demonstrated they had a high view, a high estimate of the Word of God that Paul taught. His words about the Gospel that led to their conversion, his words about Christ’s return, the necessity of work in the Christian life — they drank it in. The Word of Christ, as Colossians says, dwelt in them richly.
I want to assure you this day, this hour, that God’s Word will have one of two effects on you. When the Word is taught or preached to our ears on Sunday, or when we read it in private, it is never neutral. It will either soften your heart, lead you to love and hunger for more of Christ, or it will harden you. Being in a position when your heart is hardened is a dangerous place to be.
Notice Jesus’ statement at the end of the parable of the sower. This is in the context of receiving the Word of God. Verse 12, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
There is an important principle here. Receive the Word well, receive it wholeheartedly, with effort, with joy, and more will be given. You will open up the floodgates of truth into your heart. God’s Word will take the positive effect in you. But take it lightly, see it as a bother, inconvenient — and it will become more and more difficult to receive truth in the future.
The Word constantly shows us our weaknesses and sinfulness. When it exposes us, it should cause us to repent and run to the cross. But if it exposes us and we say, “Neh, so what?” you will not only be losing the wonderful opportunity you have at abundant joy, you are living in unrepentant sin. If you are a Christian in this situation, then you can expect God’s discipline. Discipline in this situation is what we should hope for since the Lord disciplines those He loves.
Sin takes you farther than you ever wanted to go, and it’s more costly than you could ever imagine. Callousness towards the convicting power of the Word, numbness toward the beauty and radiance of God’s beloved Son is a dangerous, awful place to be — and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever return to a place of usefulness to the kingdom, save by the undeserved grace of God.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and illuminated. Pay attention, therefore, to how you listen. Whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.
If you are prone to sleep during the preaching of the Word, if you have trained your mind and body to shut down when the Word of God is preached, you are in a very dangerous place.
If Scripture has become dull to you, the very means through which your Creator has communicated to you, I urge you to take three steps immediately. 1) repent, 2) pray for humility to receive Scripture again as you did before, and 3) earnestly pursue it.
First, repent. Admit to God that you haven’t loved his Word the way you are called to. Take heed of what Jesus says in Revelation 2:4, “But I have this against you: You have abandoned your first love. Therefore, keep in mind how far you have fallen. Repent and perform the deeds you did at first. But if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Second, pray for humility to receive Scripture as you once did. James 1:21: “get rid of all moral filth and every expression of evil, and humbly receive the word planted in you, which can save your souls.”
Finally, earnestly take on the life-long pursuit of drinking in deeply God’s Word. Deut 34:26 says, “When Moses had finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all these words I testify among you today, so that you may command your children to carefully follow all the words of this law. For they are not idle words to you, because they are your life.”
My son, if you accept my words and hide my commandments within you, if you incline your ear to wisdom and direct your heart to understanding, if you truly call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search it out like hidden treasure, then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.