The four Sunday mornings of January 2020 have been set aside to remind ourselves concerning a number of important spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. Reminders are important. The apostle Peter wrote to the church, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder…” [2 Pet.1:12,13].
The basic Christian disciplines we intend to remind ourselves anew at this time are:
1. Disciplining ourselves for the purpose of Godliness (last week)
2. The discipline of hearing God’s Word regularly
3. The discipline of Prayer
4. The discipline of Worship.
Today, we shall consider the spiritual discipline of regularly hearing and obeying the message of the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible contains sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years, by more than 40 authors who came from many walks of life. In all this, the Bible is a unified message, concerning the creation of this world by God, concerning the Fall of man and its terrible consequences, and God’s plan to recreate this sad fallen world. Three words summarize the message of the Bible : CREATION – DEGENERATION – RE-CREATION.
According to the March 2007 edition of Time Magazine, the Bible "has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating." With estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, it is widely considered to be the most influential and best-selling book of all time. As of the 2000’s, it sells approximately 100 million copies annually. That is a pretty impressive statement from a secular news magazine.
But the Bible is not merely an influential book or a bestseller. It is not merely a Book among other books. The Bible is much more than that. It’s internal testimony claims a much bigger authority than that. It claims to be the Word of God. Now that’s impressive!
Here are a few samples…
· Psalm 119 is one long statement about the weightiness of God’s Word
· 2 Timothy 3:16-17
· 2 Peter 1:20-21
· 1 Thessalonians 2:13
1 TIMOTHY 4:11-16
The weightiness of the Scriptures, is seen in our text. The Bible bears unique weight upon our lives. The Bible claims an absolute authority over our lives. It was written by men who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Bible dispenses truth about God and about ourselves. The Bible was written to turn fallen mankind, the apex of God’s creation back to God. The Bible requires thorough going repentance by embracing the Peace Offer that God has given to mankind: The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
It is this weightiness that is on Paul’s mind when he instructs the young pastor Timothy of the church in Ephesus, to make it is main aim to see that this Word from God gets out to the people. For this reason he should devote himself to the public reading of these Scriptures and to the exhortation of those Scriptures and to the teaching of those Scriptures (4:13). Pastor Timothy needed to make sure that his congregation was regularly and thoroughly brought under the sound of these Scriptures.
He was a gifted teacher/ preacher, recognised by the council of elders (4:14).He would be an antidote to the false teaching that was threatening to infect the church at all times. The Word of God needed to be read to the congregation, it needed to be explained to the congregation, and it needed to be impressed upon the congregation. The faithful teaching of the Word of God would save both Timothy and the congregation from error and establish them in the truth. (4:16)
Working with the Word is a spiritual discipline. We have previously seen in 1 Timothy 4: 6-10 how the apostle impresses the importance of spiritual discipline upon Timothy, and thus upon the church which he was leading, when he said, “Timothy, exercise, exert discipline (Gr.gumnaze)- train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come…” [1 Tim. 4:7-10].
Paul, in this mentoring letter to Timothy has been guiding Timothy in a number of important matters. One of the most important issues Paul addresses here is the matter of proclaiming and teaching Bible truth and Bible logic to the church. The reason for this is that false teachers, sent from Satan, were invading the church (1:3-20; 4:1-4; 6:3-5 cf. 2Tim. 2:16-18,23; 3:8; 4:3-4; 14-15). This is a big problem for the church in our fallen world, and we must understand this.
Jesus tells us how this happened. In the context of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-23), Jesus also tells the parable of the weeds (Matt. 13:24-30). There He explains how a field sown with good seed is suddenly invaded by weeds. The explanation given is this, “An enemy has done this”. The enemy is clearly the evil one, Satan (Matt 13:19). Satan takes weak people captive to do his will. He uses them to undermine the pure Word of God. He still uses the same undermining tactics and subversive language which he used with Eve, “Did God actually say?...”(Gen. 3:1). Paul writes to Timothy about the work of the devil through people [see 1 Tim.1:20 - Hymaneus and Alexander; 3:6-7 - through immature people appointed to eldership; 4:1 - through deceitful spirits and teaching of demons; 5:15 - vulnerable widows); 2Tim. 2:26 – people focussing on foolish, ignorant controversies, falling into the snare of the devil)]
The life of the church is at stake when God’s truth is substituted by false teaching and false emphases (e.g. works as a system of salvation) doctrine. The antidote to false teaching and false emphases is found the plain reading of Scripture, in the exhortation and teaching of the Scripture. This positive teaching emphasis is deeply embedded in Paul’s two letters to Timothy. [ See 1 Tim. 1:3,18; 3:1; 4:6,11-16; 5:1-16 (teaching all kinds of people); 5:17-20 (concerning the teaching office); 6:2; 2 Tim. 1:6,13, 2:14,24; 3:10,14-16; 4:2,17]
So then, in reading and studying the Bible ...
(i) we learn the truth about God and ourselves and thus we can find the wayback home to God.
(ii) we can escape false demonic teachings that confuse the plain message of the Bible.
Godliness (i.e. having the sense of God in our souls) is directly proportional to Bible intake.
If one trains for any sport discipline it is important to know the doctrine of that discipline. In the same way the Bible informs us in the discipline of godliness. We cannot grow and produce godly church members without learning the doctrines or the logic of Scripture, which is very often contrary to the sinful worldviews we embrace. This discipline will be necessary as long as we live.
APLICATION: How We Can Hear God’s Word
1. Attending a church where the Bible is faithfully proclaimed. In the act of hearing the Word we must take note of what Jesus said in Lk. 11:28. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” It is not enough to attend a Bible teaching church. Merely listening to sermons or Bible readings will not do it. The purpose of hearing the Bible is to lead us to obedience - at whatever level it speaks to us. Hearing the Word read and preached is important. Faith is stirred up in the act of hearing. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. The Thessalonian congregation provides us with a good example of a people that took the Word of God into their lives: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess.2:13)
2. Reading God’s Word: Attending a church where God’s word is fully proclaimed is good, but there needs to be more Bible intake. This is done by disciplining ourselves to read the Bible – it is a part of what 1 Timothy 4:7 implies – disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness. Again, Revelation 1:3 tells us "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. " Learn to read the Bible for yourself.
Three practical suggestions for Discipline in Bible Reading
· A Time: If we do not plan to read the Bible it will not get done. The Bible, which has 66 books, and more than a thousand pages, needs time and effort to read. The best time to read is the time when you are most alert and undisturbed.
· A Place: There is an advantage in reading the Bible day after day in a place which is firmly associated in your mind with that activity.
· A Method: Never wait until you are in the mood to do it. Be determined, be intentional, be disciplined. The way to do a thing is to do it ! ( J.C.Ryle)
Ø A Bible Reading plan is supplied to our congregation today; also available in the tract stand.
3. Bible Study
· Personal in- depth Bible Study - This is more than Bible reading. It is getting to grips with the depth of the Bible. Don’t let a feeling of inadequacy keep you from learning the Bible on your own. There are many wonderful resources available to help you. For this very reason we operate Barnabas book ministry.
· Attend an in- depth Bible study of your church.
A FINAL REFLECTION
Godliness grows in proportion to your Bible intake. If we settle for poor intake of hearing, reading and studying, we restrict the main flow of God’s sanctifying grace to us. May the Lord bless you and help you with good discipline in this regard.
 For this purpose I highly recommend Geoff Thomas’ little book : Reading the Bible, Banner of Truth Publications
 Ibid , p. 14