This last Sunday, I gave a word of exhortation to all my listeners to immerse themselves in the Word of God. I didn’t have enough time to include all that I thought would be practically beneficial about this, so I’m writing a blog post with some of what I couldn’t include in the sermon. (This is the third post in a 3-post series.)
Immerse yourself in the Word of God as the Word of God. This is the exhortation. But what does it look like to take in the Bible truly embracing it as the living and active Word of God?
Part of striving for steadfast faith in Jesus may mean getting help for needed growth, change, and/or repentance. You may need to read a book, go to counseling, ask for prayer from others, submit to accountability, and more, but one thing is for sure, if you want to fight for steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus, then you must immerse yourself in the Word of God as the Word of God, trusting that it is powerful, living and active, piercing even to the depths of our hearts, creating in us a stronger, more steadfast faith.
Much of this is pretty practical. Some of this is very specific. All of this is exhortation. Does it feel legalistic to you? Here’s why it’s not: By following this exhortation to immerse yourself into the Word of God as the Word of God, you are not earning salvation for yourself. Nor should you be trying to do this. The exhortation is to immerse yourself in God’s Word in order to strengthen your faith in God’s Work. We are not working for forgiveness, but working to trust in Christ’s work on our behalf. Therefore, those who immerse themselves in God’s Word are not more accepted by (or even more acceptable to) God, rather they are healthier and more stable and steadfast in their faith. Exhorting you to take in the Word of God is not legalism, because it is neither a substitute for, nor even a supplement to trusting in Christ. On the contrary, it is a graciously God-given means to support and strengthen our faith in Christ.
And yet, I get it. I understand why it may feel legalistic. This exhortation is a call to DO something, and to do it more and more, striving and making every effort to do it. It’s like Jesus’ call to give up everything to follow Him; to take up our cross daily to die to ourselves; to take the hard, narrow path. None of this feels restful. It feels heavy.
Some of you reading this are just plain tired. You’re already feeling like you can’t take another item on your to-do list. You’re saying, “Please don’t lay another burden on me; I don’t think I can bear up under even just one more thing.”
- Now, some people are struggling and tired because they don’t understand the gospel. They are still trying to earn their way into God’s Rest. They feel as if they will be accepted by God if they do enough good things well enough. If this is you, then hear Jesus call you: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Mt. 11:28-30. He is calling you, not to work harder to earn forgiveness and freedom and acceptance and assurance of His saving love. He’s calling you to surrender to Him; to let your burden fall off your back a the foot of His Cross; to cease all of your striving for salvation and simply to trust Him, knowing God’s Work for you in Christ is all-sufficient.
- Others are true Christians who embrace the gospel, and yet they feel overwhelmed because they are knee deep in some sin. Following Jesus is hard for them, harder than it needs to be, b/c they are entangled and weighed down with unrepentant sin. If this is you, you cannot keep on like this, and you know it. You must repent of your sin. You need to confess your sin, turn from it in your heart, and make a real (accountable) action-plan for continuing to follow Jesus.
- Many others feel overwhelmed by an exhortation to immerse themselves in the Word of God because they don’t know how to do that. It isn’t unbelief or sin, but ignorance that is their problem. They’ve never seen it modeled or heard it taught well. If this is you, then no longer let ignorance be an excuse for you. Ask for help. It may be humbling, even embarrassing to do so, but it’ll be worth it. Ask for recommended resources, practices, and tips from trusted people, and just start reading and listening, prayerfully asking the Lord to graciously work wonders through His living and active Word.
- Still others feel overwhelmed, not because of any particular sinfulness or ignorance but simply because of foolishness. It isn’t that they don’t want to or don’t know how to immerse themselves in God’s Word, as much as if they really don’t feel like they can. They are already stretched to the max in their life. This is foolish. If this is you, you are right in saying you simply can’t add another thing to your plate. But what you need to do is take something(s) off of your plate. You need to prioritize your life better. You need to say no to some things so you can say yes to other things. You need to stop doing some good things so that you can start doing the best things. It isn’t that you can’t strive for faith by the Word of God, but that you can’t in your current schedule, and you need to change things up in your routine, schedule, situation, priorities.
- And, perhaps, some are feeling overwhelmed because of the weight of some change, struggle, or loss in their life, making it more difficult to engage with God in His Word like they’d like to. Perhaps you feel guilty because you used to be able to spend much more time and have much more energy in studying God’s Word. If this is you, remember, Jesus’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. Don’t let Satan lie to you; battle his anxiety-inducing, stress-producing deception with the truth of God’s powerful and piercing Word. You are not trying to live up to some “Bible-Reading Standard”. Immersing yourself in the Word of God as the Word of God is for you. Sure, it is (or at least should be) an act of worship, but it is one in which you are to come hungry for and dependent upon Him, wherein He blesses you, not the other way around. Let His promise of grace, help, and blessing draw you to seek Him more, not less.
Exhortations really are meant to add a weight of pressure on you until you give in to them. They are not meant to make you feel comfortable and peaceful with the status quo. If someone exhorts you to do something, they are trying to stir you up, to agitate you in order to get you moving, to activate you by bothering you. This does not necessarily sound loving, especially to modern ears. But what makes an exhortation loving (or not) mainly has to do with what they are trying to get you to do and why. For instance, if someone is screaming at you at the top of your lungs to get out of the way of the 2000 lbs. truck hurtling toward you at 40 mph because they love you and want to protect your life, then is that loving or not? No one in their right mind would say that such an exhortation is mean or unloving. In fact, not exhorting you to get out of the way would be unloving. So, I exhort you, fight for steadfast faith in the sufficient Work of God by immersing yourself in the powerful and piercing Word of God, embracing it for what it really is; the Word of God.