Bible Reading Deuteronomy 30:6,10-14
The Lord your God will prepare you and your descendants to serve him. You will love him with your whole being. Then you will live... But you must obey the Lord your God. You must obey his commands and rules that are written in this Book of the Teachings. You must follow the Lord your God with your whole being. This command I give you today is not too hard for you. It is not beyond what you can do. (ICB) His commands aren’t in heaven, so you can’t excuse yourselves by saying, “How can we obey the Lord’s commands? They are in heaven, and no one can go up to get them, then bring them down and explain them to us.” And you can’t say, “How can we obey the Lord’s commands? They are across the sea, and someone must go across, then bring them back and explain them to us.” No, these commands are nearby and you know them by heart. All you have to do is obey! (CEV)
Message The Teachings Acts 2:42-47
Listen and Heed
“All you have to do - is obey.” A man named Edwin bought a car with a voice-warning system. (They don’t make them like that anymore, maybe because of events like this illustration). He was amused to hear the soft female voice gently remind him that his seat belt wasn't fastened. He affectionately called this voice, “the little woman".
He discovered his little woman was programmed to warn him about gasoline too. "Your fuel level is low" she said sweetly. Edwin nodded his head and thanked her. He figured he could go another fifty miles, so he kept driving. A few minutes later, her voice interrupted again with the same sweet warning. And so it went every few minutes. And even though he knew it was the same recording, Edwin was sure her voice sounded harsher with each nag.
She was irritating him so much that he finally stopped his car, crawled under the dash, found the right wires and yanked them out. So much for the little woman! He was still smiling to himself a few miles later when his car sputtered, coughed, and coasted to the side of the road out of gas. And from somewhere inside the dashboard, Edwin was sure he could hear the little woman - laughing.
In Proverbs (1:20-23 ff), wisdom calls out in the busy marketplace street -- trying to be heard. But they would not listen -- and then they began to suffer the consequences, and then they begged wisdom to help -- but it was too late.
We know God knows what is best for us and guides us into that best in this life and the next. Yet for some reason we disconnect from his counsel.
Perhaps one reason why is illustrated by one couple who lost their life savings in a business scheme that had been elaborately planned by a swindler. When the investment disappeared, and their dreams shattered, they went to the Better Business Bureau.
As they were discussing their situation with them, the official asked, "Why didn't you come to us first? Didn’t you know about us?”
They replied sadly, "Yes, we knew about you – but we didn’t come to you because we were afraid you'd tell us not to do it."
The answers lie in God's word – but we don't turn there for fear that it might say what we don’t want to hear – even though it may save us from disastrous choices.
The reading (Deuteronomy 30:6,10-14) reminds us that God's will is not some mysterious thing that only someone with special knowledge or training can understand. It is not residing with God out in the heavens somewhere beyond our telescopes. Nor is it impractical, like some dreamland across the seas. It can be known, and it can be done. It is near us. And that was in the days of Moses.
How much more clear is it made in the New Testament. John tells us (John 7:14-18, 14:23-26, 16:13-14) how the people were amazed at the teachings of Jesus, and Jesus said that his teaching was not his own but from God who sent him and for that reason, there is nothing false about him. He is the example of truth... and everyone who loves Jesus will do what he teaches, and God will love and live with them, and then just as Jesus spoke the Father’s Words, the Spirit will speak Jesus’ words…
So, the question isn’t the figuring out what God is telling us as much as it is – will I really act in trust that what I know of God is truly best for me? Do I really want what is best for me?
I don’t know if it is a true story, but it makes a great analogy. After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, a news crew filmed the destruction, and in one scene they came across a neighborhood that was completely destroyed except for one house that remained on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the front yard. The reporter approached and asked, “Why is your house the only one still standing in the middle of all this damage?"
He replied, “I built this house myself, and I built it to code. When the code called for 2x6 roof trusses, that is what I used. I was told a house built to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I guess no one else around here followed the code.”
When the sun is shining, and the skies are blue, building our lives on something other than the guidelines in God's Word can be tempting. But sooner or later, in many different forms, some sort of storm hits all of us. And Jesus’ “code” to loving and living is not mysterious, irrelevant, or outdated. It is God's revelation of Himself to us as he inspired people to write in the culture of their time, and if we look at it and understand it -- we will find eternal truths that apply to us in our situation here in Copper Country in 2018 and beyond.
After Jesus left, God’s people devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, and that devoted learning led to fellowship, eating together, praying together, sharing resources with those in need, meeting together daily – in awe of God and in joy with each other. It was very attractive, and people joined constantly in this praise of God. (See Acts 2:42-47).
Teaching points to God
Just as the Law (when at its best) pointed not to the Law, but to God, and Jesus pointed to himself, but to the Father, and the Spirit points not to the Spirit, but leads us to Jesus and the Father; so too, the apostle’s teaching (the Bible) does not point us to the apostle’s teaching, but to Jesus, to the Father, and to the Spirit – to God himself.
Look at this way: A girl captures a young man’s heart and he is in love. He carries her photo in his wallet. At times, distance separates them. He takes the photo out of his wallet as a tangible reminder of their love. Sometimes, when no one is looking, he will even kiss the picture. The picture is powerful, but it is not the same as his beloved.
The Bible is the powerful, tangible reminding picture that points us to the Living Word, to Christ. We devote ourselves to reading and studying the Bible because it shows us God and His will. Strong spiritual lives require both the Word, and the Spirit of Christ that the Word points to -- an intimate relationship with Christ himself.
Find your method(s)
There is no trick to knowing God’s will – to Bible study. You just read – or listen if you prefer audio) -- in whatever form or medium works for you, and in whatever style works for you. Did you know Twelve minutes a day reading out loud at a slow, understandable pace, will get you through the Bible in one year?
Some people like to read in quantity of verses, others like to spend a quantity of study on a few verses. Some people develop a single method of study that lasts a lifetime, others need to have a variety of approaches to their study. (I personally need variety, I am always looking for a fresh approach to study). Every person's way of devotion can look different -- but each person needs to develop a way or ways of devotion.
But remember that the goal is not to study the book as an end in itself, but to discover (more of) the Person behind the book -- the Person who brought in Creation, and who brings us salvation and hope, who comes to love us and be loved by us.
A man was madly in love and engaged to be married. But duty called, and he went off to war. While He was away, he wrote a long love letter to his girl. He said, “This battle is serious. When it is done, and freedom is won, I'm going to come back for a brief visit, but then I am going to go and build us the house of our dreams, and while I am building that house, here is what I want you to do.” And he listed instructions of what he needed her to do until the dream house was ready.
The woman was as deeply in love with her lover as he was with her. Do you think she glanced through the letter once and tossed it in a box never to look at it again? No. She read it over and over, reminding herself of his love for her, re-sparking her love for him, and making sure she did everything her lover desired, because all that he was doing, he was doing for her.
Jesus came and lived among us for three years, and said, I have a terrible war to fight, and it will cost me my life, but I will rise again, and after a brief visit I am going to go a prepare a place for you, and after I am done I am going to come for you, so you can be where I am. In the meantime - do what I have instructed in the letter I am leaving with you, and my friend, the Holy Spirit will guide you in this. (John 14:1 ff)
And if we believe in God’s love for us, and our love for him, we study the instructions he has given us until he comes back to bring us to our dream home. Sure, the love letter is old, originally written in a different language and in a different culture, and there is plenty that we don’t yet fully understand. But that is not a reason to put God’s love letter on the shelf, it is why we study it all the more, and in the process, perhaps we will find not just words on an ancient page – but freshly experience the love of the Father through Christ’s Spirit.
Closing Prayer Let’s pray. Lord, we know you have written of your great love to us, yet we have from time to time neglected your word, afraid of what we might hear you say. Yet when we turn again to your Word, we find that you are using the words to faithfully reveal your love for us through Jesus; offering us not words of an angry overseer, but the compassionate, accepting words of devoted lover. Offering words and instructions that give us abundant life as we turn our eyes toward you and offer our lives to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Hymn # 600 Wonderful Words of Life
Closing Blessing Now study [his wonderful words] so as to move “true north” to Jesus, drawing near to God so he will come near to you in his love, and you will find [as you turn your eyes upon him] full life in his direction.
Closing Hymn # 349 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus