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FW Campus Pastor Tyler Briggs talks about what you should do this year instead of reading your Bible. Engaging the Bible for the purpose of growing in a relationship with Jesus will lead to an amazing year of transformation but pride, insecurity, and laziness will keep you from experiencing it.
Engaging With the Bible
Christmas Eve 2018
Special Christmas Message from Todd
9 Things I Learned at "Seminary"
Commitment Is the Key to Change
Enjoying The Benefits Of Your Faith
The Mode of Our Helping Matters
Fort Worth Evening With The Elders
Evaluating Your Relationship With God
An Ounce of Mother Is Worth a Ton of Priest
Romans 5: Gifts From God
Dignity of Responsibility
Are You a Fool for Believing in God?
The Cost of the Cross
A Prophetic Word for the Mission
What God Has Done and What We Must Keep Doing
Life’s Slot Machine
Put on Humility
Good morning, Watermark. How is everybody doing? It's so fun to be back. I hope you had a wonderful time over the break and maybe some more things you're looking forward to with the New Year's Eve and New Year's celebrations coming. One thing for certain right now this time of year is people are starting to think about, "What do I want my 2019 to look like? What do I want to see happen there?"
Before I started this whole ministry thing, I was in the health club industry for about five or six years and know factually that there are a lot of people who when they look at the year ahead want to see change in their health. They want to see change in their physical fitness. That's probably true of a lot of you here in the room this morning.
There are some stats that are really fascinating to me. Moving into the next month, about 60 million Americans will start a health club membership; 60 million Americans who want to see themselves get a little bit stronger, a little bit tighter up in the year ahead, so they're going to join a health club with these big aspirations of what's going to happen as they pursue that over the next year.
What's even crazier is that out of those 60 million people, they are going to spend $33 billion on health and fitness aids and supplements; $33 billion dollars to see a little bit of change come about in their lives over the next year as they want to get healthier. A lot of that is people are looking at doing things like the Keto diet or Whole30 or whatever the newest fad is you're going to look at this year.
The most interesting stat of all will come with some bad news for you who are looking to see some change this year, but I'm going to follow it up by giving you some good news. The bad news is that 80 percent of you are going to fail at accomplishing your resolution this year…by February. That does not look hopeful for you, but here's the good news coming: with very much ease, I'm going to tell you how to be a part of the 20 percent who stick with it.
It's really quite simple. For those of you whose resolution is that you want to get stronger, you want to exercise and get more physically fit this year, there's only one thing you have to do for you to be in the 20 percent. Do you know what it is? Work out. It's not that complicated. If you want to be a part of the 20 percent who desire to exercise and get fit, the only thing you have to do is consistently work out.
If you want to start a diet plan, you want to try to trim up and lower your cholesterol or blood pressure or whatever it may be, the one thing you have to do this year in order to see that happen is simply this. Here's the secret: eat healthy. Mind-blowing, I know. It's like how is it that not like 80 percent succeed? I think the reason there are so many people who don't succeed in their resolution is because even though it's not complicated, it takes work. You can't just desire for it to happen; you actually have to put in the work to see it happen.
I think there's another reason. I do think some people start out with a desire for it to happen, but by January 15 they haven't lost the 20 pounds they wanted to lose, so they give up. We live in an instant-gratification society, and it didn't happen fast enough, so they abandon their pursuits. But I didn't come here this morning wanting to talk to you about how to get fit or how to lose weight.
I came here to talk to you about something that's going to have far more significance and impact on your life, which is helping you realize and helping you come to accomplish this year what I believe all of you would desire, which is to grow closer in your relationship with Jesus and become more like him. There's one thing you must do in order for that to happen: to engage with the Bible.
Okay, I know what you're thinking right now. "Okay, Pastor. I know what this is. This is the January 'Read your Bible' message." You're right. It is, kind of, but here's the deal. I want to start off by telling you I don't want you to read your Bible a single time this year. As a matter of fact, I think one of the most pointless things you can do over the next 365 days is sit down and read your Bible.
Here's why: because if you are reading your Bible without the right purpose, you're not going to see growth come from it. You're not going to grow in your relationship with Jesus. I don't want you to just read the Bible; I want you to engage with it and, specifically, to engage with the Bible for the purpose of growing in your relationship with Jesus and becoming like him.
This is why we talk about this every single year. This is so important, because I think a lot of us desire strongly to come to walk closely with Jesus and to become more like him, but we all too often overlook the single thing that's actually going to move us toward seeing that happen in our lives, which is engaging God in the Scriptures.
I don't care how much you exercise. I don't care how much you diet. Those things may change one thing, one aspect about your life, but those things are not going to make you have a better marriage. Those things are not going to help you deal with your anxiety. When you think about what people think about you, when you start to get crushed by it and find your worth in your performance, those things aren't going to help you.
Whenever you're struggling with being content in your singleness, diet and exercise aren't going to be the solutions. Whenever you're trying to figure out how to navigate trials and hardship in your life, needing wisdom on how to have a hard conversation with somebody, how to handle a situation at work, you can go to the gym twice a day, every day; it's not going to help you, but there's one thing that will: engaging the Scriptures, engaging the Bible for the purpose of becoming like Jesus and coming into a closer relationship with him.
We're going to spend our time this morning asking and answering three questions. The first question is…Why should we engage with the Bible? The second is…Why don't we engage with the Bible. The third one is…How do we engage with the Bible? So we'll dive right into the first question.
1._ Why should we (why should_ you ) engage with the Bible this next year? I want you to play along with me for a second. I want you just to pretend that there is a God who created everything. He knows everything. He built this world exactly how he wanted to. He designed how it would function. He determined how mankind is supposed to relate to him. He determined how mankind is supposed to relate to one another in a way that brings life and joy into people's lives.
He then went on record and wrote down on paper that has been preserved throughout the course of history his exact thoughts and wisdom for how to navigate all of these things. I just want you to pretend like that were true and then he did all this so he could have a relationship with you and help you navigate any situation you're going to encounter in this life. If that were true, wouldn't you want to know him? Wouldn't you want to access that relationship, to learn from him, to be led by him? Wouldn't you want to? Of course you would.
The reasons you wouldn't is you either think it's not true, so you just don't do it, or you're crazy. That's it. If that is true (and it is), the only thing we would want to do is to engage with the Bible that he has given us that contains everything we need as it relates to life and godliness. The Bible contains the very words of God, and it was put together… God has gone on record with what he wanted to speak to you for you. He has given it to you. It's widely available.
Our issue with not engaging with the Scriptures is not an issue of possessing it. The average American home contains four Bibles, not to mention the fact that most of us probably have it in who knows how many different versions available to us right here in our technology. So it's not a matter of possessing God's Word; it's a matter of engaging it for the purpose of growing in a relationship with him and becoming more like Jesus. God tells us this.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." It is in the Bible alone that we find specific and direct communication from God to us, and that communication has a purpose: to teach you, to train you, to correct you when you begin to stray off the path, and to help you train for living a life of righteousness, which is the only place where you're going to find the joy and peace and hope you're looking for.
Engaging the Bible is how we grow. That's the first point. That's the answer to this question. We engage the Bible because it's how we grow, because it's where we find our relationship with God and his instructions for us on how to navigate this world. The Bible is not only where we receive direct and specific communication from God; it's also where we directly encounter Jesus Christ himself. You're not going to be able to encounter Jesus anywhere else in the way that you would in the Scriptures.
What does Jesus call all of his disciples to do? To follow him. Well, how are you going to follow somebody you never encounter because you never engage the Bible? You can't. We can look at Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus calls his first disciples. He tells them, "This is what it means. This is how you're going to learn from me. This is how you engage in a relationship with me."
"Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."
Over the course of the next three years, these men, along with some others, spent nearly every waking moment with Jesus, and it radically transformed their lives, because they got to personally witness Jesus' teaching about how to engage with the poor, about what it means to pursue the kingdom of heaven, about how to handle worry and anxiety, about how to steward God's resources, and all of these other things.
They were personally with Jesus to hear his teaching. They got to see him engage with the poor. They got to see him engage with persecutors. They got to see him engage with religious people who lived a life apart from a relationship with God. Through that, they learned and became like him. In the same way, the only place you're going to be able to encounter Jesus and follow him and learn from him is through the Scriptures. It's through engaging your Bible.
I know many of you have heard this before, and sometimes it can fall on deaf ears, so I don't want to just talk to you about why in terms of theoretically why you should follow; I want to share with you Lizzie's story. In Lizzie's story, you're going to see the fruits of what happens in someone's life when they choose to engage with the Bible for the purpose of growing in a relationship with Jesus and becoming like him. This is Lizzie's story.
She says, "I first came to Watermark trying to fix my husband. We signed up quickly for Equipped Disciple because I thought it would be a good thing to help fix my husband, but like most things, I realized that God had something better for me in it. I remember walking into the first night of Equipped Disciple and sitting at the table, feeling nervous yet fairly confident about my Bible knowledge.
I thought it would be a fun class to do with my husband to recover from a rough season, but then a task was laid out before us: spend seven consecutive days engaging God through the Word and memorize five verses word for word. For someone who has never done this before, I was definitely intimidated and quickly became humbled about where I was spiritually." Lizzie had been going to church faithfully since she was about 6 years old yet had never actively engaged into a relationship with Jesus through the Bible.
She said, "I didn't have the discipline or a constant relationship with God, but through Equipped Disciple it led me through a semester where I wrestled with what I truly believed and grew in ways I couldn't have imagined. Walking in to fix my husband ultimately led to fixing my relationship with God through learning how to engage with him through the Scriptures. Through doing that, God also very kindly saved my marriage as well.
For most of my life after my parents' divorce I'd been plagued with anxiety. I had no idea how bad it was until recently when I became healthy. I would get knots in my stomach daily and constantly overthink things and verbally process in a way that really affected my marriage. Within a matter of four short years, I had developed a marriage that was full of anxiety and resentment. It wasn't until I learned about the spiritual disciplines and really began to engage with the Bible to build a relationship with God that I discovered the damage and hold that sin has had on our marriage for so long."
She goes on to say, "When I started to abide [or remain] in God's Word every day to grow in a relationship with him, my anxiety went away. Within a matter of months, I was a new person, and the peace of God that people would talk about when they were saved finally made sense to me. I had often watched in envy of the faith people had. Now I understand what it means to be a new creation and to find peace that surpasses understanding, because I find it through engaging with God in the Bible."
Then she said, "We still struggle with life. Infertility, in particular, is something we have had to wrestle with and through, but Equipped Disciple has given us the tools to wrestle well. It has given us the disciplines to abide with God in the Bible daily and the Scripture to rely on to help us through our struggles. By learning to be disciplined spiritually, Joseph [her husband] and I understand what it means to find rest in Jesus. His burden is light, not because the circumstances change but because through those circumstances we walk with him through engaging in the Bible."
She said, "I couldn't be more grateful for Equipped Disciple, because it's the avenue the Lord used to help us develop a deep and meaningful relationship with him through teaching us how to engage with God in the Bible." Isn't that a great story? Isn't that what you want for this next year? The way you're going to get it is not to attend weekly services and then leave here unchanged. It is going to happen because you are consistently and daily engaging with God in the Bible. That's why we engage with the Bible.
2._ Why don't we engage with the Bible?_ The answer is we don't engage with the Bible because of three reasons: pride, insecurity, and laziness.
A. Pride. It's really just having too much confidence in oneself. What that means for you who are here today is that you'll come in, and we profess with our mouths as we sing and everything else that we believe who God is, that we trust in him, but then you will walk out of this room and live the rest of this week like a functional atheist. Meaning, although you say one thing about God, you live as if he doesn't exist.
You will live your life independent from him because you are so proud and think you can do it on your own. I don't think any of you likely would outright say that, but I think if you were to look back and examine your Monday to Saturday, it's possible that that's true, and you need to realize that even though you might not have caught it at first glance, your pride is keeping you from growing. Your pride is keeping you from engaging the Bible.
Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling." The saying, "Pride comes before the fall" comes from this proverb. What it's saying is you're welcome… You can go out there and try to live independently from God, but when you do, trouble is coming. I think you know that to be true, because we try to live independently from God.
My daughter just turned 3 years old right around Thanksgiving, so this is the first Christmas she really has known what is going on. We do our best to set up the right perspective of what Christmas is. It's all about Jesus. We sing, "Happy Birthday, Jesus." We read the Jesus story and talk about why we give gifts, and then we start giving out the gifts, and it's pure mayhem. Lyla kind of knows what's going on, and every box she opens has some new amazing treasure inside of it.
Then there was one gift she got to, when she tore off all the wrapping paper, there was much more tape on it than normal. All of us have that one person in our family who's a little overzealous in their wrapping of presents. It was so packaged up that she just struggled. She couldn't get it open. She was looking at it and turning it around. So me, being Dad to the rescue, said, "Hey, Lyla, let me help you. I can open it for you." She looked at me and said, "I do it. I do it." I said, "Okay, okay. You can do it and I can help you." She said, "No, I do it."
So she goes back and is wrestling with it, and she just doesn't get in. All the while, there's an amazing abundance of fairy princess treasure on the inside that she's missing out on, and I realize I am living in a girl world. She finally got to a point where she realized she couldn't do it on her own, and she said, "Daddy, help." I said, "No! You said you'd do it. Now you have to do it." No, I said, "Give it to me," and very quickly I opened it, and all the treasure that was on the inside now belonged to her and she got to experience it.
The reason I tell you that is because when you allow your pride to get in the way of you opening this book and engaging with it to grow in a relationship with the Father who loves you, you are missing out on all of the treasures he has for you in the context of a relationship with him. If you're not willing to pick this up and to engage with it for the purpose of growing in your relationship with him, you will never see the growth in your walk with him that you want to. You will never see the freedom from your addictions that you desire. You will never experience the peace you're so longing for in the midst of your anxiety. Don't let your pride get in the way.
B. Insecurity. Insecurity is really just fear, fear of failing, fear of somebody seeing you in a way in which you don't perform well, and because you feel like you don't perform well you think they think less of you, and because your identity is wrapped up in what other people think of you, your self-worth drops and you're just plagued with insecurity. Most often than not, we tend to avoid the things that make us insecure. As it relates to engaging the Bible, this one is my story.
Insecurity kept me for so long from engaging with God through the Bible, and it all started, I think, if I can look back, when I was about 13 years old. When I was around 13, the church I was growing up in… As part of becoming a member there you went through these classes, and as part of it there were quizzes, which is interesting. If you want to become a member here, we will not give you a quiz, so don't worry. Don't be anxious.
There was a quiz, and from that quiz I only remember one question. I think I only remember one question because of how it made me feel. The question was in two parts. "How many books are in the Bible? Write down the names of as many as you know." The reason I remember that question is because, initially, it made me feel really, really smart. I said, "I've got this. Two books: Old Testament and New Testament." Yes. I felt great about myself.
But there was a guy whose name was Andrew sitting next to me, and he was writing so fast and so furiously that he had to have the greatest hand cramp known to man. The stuff on his page kept getting longer and longer, and eventually, in about five seconds, curiosity got the best of me, so I'm like, "I'm going to look at his paper. I know I'm in church, but I'm going to look at his paper." So I peek over, and at the top it said, "Sixty-six books."
I thought, "What is he talking about?" I started looking over, and I see all of these names. I think the first name I saw on there was "Amos." I was like, "That's not in the Bible, but he looks confident. Amos." And I wrote it down. The thing is I never told anybody about that until today. Welcome into my life. I was so insecure. I felt so badly that I had attended church some growing up and I didn't know what I was supposed to…
Because I was insecure about it, I avoided this book like the plague. Then it only continued to grow. When I was in college, I attended a few Bible studies with some guys who were good friends of mine who clearly knew more Bible than I did. We would get there, and I remember this. Every single week, the person who was preaching would say, "Okay, today we're going to be going through a lesson in the book of Matthew."
All of them would quickly open their Bible right to where it was going to go, and I'm like, "Matthew. Okay, I know there are two books. I don't remember that being one of them." In order not to show everybody, because I was so insecure about looking stupid in front of them, I would tuck my Bible underneath the table and rattle the pages to make them think I knew where I was going, but I was really opening up to the table of contents, saying, "Where is Matthew? Oh, page 771. There are 771 pages in this book." I would go to it and act like I knew what I was doing.
My insecurity grew, and outside of that room I continued to avoid the treasure that was contained in this book like a plague. Then a few years later I came to trust Christ, actually understand the message of the Bible and that it was for a relationship, and I began to read a little bit, but then I showed up at this place called Watermark. I went to the Fellowship program over at the Dallas Campus, and I was feeling a little bit good. I was spending time in the Scriptures most days of the week. I was going into this pastoral training program.
Then I'm instantly surrounded by all of these people who I think had the Bible written on their brains when they were born, and I'm like, "Where did these people come from?" I walked into staff prayer during the second or third week of the Fellowship program. Staff prayer is what we do every week on Tuesday. The staff gathers together. Twice a month now it's the Fort Worth staff together, and then the other couple of times a month we drive over and we're with the 200 staff members from all campuses.
That particular day, Todd came in and said, "Okay, today I'd love to hear from a couple of you what specifically you're learning from God in the Bible, and then I'm going to call on a couple more of you to share." I bowed my head and folded my hands and said, "Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here." I was so nervous. I didn't get called on, but it was crazy. I was so insecure about not knowing it.
The thing that's interesting to me about that point in time is I was engaging the Bible, I was learning, but I still was not confident in how I was able to engage with God through it. We started in August. On September 28, I read something that drastically changed my life, something I read in the book of Proverbs. Part of my reading plan then was going through a proverb of the day. There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. There are about 30 days in a month, so you do the chapter that matches up with the day.
On September 28, I was in Proverbs 28, and I read verse 1, and it changed everything about how I viewed engaging with God in the Bible. It helped me overcome my insecurity. Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion." As I journaled about that and talked to God about that, what I realized was the only person who was keeping me from growing in my relationship with God through the Scriptures was me. It was me.
No one was out to get me. No one was chasing me. It was my insecurity that was keeping me from this amazing, life-changing, peace-giving, joy-filled relationship. I made a commitment that day that I was no longer going to sit silent in fear of looking stupid or asking the wrong question. I said, "If I have a question, I'm going to ask it, and I'm going to invite people in to help." Six years later, somehow I'm pastoring a church. That doesn't make sense.
I don't share that to say anything about me but that in a relatively short amount of time, if you will open up this book and engage with your God who loves you, it will change everything about you. It will be the most amazing thing you ever experience. Don't let insecurity keep you from that relationship. Don't let insecurity keep you from engaging with the Bible and growing in your relationship with God.
C. Laziness. I want you to hear me say this. I love you and I am for you, but the reason you don't engage with the Scriptures is because you're lazy. I love you, but it's true. I think if we take an honest look at our lives, it's not that it's super difficult or that we couldn't have the time. It's that we're lazy. It's easier to be lazy. I want to share a quote I stumbled upon from R.C. Sproul.
He essentially says, "Why do we neglect God's Word? The real problem of our neglect is not because it's difficult to understand, not so much because it's dull and boring, but because it's work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or passion; our problem is that it is easier to be lazy." It's easier to sleep in. It's easier to binge-watch Designated Survivor on Netflix. It's easier to go have a meal.
It's easier to do a lot of other things that take no effort, because any relationship you want to cultivate will take effort. It takes effort and intentionality to wake up, to open your Bible, to carve out time to free yourself from the distraction of technology and social media and invest in a relationship with your Savior through engaging in the Bible.
Proverbs 12:27 is another proverb I love. It says, "A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence." One reason I love it is because it's biblical support for hunting. I'll take that, whether you like that or not, but the other one is just the simple truth that if you don't hunt, you don't eat. If you're not willing to put in the work, you're not going to experience the growth you desire. There is no other way.
If you don't want to be a part of the 80 percent of people who fail to realize the growth in their life that they desire to see, you have to deal with your laziness problem. No one else can do that but you. It's a decision you have to make if you want to grow. I don't say that to shame you or guilt you, because there are seasons where it is thick in my bones to want to be lazy. I say it because it's the only way forward if you truly want to grow in your relationship with God by engaging in the Bible.
There's a guy who I've gotten to know over the past several years. His name is Jesús. He has been a part of this fellowship for a while. Two summers ago, we were investing in a group of people through a little discipleship program we called Next Steps. How we did that is we took a book by Donald Whitney called Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which is a rich book that talks about how we engage with God through the Bible for the purpose of godliness.
We spent eight weeks making this investment in a lot of different guys. Jesús was a part of that. Then it ended, and a couple of weeks later I get a phone call from Jesús. He said, "Hey, I'd love to get a little bit of time with you. There's something I want to talk to you about." So we met up at a Starbucks for coffee, because that's where you go to have spiritual conversations.
We got there, and he said, "What I wanted to tell you is that I really appreciated the investment y'all were making in me, but what I need you to know is that although I would show up every week, I didn't do any of the homework. I didn't read at all. I certainly didn't apply it to my life, and largely, I just phoned it in because I was being lazy. I realize that I missed out on a tremendous opportunity to grow, but laziness was my problem."
Then he said, "But I want to ask you a favor. I want to ask if when y'all do that again you can let me back through, because I'm tired of being lazy, and I'm seeing how it's holding me back as a follower of Christ. I see how it's keeping me from growing as a husband and as a friend and as a leader, and I'm ready to grow. I'm ready to change." I was like, "Of course, man. Come on."
Today, Jesús is one of our most faithful, impactful leaders in Merge and in our men's ministry, and it's because he decided to deal with his laziness problem and start engaging with his Father in the Scriptures. So don't let laziness keep you from engaging the Bible and growing with your Father.
3._ How do we engage with the Bible?_ Practically, how do we do that? We could spend a lot of time on this. I'm just going to give you a quick overview of how to engage with your Bible. The answer is we engage with the Bible by having a plan and having a purpose. Proverbs 21:5 says, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty." Having a plan helps you succeed. I have learned this the hard way in marriage.
It's important in any relationship, but especially in marriage, to carve out intentional time to spend together, growing your relationship with each other, and I have found out what blesses my wife and what does not. I do not set myself up for success when I don't have a plan and just kind of on a whim, wherever it feels like about the right time, I go and say, "Hey, Linds, what do you think about going on a date?" and she's like, "That's awesome," and I'm like, "Well, what do you want to do?" and she's like, "Try again later, buddy. That's not cutting it."
But when I show up and have planned out… "Hey, Linds, I want to get some great time with you. I have a babysitter lined up. We're going to get undistracted time. We're going to go to HG Sply, and then we're going to walk along the river. I have some questions I've thought about ahead of time. I know some things you're going through that I just want to check in and see what's going on in your heart. We want to pray together."
I'm set up for success in that moment. It's planning that helps me be set up for success. It's the same thing when it comes to your relationship with Jesus. It's the same thing when it comes to engaging your Bible. It helps to have a plan and have the right purpose. Here is the plan. You need to have a time, you need to choose a place, you need to have a text, and then you need to have a team, and you need to have a purpose. To unpack each of those a little bit…
You need to have a time. When is it going to happen? If you just hope that time is going to fall in your lap for you to engage with the Scriptures to grow in your relationship with God, it's rarely going to happen. I am of the personal conviction that first thing, early in the morning before the day starts, is the time to carve out to spend with God in the Scriptures. A friend of mine had the exact opposite conviction. His name is John Ingebritson.
A couple of years ago, we were going through this study during the summer that required us to be together at about 6:00 in the morning while it was still dark outside. We were talking about when we should spend time with the Lord, and he said, "You know what? I think it is sin to get up before the sun rises." He's like, "I think God created dark and light for a reason, and that reason is to sleep when it's dark and be awake when it's light, so my time is when the sun is up."
I said, "John, thank you for that. Will you turn your Bible to Mark 1:35 and read it out loud?" So he opened up his Bible and read, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark outside, Jesus got up, went to a secluded place, and began to pray." And I walked out of the room. Clearly, John repented, because he's now on staff, and he must be spending his time with the Lord… I'm just kidding. It doesn't matter. The best time to set aside to read your Bible is whatever time you set aside to read your Bible, but you have to carve it out. You can't just wait for it to fall into your lap.
Then you need to choose a place. It says in that same passage that Jesus went to a secluded, or solitary, place where he could give his undivided attention to his Father as he prayed. Then it's also helpful for you to plan ahead and to have a text. Where are you going to be? In all the wealth of treasure that is available to you in God's Word, where are you going to spend that time? It's really hard to show up, open your Bible, and figure that out on the spot. It helps to have a plan ahead of time.
You're in luck in that we, as a church, have something called Join the Journey. It's a Bible reading plan that is available and that we invite everyone to jump in together. We have an app for it. You can go to the website. Every morning, you will receive in your inbox a specific text to read, a devotional from someone who's a part of our body, and then questions for reflection to help you not just read the Bible but to engage with it and hear from the Lord and apply it to your life. So there's a text available for you right there.
We're kicking off our next year of Join the Journey on January 1, and we're going to have an amazing time going through part of the Old Testament and part of the New and seeing Jesus and how he connects and makes all of it fit together. So jump in and join us for that. That can be your text. Then also you need to have a team. Who are you doing this with? Who is a part of your spiritual growth team? Who are you inviting in to be a part of you?
Those who succeed in that whole health and fitness venture are often those who go with someone else, who have someone to keep them accountable, to push them along, to encourage them. In the same way, you will be far more successful in growing spiritually and engaging your Bible if you're doing it with a group of people. Lastly, and what I would say is most important, is you have to have a purpose. You have to have the right purpose.
That purpose is not to read the Bible as an external measure of your love for God. It's not to read the Bible so God will love you more. He already loves you to the full, to the extent that he gave his Son's life for you so you could have this relationship with him. It's not to get your Community Group off your back so they'll quit asking you, "Have you read your Bible?" The purpose, why you engage with the Bible, is so you can grow in a relationship with Jesus and become like him. If you'll commit to doing that, it'll change everything about your life.
So, what does this look like for me? My time is early in the morning, while it's still dark outside, because, clearly, if Jesus did it, that's the way, and I invite you to join me in that… It doesn't have to be then, but for me, it's early in the morning, either at my kitchen table or in my office, whichever one that day would provide the most solitary place for me. My text is Join the Journey and the proverb of the day. I throw the proverb of the day in there because Proverbs is the book of wisdom, and none of us can ever have enough wisdom from God informing our hearts.
My team is my Community Group guys. Every week when we get together we share what we are reading, what God is teaching us, and we spur each other on. Then my purpose is not just reading for reading's sake but engaging with the Bible to grow in my relationship with Jesus. How I do that is largely through this little thing right here. This is my journal. It's not like a "Dear Diary" journal, but this is the record of when I'm sitting down and engaging with God in the Scriptures, where I record the things I hear God speaking to me through his Word.
Then I look over them, I ponder them, I pray through them, I meditate on them, and then I respond through writing it down. For me, personally, writing out how I'm responding to God helps me organize my thoughts and make sure it slows me down enough to be able to actually engage with God in a relationship. I've been doing this since 2014. I get a new one every year, and I'm looking forward to starting a new one on January 1. That's what helps me make sure my purpose stays on point, that I'm doing it for the purpose of growing a relationship with God.
In summary, this is the most important thing you will do this year in order to grow in your relationship with the Lord: to engage with him through the Scriptures. We engage with the Bible because it's how we grow, we don't engage with the Bible because of pride, insecurity, and laziness, and then we engage with the Bible by having a plan and a purpose.
I want to leave you this morning by asking you a question to make it very specific for you. As you think about the year ahead, what is the one thing God could come in and help you the most with? If you could invite God in this year to help you with one thing that is hindering you the most, be it anxiety, be it singleness, be it marital issues, be it sickness, be it financial hardship, whatever it may be…
If you could invite God in to help you with these things, what would that thing be for you? I want you to write it down, and then tomorrow morning when you get up and open up the Bible to engage with it, I want you to bring that specific thing to God and do so consistently throughout this year. I am confident that God is going to meet you there and help you and grow you. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for your grace. We thank you that you've given us something as specific as the Bible to come to know you, to receive wisdom from a loving Father for teaching, for correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness, where we can discover who you are, what you desire, what your will is to direct and guide our lives, how to deal with things such as anxiety and addiction and how to find freedom from things that weigh us down. You've given us all that through your Word, and you are beckoning and calling us to come to you.
I pray, God, that as my friends leave out of here and open up your Word, they would indeed discover an abundance of treasure through which they will come to know you in a way that will help them trust you through any and every circumstance and that through coming to know you and trust you and walking with you they would be conformed to the image of your Son Jesus Christ, and as they become to look more like Jesus Christ, God, that they would go out into this world as light in the darkness, bringing a message of hope to people who are lost in darkness.
I pray, God, that we would deal with our pride, our insecurity, and our laziness that keep us from engaging the Scriptures to grow in a relationship with you. I pray that this book would be the foundation we build our lives on, because in it we come to learn about and discover the greatest example of love there has ever been, which leads us to want to know you and trust you and walk with you, which is the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Help us to live out what we desire and in doing so experience the treasure of knowing and walking with you. We stand and sing now, God, as a response. We love you and we thank you, amen.