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Saturday, July 19, 2014

You applying yourself?

I think we have a lot to learn about how to answer "temptation's" call in our lives - like how to actually say "no" and how not to be "duped" by how intelligent "temptation's" call can actually be!  Truth be told, we all probably listen to "temptation's" call a little too frequently simply because we don't recognize the voice of God very well, or because we aren't familiar with his teachings well enough to recognize a lie when we hear it.  The one and only way to actually get to know God's voice is to listen for it - the only way to get to know his teachings is to actually study them.  Therein is the rub - listening and learning.  Two challenges we all face - some better than others - but nonetheless two common struggles for all humans.

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” (Matthew 4:4 MSG)

The above passage is the first response of Jesus in the wilderness when faced with "temptation's" call.  His first answer is quite telling about how each of us should be able to answer "temptation's" call when we are faced with it.  As he says, "It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth", in order to stay alive and - may I take a little liberty here - to stay upright, moving forward, and avoid the pitfalls of temptation.  There are lots and lots of ways to get God's word "into" us, but there are only a few ways to get it to "stick".  I am not a huge fan of Christian TV, although I catch a program here and there, especially when I am shut in for any period of time and just want to connect with some good teaching.  I don't believe every word I hear though - because not ALL the teaching is solid, not ALL the teaching is "right on".  What I don't do is make Christian TV my "steady diet" of how I allow God's words to get into me.  In fact, I think there are principles taught of studying to show one self approved - something we do not only by hearing, but by intently looking into scripture ourselves.

As a child, I had a ravenous hunger for figuring out what was in the Bible.  I don't believe this was by accident.  I had praying family members who were praying me "into" my relationship with Jesus - something which didn't come until I was entering my teen years.  May I also say, it never really "took hold" of me until I was in my early twenties - I "knew" Jesus in my youth, but really got "into" relationship with him, locked into getting to know him, not just about him, in my young adult life.  Up until that point, I had focused on calling myself a Christian, even reading the Bible and doing Bible studies, but I had never really come into a place of getting to "know" Jesus.  In retrospect, all the time in the scripture helped give me a foundation, but it didn't "cement" my faith until much later.

Not all of us have this "ravenous hunger" for the Word.  Sometimes it is downright hard to actually "get into it" because we find it hard to understand, or we just don't see the value in the time spent pursuing such endeavors. When we can so readily be "spoon-fed" the Word, such as when we can just turn to a TV minister for teaching, we don't actually have to dust off the cover of our Bibles and get into discovering the truths contained within ourselves. The danger in this is in not knowing when we are being "duped" or only receiving part of the truth.  In fact, this is why you often find me saying things like let's look at the "context" of the passage (what preceded it, who the audience is, etc.).  I will agree with you when you tell me scripture can be hard to understand at times, and even that it doesn't clearly speak to some of the detailed questions our minds can form.  There are times when all we have are "inferences" by which to form an opinion on a subject, and most of us who live by the "black and white" of a matter find this a little disconcerting.

Yet, if we are disciplined in our study, we will not be disappointed in our learning.  If we want to learn - we have to apply ourselves.  Application is more than passive listening.  We hear many a sermon in our lives if we are church-going people, but I have to ask us - how much of what we hear do we actually put into practice in our lives?  This is why it is most important for us to study the Word ourselves - to get into it, making the investment of time and energies to find out for ourselves what is contained in its pages.  Therein we find the voice of God - therein we learn the truths which will give us anchor when "temptation's" call wants to set us adrift.  We don't see Jesus saying the most important thing is to "hear" the Word of God, but to "live" the Word of God.  What is implied in Jesus' words above is this idea of letting those words sink in - becoming a ready source of comfort, guidance, trust, etc. When we have to apply ourselves to learning something, we are more likely to retain what we are applying ourselves to.  Just sayin!