Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jesus Wants Your Head, Not Just Your Heart

PSALM 119:97-112
This past Sunday I posed the question “What if you pursued God in a way you never have before?” These past few days we have focused a great deal of our time on prayer and fasting as a means of chasing after the heart of God. Today, in keeping with our weekly focus, I want to shift gears a bit and talk about being passionate and intentional in our study of the Word of God. To get us rolling, I want to share a brief passage with you from author Jack Kuhatscheck. This story is amazing on one hand and tragic on the other. See for yourself:
While studying in the Holy Land, a seminary professor of mine met a man who claimed to have memorized the Old Testament—in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. A few days later they sat together in the man's home. "Where shall we begin?" asked the man. "Psalm 1," replied my professor, who was an avid student of the Psalms. Beginning with Psalm 1:1, the man began to recite from memory, while my professor followed along in his Hebrew Bible. For two hours the man continued word for word without a mistake as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, my professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man—he was an atheist! Here was someone who knew the Scriptures better than most Christians ever will, and yet he didn't even believe in God.”
Maybe, like me, when you read the story of this atheist man you wonder “How is it possible to know the Bible so well and not even believe in it?” It seems like it would be the other way around, doesn’t it? Like those who know the Word of God the most would be the most transformed by its timeless truth. It is possible to know the Bible academically and yet choose to not accept it as authoritative. It is very disconcerting to me that this is the upward trend in our culture right now. Some of you will remember some of the statistics we examined this past Sunday. These numbers are current, just released at the end of 2014:
- 88% of American households own a Bible
- The average home in America contains 4.4 Bibles
- Only 56% of Americans believe the Bible is inspired by God - Only 37% of Americans read their Bible at least once a week
Do you see what is happening? Most of us own Bibles. We have them in abundance. We have all kinds of translations as well. And with the proliferation of technology, you can study the Bible on your smart phone or tablet. We have more access to the Bible than any generation in history, and yet as a culture we are seemingly being influenced by the Bible less and less. In 2011, 86% of Americans believed the Bible was sacred literature. At of the close of 2014, that number was down to 79%. Does this bother you? If you call yourself a Christian, it should. In “Christian” America, we have more Bible and less belief.
I believe that statistics have a place in conversations like these. But my heart in our time together today is not to spout off numbers. I am not interested in loading you up with the findings of the latest poles regarding national morality. As we dial in on this topic of the Word of God today, my focus is on you. Not “you” the church. Not “you” Casa View. YOU—the person reading this right now. While I consider many of you to be close friends, I think you will understand when I say that my calling is not to be your friend. My calling as a pastor is singular— developing mature followers of Jesus Christ. As a pastor I am commissioned to faithfully challenge you in your spiritual growth. But the truth is many of you are Biblically ignorant. Many of you reading this are not giving a high priority to the Word of God in your life. When I preach, I see way too many people without Bibles in their laps (maybe that’s our fault for putting the verses on the screen). Something else that concerns me a great deal is that we have men and women who have been Christians for years and yet know very little about the Bible (see Hebrews 5:11-14). As a Christian, how do you know what you believe if you never study your Bible? If one of your friends, neighbors, or co-workers were to ask you about your beliefs as a Christian, could you answer them? Could you open your Bible and defend your position using Scripture? Is your Bible highlighted and marked up? Is it worn out from being used so much? I hope so. I hope it’s serving more in your life than a decorative piece on your coffee table or night stand.
So let me pause for a moment and say this, I am not mad at anybody. But I do want you to understand what drives me to push you so hard in this area. You need to know why I am not selling you the “just show up on Sunday” brand of Christianity that seems so popular right now. The answer is honestly very simple. Because I would be robbing you. And I am not a thief. I want you to experience the incredible life God has for you. What I know to be true is that your greatest joy will come ONLY when you are ALL IN. By allowing you to remain in complacency I would be cheating you out of the greatest reality you could ever experience on this side of heaven. Think about it! The Creator of the Universe has a distinct and specific plan for YOUR LIFE. He desires to reveal Himself to YOU. He wants YOU to love Him, know Him, and pursue Him. On the other side of your apathy and indifference is REAL LIFE. Some of you have been playing it safe in your faith, thinking that you will find joy that way. This pattern of thinking could not be further from the truth. True joy and satisfaction in this life are the result of knowing God intimately. What better way to know Him than by soaking your mind on what He has to say to you? He has revealed Himself to you in the Word of God. The Holy Scriptures are your portal for deepening your understanding of God Almighty. How, as His child, could you not want to unwrap this precious gift and dive headlong into the life it gives?
So I am going to ask you again what I asked you on Sunday: are you ready to go ALL IN? Are you ready to quit making excuses and get serious about becoming a student of the Bible? Are you ready to tell Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, football, video games (and whatever else gets in the way) that they must take a backseat to the Word of God? Friend, I love you and I believe God is calling you (and me, and us as a church) to quit playing games with our faith. It’s time to get serious. It’s time to go ALL IN.
So when this 21 day campaign comes to an end and you are not being provided daily devotionals, will you continue to pursue God? Will you take responsibility for your spiritual vitality and maturity? I am hopeful that you will. Maybe you aren’t sure exactly where to go next once our “All In” series concludes. Here are a few options to help get your started:

- Download the YouVersion Bible app (it’s FREE and there are TONS of reading plans on there)
- Go to Mardel (locations in Garland and Mesquite) and buy a One Year Bible (you can read through all of the Good Book in only a year)
- Go to Mardel and buy a daily devotional (Experiencing God, My Utmost for His Highest, Jesus Calling, Streams in the Desert, etc)
- Join a home group and begin studying with others (learning and growing in the context of community is an incredible way to study the Bible)
Hadley Baker

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