Wednesday, 2 October 2013
See Jesus: Living By the Word
If I’m going to make a change in my diet, I need to be convinced it’s going to make a difference.
I told some friends recently that I couldn’t think clearly. “Oh, you’ve got brain fog. You might want to try going off gluten.” Brain fog. That phrase fit. Go gluten free? That sounded hard, but worth it if it worked. So I tried it rigorously for a month and felt as foggy as before.
Apparently gluten’s not my problem. With some relief I ditched that diet and moved on to solve it other ways.
Faith for Feeding on the Word
I guess you could say we need “faith” to go on a diet. Confidence that it’s a reliable tool for general health and valid for our specific needs.
In the same way I think we need “faith” for our spiritual diet. Reading my Bible takes time and effort. Is it worth it? Is this ancient book reliable for my general health and valid for my specific needs?
On the surface I might question both of those. My eyes see a thick book written by people far removed from me in time and geography. On the surface it can seem irrelevant. Optional. More of a curiosity than a necessity.
I need a faith perspective to see my Bible differently, to see it as true. Necessary. Extremely relevant. One way to get that perspective is to see how Jesus lived by the word of God. He needed the word as much as we do, because he became human and lived a fully human life.
Wisdom, Strength, and Sweet Favor
It’s hard to see Jesus as human, especially when we get down to the details that make up life. He was born. He cried. He spilled his milk. And he grew. He grew. One of the most astounding sentences in the gospels says:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52
As God Jesus was unchangeable, but as man he grew, just like we do. One day he didn’t know something. A week later he had learned it. He grew in all the ways we need to grow–wisdom for living, strength for what he had to do, and gracious favor with both God and people. The Word of God was the fuel for his growth.
Wisdom. Jesus learned his Bible just the way we do, one day at a time, one passage at a time. He didn’t download it all at once from his divine data base. There were cultural differences of course. Instead of Bible software and lots of online sermons to chose from, he went to synagogue and memorized the Torah just like the other little boys of his village. His brain worked like ours. When he recited Scripture to his father he didn’t always get it right.
But since he was sinless, he obeyed what he learned. So when he learned Psalm 1:2 “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night,” that’s what he began to do. That’s how he grew in wisdom. Day by day, line by line, hearing and obeying. That growth was publicly validated by the teachers of the law when he was twelve. They were “amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Scripture is a diet that will produce wisdom in us, too.
Stature. How did the Scriptures make Jesus strong? They taught him to put his confidence in God alone, not in his own strength. That’s why when he went into the wilderness to fight the ancient enemy, the Devil, the only weapon he took with him was the Word of God.
In fact he stripped himself of his natural human strength. He ate nothing. He was hungry. In that weakened condition, he proved God’s word to be sufficient, both as food and as sword. He didn’t die and he didn’t lose. He fought temptation and defeated the Devil by using the word he had lived by all his life.
Scripture is the diet that will give us strength for our days, too, especially if they include temptation and weakness.
Gracious favor. One of the biggest needs we have on a daily basis is to get along with people. Relationships don’t come naturally. We have to learn how to relate, not just to people, but even to God. This isn’t just a product of our sinfulness, it’s a product of our humanness.
Jesus grew in favor with God and man. What does that mean? Especially favor with God? I’m not entirely sure, but this much is certain: fed by the Scriptures he was equipped for every relationship, including his relationship with God.
Scripture is the diet that will help us grow in our relationships, too.
His Life–Our Record
It’s plain to see that there are many benefits to living by the Word of God. Jesus’ life illustrates that perfectly. But there’s still one problem. Just because we’re convinced a diet is good for us, doesn’t mean we’ll follow it. Even though we want to grow in wisdom, strength, and favor, we don’t always choose those things in our foolish, weak, and unfavorable moments.
But he did. He always chose to live by God’s word. And he did it so he could hand his perfect record to us in place of our flawed one.
Jesus is not just our example, he’s our Savior. The word he lived by was actually pointing to him. (At what age did he come to understand that?!). It tells us that his perfect life is our record. His atoning death is our forgiveness. Believing this is our obedience.
Let’s live by the word that points to him.