Scripture Passage – Psalm 119:11
Description – The fourth sermon in the series “40 Days in the Word”
(Slide one) William Jennings Bryan once said, “Do not compute the totality of your poultry population until all the manifestations of incubation have been entirely completed.”
(1b) “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”
One of my favorite comedy shows is “Tool Time.” Now it is my favorite not because I have been compared to the main character, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, because of his mishaps with power tools, but because of the way he gets those wonderfully insightful quotes from his very insightful next door neighbor, Wilson, all mixed up when he tries to use them in solving another family snafu.
And speaking of translation, I would think that one of the most stressful jobs a person can have is that of translator who works for his/her government. Translation is a dynamic process because in our native language we use expressions, called colloquialisms which sometimes are difficult to translate. So can you imagine what it is like when heads of state get together and navigate language and cultural barriers?
(Slide 2) As we continue our initial 2012 series, 40 Days in the Word, let me quickly review the three methods of Bible Study I have introduced so far before I present number four.
(Slide 3) The first method is called the Pronounce It! Method. And to experience this method we used Colossians 3:16a which says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” This method is a verbal method in which we read a verse of scripture several times through highlighting a different word, or phrase, each time we read it and take time to reflect on that word or phrase and what it means for us now.
(Slide 4) The second method is called the Picture It! Method. And to experience this method we studied Mark 2:1-12 which is the story of the four men who brought a paralyzed man to Jesus and saw him healed. This method requires us to enter the story and take a point of view within the story as we do some deep and important reflection on what takes place within the story.
(Slide 5) The third method we experienced last week is called the Probe It! method and featured an unforgettable acronym called what?
Each of the letters in this acronym asks a question of the text designed to help us apply that text in a suitable means. We visited Mark 8:31-38 and using the SPACEPETS acrostic, studied this important passage of scripture.
This morning we turn to the next method called the Paraphrase It! method of study.
(Slide 6) And this method of study combines, I believe, the word by word aspect of the Pronounce It! method with the “putting myself in the story” view of the Picture It! method as it requires us of us to rephrase a verse or short passage of scripture in a way that stays true to the message of said verse or passage but helps us understand it in a personal way.
How do we do this?
Let’s start with our main text today Psalm 119:11 which says, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
In your bulletin is another half-page insert with this verse on it. Please take it out.
First let’s read this verse together aloud:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Now, having heard and read what the verse says take a moment and write down this verse in your own words. (Just try it don’t worry about how it sounds. Make it meaningful and understandable to you.)
Now, what does it mean to you right now? Take a moment and write a couple of things down there in the third space on your half-sheet.
This is a very important verse and it makes an important point. I want to spend a few moments illustrating with another verse of scripture both this method of study and the importance of what this verse says.
(slide seven) One of my favorite passages of scripture is Hebrews 4:15-16 and here it is in the New Living Translation:
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Here is my paraphrase of these two verses:
(Slide eight) I have a God who is more than a religious professional. I have a God who understands what living as human being is really like. I have a God who never sinned and yet understands the temptations I face because He faced them, too. I have a God I can run to and say ‘help, me!’ and He will!
This has been favorite passage for many, many years. It became one during a time when my perfectionism to live for God absolutely perfectly would collide with the painful realization that my imperfection, my sin, said otherwise.
And as I struggled with all of this, this verse reminded me that Jesus understood exactly, and dare I say it, perfectly what I was wrestling with. And because He did, I finally realized that when I would struggle, and even fail, I could go to Him for help and He would help me.
This is what the Paraphrase It! method does. It helps us to put scripture in our own words that resonate not just from our brain but from our heart.
Now there are some who might feel that we are taking a risk with scripture with this method because we may paraphrase a verse in a way that makes it mean something entirely different and even at odds with the faith. And some may suggest that we remember the warning in Revelation 22:18 which says “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.” So the anxiety and fear of paraphrasing a verse of scripture way out of the context of what it says is understandable.
The Bible, I remind us this morning, is a very sturdy book. It was divinely inspired and no one person and no movement political, economic, or otherwise have been able to destroy it. The truth of which it speaks is spiritual in nature and cannot be contained and cannot be stopped.
And then we have the Holy Spirit to help us. And the Holy Spirit is a very important part of Bible Study. For it is the Holy Spirit who helps us understand what is being read as we read the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit who brings comfort, peace, conviction, and the like to us as we read the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us think correctly as we think about the scripture we are reading.
Though His role is not explicitly stated at times in the Bible when Jesus says in John 14 verses 16 and part of 17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth,” He makes clear that the Holy Spirit has the key role in helping us understand what the Bible says and then helps us to understand what it means and how then to apply it. And so while we need to be careful by carefully studying a verse within its context, we also can have the confidence that the Holy Spirit is at work helping us to understand a verse and provide us with the information and inspiration we need at that moment in life. So let’s consider that this method of paraphrasing a verse of scripture can be used by the Lord to help us better understand and apply His word to our lives.
(Slide nine) Now, turn your half-sheet over and let’s try this method on another verse of scripture, James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Read through it a couple of times and then spend a moment writing out your paraphrase.
Okay, now what does it mean to you today?
(9a) Here’s my paraphrase:
Chill out! Sit down and relax! Calm down! You’re not the one in charge. God is. Be quiet for a few minutes and then pray to the Lord. In His time, He will tell you what you need to know.
I am my own worst enemy sometimes. I get so anxious and so frustrated when things are not going as I think they should and my thoughts and attitudes begin to harden and I forget that God is in charge.
When I learned many years ago that I cannot fix people, that I cannot change them, it was a major turning point in my life and personal faith. I began to realize that I am not God and that I am not in charge of a person’s life.
And while it does not mean that I now have a “hands off policy” that I operate from (I don’t because I have a responsibility to my family and this church to be a wise and careful husband, father, and pastor) it does mean that when I have to eat a piece of ‘humble pie’ it serves as a reminder that God is in charge and I am not. It means to hear the Lord more clearly that I sometimes have to ‘let go and let God.’
So what does all of this mean for us this morning?
I want to suggest a couple of things:
There is a larger picture for this series that I want to bring to focus as I conclude this morning and it is this: When I stand and look at you this time of week I am looking at you more and more as missionaries and not as members of this church.
When I have served as an ordination mentor to those who were completing their ordination process I used to ask them, “When you stand up front on Sunday morning, how many audiences do you see?”
After they responded, I would tell them what I saw on Sunday morning. That a congregation was a diverse set of audiences based generational experiences, length of time as a believer or unbeliever, the old introvert/extrovert idea, etc.
But, I am seeing you and other congregations now more as missionaries whose mission field is the classroom, as a student or a teacher, in the workplace, and in the neighborhood. To, shall we say, paraphrase, you are God’s person where you live and work. And subsequently, I am responsible with providing you a knowledge base and a set of skills to help you serve as God’s person where you are and go.
And this leads me to my second suggestion or direction this morning:
I am committing myself from the beginning of this year through Easter Sunday with provide some vital skills and knowledge to help you as you serve God where you are.
(Slide ten) Now let me give clarity to the word ‘missionary.’ A missionary is a person who has mission that is specific in nature and definitive in location. What do I mean?
Simply this: Our mission is to help make disciples. In other words, we are to help other people come to faith in Christ and then help them learn to live out that faith. And as they do, we are placed along the path of life and faith to help them do so.
Some of us will be there before that choice to come to faith in Christ takes place. We are like first responders, if you will, to a person who is seeking hope and meaning and needs God in their life. We are there early on and it is often our kind and caring example that opens the door to a person’s heart into which the Holy Spirit goes and moves in them.
Others of us will tell about Jesus with both words and actions. We are like kindergarten teachers who help others begin to learn the basics of the faith like a kindergarten teacher who helps a first year student begin learning the basics.
And there comes a time when a person who is like the delivering physician who helps deliver babies, helps a person be born again. And today is the day 46 years ago when I was born again. The life of faith begins.
Then some of us are like a personal fitness trainer who helps us stay in shape as we mature in our faith. They help us unlearn bad habits and develop new ones.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that ‘some planted and some watered’
But ‘God gave the increase’
If you and I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that comes through the confession and forgiveness of our sins, then we are missionaries. And we have a responsibility and a role to play in fulfilling the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor and the Great Commission to go and help people become followers of Jesus Christ.
Essential to this mission (and this is my point) is that we have a good working knowledge of the Bible to help people with a humble attitude of love and service and care which opens the door to discussion about Christ. That is why we are doing this sermon series right now and the one to follow about prayer, fasting (don’t panic), and evangelism (don’t panic again.)
Each of us has a mission field. And I pray this morning that we will have a greater clarity about our mission field and use these methods to help us better study the Bible.