We live in the Information Age. We have data and statistics and algorithms and pages and podcasts. More information will be posted on the internet today than you could consume the rest of your life; you don’t have the time. We have all of this info, and not a lot of understanding to prove it.
Along with many of you, I’m continuing on the #samepagesummer Bible reading plan, and we’re more than halfway to finished. In studying Psalm 19 for the sermon this morning, I also read through Psalm 119 which is the longest love song of the Word in the Word. There are a lot of good names for Scripture in the long song, and a lot of prayers for God’s help. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
But one line that turns up four times, the line that I think best embodies the psalmist’s cry, is “give me understanding.”
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law (34)
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments (73)
give me understanding that I may live (144)
give me understanding according to your word! (169)
Pray like David, yes. And beware. Understanding does not mean merely collecting information about God’s Word. Understanding means you will see how you are not keeping His law, how you have not known His commandments, how you have not been living right, and how you have not been actually paying attention to His Word.
True understanding can be painful. It’s humbling. It is why many Christians prefer to read or study their Bible like students rather than as servants. They would prefer to have their eyes opened to it rather than to have their eyes opened by it.
It’s been three weeks of the #samepagesummer so far, but whether you’re following that Bible reading plan or not, we won’t receive the food of His holy Word if we are full of sin. We must acknowledge and abandon sin before we’re free to feed on Scripture, and feeding on Scripture is necessary if we hope to grow in salvation.
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation– (1 Peter 1:1-2, NAS)
Numerous translations (such as the ESV, NIV, NRSV) read as if there were two commands but, really, Peter provides one prerequisite and then one command. We could play up the grammatical structure: “having put aside sin…long for Scripture,” or “Crave the pure after getting rid of the putrid.”
Peter mentions five sins and, though not an exhaustive list, these five are sufficient to inhibit spiritual growth. “Malice” or viciousness exalts oneself as judge over others and rather than positioning oneself under the judgment of the Word. “Guile” or deceit honors false words rather than the Word of truth. “Hypocrisy” allows division of soul rather than bring one wholeheartedly before the Word. “Envy” promotes pursuit of competing satisfactions rather than promoting the Word that is more to be desired than gold. “Slander” likewise ruins a tongue’s taste for true goodness.
Any and all of these sins will cripple our spiritual growth. But which sin in this passage is the worst? The greatest sin here is not longing for the Word. The other sins ruin our appetite for that which will nourish our souls. Sin burns our tongues, it leaves a bitter taste. All sins must be confessed and put away so that we will hunger for the good Word and grow.
I’ve been using the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan for 2019, but am excited to add the #SamePageSummer readings through the New Testament for June-August. Mo and all four kids are also going to do it, so we’ll be same-paging as a family along with everyone else.
“What happens when Christians are coming to the Word regularly? They are being worked over, regularly, by the Spirit and by the Word.”