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Mar 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 3, 2013 – Hebrews 4:1-2, 12-13

A Spiritual Mentor encourages to meet God in the Scriptures

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13

INTRO: In the New Testament, there are three books that are difficult to follow:

1. Romans, because Paul’s logic is so tricky
2. Hebrews, because it is so deep and relies so heavily on the Old Testament
3. Revelation, because of its obscure symbolism

There are some scary passages in the book of Hebrews
– notice how this chapter begins, “Therefore, let us fear . . .”
• fear what? Missing out on the life God calls us to enjoy with Him
– we’re given an example of people who missed out – Israel (3:16-19)

A Christian might argue, “Well, we have the Scriptures”
– but the writer says, “They had God’s word! At least as much as they needed to reach their destination”

The key word of this passage is “Today”
– Hebrews 3:7 quotes Psalm 95

Today if you hear His voice
Do not harden your hearts . . .
(Ps. 95:7)

• the psalm was written 1,000 years earlier prior to this letter and it refers to an event that took place 400 years before the psalm was written
○ so how are we to interpret the word “Today”? Answer:

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. 3:13)

– this may be the Bible’s best job description of a spiritual mentor

A spiritual mentor encourages us to hear God’s voice in scripture today

An early Christian leaders we don’t hear much about was Philip
– he was one of those characters who was super-charged by the Holy Spirit
• one time, an angel sent him to an out-of-the-way place — a desert highway from Israel to Egypt
• he saw a chariot and in it an Ethiopian dignitary–reading scripture

When Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, the Ethiopian asked, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” So Philip sat down with him to look at the text. He had been reading in Isaiah 53 and wanted to know, “Who is the prophet talking about? Himself or someone else.” We’re told that beginning with those verses, Philip preached Jesus to him

The type of reading a spiritual mentor encourages us to do helps us meet Jesus in scripture
– the Latin name for this reading is Lexio Divina – a sacred (or prayerful) reading of God’s Word
• it is more like listening than reading
○ it definitely involves more listening than analyzing
• we are giving God the opportunity to speak directly to us

You know how in some conversations, the other person doesn’t listen?
– you have something significant to add, but they don’t even hear it
• you realize, they don’t really care about your thoughts
– that’s how most of us read the Bible
• we get so caught up in our thoughts about it, we don’t hear it or hear what God wants to say
• we’re more interested in our thoughts than his

This prayerful reading is not Bible study

Bible study is important and must be the foundation underneath our prayerful reading

On one level, the Bible reveals God and timeless truths
– his love, forgiveness, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, salvation, grace, and so on
– but there is another level – it is personal, relevant to the moment
• at this level, we experience scripture as a living word
• in prayerful reading we hear the prophetic voice of scripture

Prayerful reading is a spiritual exercise rather than an intellectual discipline
– sometimes we read with our head and make use of methods and tools
– sometimes we read with our hearts – for comfort, inspiration, encouragement, etc.
– in prayerful reading, we read with our spirit
• so what we get from it is not our mind’s best understanding, but whatever the Spirit of God brings up
○ something our minds could never discover or figure out

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from your law
(Ps. 119:18)

The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple
(Ps. 119:130)

There are two ways to meditate on the Scriptures:
1. Focused meditation – we’re looking for the meaning of the text, its insight and applications
2. Open meditation – listening for whatever God wants to say to us through it
• this is hearing the Bible say,“today” – “this is for you”

When prayerful reading is done well, it is amazing how it brings right word at right time
– when done poorly, it merely repeats the false messages we already tell ourselves
– the most common mistakes the average Christian makes with the Scriptures:
1. We read too little — we read blindly and miss the important stuff
2. We read too much into it – more than what is there
• connections that don’t exist, condemnation God didn’t intend
• so we get distracted and go away with the wrong message
○ this is the reason a lot of Christians suffer spiritual hypochondria
○ they think the Bible is preaching at them and accusing them of committing every sin they find in it

The purpose of prayerful reading, is to meet God in his word

We come to him with a willingness to hear whatever he has to tell us
– even though we bring all our attention to him and what he says, we find that he wants to talk about us
• we find that his word penetrates the deepest places within

The Scriptures become a mirror of our inner self (e.g., Jas. 1:23-25)
– they draw up from our unconscious these impressions that are usually vague at first, yet important
• some of this is stuff we try not to think about or deal with
○ it’s too big for us
○ but that’s the beauty of letting God take us there — nothing we encounter is too big for him

It’s like fishing
– we drop our line in the water and wait patiently for a bite
• the line is God’s word
○ we drop it into our body, our soul, our unconscious, our total self
○ places we cannot reach with our rational minds

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom
(Ps. 51:6)

– the insight we reel in through prayerful reading is not something anyone could have programmed or we could have pretended to come up with
• that’s why we pay attention to and feelings the Scriptures evoke
○ we don’t know why a word or phrase may be important
○ but our body may, or our spirit may know
• it takes patience to let the truth break through our distractions and denials

A quick overview of one way to practice prayerful reading

  1. Pray – specifically that the Spirit will give you ears to hear
  2. Read – go steadily, but slowly through one book, chapter, or passage
    – you might read only two or three verses in each session
    – this way you are aware of the context, which helps you avoid a lot of unnecessary questions
  3. Notice – anything that stands out or evokes a response or reaction from you
  4. Sit with your word or phrase in silence
    – you’re letting it soak in – you’re allowing it to speak in its own voice
  5. Read the passage again, and this time ask God, “Why this? What does it mean for me?”
    – wait silently – quiet your mind
  6. Read the passage again, and ask God, “What do You want me to do with this?”
    – are there instructions, is there a directive or an invitation?
    – do not try to produce anything yourself, but listen to how God’s Spirit uses your word or phrase
  7. Pray God’s message into your thoughts and actions
  8. Make use of what you’ve heard – do something with it
    – share it, sing it, paint it, write a poem about it, but make sure to pray it
  9. Store it – keep a record of the things God has spoken to you

The easiest way to learn the prayerful reading of scripture and to develop a habit of it, is to join a group that is practicing it together
– this is what we are doing every Thursday night

CONC: We want the Scriptures to take us by the hand and lead us to God

But it’s possible to follow this outline and the whole time, we’re not thinking directly about God
– we’re unaware of how close he is
• yet, the whole time, he is thinking directly about us
• and his Spirit has been at work in us

Jesus is willing to plant the seed of his word in our hearts
• so, for our part, let’s water it with prayer and let his work in us bring us to a greater awareness of him

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