Food for the Soul
For the last few weeks I have been sharing messages about our core values.
The first and most essential value is that Jesus is Lord. The word is kyrie is the word for Lord in the New Testament. It means master, boss, or the one who has authority.
For the early church, the phrase Jesus is Lord was among the first creedal statements. It’s a worldview in a sentence. It’s so simple that anybody can get it, from the theologian to the guy in the tire shop. But it’s so complex that you could spend a lifetime trying to work out what it means to call him Lord.
Our second core value is that every person matters. Every person has dignity and worth in the kingdom of God. Every person is equal in the eyes of God because God’s love is consistent and comprehensive.
Because every person matters, we must make sure that every person in our fellowship is valued and celebrated. We must also always make room for one more person, because that’s what Jesus did.
The core value I preached on yesterday is that the Bible is our standard. In some ways, the words stated in this value fall short. To make the Bible our standard, we mean that it is authoritative for our lives. We do what it says. We don’t worship the Bible, but God has so identified God’s self in scripture that to disbelieve the Bible and not do what it says is to disbelieve and disobey God.
But there is so much more that could be said about the Bible. It’s a complicated book, written over a thousand years by multiple authors. It contains sections of war and violence that could make you wonder how in the world God could endorse such actions, given the kingdom of peace that Jesus began when He walked the earth. It has been misinterpreted, misrepresented, and co-opted to legitimize conduct that is far from the heart of God.
For this reason, the Bible is best studied in community. Together, we ask hard questions and allow one another to express their thoughts on how the Bible should be interpreted. First Baptist should never be a place where someone has to check their brain at the door. Instead, we hold one another accountable to the reading and understanding of God’s written word in such a way that helps us live out our first core value: Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is the lens through which all other scripture is interpreted. All of the Bible anticipates the coming of Christ and the redemption of humanity. It leads to the resolution of all things in Him. Jesus Himself said to the religious leaders of His day, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life….If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:39-40, 46).
It all points to Jesus. That’s why we study the scriptures — both the Old and the New Testaments. We study so that we can understand the fullness of who Jesus is, how to follow His way, and what life is ultimately about.
Personally, I have found more and more joy in life as I have invested greater and greater time in studying and meditating on the Bible. There are many reasons that I need to study — to prepare messages, teach Bible studies, lead our church, and so on. But I have learned that I need the Word for my own soul as much as we need it in our collective life.
I love George Müller’s description of why he studied God’s Word every day:
“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished….”
For many years, Müller only prayed before going about ministry, giving little attention to the study of the Bible. But he often found himself weak and lacking wisdom. God convicted him of the need to start the day in reading the Bible and meditating on God’s character and will. He continued:
“Now I saw, that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditate on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began, therefore, to meditate on the New Testament, from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.”
You and I need food for our souls as much as we need food for our bodies. My prayer is that God will awaken a deep hunger for God’s Word and a willingness to seek the bread that satisfies.
I’m glad to be on the journey with you. I love you and I am praying for us all as we explore these core values.