The Word Of God Teaches UsErwin W. Lutzer | January 18, 2015
Selected highlights from this sermon
Many people think that there just isn’t enough evidence to believe in God, but this isn’t true. We can see God plainly in His works (like the stars) and in His Word.
When we look at all of God’s creation, we should be awed by the masterful design and order of all things. Through these things we see His power, but through His Word, we learn how to have a relationship with Him.
The famous atheist, Bertrand Russell, was asked by a Christian, “If after you die and you discover that there is God and there is eternity, what would you say to God?” He said, “I’d tell Him that He didn’t give us enough evidence.” Now the Bible indicates that God has given people plenty of evidence. As a matter of fact, there’s enough evidence not only to believe in God, but also to go beyond that, and for us to determine what kind of a God in which we should believe.
Psalm 19 is our text, and I want all of you to turn to it. And we need to look at this together – this remarkable Psalm because what we have in this Psalm is first of all God revealing Himself through His works, and then God revealing Himself through His Word. And we’re going to begin with the works because there is a connection.
You’ll notice it says in Psalm 19 (I’m beginning at verse 1), “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice (measuring line) goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
Wow! What he’s talking about here is nature, and of course we’re talking about the heavens. We’re speaking about the stellar universe, the stars. They declare the glory of God. You know, astronomers tell us that there are more stars in the sky than there might be grains of sand on the seashores of the world. Can you get your mind around it? And yet the Bible says very casually in the first chapter of the book of Genesis that God created this and He created that, and He made the stars also. He just spoke and there they were. Imagine that! And today they declare the glory of God, and you think for example of the sun. The imagery here is that the sun is in a tent, and it’s running from one end of the heavens to the other, and of course then it hands off its responsibilities to the night, and then it comes up again the next day to do its work. And what would we do without the sun? If we were a little closer we’d get burned up. A littler farther away we would be frozen. And isn’t it Jupiter that makes sure that the earth stays in a proper relationship to the sun? I mean the heavens declare the glory of God.
And you’ll notice it says they pour forth speech. It is a silent speech to be sure. Nobody hears it. It’s a good thing that it isn’t a spoken language, or it would have to be translated. But there is now in the heavens God who is revealing Himself, and He’s pouring out this speech. And He does it to reveal Himself. Silent speech but powerful speech indeed! And what does nature teach us? It teaches us, first of all, about the total sovereignty of God, the power of God, and also the knowledge that God has to be able to do what He has done.
Paul, in the book of Romans, says that the invisible attributes of God are seen through His creation, namely His eternal power and His nature. And this revelation comes continually. It pours forth speech. It is there every single day. It is there when the seasons come and go, and universally you can go to the farthest tribe in the world, and also there you see the stars and you see the sun, and you are reminded of the existence of God, indeed that He exists.
And of course the Bible makes a very clear distinction between the creation and the creator. You know there are modern pagans today who want to go back to nature. They need to go further back than that to nature’s creator. And then, of course, we have atheists. Wasn’t it Dawkins who made the statement, “Does the universe have design? Yes! A designer? No!” What sense does that make?
You know atheists don’t understand this but logically, atheism is totally illogical because even when they build their arguments they are assuming all kinds of assumptions that could only be true if God existed. But they think that their arguments are very powerful. As a matter of fact, if it takes a mind to understand creation, clearly a mind must be back of creation to have made it. The universe does not have in itself any evidence that it has the ability to create itself, nor that it has eternally existed as God has. I wish I could spend more time on it except to say that there is plenty of evidence out there.
When I was a boy growing up on the farm, and I had lots of time because I was the last of five children (so I frittered away an awful lot of time), in the evenings I would sometimes run under the sky and wait until my eyes adjusted to the darkness. And there I would see these beautiful stars. I mean I could always find the Big Dipper easily. The Little Dipper was more difficult to find, but it wouldn’t take but five minutes and I’d be on my knees worshiping God, absolutely overcome by the immensity of God.
Let me tell you something very clearly. God is not hiding Himself from men. Men are hiding themselves from God. (applause) The heavens declare the glory of God. And we could say so much more about this. Atheists sin against a flood of light.
By the way, Bertram Russell, whom I referred to earlier, when he came to the end of his life someone asked, “What is the secret of happiness?” He said, “Happiness is the ability to accept the fact that this world is terrible.” It’s not a very good end, is it?
But you know, when we think of creation, it tells us about the power of God and the immensity of God. But what it doesn’t do is to tell us about whether or not this God is interested in us, whether or not we can relate to Him, whether or not He is trustworthy. Nature can be very cruel. We’d never guess from nature that God loved the world. Look at the tornadoes. Look at the tsunamis and all of these things that happen in our fallen universe. And nature tells us about the immensity of God and something about the nature of God, but it doesn’t help us too much when it comes to asking the bigger personal questions of life. And that’s why (when you begin in verse 7 here) what David now does is he transitions from the works of God to the Word of God.
I think I’m going to just take out a moment and answer some questions. Some people may say, “Is it legitimate to look into the Bible to find out what it says about itself? You know, the Bible says it’s inspired. How do you know it’s inspired?” It says it’s inspired. If you put it that way it sounds as if it’s circular reasoning. But in another way, it is perfectly legitimate for the Bible to speak to its own identity. You can do that even in a court of law. You can defend yourself. More than 1,500 times, directly or indirectly, the Bible claims to be the Word of God. One of the things you cannot say, and people say it all the time and don’t understand how illogical it is, is “You know the Bible is a very good and helpful book, but I don’t believe it’s the Word of God.” A good and helpful book with at least minimally 1,500 lies! I don’t think that’s a good book. That’s a fraudulent book.
What would you say to somebody who writes a biography of Winston Churchill and says, “Churchill came to me, saying,” and then he fills in the blank, and then you discover he never met Churchill? Would you say, “Well, you know it’s essentially a good book, but all of those references to the prophets – you know “the Word of the Lord came to me saying!” No, it is legitimate to allow us to take a moment to find out what the Bible says to itself about itself.
Now your Bibles are open. I want you to notice that the word God does not occur beginning at verse 7. You see, God is Elohim. He is the creator, but beginning in verse 7 you have the word Lord, which when capitalized refers to Jehovah. Now we discover that God is the covenant keeping God. Now we discover that God is a God who wants to relate to us. Now we learn that God, the Creator, becomes God the Redeemer. And now we begin to understand that in David’s mind he gives us about six references or descriptions of the Word of God, six different ways that you can say it. And then beyond that what he does is he gives also the benefits of God’s Word. And by the way, because it’s the Word of the Lord, the commandments of the Lord, the precepts, we should not be surprised that He gives to the Word of God some of the same attributes that we would give to God Himself.
Of course, we know that men wrote the Scriptures, but they were so moved by the Holy Spirit that God preserved them from error and gave us what we needed to know about Him and our relationship with Him in such a way that in the original manuscripts, of course, what we discover is that there is inspiration, and the breath of God. God breathed, the Bible says, and the result was His Word.
Now David was thinking primarily of the Law. He didn’t even have the New Testament. We know so much more than David knew. And yet with all of that, notice what David says about the Word of God. Now today I’m speaking to hundreds of you who have decided to take the 40-Day Challenge of listening to or reading through the New Testament in 40 days. And you say to yourself, “You know, I did it for a week, and it’s not working very well,” and we want to ask a good old-fashioned American question: “What’s in it for me? What am I going to get out of this? What is the R.O.I. (the return on my investment)? I’m spending a half an hour a day doing this so what am I going to get out of it?” Well today we’re going to answer that question as we motivate you to keep going no matter what.
Alright, let’s look at these six descriptions of the Bible, which would also be descriptions really of God. First of all, we find perfection. “The law of the Lord is perfect (verse 7), reviving the soul.” By perfect we mean complete. Now God could have created more worlds. He could have created more planets. He could have created more stars, but so far as we know, this is, of course, what He intended to do and what He did, and the universe is complete.
He could have given us 70 books in the Bible instead of 66, but the Law of the Lord is complete enough for us to know our relationship with Him, and all of the big questions of life are found within its pages.
“The Law of the Lord is perfect, and it revives the soul.” Is there anybody here today who says, “I need to be revived?” I’ve had a very hard week. First of all, as we learned last time, the Bible and the Spirit convert us. In that sense we are given life. But even after we are given life, what we need is to be revived. We need to be refreshed. Well, the Word of God, you’ll notice it say, revives the soul. And that, of course, is in verse 7. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” And by the way, it also cleanses the soul. I will maybe emphasize that in another message.
And then you’ll notice that “the testimony of the Lord is sure.” It’s sure! It’s faithful! When the Word of God speaks clearly, God speaks clearly. So if you wonder what God thinks about something, you go to the Word of God. It is sure. It is reliable, and you’ll notice that it says, “It makes wise the simple.” Who in the world is simple? Well Hebrew scholars tell us the idea behind the simple person. In its root meaning his mind is open. That is to say, it is open and it doesn’t know when to close. You know, you’ve met people like that. They accept every idea imaginable and they put all ideas on the very same plane, so to speak, believing that all opinions are equal, which is, of course, logical insanity. And what they don’t have is the ability to discriminate, to be able to say, “This is wrong and this is right, and this is wise.” Knowledge there can be aplenty, but wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge, and what does the Word of God do? It takes those who are struggling with their own sense of identity and meaning and it enables them to become wise so they begin to discern, you know, that this is wrong, this is right. This is the best path. That’s what the Word of God will do for you.
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” You’ll notice the precepts of the Lord are right, and they rejoice the heart. You say, “Well, I don’t get that. I don’t know how David could have said this in the Old Testament with all of those laws and all of the things that are mentioned in the Old Testament. How could David say that he is refreshed and rejoices in the heart? By the way, the precepts have to do with the doctrines of the Bible.
Well, even though David didn’t know nearly as much as we know, when he really needed to meet God, he knew that he was coming to a God who is merciful and trustworthy. Do you remember the story, of course, of how David committed the twin sins of murder and adultery? And yet when he confessed his sin he said, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and uphold me with Thy right spirit.”
How could a man who made such a mess still find joy? Well, he found it where you and I find it when we mess up. To come to God to be forgiven and to be received, the precepts of the Lord remind us that there can be joy given by God even in the midst of failure. Jesus said, “These words I have spoken unto you that you may rejoice.” The Bible teaches about a kind of rejoicing that is really not even related to circumstances. Only the precepts of the Lord can do that because where are you going to go to find hope?
Well, we have to continue. You’ll notice that “the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Today people think to themselves they are enlightened because they are free. Someone said (and I don’t know who it is, but it’s a wonderful quote), “The real object of human beings is not freedom, but rather to find out who your master really is,” because nobody is exactly free. If you don’t accept God as your master, the freedom that you will have is the freedom to live according to your selfish desires, and eventually you will be overtaken by sin. And so what David said is, “The commandment of the Lord is pure,” that is to say it is clear. It is not contaminated. And it enlightens you. It gives you perspective.
A moment ago I told you about simpletons who allow everything in, and they don’t know where the beauty is. They don’t know where to put it unless they are made wise by the Word. Another way to look at it is a friend of mine said that he lived in France close to Mont Blanc, which is really connected between Switzerland and France. And he said that there was this house that really faced the beautiful mountain of Mont Blanc, and he said the shutters were always closed. He could never understand that.
But there are times when we forget that when we come to the Word of God and we are open to its message, it will keep us from being the simpleton we spoke about a moment ago, and it will give us enlightenment. And we’ll say to ourselves, “Where have I been all these years, stumbling around, trying to make the best of life, not understanding reality, not understanding what things are about.” Well, the Word of God – the commandment is pure. It will enlighten your eyes.
You’ll notice it says it is clean. Now we’re in verse 9 and it says “the fear of the Lord.” Remember this. In context the word fear is a synonym for the Bible. It’s a synonym for the Law of God, the fear of God. Calvin, the great theologian, said that we should give the Word of God the same reverence that we give God – the fear of the Lord. Of course, when I say that, I don’t mean that we worship this book, which it is to say with its pages. And mine happens to have a leather cover. That would be a terrible form of idolatry. But when we come to the Word of God, we come to it with the same kind of reverence with which we come to God because we know that this is His breath. This is His message to us. And so the fear of the Lord is clean and uncontaminated. And what does it say about the fear of the Lord? It endures forever. Do you see, my friend? You finally have found something on which you can build your life. It endures forever. “My Word shall not pass away. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” Wow!
Then as we continue on, you’ll notice that it says, “The rules of the Lord are true (This is the last part of verse 9) and are righteous altogether.” What does the Word of God do for us? Well, you’ll notice that at the end of the Psalm David is now recognizing that there are some things he has to deal with. You can’t get close to God without realizing that you’re in need as a sinner. I think it was Calvin in his institutes who actually began the institutes by saying that knowledge of man and knowledge of God happen simultaneously. If you don’t know God, you don’t know who you are. It’s like the German enlightenment scholar, Goethe (and it’s not Go-thee, okay?), who said, “I don’t know who I am, and I hope nobody ever finds out.” Goethe! If God used that word to get you into heaven some of you wouldn’t make it, would you? And thank God, that’s not the way to heaven.
But the point is, only who you are in God’s presence is who you are (period). Nothing more – nothing less! And what David is saying is that now he begins to realize that this Word is so penetrating. He says, “Who can discern his errors?” Can you discern all your errors? Do I know all the sins I have ever committed? Thank God I don’t have to count them. But the point is that there are some sins that we are unaware of committing. And that’s why he says, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” You know the kinds of things that you and I do that we’re not even aware of, but God calls them sin. He says, “Deliver me from those.”
But more seriously he says, “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins.” Those are sins that we commit and we know exactly what we are doing. We know that we are grieving God. We know that we are sinning, but we go ahead and we presumptuously sin. In the Old Testament there was no sacrifice for that, but thank God that through God’s forgiveness, of course, there is forgiveness for presumptuous sins. Who of us could stand up today and say, “I have never willfully, knowingly sinned?” All of us stand condemned.
And what David said was, “Deliver me from these kinds of sins that I might be innocent from great transgression,” because the more we tolerate presumptuous sins, the more we end up committing great transgression. That’s what the text is saying here. And David is saying, “Oh that I might be delivered from presumptuous sins that they might not have dominion over me.” Whoever you submit yourself to has dominion. Sin always takes us farther than we intended to go and keeps us longer than we intended to stay. So David says, “Deliver me from those kinds of transgressions.”
And then he even becomes more personal and says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable.” Where is that coming from? It’s coming from the recognition that if God is who He is, and His Word is what He says it is, that means that God knows all about me. In fact, I think I might preach on this next time. I’m not sure. But God knows all about me. All things are open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
“Oh God, may the words of my tongue, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, God, because I’ve been found out.” And you’ve been found out and I’ve been found out. The jig is over. God knows all about you as indicated in the Word.
How do we bring this down to some transforming lessons that should change us as we get immersed in the Word in our 40-day commitment to be changed by the Word? First of all, the value of the Word! A moment ago I skipped verse 10. It says, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold.” You read that and you say, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
One time (I think it was on the Discovery Channel) I saw a special on the Gold Rush. It was unbelievable. Men and women were willing to risk their lives. They were willing to cheat, to steal. They were willing to kill to get gold. As a matter of fact, when you stop to think of it, you wave big money in somebody’s face, and unless they are deeply rooted in the Word, they’ll just simply throw all their principles out the window. The power of gold - fine gold that will survive our next depression!
“Are more to be desired!” You say, “Well, that can’t be.” Try to go down to Wall Street and tell them this. Preach this message there and see what you get. There are not a whole lot of open hearts to that. Get it if you can get it honestly. If you have to get it deceitfully, get it deceitfully, but above all, get it! But David says, “These precepts are more precious than gold,” because you know what? When it comes time for you to die and to give an account for God, you can die surrounded by all of your Krugerands, all of your pieces of gold, and they will not help you. David said, “Ultimately, it’s more important than what I eat.” “They are more precious,” he says, “than the honeycomb,” and you know that the honeycomb tastes very good – almost as good as chocolate. So the point is that he says, “More precious to be desired.”
Do you know what Job said in chapter 23? I think it’s verse 10. He said, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food.” Listen, there are times when God’s Word is much more important than whether or not we eat, because God’s Word is dealing with the eternal. It is dealing with your soul. The value of God’s Word is beyond comprehension. It is dealing with eternal issues, and not just where do I get the next meal, or what do I eat?” We’re talking now eternity so it’s of more value than gold, fine gold.
Second, I want to say something about the power of the Word of God. You’ll notice that the Bible says, by the way, “Is not my Word like a hammer that can break the rock in pieces?” You expose yourself long enough to the Word of God and you’ll experience its power. That’s why the best thing you can do with an atheist is to not argue with him about the technicalities of atheism because he’s probably angry with God, and God didn’t answer his prayers, and he’s got all these arguments that he’s done. Get him into the Word. Give him what I call the 21-day challenge. Challenge him to read a chapter of the book of John everyday even if he doesn’t believe it. But simply ask him the question, “Who does the Gospel of John present Jesus as being?” That’s the best way. You’ll have to get them next to the Word because the Word will open their minds. They’ll read about Jesus and they’ll say, “Verily, He was the Son of God. Nobody could have made up the story of Jesus in the New Testament. It has to be true.” So that’s what you do. It’s the power of the Word of God.
Somebody sent us a plant a couple of months ago, and it is finally growing, and growing so quickly that I can sit in my study and just watch it grow. Really! Seriously! That’s how fast the thing is growing. I don’t know when it’s going to stop. But one of the things we have to do is it has to be in the sun, so we put it right next to the window. Without the sun, you know the thing would be dead probably in a couple of days. What the sun is to physical life, the Word of God is to the spiritual life of your soul. How do you expect to grow unless you are in the light? And being in the light, and being enlightened by the light, you receive the energy to go on. And as your appetite for the Word increases, and you say, “Well, you know, I’m listening to the Bible, and I’m reading it, and I don’t remember what I read,” just keep doing it. You will discover that the Word of God will give you what you need – the power of the Word of God. It is the Word of God that cuts us open. And then after we’ve been cut open it sews us up back together.
Let me say something also about the hope or the comfort of the Word of God. By the way, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a great famous English preacher of the 19th century said this regarding the Scripture: “Why the Book has wrestled with me. The Book has smitten me. The Book has comforted me. The Book has smiled on me. The Book has frowned on me. The Book has clasped my hand. The Book has warmed my heart. The Book weeps with me. It sings with me. It whispers to me. It preaches to me. It maps my way and holds up my goings. It is the young man’s best companion, and is still my morning and evening chaplain.” The power of the Word of God!
Let me say also a word about the comfort of the Word of God. If you want to know, for example, if God can really forgive your sin because you are such a great sinner and you want to have an answer to that question, how are you going to find that out? Well, you read the Word of God and you discover that He is able to save to the uttermost all those who come unto God by Him. And you are encouraged, and you are comforted, and you’ve said to yourself, “I’m the vilest of sinners, but the vilest of sinners who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”
You say, “I’m going through such difficulty, such sorrow within my family, such physical issues! Everything seems to be breaking in on me. When will this come to an end?” Well, the Word of God gives you comfort.
The Word of God says that the suffering of this present age is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, and it is through the power of the Word that you are encouraged to carry on and to be faithful to the very end.
And when it comes time to die, and you need to find some hope, where do you find it? Where do you go? Well, you need a word, and you need a word of encouragement from Jesus, who was there on the cross, while He was dying, not looking like a Savior or a King. He was as bad off physically as the other guys that were crucified on either side of Him – those “bad to the bone” thieves. He was in the same predicament physically as they were. And yet a thief looked to him with a look of faith and said, “Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
And now suddenly comes a word of authority, a word from outside the universe, a word from the God who created the stars, the sun, the moon: “Today you’ll be with me in Paradise.” What a word to hear just before you die, wouldn’t you say? (applause) Where do you go for a word like that? You find it in no other book. You find it on the lips of no other religious teacher. No other religious guru could ever possibly say something like this, and to have credibility. Are you allowing the Word to change your life?
Listen, you are living a life facing Mont Blanc. Are you going to open the shutters and say, “Lord, I’m going to allow your Word in. It’s difficult in an entertainment culture to focus, but I’m going to learn how to do it. And I’m going to keep doing it, doing it, doing it! And I’ll be transformed, changed by the Word of God that lives and abides forever.” Wow!
Hasn’t God given us a precious gift in giving us this book? (applause) Let’s thank Him for it.
Father, we want to thank You today that we have at our disposal in a language that we can understand, actually in multiple translations, the very words of God. Now, Father, help us to be done with being spiritual cripples. Help us to be done with the lack of discipline. Help us to be done with excuses. We pray, Father, that You might make us diligent in reading and reading and pondering Your holy Word. We pray, Lord, that those changes will come because You have promised, but help us to be open to it.
And now, before I close this prayer, what has God said to you that you need to tell Him about, because according to His Word He knows the meditation of your heart. You tell Him. You talk to Him. If you need to receive Christ as Savior, you receive Him. If you need to make a promise or make something right to somebody else, tell Him you are going to do it. Whatsoever He says to you, do it!
Lord, help us, for we are weak, but we do love You and believe that Your Word will enable us to love You more. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.