DAY 24 Transformed by Truth People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God. Matthew 4:4 (N LT) God's ... gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need. Acts 20:32 (Msg) The truth transforms us. Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." Sanctification requires revelation. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word. The Bible says, "Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us." God's Word is unlike any other word. It is alive. Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." When God speaks, things change. Everything around you-all of reationexists because "God said it.' He spoke it all into existence. Without God's Word you would not even be alive. James points out, "God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made." The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook. God's Word generates life, creates faith, produces change, frightens the Devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever! We cannot live without the Word of God! Never take it for granted. You should consider it as essential to your life as food. Job said, "I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." God's Word is the spiritual nourishment you must have to fulfill your purpose. The Bible is called our milk, bread, solid food, and sweet dessert.' This four-course meal is the Spirit's menu for spiritual strength and growth. Peter advises us, "Crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." ABIDING IN GOD'S WORD There are more Bibles in print today than ever before, but a Bible on the shelf is worthless. Millions of believers are plagued with spiritual anorexia, starving to death from spiritual malnutrition. To be a healthy disciple of Jesus, feeding on God's Word must be your first priority. Jesus called it "abiding." He said, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." In day-to-day living, abiding in God's Word includes three activities. I must accept its authority. The Bible must become the authoritative standard for my life: the compass I rely on for direction, the counsel I listen to for making wise decisions, and the benchmark I use for evaluating everything. The Bible must always have the first and last word in my life. Many of our troubles occur because we base our choices on unreliable authorities: culture ("everyone is doing it"), tradition ("we've always done it"), reason ("it seemed logical"), or emotion ("it just felt right"). All four of these are flawed by the Fall. What we need is a perfect standard that will never lead us in the wrong direction. Only God's Word meets that need. Solomon reminds us, "Every word of God is flawless, "10 and Paul explains, "Everything in the Scriptures is God's Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.” In the early years of his ministry, Billy Graham went through a time when he struggled with doubts about the accuracy and authority of the Bible. One moonlit night he dropped to his knees in tears and told God that, in spite of confusing passages he didn't understand, from that point on he would completely trust the Bible as the sole authority for his life and ministry. From that day forward, Billy's life was blessed with unusual power and effectiveness. The most important decision you can make today is to settle this issue of what will be the ultimate authority for your life. Decide that regardless of culture, tradition, reason, or emotion, you choose the Bible as your final authority. Determine to first ask, "What does the Bible say?" when making decisions. Resolve that when God says to do something, you will trust God's Word and do it whether or not it makes sense or you feel like doing it. Adopt Paul's statement as your personal affirmation of faith: "I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets." I must assimilate its truth. It is not enough just to believe the Bible; I must fill my mind with it so that the Holy Spirit can transform me with the truth. There are five ways to do this: You can receive it, read it, research it, remember it, and reflect on it. First, you receive God's Word when you listen and accept it with an open, receptive attitude. The parable of the sower illustrates how our receptiveness determines whether or not God's Word takes root in our lives and bears fruit. Jesus identified three unreceptive attitudes-a closed mind (hard soil), a superficial mind (shallow soil), and a distracted mind (soil with weeds)-and then he said, "Consider carefully how you listen." Anytime you feel you are not learning anything from a sermon or a Bible teacher, you should check your attitude, especially for pride, because God can speak through even the most boring teacher when you are humble and receptive. James advises, "In a humble (gentle, modest) spirit, receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted in your hearts contains the power to save your souls." Second, for most of the 2,000-year history of the church, only priests got to personally read the Bible, but now billions of us have access to it. In spite of this, many believers are more faithful to reading their daily newspaper than their Bibles. It's no wonder we don't grow. We can't watch television for three hours, then read the Bible for three minutes and expect to grow. Many who claim to believe the Bible "from cover to cover" have never read it from cover to cover. But if you will read the Bible just fifteen minutes a day, you will read completely through it once a year. If you cut out one thirty-minute television program a day and read your Bible instead, you will read through the entire Bible twice a year. Daily Bible reading will keep you in range of God's voice. This is why God instructed the kings of Israel to always keep a copy of his Word nearby: "He should keep it with him all the time and read from it every day of his life." But don't just keep it near you; read it regularly! A simple tool that is helpful for this is a daily Bible reading plan. It will prevent you from just skipping around the Bible arbitrarily and overlooking sections. If you would like a copy of my personal Bible reading plan, see appendix 2. Third, researching, or studying, the Bible is another practical way to abide in the Word. The difference between reading and studying the Bible involves two additional activities: asking questions of the text and writing down your insights. You haven't really studied the Bible unless you've written your thoughts down on paper or computer. Space does not allow me to explain the different methods of Bible study. Several helpful books on Bible study methods are available, including one I wrote over twenty years ago. The secret of good Bible study is simply learning to ask the right questions. Different methods use different questions. You will discover far more if you pause and ask such simple questions as who? what? when? where? why? and how? The Bible says, "Truly happy people are those who carefully study God's perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God's teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy." The fourth way to abide in God's Word is by remembering it. Your capacity to remember is a God-given gift. You may think you have a poor memory, but the truth is, you have millions of ideas, truths, facts, and figures memorized. You remember what is important to you. If God's Word is important, you will take the time to remember it. There are enormous benefits to memorizing Bible verses. It will help you resist temptation, make wise decisions, reduce stress, build confidence, offer good advice, and share your faith with others.' Your memory is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become, and memorizing Scripture will become easier. You might begin by selecting a few Bible verses out of this book that have touched you and writing them down on a small card you can carry with you. Then review them aloud throughout your day. You can memorize Scripture anywhere: while working or exercising or driving or waiting or at bedtime. The three keys to memorizing Scripture are review, review, and review! The Bible says, "Remember what Christ taught and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise." The fifth way to abide in God's Word is to reflect on it, which the Bible calls "meditation." For many, the idea of meditating conjures up images of putting your mind in neutral and letting it wander. This is the exact opposite of biblical meditation. Meditation is focused thinking. It takes serious effort. You select a verse and reflect on it over and over in your mind. As I mentioned in chapter 11, if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate. Worry is focused thinking on something negative. Meditation is doing the same thing, only focusing on God's Word instead of your problem. No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture. As we take the time to contemplate God's truth, seriously reflecting on the example of Christ, we are "transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory." If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will be amazed at the benefits he has promised to those who take the time to reflect on his Word throughout the day. One of the reasons God called David "a man after my own heart" is that David loved to reflect on God's Word. He said, "How I love your teachings! I think about them all day long." Serious reflection on God's truth is a key to answered prayer and the secret to successful living. I must apply its principles. Receiving, reading, researching, remembering, and reflecting on the Word are all useless if we fail to put them into practice. We must become "doers of the word." This is the hardest step of all, because Satan fights it so intensely. He doesn't mind you going to Bible studies as long as you don't do anything with what you learn. We fool ourselves when we assume that just because we have heard or read or studied a truth, we have internalized it. Actually, you can be so busy going to the next class or seminar or Bible conference that you have no time to implement what you've learned. You forget it on the way to your next study. Without implementation, all our Bible studies are worthless. Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Jesus also pointed out that God's blessing comes from obeying the truth, not just knowing it. He said, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." Another reason we avoid personal application is that it can be difficult or even painful. The truth will set you free, but first it may make you miserable! God's Word exposes our motives, points out our faults, rebukes our sin, and expects us to change. It's human nature to resist change, so applying God's Word is hard work. This is why it is so important to discuss your personal applications with other people. I cannot overstate the value of being a part of a small Bible study discussion group. We always learn from others truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God's truth in a practical way. The best way to become a "doer of the Word" is to always write out an action step as a result of your reading or studying or reflecting on God's Word. Develop the habit of writing down exactly what you intend to do. This action step should be personal (involving you), practical (something you can do), and provable (with a deadline to do it). Every application will involve either your relationship to God, your relationship to others, or your personal character. Before reading the next chapter, spend some time thinking about this question: What has God already told you to do in his Word that you haven't started doing yet? Then write down a few action statements that will help you act on what you know. You might tell a friend who can hold you accountable. As D. L. Moody said, "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives." DAY TWENTY-FOUR THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE Point to Ponder: The truth transforms me. Verse to Remember: "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32 (KJV) Question to Consider: What has God already told me in his Word that I haven't started doing yet?