Christians are word people. I don’t mean simply that ‘Christians are people of the WORD of God’, although that is true. I mean, that Christians need to listen, read, think and speak words with great intention and purpose.
Let me see if I can explain, starting with some background.
Consider the place of the Word in the life of a believer.
- It was by God’s spoken word that all we know was created. In Genesis 1 & 2 (and Psalm 19) we see very clearly that it was God who spoke and from his word all came into existence.
- It was by ignoring God’s word that Adam and Eve led humanity into sin in Genesis 3. You will note that it was also by God’s word that all were cursed – judgment happens by the word of God.
- It was by a promised Word that God chose to enact his salvation plan. In Genesis 12:1-3 we read about the promises made to Abraham that set the course for the Bible – God’s salvation plan to bring those who were cursed back into his blessing.
- It was by his written word to Moses in the form of the 10 Commandments (and the Covenant Code) that God specified how his people should relate to him (Ex 20/Deut 5).
- And then it was by his prophetic word that God chose to warn and direct his people as they lived under his provision – he spoke through Judges, Kings and Prophets who were all commissioned to speak God’s words for the benefit of his people.
As you read through the Old Testament, the place of God’s spoken, promised, written and prophetic word is given high importance.
A few years ago one of my sons made quite a profound statement to his mother and I – he said ‘I don’t like you very much when I am doing the wrong thing!’. You can see the relational consequence when a person chooses to go against another. How is it that we know we are going against another? It is when we reject or ignore their words.
For the people of God in the Old Testament their relationship with God (by his grace) was strengthened when they listened and obeyed his word, and conversely, their relationship with him and their experience of his world was not so pleasant when they ignored or rejected his word (as was their folly).
Move into the New Testament, and gloriously we start again with God’s Word. John 1:1 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.’ In fact, here, God’s word is given flesh in that this description is talking about Jesus – the one and only who came from the Father (c.f. 1:14).
With Jesus, we see God’s created word, come to deal with sin, to fulfill God’s salvation plan, to instruct his people in how to live under the eternal rule of God. With Jesus, we have both the messenger and the message – God’s Word incarnate.
So Christians are people of words. Being a disciple of Jesus the Word, means living under his instruction and by his commission. By his Spirit, our relationship with him is strengthened as we listen and obey his word and conversely our relationship with him is weakened when we ignore or reject his word.
As such Christians need to be:
- Good listeners of God’s Word – When Jesus taught, people were amazed at his teaching and at his authority (Mk 1:22; Lk 4:32), and so it makes sense, as James points out, that we should be ‘quick to listen and slow to speak’ (Jam 1:19).
Tip: Give a high priority each week to the listening of God’s word – for instance make it your habit to hear the sermon each week (if not in person, by podcast).
- Good readers of God’s Word – As you read through the letters of the New Testament you see the teaching of the Word of God – they are the words by the apostles for the instruction of believers (e.g. Acts 18:11; 2 Thess 2:2, 15). Believers, then, need to read – we are taught when we do.
Tip: Find a regular spot in the day when you can be reading a chapter or verse from the Bible. Have a Christian book on the go (one which directs you into the Bible) – see here for a suggested Top 10 list.
- Good thinkers of God’s Word – When you look at the interactions that Jesus had with his listeners (particularly when speaking the parables) he frequently calls on them to ‘think’ – he quite obviously wanted them to use the brains they had been given to draw their own conclusions about what they were hearing and seeing (c.f. Mt 17:25; 18:12; 21:82; 22:42; 26:53; Lk 10:36; 12:51; 13:2-4). We can also see in the Apostle Paul’s prayers for the church in Philippi his longing that they would grow in love as they grew in knowledge and depth of insight (Phil 1:9). To the Colossians Paul instructs the church to dwell on the word of God richly and in doing so teaching and admonishing one another (Col 3:16). Christians think, and they should think deeply about the Word.
Tip: Put yourself regularly in a place where you can be discussing and talking through the Bible – a Small Group or Bible Study Group, a one to one Bible catch-up.
- Good speakers of God’s Word – The great commission (Matt 28:19-20) gives all Christians a charge to go out and be witnesses, a job which is made far more difficult without the use of words! To be a witness is to bear testimony so that others might know that which is (good) news. Those who first accepted Jesus’ commission to speak God’s word were the disciples (consider the many ‘sermons’ in Acts) who in turn commissioned others for that task – Peter instructed the scattered saints in 1 Peter to ‘speak the very words of God’ (4:11) and Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to teach that which was true and refute that which was false (1 Tim 1:3; 4:13; 2 Tim 2:2; 2:15; 4:2; Tit 1:9; 2:1). Christians have both a commission and a voice – and so we should speak.
Tip: Pray for opportunity to speak about Jesus with those you meet and perhaps invite them to read his word with you.
Friends, under God, keep your ears ready (listening), your eyes open (reading), your mind active (thinking) and your mouth moving (speaking) – and enjoy being a person of words.
For a helpful article on ‘Active Reading’ from Chris Metcalf go here.