Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week:
Struck last night by the amazing testimony from Barnabas. Asked himself the question what would have happened if he had not committed Psalm 23 to memory? What would have happened if he hadn’t have had God’s word stored up and hidden in his heart? What have you got stored in your heart so when you are under affliction what will get you through? Great sadness that many of those who would call themselves Evangelical have lost the mooring of being Evangelical – the emphasis on the word. In the Creed we hear “according to the scriptures” half way through but would like to have seen it after every proposition. We believe that God has been revealed in a time and place, in the Messiah of Jesus Christ, that revelation is recorded by the people of God in the book of God. If we lose that Scripture we look for a mooring elsewhere, and history shows that we normally turn to culture, and culture is not predicated on scripture.
Psalm 119 – the longest in the Psalter, the longest chapter in the Bible, so why does God inspire his people to create this study. Each of the stanzas begin with a Hebrew word following through on the alphabet.
Second stanza, verse 9: how can someone keep themselves pure. Like Pastor Barnabas we need to hide God’s word, His decrees and commands in our heart. If you want to know how to worship get in to the word, it teaches you rejoicing. We must not neglect God’s word. All over the world those so called people of God are neglecting God’s word – we must not for the sake of the world.
Had an amazing student who came out of an Arminian family from Iran. Out in Iran taking bibles into the churches, bibles in the boot, and they went to the petrol station, and there was an armed warrior by the door. The wife says to the husband you need to give him one of our Bibles, so he fills up with petrol, pays for it, and the wife says he didn’t give the bible. The woman starts on the man, and the man drives off, after a while he turns around, drives to the petrol station, takes the Bible to the warrior and says this is a Holy Bible, the Christian book, and the warrior broke down and cried. Three days ago he had a dream that he would be given the word of life at the petrol station, and he had been waiting there for 3 days and 3 nights!
The dream pointed to the scriptures and the scriptures to Christ who points to life.
God’s word is neglected
In awe of Pastor Barnabas hiding the words in his heart, and getting up an hour before the other prisoners each day to meditate on Psalm 23. The IKEA catalogue is now the most printed book. Many Christians now the IKEA catalogue better than the Christians. You get a catalogue for free but you have to pay for everything in it, the Bible you have to pay for but all of it is free inside. Non-Christians from 50 years ago knew the Bible better than Christians today, they just don’t know it. Leaders so often just tell stories, want to hear from the book, to hear about God.
Dr. John Bibson, hands up who has read all the Bible, 25 years ago at an evangelical college, maybe only a third had read all of it. Now maybe a third are not in ministry anymore. Maybe there is a correlation between ministry and the word. Four of Simon’s mates have left the ministry having seen wives walk out with others, how was it they could have gone from being spirit-filled leaders bring people to Christ – what went wrong – it didn’t happen overnight, it will have been incremental, there wasn’t a daily seeking and being fed by God, and then the things of flesh rise.
P.T. Fawsite said why don’t people read the Bible more, because they’ve not been in that country, they’ve no experience to stir and develop. People feel like bits of land is there place, this is our place. This is how we should feel with scripture, it is our narrative, where we belong. So many are going around like headless chickens because it is not where they belong – this is where we belong. Go back to the place where you can stand and breathe in the air and say this is my place, these are my people. A neglecting of God’s word leads to a neglecting of God’s way. There is no distinction between evangelical Christians and non-Christians – the same ways of spending money, the same divorce rates.
The Church’s health and the Christian’s health is directly predicated to a reliance on God’s word. No amount of prayer ministry will sort you out if you’re not reading the Bible. We have created a culture of where people do the work for us – the preacher reads the Bible, the prayer ministry team pray for us.
Deuteronomy 6:6, Moses instructs the Israelites on how to live, the commandments. God’s word was to frame every aspect of their life, their heart, their forehead, their forearms, their gateposts, their door frames, with their children, waking up, going to sleep. God’s word was with them in everything so they could live well and prosper in the land.
The people of Israel time and time again went away from the word, all hell would break loose and God would bring them back. God’s word has got to frame our life.
In Krakow in the Jewish quarter where Schindlers list happened and was then recreated, the people as they were being rounded up, ripped off God’s word from their door post and put it into their pockets to take it with them, wherever they were going.
The Psalmist prized God’s word
V. 14 he delighted in God’s word, he prized it, it wasn’t just not neglecting it. Which would you rather prefer a bible or a holiday home? Open Doors on their website have an account of someone ministering to oppressed Christians in Indonesia, they asked what do you want – money, support, fighting in the courts, teaching pastors – they replied a Bible – we can cope with everything else when we have God’s word.
Repeatedly we see in 97, 113, 123, 167 “I love”. Maybe one of the things we have to ask God is to stir our affection for God’s word. For God to overcome the stupor, the spiritual dyslexia, stirring a fire for God’s word.
His dad read the Bible four times a year, once a year when bringing up little children. He is the nearest person to Jesus, he is a man of God, as he has been framed and fashioned by God’s word.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, over a billion people tuned in to watch it. In her gold plated chariot, she comes to the cathedral with all the world’s royalties, Prime Ministers, dignitaries. Power like the world has never seen, and the Moderator of the Scottish Church hands her a Bible, “this is the most valuable thing the world affords, this is wisdom.” This book puts us on par with the Queen of England.
Spoke at a conference of worship leaders in Cambridge, asked them to get a Bible, they were through the cupboards in the Monastery they were in to try and find Bibles. This girl had a Bible bound in denim, covered in stickers and stuffed with notes. Discovered she was from a church where he had bought a CD and loved using one of the songs his quiet times, turned out she had written it.
The Bible is Power
The Bible is so precious as it mediates God. There is power in this book. So often we want more power but there is power in the book. “Your word stands the heavens” – your word is in the heavens, but also upholds the heavens. There is power, not just to split an atom, but to create an atom. Some of you need to the power of God, to transform your character, to transform what comes out of your mouth and into your eyes. To be a better man, husband, father, colleague and human.
Why would God pour out his spirit on you if you don’t read his word? 150 times the Psalmist speaks of scripture as your word, your law, your decrees. The divine has somehow chosen to use this thing to reveal and mediate himself. You want a blessing, walk according to his law, you want freedom, insight, peace, overcome sin – open the word. Fill yourself with a better vision, a better picture, a better story.
Every demonic regime seeks to ban or burn the Bible. Throughout the history of church, when regimes come against the church they try to repress the Bible because demons recognise the power in the word. Famous Christian missionary sat on a train alongside a Indian mystic who went into a trance staring at him for four hours. The mystic after four hours said what is this power you have in your breast, the missionary pulled out of his pocket the New Testament!
The Nazis forbade the Bible in concentration camp, they called it The Book of Lies, if the demonic hates something then maybe that something is really special and important.
Young Christian interpreter who translated the Bible in Vietnam. When it was collapsing he was arrested and daily brain washed. After several years of this he came to the end of himself. He prayed every day but he thought God had given up on him. He decided to consciously not pray. He was given the job of cleaning the toilets, as he emptied them out, he found some paper, wiped off the excrement. Read it later and discovered God’s word, 31,300 verses in the Bible and nothing more relevant than the verse he was given “Nothing can separate you from my love”.
What a God, we are people who believe, and we believe according to the scriptures, and it is in the scriptures we find life, love, power, and transformation.