Col 2:6-7; Col 3:15-16

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

1 John 2:24:

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.

To grow up as a Christian, we need to be like a hummingbird, not a dragonfly. We need to hover over the truth, to drill down deep and drink from its rich nectar. Meditating and musing over Scripture is essential for spiritual nourishment. We cannot just skim over truth, picking up little tidbits of information like a dragonfly snatches flies. It is one thing to believe in the truth of the gospel but we will only grow to maturity when we “work the truth down until it affects the heart” (Timothy Keller). We need to linger longer over truth if we want it to change us.

Holding onto truth is one of the signs that God’s Spirit is alive and active in us. Sanctification is not about constantly seeking new experiences or signs from God, but about reminding ourselves of what we already know and allowing the Spirit to make this truth real in our lives. As John puts it, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you (1John 2:24).” “Just as you were taught…” writes Paul (Col 2:7). It is not a new story, but the old story that will anchor us in shaky times.

Rooted and built up in Him

Paul tells us to walk in Christ, to be rooted, established and built up in Him, to allow the word of Christ to settle and find a permanent home in us; to constantly remind ourselves and each other of the truth we share; to sing the truth of the gospel aloud with thankful hearts (Col 2:6-7; Col 3:15-16). The word of Christ is so easily lost in the clutter and endless activity of our lives. It takes discipline to meditate and muse over God’s truth, but the “peace of God (that) will rule our hearts” is incomparable reward (Col 3:15).

Peace is sadly lacking in our world. Technology trains us to skim over the surface like a dragonfly, darting from one dopamine distraction to another. It is urgent for Christians to carve out a time of stillness in our day, to sip on God’s word like a hummingbird, and pray silently without distraction. We need to remind ourselves consistently of God’s truth or it will slip through the cracks of our burdened minds.

The Rock

T.S Elliot describes the 20th century aptly in his poem, “The Rock.” Its message is even more poignant in 2019 as we reap the whirlwind of technology:

The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Wisdom lost in knowledge

As much as it is a blessing to have access to great Christian minds at the click of a mouse, it is easy for Christians to have knowledge of words, but ignorance of the Word. We must ask ourselves, “Are we gaining knowledge but losing wisdom?”

85 years have passed since TS Elliot wrote The Rock. The internet age has moved us beyond wisdom and knowledge—to mere information. We must ask ourselves whether all this information is not making us more ignorant of what the Bible actually says than ever before.

Endless invention

Elliot speaks of endless invention, endless experiment. Novelty and sensation rule in our post-truth world.

Screens are full of fake news, fake identities, fake reality shows and fake celebrities worshipped by gullible fans. “Right” is whatever feels right to me and “wrong” does not exist. Christians are not immune. What passes for Christian teaching is often self-seeking anecdotes, spectacular stories, emotive slogans, motivational parables, comforting words and a notable absence of Scripture. “Self” takes centre stage and God is made in man’s own image. The plain Word of God is too dated and dull for hearers accustomed to endless invention.

God’s voice

But the Bible is God’s voice to us! Do we actually believe this? Through Biblical text, the Holy Spirit awakens us to what God is really like. God’s word is an accurate mirror to expose our sin. It is a surgeon’s scalpel to peel back the truth of our bankrupt, desperate state. It is a compass to direct us to the only person who can rescue us from death and draw us back to our Father. From Genesis to Revelation, the Holy Spirit narrates God’s truth to us, showing us exactly how to know Him, grow up as His child and prepare to enter His heaven when we die. Without Scripture, man’s words are mere opinions that cannot keep us stable in shaky times. They have no power to save us, give us inner peace or keep us firm to the end (Heb 3:14; Mark 13:13). They may even deceive us and lead us astray (Rom 16:18). Man’s endless invention is no gospel at all (Gal 1:6-7).

See his face first

Robert Murray McCheyne was a Scottish pastor who died of tuberculosis in 1892, at the age of 29. In his seven year ministry, McCheyne had an extraordinary influence on Scotland and brought many people to Christ. We would know nothing of this godly young man were it not for his friend, Andrew Bonar who recorded his letters, poems and sermons in a biography. It is good for us to look beyond our own self-centred culture to see a man after God’s own heart, dependent on the Holy Spirit, a real shepherd of God’s people who meditated on the truth of God’s word before he did anything else. Here is a snapshot of McCheyne’s character and priorities:

Above all things, cultivate your own spirit,” he wrote to a fellow-minister. “Your own soul is your first and greatest care. Seek to advance in personal holiness…I ought to spend the best part of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment.” It was M’Cheyne’s constant aim to avoid any hurry which prevents “the calm working of the Spirit on the heart. The dew comes down when all nature is at rest, when every leaf is still. A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man …For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ…I ought to pray before seeing any one… I feel it is far better to begin with God, to see His face first, to get my soul near him before it is near another.”

Four practical ways to meditate on God’s Word (from Psalm 77).

  1. Ask questions (Ps 77:5-9). Asaph the Psalmist writes, “My spirit made a diligent search…” You and I can ask ourselves: “What difference does this make to my life? In whom am I trusting? Have I forgotten this truth? Am I living in the light of this truth?” God can handle our questions and they recalibrate our thoughts and feelings to reflect the truth.
  2. Argue your case before God. Appeal to his character and promises. (Ps 77:10.) Remind God of his names, his love and his goodness until you are sure it is true. Wrestle with God.
  3. Recall God’s great deeds. (Ps 77:13-20.) Muse on what God has done for you in the past to give you hope, strength and victory in the present. Like Asaph, preach the truth to your shaky heart. Remind yourself of his steadfast love and faithfulness to all generations. Meditate on all that Jesus’ death achieved and pray back these truths to God. Give thanks for his resurrection and ascension; his specific kindnesses to you and answered prayers. Name your blessings one by one. By mentally circling around God’s greatness through meditation, we reverse the obsessive cycle of anxious thoughts that often trouble us.
  4. Memorize “Fighter verses!” God’s truth is your best weapon of war. Write down and memorize verses that speak directly to your heart. As you memorize truth and say or sing it aloud, it will become part of you. It will seep deep into your heart’s engine room. This year I discovered a phone app called “Fighter verses” which helps you learn and meditate on one verse per week. It is a brilliant tool that every Christian should use! Click here to find out more about Fighter Verses.

Tell me the old, old story

Long before the internet or fancy apps were invented, John and Paul wrote on ancient scrolls to remind the first Christians of the simple message proclaimed by Jesus and passed on by the apostles. It is a true story of sin and redemption that goes back to the beginning of time. It is so clear that even a child can understand it. My grandmother loved listening to the ancient hymn, “Tell me the old old story” when she was 100. She instinctively knew that this ‘old story’ was the only truth she could hold onto as she hobbled into eternity, as frail as a little bird. Because she believed this true story and put her trust in its main character, Jesus, it brought my gran nearer to death but also nearer to God. The Hymn tells the truth of who Jesus is—his divine glory and his love for us. It tells of who we are and God’s remedy for our hopeless condition. Best of all, it tells the simple truth that humanity desperately needs to hear:

“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

Hover like a hummingbird over the words as you listen to this great Hymn, Tell me the Old Old Story. I pray that none of us would think we are beyond the rich nectar of the true gospel story.

Tell me the old, old story,
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love;
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.

Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in—
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin;
Tell me the story often,
For I forget so soon,
The “early dew” of morning
Has passed away at noon.

Tell me the story softly,
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save;
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me.

Tell me the same old story,
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear;
And when the Lord’s bright glory
Is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story:
“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

Pray

Father, help me to meet with you before I meet with anyone else. I need to hear your voice early in the day before I am distracted by the loud voices of the world around me. I want to linger longer over the old story so that it shapes my heart and my mind. Then I will live to please you. Help me to see the Bible as the rich source of truth it is – your very words to me. Lord Jesus, you loved people enough to tell them the truth about themselves. Help me to love others enough to point them to you, the only Saviour. Give me courage to read the Bible with my friends. My precious Lord Jesus, thank you that you are my Rock, my Root, my Redeemer, my Friend. Help me to remain in you moment by moment until I see you face to face. In Jesus’ name Amen.

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