"Oh, how I love your instructions (law)! I think about them all day long" (Ps 119:97, NLT). "Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction (law), and he meditates on it day and night" (Ps 1:2, HSCB). "This book of instruction (law) must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite (meditate on) it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do" (Joshua 1:8, HSCB).
Theme: What do you do daily? What do you think about daily? How you respond to these two related questions will likely and profoundly impact your life and your future significantly. For we will be and we are what we think about the most.
What prompted me to write this sermon? A friend commented to me that "Christians do not read the Bible." He added, "They don't even know what the first five books of the Bible are. Even UBF people do not know their Bibles well." Piqued by his comments I decided to look into this. Basically, I found out that he was generally right about Christians and their Bibles. Hopefully, this may not be so about our church, at least not at West Loop!
Only 1 in 5 Christians read the Bible daily: A 2013 American Bible society poll found that only 1 in 4 Christians (26%) read their Bibles regularly (4x/week or more) and that the majority (57%) read their Bibles 4x/year or less. A 2012 Lifeway survey found that only 1 in 5 Christians (19%) read their Bibles daily. Why might Christians be reading their Bibles rather infrequently? Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, says, "I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they're overweight, but they don't follow a diet. People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don't read it."
What should I be doing daily? What should I do and never neglect every day of my life as a Christian? This sermon in an attempt to answer these questions. Ps 118:97, 1:2, Josh 1:8 and countless other verses (and quotes) suggest that what we fill our mind and thoughts with are of utmost importance. What then is the best thing for Christians to fill their hearts and minds with? Should it not be the Bible? Thus an emphasis of this sermon is, "Read the Bible every day." Read, recite, think, pray, study, reflect, contemplate, meditate, share, teach. Some alternate titles for this sermon are C is for Contemplation, or DD for Daily Devotion, or M is for Meditation (or Mind), or R is for Reflection, or S for Silence and Solitude, or T is for Think. Regarding our thought world and our minds, let us consider:
- The importance of the mind.
- What to do with the mind daily.
Some questions to think about and ask yourself. If we do not think with some degree of concerted effort, we will simply just float and drift along, depending entirely on the ebb and flow of the elements and our emotions. What then should we think about? Consider these questions for starters:
- Are you living your life right?
- Are you loving your family and others right?
- Are we doing church right? How might we do things differently?
- Is there anything in particular that God might be calling you to do?
I. The Importance of the Mind
Not comfortable with thinking. A recent article found that "83% of Americans don't spend any part of their day just thinking." It suggests that more than 4 out of 5 people do not like to be left alone with their own thoughts. They would always rather be doing something else rather than to be alone by themselves with their own thoughts just to think. A study found that men prefer an electric shock to being alone with their thoughts. Within a few minutes of being alone in a room, if given the option, the majority prefer to electrically shock themselves rather than to be alone by themselves with nothing else to do.
What are some hindrances to thinking? If I'm angry, my emotion consumes me and does not allow me to think properly. If I'm worried about my future and retirement, fear might creep in and not allow me to think well. If I am consumed by some event that bothered and hurt me, it hinders me from thinking well. Any sort of overwhelming emotion (anger, loneliness, jealousy, woundedness, fear, worry, anxiety, lust, greed, etc) would cloud our thought world and hinder anyone from having a healthy thought world.
What is a man? Let us briefly consider who we are or what we become.
- “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
- “We are what we think about all day long.”
- “You are what you think about all day long.”
What do you think about most throughout your day? These quotes are by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist and poet. Basically, we all become what we think about most. If we think about money, our eyeballs become like $$ signs, don't they? In the morning when I wake up, I spontaneously think about coffee--expresso or french roast with hot, steamed, frothed milk, preferably whole milk, but 2% milk works as well. Guess what I do next, instead of reading the Bible first? Fortunately, I generally do not think about coffee the rest of the day...until the next day. We are what we think. Here are similar thoughts and ideas.
- “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
- "I think, therefore, I am." Rene Descartes.
- “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Buddha.
- “Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” Benjamin Disraeli.
- “Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.” George Bernard Shaw.
- "You are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are!" Quoted by D.A. Carson.
- “Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phil 4:8, NLT.
- "Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things." 2 Tim 2:7, NLT.
- “Love God...with all your mind.” Mk 12:30.
II. What To Do With The Mind
Practical Application/Suggestions: Grow/increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52).
- Pray and think first about your day when you wake up (rather than rush off).
- Do something else before drinking coffee!
- Read your Bible and pray before checking your email and social media.
- Think often about your life goal.
- Develop a single master passion.
- Make some plan or schedule regarding Bible reading and reading books.
- Remember the grace of Jesus throughout the day.
- Practice the presence of God throughout the day.
- Share and engage with one another often.
- Teach the Bible to someone else.
What should we Christians do (and think about) daily? (Proposals and suggestions). There would obviously be much variation and flexibility as to how and what exactly we do daily. This somewhat arbitrary "list of Do's" consists of what we should do--in addition to and not excluding being responsible for performing all of our daily duties and chores: work, study, homework, housework, sleep, rest, recreation, leisure, taking care of the family. So, here's a proposal as to what we Christians could practically and prayerfully do daily:
- Know why you do what you do (The basis and the foundation).
- Read the Bible. (Read it, recite it, pray about it, study it, think about it, reflect on it, contemplate what it says, meditate on it, teach it and share it with others.)
- Read books.
- Have dialogue and engagement.
- Live in community.
- Enjoy life to the full.
1. Know Why You Do What You Do
What is West Loop Church about? On our West Loop Church website About Us explains what we believe and why we exist: "Our foundational belief is that the Gospel is central and crucial to the life of the church. We believe that a church where the gospel is preached and proclaimed produces a gospel church and a gospel community, and enables the gospel to be lived out in every area of our lives and expression as a Christian." Not knowing from a deep inner level why we do what we do is unsustainable as a church. Similarly for our own lives, we need to know why we do what we do.
What does Paul do and why does he do it and what he knows? (Why do you get up every morning? Why do you go to school? Why do you go to work? Why do you work hard? Take care of your family? Make friends? Serve your church?)
- What Paul's singular task in life is: Testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Ac 20:24).
- What Paul considers of first importance: The gospel (1 Cor 15:3-4).
- What Paul's single desire and goal in life is: To know Christ (Phil 3:10, HCSB).
- What Paul knows about himself: the least of the apostles (1 Cor 15:9), the least of all God's people (Eph 3:8), the worst of sinners (1 Tim 3:15).
2. Read the Bible (Read it, recite it, pray about it, study it, think about it, reflect on it, contemplate what it says, meditate on it, teach it and share it with others.)
Some random thoughts, reflections, suggestions, proposals:
- How often: Daily and all day throughout the day (Ps 119:97; 1:2; Josh 1:8).
- How to read it:
- Personally, privately. Think deeply about and meditate on what it says (Ps 119:97; 1:2; Josh 1:8). These are a few verses that changed my life: Gen 2:16-17; Mt 6:33; 1 Cor 15:36; Lk 9:27; Jer 31:3; Prov 29:25; Ac 20:24, 27.
- Corporately in community (1 Tim 4:13).
- Why read it: Love (Ps 119:97). Sweetness (Ps 119:103). Delight (Ps 37:4). Goodness (Ps 34:8). Joy (Neh 8:10). Salvation (2 Tim 3:15). Useful (2 Tim 3:16).
- Be transformed (Rom 12:2).
- Make progress (1 Tim 4:15).
- Prosper and have success in all you do (Ps 1:2; Josh 1:8).
- Watch yourself closely (1 Tim 4:16).
3. Read Books
Even an apostle (Paul) must read (2 Ti 4:12). Even the apostle who wrote 12 books of the Bible must read books. A 2013 poll says that 28% of respondents did not read a book at all in the past year, and 42% had not read a nonfiction book. Charles Spurgeon preached an entire sermon to encourage Christians to read books: Paul--His Cloak and His Books. Here is a short video excerpt: Charles Spurgeon encourages Christians to read books.
4. Have Dialogue and Engagement
Reading makes you a complete man. “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Francis Bacon.
5. Live in Community: C is for Cmmunity.
6. Enjoy Life to the Full (Jn 10:10b)
- How often do you read the Bible? Do you read the Bible daily? A few times a week? Not that often?
- How much time do you spend reading (meditating on) the Bible? Reading books, blogs or magazines?
- When you read the Bible how much of it do you usually read? A few verses at the time?A few chapters? 5-10 chapters?
- What do you know about your Bible?
- How many N.T. books are there? How many books of the Bible did Paul write?
- Can you recite in order the first 10 books of the N.T.? The first 20 books? All the N.T. books?
- How many O.T. books are there? Who are the 4 major prophets? What are the 5 poetic books?
- Can you recite in order the first 10 books of the O.T.? The first 20 books?
- What does Ps 119:97, Ps 1:2, Josh 1:8 encourage us regarding Scripture? Do you love reading it? Why or why not? Does it taste sweet to you (Ps 119:103; 34:8; Eze 3:3; Rev 10:9)? What surprising result does it promise (Ps 1:3; Josh 1:8b)? What is Scripture able to do (2 Tim 3:15)? Useful for (2 Tim 3:16-17; Ps 119:105)? Who does Scripture point to (Jn 5:39; Lk 24:27, 44)?
- Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "A man is what he thinks about all day long?" What do you think about all day long?
- Read Phil 4:8, 2 Tim 2:7; Mk 8:30. What does these verses suggest about the life of the mind? Reflect on these:
"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become." Buddha.
"Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think."Benjamin Disraeli.
"2% of the people think; 3% of the people think they think; and 95% of the people would rather die than think."George Bernard Shaw.
- Do you know why you do what you do (1 Cor 10:31)? Why is this important? What was Paul's motivation and driving force (Ac 20:24; 1 Cor 2:2; 15:3-4; Phil 3:10)? What motivation do you have to read the Bible?
- What is West Loop Church about? "About Us" on our website says,"Our foundational belief is thatthe Gospel is central and crucial to the life of the church. We believe that a church where the gospel is preached and proclaimed produces a gospel church and a gospel community, and enables the gospel to be lived out in every area of our lives and expression as a Christian."What are your spontaneous thoughts about this statement regarding our foundational belief? Would you like to state it differently?