Revival of the Bible

Revive Us

Pastor Jerry Gillis - September 25, 2022

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday’s message, highlighting the primary Scripture passages and main idea of the message. 

  1. How did this message strengthen, confirm and/or correct your previous ideas about the Word of God? 

  1. What are your Bible study habits? Do you spend time in prayer before/during/after reading? What questions do you ask as you read? When do you typically read? How do you decide what to read?  

  1. In Nehemiah 8:1, the Israelites asked Ezra to read the law. What does it mean to hunger for the Word of God? How much do you hunger for the Word of God?  

  1. Describe a recent response you’ve had to reading the Word of God. Consider the responses outlined in Nehemiah 8 and 9: weeping, joy, obedience, repentance.   

  1. In what ways can you apply today’s message to your life?  


Action Step 

Spend time in extended reflection and action this week. Journal a response to these prompts:  

Do you view your time reading God’s word as homework or as a delight? Why?  

Audit your weekly and daily schedule – when can you make time to read and study the Bible with intentionality?  

Sign up for a day to fast and spend time in intentional prayer: 


Mobilization Challenge 

Consider collaborating with your group to partner with the Voice of Martyrs project to translate the Bible in Farsi, Dari, and Pashtu dialects.




Sermon Transcript

- How much would you be willing to pay for a Bible? Some of you are saying, "Well, I've been in the Bible market before and, you know, and I know kind of what it costs." I mean, if you wanted like a little kind of paperback New Testament, you'd probably get it for $6. And if you wanted something that was a little more robust, you know, you might get that for 25, $30. Or maybe you're thinking to yourself, "Well, you know, I wanted one of those leather bound, super nice, with commentary inside, and all of that." That might be 75 or $100 potentially. I don't know what you would be willing to pay for a Bible, but, you know, it kind of ranges in kind of that continuum to some degree. But let me change the context for you. Let's say that you don't have a Bible in your language and you find out that there is a book that contains a true revelation about who God is, about heaven and hell, about forgiveness of sin, about eternal life, how much are you willing to pay now? If you are someone who takes these things seriously, you'd be willing to give everything that you have to be able to have a copy of that book that gives you a true revelation about who God is. And now here we are in Buffalo, and while we have as many copies of this book that we could possibly want, whether on our devices or whether sitting collecting dust on our shelves, we still have a problem in this city reading the Word of God. It's astonishing, really, but that's where we are. It was just a handful of years ago that the American Bible Societies partnered with the Barna Group and they surveyed, nationally, what were the most and least Bible-minded cities in all of America. And they did that by the 100 largest population metropolitan areas, okay? So they took the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States and they looked at those large areas and they surveyed and determined which are the most Bible-minded cities and which are the least Bible-minded cities in the United States. Now, you're not gonna be able to see it. I'm just showing this to you because just so you know where it came from. But if you were looking, this is number one most Bible-minded city, it says Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then it's Birmingham, Alabama, that area, Tuscaloosa, all of that area, that's number one. And then you get down here to number 100, which is Albany, Schenectady, Troy, here in our state. Congratulations us, right? Least Bible-minded city. Where's Buffalo? Right there. 96. 96 out of 100. That means that we are the fifth least Bible-minded city in the United States. To dig deeper, what it means is this, is basically 14% of the people surveyed in our city said that they read the Bible once a week or more, 14%. So that means that there are 86% that do not read the Bible one time a week, which means, like, go to church, you're gonna hear it, right, and read it because it's gonna be there for you, so they're not even doing that. And the vast majority of that 86% does not open the Bible at all. So that's what we've got That's where we are. And we've got all the access in the world available to us to read the Word, and we don't. And while that's happening, there are 1 billion people in the world who don't have a copy of the Word of God in their language. And many of those people, not all of them for sure, but many of those people, if they knew the contents of what this book revealed, would give anything they had to be able to learn the truth about God, and about heaven, and about hell, and about forgiveness of sins, and about eternal life. You see, it's one of the works of the enemy. One of the great works of the enemy is keeping people from the Word of God, that's one of the great works of the enemy anywhere. In fact, in the early church after Jesus' death, His burial, His resurrection, then His ascension to the Father, the sending of the Spirit, the birth of the church, the church begins to grow, they turn the world upside down over the next couple of centuries. But by the time you get to the fourth century, the Roman Empire realizes that this group of Christians has literally turned the world upside down, not with any political power whatsoever but by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the resurrected Son of God. And now that they've turned the world upside down, the Roman emperor, Diocletian, so this is about the fourth century AD, he's not happy with it, and he decides he's going to intentionally persecute the church, and he issues four edicts to persecute the church. And here was the very first one: "Take away the Word." That was the first thing that he wanted to do: "Take away their scriptures. Take away the Word of God." You see, because what the enemy wants to do more than anything in our lives is keep us from the Word of God; he wants to do that. If you go through the middle ages of history in church history, by and large, the people did not have access to the Word, that was just in the hands of a few kind of clergy professional types, the priesthood, right, that's all who had the Word. And the people, and many of them couldn't read, so it wouldn't have mattered particularly a lot, anyway, but they didn't give them access to the Word of God, that's why the reformation happened in part, was to be able to get the Word of God into the hands of people because the people of God are the priesthood of God. And today, by the way, even in this present context today, you can go into places in the world where it is illegal for the distribution of the Word of God. Saudi Arabia, illegal; Libya, illegal; many other countries that either make it illegal or it's not stated as illegal, but the persecution level is so high if you are caught with the Word of God that you could face jail time and other things, not the least of which is beatings and death. This is happening in our world as we speak. And so sometimes it's just a sense that we don't have access to the Word of God, other times we've got complete access to the Word of God and we're just ignoring it, like in kind of Western civilization, right? There was a time in the life of the people of God in the Old Testament where they were without access to the Word of God for a period of time, and it's called captivity, right? So there were two of those. There was the captivity of Assyria that captured, you know, Israel and Judah, and then there was the Babylonian captivity after that. In Babylonian captivity, the people of God were kind of in that captivity for 70 years, and they really didn't have access to the Word of God. Some of the scribes and some of the teachers would have access, but they didn't have access at large. And they were in a foreign place, right? It's a really difficult time. And they've veered away from God. And really they got themselves into that predicament because they did have the Word of God, weren't acknowledging the Word of God, weren't obeying the Word of God, weren't respecting the Word of God, and God allowed for them to go into exile and into captivity. And while they were there, there was a man born during that Babylonian captivity named Zerubbabel. And Zerubbabel was the grandson of one of the kings of Judah, right; the second to last king of Judah, in fact. And Zerubbabel ended up getting permission to come back to, you know, Jerusalem and lay the foundation of a temple because the temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, which was Solomon's temple; and now Zerubbabel lays a new footprint. Now, the people that were there, the old men that were there, they're weeping because they remembered what Solomon's temple was like; and the young men that are there, they're also weeping because they're just glad that they've got a temple, because this is not gonna be near as beautiful and robust and glorious as Solomon's temple was. So, Zerubbabel starts that process. And a little bit later on, a man named Ezra gets permission to be able to come back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is in great disrepair, the walls are all torn down, they're trying to get the temple built. It's a mess, right? But Ezra gets an opportunity to be able to come back, and that's right around the neighborhood of about 458 or so BC. And then following Ezra in about 445, I'm sorry, AD, BC. It's BC. He's in the four 450s BC. And then following him a little bit later is Nehemiah in the 400s BC who makes his way back. And between Ezra and Nehemiah, they are helping to see the reformation of the people of God that are being released to come back to Jerusalem. Remember, Nehemiah built the wall around Jerusalem, right? And now the people of God in that circumstance, who'd been without access to the Word of God, are ready to be revived. And do you know what it was they were asking for? The Word of God. You'll find this in Nehemiah chapter number 8 if you wanna follow along. And what I'm going to do is, in quick fashion, I'm gonna outline Nehemiah 8 for us real quick to set a foundation for what I want to tell you about. But I want us to see what the Word of God says about this kind of revival of the Bible that happened in that day and age, okay? He's the first thing that I would offer to you. The first truth that I would offer to you from that passage is this: is that there was a request for the Word. Remember, I'm just gonna outline this really quickly in Nehemiah 8, you can follow along in your text of scripture. Here's what it says in verse one: "All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel." Did you notice that? It's the people that are requesting the teacher to bring the book. I wanna just remind you of something, Anybody who ever stands up here on a Sunday morning, you better have the posture that they better bring the book. If I happen to not be here in 10 years or 20 years, or one year from now, for whatever reason as God saw fit, if He takes me home to be with Him or whatever; whoever stands up here, you better have the requirement that they bring the book because this isn't about 10 life lessons from so-and-so, this isn't how to have a better Tuesday, this is about: What did God say? And let's understand what God has to say, right? So this is the beautiful thing. The people were requesting this, right? They requested the Word. But then there's the reading of the Word. The reading of the Word. Here's what it says following in verse number 2: "So on the first day of the seventh month..." That's important, here's why. First day of the seventh month was them trying to reestablish the pattern that had been broken from the Old Testament law because they were gonna reinstate the feast. So the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles were gonna come back into being, and that's why this first day of the seventh month was important. "And on it Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it allowed from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand." So the public reading of scripture was going to happen, listen to this, probably about a six-hour window where he was going to publicly be reading the scripture, publicly, for every man, and woman, and every kid who could understand. They were all invited to hear the public reading of scripture. Never underestimate the power of the public reading of scripture. I do it oftentimes. In my own personal devotional time, I will often read the scripture out loud to myself because, you know, sometimes what you need to do is you need to preach the gospel to your own soul. David did it, he talked to his own soul. "Why are you so downcast, my soul? Why so disquieted within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Lord and my God," that's what David said. Sometimes we just need to out loud communicate the truth to ourselves so we're hearing it and we're seeing it all at the same time. Give your senses every opportunity to respond to the good news of what God's Word says. Thirdly, they were respecting the Word. All right? And this is just me trekking through Nehemiah 8. They had a respect for the Word. Watch what the text says. "And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra the teacher of the law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zecharia and Meshullam." How did I do? Good, yeah, thanks. I practiced. "Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up." So what you see in that passage of scripture is that they were listening attentively. And you know what else they were doing? They stood for the reading of the Word for six hours. They stood in respect for the reading of the Word. Now you're going, "Are you gonna tell us we have to stand when you read the Word and you preach the entire time, and we have to stand for like 38 or 40 minutes?" Yep, from now on. No, I'm not gonna make you do that. Some are willing, but I'm not gonna make you do that. Jesus, actually, when He taught, He sat. And no one respected the Word more than Jesus. This is about our heart posture. This is about our respect for the Word, right? That's why when we come to the Word of God, we want to be able to respect that God has given us this. Then you see reverence for the God of the Word. Remember, I'm just outlining chapter 8 for us very quickly. Reverence for the God of the Word. Notice how the passage goes on in verse number 6: Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bow down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. As Ezra is communicating the reading of scripture over the people, Ezra also takes an opportunity to praise the God of the Word. And as he is praising the God of the Word, the people are shouting out, "May it be so! Amen! Amen!" And guess what happened to all the people. They got on their faces before God because it was He that they were worshiping. It was the God who provided the Word to His people that they were now on their face worshiping. Let me ask you something. Do you come to the Word that way? Do you come to the Word of God recognizing that the God of everything has given to us His Word and that now it is for the purpose of us being able to know Him and to worship Him with all that we are? There was a reverence for the God of the Word. But then there was a revealing of the Word. I know these all start with R, but I'm helping you remember, right? Revealing of the Word. Notice how it goes on to say, in verse number 7 and 8, "The Levites: Jeshua, Bani..." There's a bunch of 'em. You can go to the next one. "The Levites instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear..." Notice this. They made it clear and they gave them the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. Did you see that? They're making it clear and they're giving them the meaning. In other Words, what the Levites were doing, listen to this, is that they were translating the Word and interpreting the Word for the people. They were translating it because the Word was being read in Hebrew, and many of them in captivity had been speaking Aramaic. And those are kind of cousin languages, for sure, but they're not the same language, and so you sometimes miss things in translation. Sometimes you're too busy doing... You know, it's just not quite making sense. So there was a translation, but then there was an interpretation. And here's why this is important. Because understanding the Word is the point. We tell people all the time... I had a conversation with somebody last week and they were saying, "You know, what I really appreciate is that you guys don't dumb down the Word but you communicate in a way that we can all understand." And I said, "Yeah, here's how we say that around here. We like to put the cookies on the bottom shelf so we can all eat them." It's no good If you're looking at the top going, "Those cookies look awesome. I love those cookies," but you don't get to eat 'em, that makes no sense whatsoever. So if you walk away going, "Man, yeah, that message, boy, they said some really great things, man, That was really smart," or, "That was really insightful," but you can't eat 'em? The point is we don't read the Word of God just to understand, we read the Word of God to do what it says. This is a book that calls us to live like it calls us to live, not just to know things so that we're really, really impressive at a Sunday school party. That's not the point, right? Then there's the response to the Word. And the response to the Word is manifold. What we see here when the Word of God, when he brings the book and he reads it over the people of God, there are a number of different responses. Watch, I'll show them to you. The first one is there was weeping. They started crying, they started weeping. Here's what the text says: Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep," for all the people had been weeping as they listened to the Words of the Law. Why were they weeping? Well, there could have been a number of factors, right? Because they hadn't had access to the Word and they're hearing it, and maybe there's a great joy in being able to hear the Word of God. But my guess is, is because they were realizing how far they had gotten from the Word of God. Because what the Word of God has a tendency to do in our hearts and our lives when we get in front of it is it exposes our sin, it exposes those things, and so they were beginning to weep. But here's another response they had, joy. There was weeping and there was joy. Notice what the text goes on to say in verse number 10 through 12: Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength." The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve." Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. You see, there was gonna be a reestablishing of the feast. And they were now being called back to a time where God had said these things and Israel had gotten away from them, and now they are coming back to that time, and he's saying to them, "Be reminded of this, that the Word of God, what it will ring in our hearts is this, the joy of the Lord is our strength." You see, what the Word of God does is it pulls us into the presence of God. And the psalmist said, "In your presence is fullness of joy." Right? The joy of the Lord is our strength, that's in context with the Word of God having its effect on our lives. But what's another response that happened? Obedience. Obedience. They were being told certain things in the Word of God and now they were going to gladly respond to that, joyfully respond to that. Notice what the text says, again, in verse 13: On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month, and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: "Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees to make temporary shelters," as it is written. In other Words, the Jews were given, by God, a command for the Festival of Tabernacles. What was this? This was an opportunity for them to build temporary shelters and to live in them to remind them of God's faithfulness to them when they were in captivity in Egypt. And now that God had delivered them, this was an opportunity for them to remember that every single year so that they would not forget the Lord their God, they would not forget all that God had done. But they had fits and starts with that particular festival, and they had not been having it for quite some time. And now they chose obedience because they heard the Word of God and they obeyed what God said. But another response that they had was repentance. Beginning of chapter 9 says this: "On the 24th day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sack cloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite dissent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and they confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God." See, this involved repentance for them because now they're coming back to that revelation of sin where they had been walking in opposition to what God had designed for their very lives, and now they're coming back and they're repenting. Repentance is just a big Word that means... It's a military term, it's about face, it's 180 degrees. I'm going this way and I turn and I am now coming this way, this is what repentance means. It's a change of mind that leads to a change of action. And that's what was happening in their lives. They were repenting, they were confessing where they had failed to honor the Word of God, and they were laying that out before the Lord. That was a response to the Word of God. But there was a last response that we see pretty clearly, and that was commitment to God's ways. The reason that I know this is because when you read through chapter 10, when you get to the very last verse in that chapter, it says, "We will not neglect the house of our God." But they said a whole bunch of things before that, they said, "We're gonna honor the Sabbath. We're gonna not marry people who are not followers of Yahweh. We're gonna do all the things that you've commanded us." And all of chapter 10 basically is that. And then you know what they did? They signed a contract. They literally signed a contract. Ezra and Nehemiah, they saw it. They signed a contract with God and said, "We're going to commit to honoring Your ways." So, you see the response. And I've just outlined this very, very quickly so that you had a platform for what we're talking about. There are many ways that the Word of God brings a response, but I wanna just highlight one. I just wanna highlight one. I don't have time to highlight them all, but I wanna highlight one, and it's the verse that we read a few moments ago in verse number 10, where it says that Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord." Here's what he said: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Now, oftentimes we like to lift that verse out of its context and talk about, you know, our joy. But remember this, that verse is there because it's talking about the effect of the Word of God on the people. And they were weeping and he's saying, "No, no, no. I wanna remind you of something. This day is holy to the Lord." What God has revealed in His Word should bring great joy in our hearts. I didn't say, by the way, I didn't say circumstantial happiness. Just because you get into the Word of God does not mean all of your circumstances are gonna be glorious. We live in a broken world. We live in a world where people get hurt, people have bad things said about them, lies are told about them, people injure us in relationships. There are awful things that happen in the world that we live in because we live in a broken world full of broken people. There's no promise that that's... Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." We know that there's going to be trouble in the world that we live in. This is not a promise that if you get into the Word of God, that you will experience circumstantial happiness. This is a promise that when you get into the Word of God, you'll experience the joy of the Lord being your strength; His joy, which transcends our circumstance. And it doesn't necessarily mean outside of us we're just like happy-clappy all the time, it means that we have got a sense of God's presence that is strengthening us and we take great joy in it. You see, what God will do when the Word of God begins to operate on our lives is He'll revive joy in us.

- So many times, people, they lack this particular thing in their lives, joy, because they need to be revived by what God wants to do through His Word in our lives. The joy of the Lord is your strength, and that came about because of the revelation of the Word of God to the people of God. So let me ask this question. Why should we have so much joy in the Word of God? Why should we have so much joy in the Word of God? I'm gonna answer it relatively quickly, but I want you to stay with me here. And then I'm gonna tell you how we can respond to this, all right? Why should we have so much joy in the Word of God? Here's why. First, because God has given us His Word on paper. God has given us His Word on paper. This is a glorious thing for me to think about; but when Jesus was being tempted by the enemy, do you remember how Jesus responded when He is in the wilderness and the the tempter, Satan himself, comes to Jesus and says, "Turn these stones into bread." Listen to how Jesus responded in Matthew 4: Jesus answered, "It is written." Did you catch that? "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Jesus actually pointed to the written Word of God and put His trust and His faith and His comfort in the God who had given that Word in that moment. He said, "It is written: 'Man will not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' And I don't have to turn these stones into bread because I've got different food that God gives to me. I don't live on bread alone, I live from every word that comes from the mouth of God because God has written that for us." we should take great joy that God has given us His Word on paper, that God has preserved His Word through the course of time. Through the profits and the apostles, we have a true testimony of God's character and God's nature and the good news of Jesus. Do you know how many books that are written in history have been lost to history? Not this one. God has superintended this book. And this book has not been lost to history even though it is one of the largest spans in terms of a compilation of an entire book. And the beautiful thing about this book is that it's both a library and a single volume all at the same time because it's all testifying to the nature of who God is and what God has done in and through Jesus Christ. So our heart should be joyful like David's was. David says over and over in Psalm 119, "How I love Your Word!" That should be our heart because we find joy in being able to have access to the Word of God written on paper. So why should we be joyful? Because God's given us His Word on paper. He's also given us His Word in the Spirit. In fact, I want you to listen to how the apostle Paul refers to the Word of God in Ephesians 6: "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. And He takes the sword of the Spirit, not in order to do violence against us but to do violence against sin so that we now are shaped into the image of the Son of God. And then notice what Paul writes to Timothy, he says this, "All scripture is God-breathed." This is the only time this Greek word is used in the entirety of the New Testament. "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." You see, God has given us His Word on paper, but God animates His Word by His Spirit. It is the sort of the Spirit that will do violence against sin in our lives and expose sin in our lives so that it can be rid from our lives so that we're shaped more into the image of the Son of God. And He animates the Spirit... I'm sorry, He animates the written Word of God, not only when it was compiled but when we read it now. The Spirit of God animated the Word of God when it was written through the apostles and prophets, not dictating to them what they would write. The Spirit of God worked through the personality of the writers, but superintended that process such that it is without error. And now not only has the Spirit animated and superintended the process of the Word of God being written, but He animates it when we read it. You wanna talk about a reason to be joyful for the Word of God? God's given us His Word on paper, but God gives us His Word by the Spirit animating the Word of God for us as we read it, coming to life in us. "The Word of God is living and active," Hebrews says, "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing between soul and spirit," right? This is what the Word of God does in us. The Spirit of God animates the written Word of God to glorify the Son of God. Let me give you a third reason we should be really joyful. Because God has given us His Word in the flesh. He's given us His Word on paper, He's given us His Word in the Spirit, and He's given us His Word in the flesh. Listen to how the apostle John says this, John 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And verse 14 says... He says, "He was with God in the beginning." And then verse 14 starts, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." And do you know that when John wrote his apocalyptic vision that we call Revelation, he had a vision of Jesus who was going to be returning to not only deal with evil and sin, but to bring new creation? And do you remember in that vision what is stated about Him in Revelation 19? "Jesus is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God." "The Word has become flesh and made His dwelling among us." Now that word Word... Did you catch that? The word Word is the Greek term logos. That word means something to both Greeks and Jews, it means something to both of them. For the Jewish mind, when they think of the Word of God in the Old Testament, they think of God's revelation to them and God's will for them, that's what they think of. For the Greeks, when they would hear logos, because of the way that the philosophers and others used that term, they heard that term meaning the bridge that mediates the transcendent God and the material world, this is how they viewed that terminology of logos. So here we have Jesus, the one who is the bridge between the transcendent God and earthly flesh, the one who is 100% man and 100% God at exactly the same time, who is now the self-revelation of God, God in the flesh, God with skin on, who is communicating to the world who God is, what God is like, and what the Word lived should look like. This is the Son of God, God wrapping Himself in flesh and showing to us who He actually is. Isn't it amazing that when Jesus, God in the flesh, the Word made flesh, when He was here and tempted, He pointed to the Word? "It is written." But the Word screams back, "It is you!" The Word points to the Word and the Word points back to the Word because they are inseparable in their very nature. Jesus did not come... Listen, He did not come to abolish the Word, but He came to fulfill it, He said, and He is the perfect fulfillment of the Word of God. Written scripture leads us to a living relationship with Jesus Christ, that's what it does. But without written scripture animated by the Spirit, testifying to the Son of God who's come in the flesh, we can't know Him as we should without it. So how do we respond? Well, I'm gonna tell you. We begin by responding by not being a part of that 86% in our city who spend less than a day a week, if at all, in the Word of God. You need to have a plan to find joy in communion with God around His Word. My friends, my brothers, my sisters, it is not a chore, it is a delight; it is not homework, it is our sanctification. It's not an old revelation, it's a now Word to us, animated by the Spirit of God. The old Word is the new Word. This is what God does when we spend time with Him. And maybe we need... Maybe you go, "I don't know how to start, Jerry. I need a reading plan." Okay, we're gonna give you one. Like, when you leave, there's a table in the atrium, you get a reading plan; if you want one, pick it up. Now, here's the thing, it's not about the reading plan. If you're thinking that if you can check a box every single day about what you've read and you get through reading the Bible in a year that you've arrived, you've missed the whole point. The whole point is to know God, it's not to check a box, it's not to make you think that you're spiritual and that you've done something. The whole point of the Word is that this is a broker that gives us a true revelation of God and that God's Spirit will animate in our hearts to shape us more into the image of Christ, that we can now commune with God more as we're supposed to; that's what this is for. So it's not a checklist, it's not just a discipline. Disciplines are for something; disciplines aren't the thing, they are for a purpose. Like, track stars don't just practice, baseball players don't just take BP, they're doing those disciplines to be able to perform in the game. The point of the discipline is getting us to the end, and the end is Jesus, communion with Jesus. So maybe you've not started doing that and you want some help along that line, we'll help you. Maybe you're saying, "You know what, Jerry? I'm a little embarrassed, I'll be honest with you, I don't even have a Bible." We'll give you one right out there. We'll just give you one. "You mean free?" Free, we'll give you the Word, you take it home. I mean, when I read the Word, by the way, you can get it on your device, if you want to, you can just download the Word if that's easier for you. But I'll be honest with you: when I spend time with God, I don't do that on my device. Occasionally I do, it depends on where I am, but almost never. You know why? 'Cause I get interrupted. Notification, notification, this, that, whatever, you know? You get all that stuff, right? Or you go, "Oh look, I'm gonna watch that little squirrel video," you know, or whatever. Not where we wanna be. Do you know the only interruption that I get when I'm reading this is the Spirit's interruption of my own soul shaping me to be who Jesus called me to be? Those are the notifications we want. So I encourage you to think about that, just a side note. But spend time with God. You say, "I don't have a Bible." You don't have to be embarrassed by that, we'll get you one. But you need to spend time in the presence of God. But let me give you another way to apply this message. I began by asking you to imagine what you'd be willing to pay for a Bible. But then I changed the context and said, "What if that was you didn't have one in your language? What would you be willing to do then?" Do you know that we have a lot of people in the world who don't have access to the Word of God? And I will just tell you this, I really believe this was a God ordained moment. I already knew what I was gonna be preaching today, I already knew that, but a man who called me from Atlanta, Georgia, had no idea what I was going to be preaching. He's a friend of mine, he's actually a friend of this church. His name is Marty Benton and he actually was the one who introduced Pastor Al Cockrell to Pastor James Andrews, the founding pastor of this church, when Pastor Andrews was sick. And so Pastor Cockrell came because of Marty Benton making that connection. I followed Marty Benton at a church in Atlanta, he left a post that I inhabited at one point after that. This guy is just like wound up in my story. He calls me last week and says, "Jerry, I wanna tell you about what we're doing and I wanna see if it resonates with you." He is involved, with another very large organization, getting Bibles, smuggling Bibles into countries that I'm not going to say out loud for security purposes because we're streamed everywhere and they've asked me not to do that, but into the Persian speaking world. If you're wondering where I'm talking about, well, I'm preaching out of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was in a place called Susa before he came to Jerusalem; and if you look up where that is in modern day, there. But I'm not using the name, Persian speaking countries. What's happened in this country, specifically this one, is that a couple of decades ago they had 10,000 believers in that country, they have slightly over a million today. It's one of the fastest growing churches in the world. Of those million, 50% have a Bible, half of them do not, and they also need Bibles to be able to do evangelism and reach out. They're doing it at great cost and great expense to themselves. What literally happens is this gets in through a particular route and then people put backpacks on with Bibles and walk over mountains and get them to people. And some of us can't show up to church on a Sunday when it rains. We can't open our Bibles, and they will go through hell and high water to get 'em into the hands of people because they know the contents. So what I'm asking our church to do is to help 'em. Let's get the Word of God into their hands because they need Jesus. And without the written Word of God, how are they gonna understand a true testimony of who Jesus is? Some of them are having dreams and visions, and that's how they initially waking up to who Jesus is and they're trying to search out where I can find out about Him. This is happening all over, by the way, all over the Muslim world; it's happening all over the place. So how do you do that? Give and pray. If you give, and I'll show you how to do that in just a second, you're gonna get a little card that's gonna look like this. It's just gonna say Persian Bible Campaign. Obviously we're not showing this on our stream; but if you look closely, you can kind of see what part of the world we're talking about right behind there, okay? And here's about the average for a Bible, 10 bucks; that's what it costs. It's an average because some of the New Testaments that they're using for evangelism are less, some of the whole Bibles that they're using for believers are more. But that's a all-in number, what it takes to ship, get there, do everything, deliver, like, all of that. We wanna be able to do that. It is a massive initiative, and they are looking... And I'm not gonna say the number because, again, there's a security concern related to that, but it's a massive initiative to get Bibles into these places. And I would ask you to pray about how you can help do that. My wife and I are doing that. I would ask you to join us in that. I'm not even gonna tell you what we're shooting for. I'm just gonna let you surprise us by what God wants to do. You can give by the Church Center App; if you're used to giving that way, do it that way. There'll be a dropdown, I think, that you can get that'll say something about this campaign., you can do it that way. You say, "Well, I got cash." Okay, great. You can drop that off and put it in an envelope and write Bible on it, drop it off at the table that's out in the atrium, put it in any of the giving boxes that are out there, you can do any of that. You wanna write a check, great, in the memo line... Write it to The Chapel, but in the memo line put Bibles on it. And then we'll get all of that together and we'll send one thing to where this is gonna go. It's an opportunity for us. And I look at it as a God ordained opportunity. Marty had no idea. And I told him, I'm like, "Okay, man, I'm listening to the Spirit on this. God has orchestrated this, He knew what he was doing, He knew what I'd be preaching, you didn't, God did. We're gonna act in obedience because when the Spirit speaks, we just wanna do what He says, we just want to do what He says. So would you join me in that?" Now, could I ask you, if you're online, to join us in that as well? And whatever help we can be for you at that table, with a free Bible, with a reading plan; maybe you need to sign up for the days of prayer and fast and you haven't done that yet, do it, just do it. Join us. Whatever we can do to help, we want to. But maybe your need, maybe your need is to come into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus, and you've never before really done that. Well, when we dismiss in just a moment, I'm gonna pray for us. Down in front there's gonna be a handful of pastors and other prayer partners down here, we'd love to take a moment and pray with you. They'll even have some Bibles with them if you need one there, we'd be glad to put it in your hand. Father, thank You for the joy of the Word of God. Thank You that we have a reliable resource by your Spirit that testifies truly to You. Thank You for the gift of Your Son, the Word made flesh, who came and fulfilled the Word of God, who lived perfectly and sinlessly, who went to a cross to die for our sin because the Word of God had exposed that we are sinners and we could not save ourselves, but only the sinless sacrifice of the Son of God could do that through Your death and Your resurrection, satisfying the justice of God, so that by faith in You we could be made new. So Father, I pray You draw people to Yourself that You need to draw. I pray You would open up our hearts to be responsive to Your Word and obedience and even in our generosity so that we may be a part of blessing the nations as You desire. We trust You to do this among us now in Jesus' name. Amen.

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