“THE BABE’S USE OF THE WORD”
1. This morning my intention is to preach to new Christians, in a sermon that is titled “The Babe’s Use of The Word.” But before the sermon I want to speak to everyone for a few moments about the Word of God.
2. David’s 119th psalm is the longest chapter in the Bible. But Psalm 119 is not really a chapter. It is, in fact, an acrostic poem, with each section of the poem beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
3. When you read the 119th Psalm, keep in mind that David uses a variety of different words as synonyms for the Bible. In verse one he refers to “the law of the LORD.” In verse nine it is “thy word.” And on he goes, using such phrases as “thy statutes,” “thy commandments,” “thy judgments,” “thy testimonies.” But always, in this psalm, he is referring to God’s Word, what we call the Bible.
4. There is a marvelous relationship that exists between a real Christian and the Word of God, that I would like to mention as you make your way to Psalm 119.105.
5. Of course, we all know that Jesus, God’s eternal Son, Who died on Calvary’s cross for our sins, is the Savior of sinful souls. But God makes miraculous use of the Bible to convey to sinners the truth that Jesus saves. And by some means only perfectly understood by God, He uses the Bible to bring the sinner to Jesus. James 1.18 reads, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.”
6. So you can understand why it is that those who end up becoming Christians distinguish themselves among sinners by reading their Bibles. As well, you can understand why those who end up becoming real Christians have such an interest in reading, meditating upon, and studying their Bibles. Peter urged new Christians, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
7. So, not only does the Bible paint for us our only reliable picture of the Savior, but the Bible is used by God to save sinners and to spiritually nourish new Christians. No wonder, then, that real Christians are so dedicated to the preaching of God’s Word. No wonder, then, that real Christians are so dedicated to reading and studying God’s Word, memorizing God’s Word, hiding God’s Word in our hearts, and meditating upon God’s Word.
8. If you have found Psalm 119.105, please stand at this time to read our text: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
9. Let me set forth for you, in very simple terms, what the Bible is to be used for, in two parts:
1A. First, WE ARE TOLD BY DAVID THAT GOD’S WORD IS A LAMP TO OUR FEET
1B. Imagine yourself in a very dark place, because spiritual darkness is precisely what we find ourselves surrounded by. Apart from the Bible, people do not know where they are, what their orientation is, what their situation is.
2B. Of course, David’s imagery brings to mind a small pottery vessel into which would be poured a little olive oil. On the side would be placed a little cloth wick, which would draw oil from the small vessel to provide fuel for the flickering tiny flame that would illuminate the darkness.
3B. Of what use is such a lamp in a world of total darkness? Don’t you see? Such a lamp would be indispensable in the pitch blackness. Your safety would be utterly dependent upon that lamp’s flickering light. Without the light shed by that lamp you would have no idea where you stand, no concept of your orientation, no clue about your situation.
4B. Are you standing on the edge of a cliff? Are you precariously perched atop a dangerous outcropping? Are there pits and traps just inches from your feet in every direction? Or is it safe all around? Without the light from your lamp you simply would not know until it was too late and danger took you.
5B. That lamp is your Bible, God’s Word, also known to us as the Scriptures. The light that it sheds is spiritual illumination in a sin darkened world, a world with features that are not seen by the eyes, that cannot be perceived except by means of the discernment that results from the shining of this lamp which is God’s Word.
2A. Next, WE ARE TOLD BY DAVID THAT GOD’S WORD IS A LIGHT TO OUR PATH
1B. Why was the second half of this verse written by David? Because life cannot be fully illustrated by imagining someone standing some place that is either safe or dangerous, with a lamp being your only means of discovering the truth about your situation. Life is also understood to be a journey.
2B. Where are you going? Do you know? How do you propose to get to your destination from where you now find yourself? Do you have an idea? Is there a path, a bridge, a highway that leads from where you are to where you need to be?
3B. Thus, we have need for the Bible to be described in another way. The imagery we have here is of the light of the early morning sun or the light of a bright moonlit night. This is easy to understand in a culture of donkey drawn carts, no pavement or sidewalks, no gutters or sewers. The hazards of walking down a path that might have animal dung to step on, pot holes to step into, abrupt turns and rock outcroppings to cause one to stumble, were everywhere.
4B. Your life is a journey from conception and birth to death and eternity. Where do you want to end up? Will you just conjure up in your mind some imaginary place to go, or will you make use of an authoritative source of knowledge on the subject? And how will you get to where you need to arrive? Will you risk stepping into something, falling over something, taking a completely wrong turn like the convoy private Jessica Lynch was riding in over there in Iraq?
5B. My friends, the spiritual terrain we travel through every day is far more uncertain than anything Jessica Lynch was riding through. Far more people get sidetracked, take wrong turns, become disoriented, along life’s spiritual journey than has ever happened with any military. How important it is, then, to have the bright light of God’s Word to show you where to place your feet, to show you which turn to take, to show you where the dangerous foot falls are located.
1. Of course, if you do not expose yourself to Bible preaching, or to Bible teaching, and do not regularly read your Bible and pay attention to what you read, then you will not be reminded of where you stand, and you will not be able to see what you are about to step into or fall over. Neither will you have a clear idea which way to go to get to your desired destination.
2. So, the Christian uses the Bible as a source of spiritual illumination, much in the same way someone would use a lamp to give him an idea where he was standing, or would use the early morning light of dawn or the brightness of a full moon at night to pick his way along a dangerous path.
3. Brother Isenberger is going to come in just a moment to lead us in a song. After the song I am going to speak to you new Christians about some specific ways you should use the Bible. Let us stand as brother Isenberger comes.
1. Please turn in your Bible to Acts 8.30-31, where we see illustrated the spiritual understanding of an unconverted person: “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
2. But for the grace of God, that Ethiopian eunuch would not have been humble enough to know, much less admit, that he was spiritually blind. For you see, most sinners are not aware of their spiritual blindness, continue in their blindness, and are forever lost.
3. Why is this so? Depravity. Lost man is so affected by his sinfulness that he simply cannot grasp spiritual truth apart from God’s marvelous grace. In First Corinthians 2.14, Paul declares: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
4. But some sinners do get saved. Not many, but some, according to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am speaking, this morning, to some of the few sinners who have gotten saved from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ. God worked the miracle of the new birth and gave you life in Jesus Christ. For that we are profoundly grateful.
5. We have seen the ability of a lost person to read the Word of God and understand it. There is no such ability. But through His marvelous grace God brings a sinner to Christ and imparts to that new Christian, that babe in Christ, the precious Holy Spirit of God to indwell him.
6. From this point forward, once a person has become a disciple of Jesus Christ through saving faith, he is supposed to be baptized and then be taught to obey all things whatsoever Christ commanded. This is in accordance with the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 28.19-20.
7. Stated another way, this hopeful conversion, and the satisfactory testimony of conversion and demonstration of some persuasive evidence of the new life in Christ, the hopeful convert is then baptized and becomes a member of the Church.
8. So, here you are. You have run the gamut of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of your sins. You’ve come to faith in Christ. You’ve then persuaded your pastor and the congregation by your personal testimony of how you were converted, by your understanding of God’s dealings in the life of a sinner to bring him to faith in Christ, and you have provided some degree of lifestyle evidence that you are a Christian.
9. Once this happens my ministry toward you changes. From doing the work of an evangelist, my function alters to that of pastor-teacher, and my responsibility changes from working to get you saved to working to equip you and train you to serve God effectively.
10. But what happens to you once you have been hopefully converted, and have been baptized, and are now a faithful and functioning member of this Church? Now that you are fully inducted into the Christian life, what are you supposed to do? Do you just relax? Are you supposed to coast? No.
11. My friends, there are grave responsibilities that you are to fulfill once you have persuaded me that you are a Christian, once you have persuaded this congregation that you are a Christian, and once you have persuaded the lost people who know you that you are a Christian.
12. You are still a babe in Christ. You still do not know much. You are still sadly lacking in wisdom and experience. Therefore, there are three kinds of self-scrutiny that you need to be actively engaged in:
1A. First, YOUR CONVERSION MUST BE SUBJECT TO EVALUATION BY GOD’S WORD
1B. Okay. You have convinced your pastor that you are a Christian. That does not make you a real Christian. You have convinced a deacon in the Church that you are a real Christian. That does not make you a real Christian. Your unsaved friends at work and the lost members of your family now think you are a Christian. As nice as that is, that is still not real proof that you are a Christian.
2B. How long after their initial professions of faith, after their baptisms, and after they had become faithful and functioning members of the Corinthian congregation, did Paul advise the Corinthian members, in Second Corinthians 13.5, to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves”?
3B. Why should you continue to examine yourself to see whether ye be in the faith long after everyone else is convinced that you are converted? Because you may still not be truly converted. And because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, positively nothing, which is as important as the salvation as your eternal and undying soul.
4B. A man is a complete fool who buys into this modern day assurance of salvation nonsense that pretends to settle the matter so that the issue never needs to be visited again. The Bible does not support that crazy notion, and neither does common sense. Keep paying attention to your soul’s salvation even when everyone else is convinced you are already a Christian. And when you consider your conversion, compare your conversion to the testimony of God’s Word.
2A. Second, YOUR CONSCIENCE MUST BE SUBJECT TO EVALUATION BY GOD’S WORD
1B. Your conscience is a delicate thing, given to you by God to help keep you from sinning against Him as much as you otherwise would. But your conscience is not infallible and is subject to errors, so long as you do not constantly correct it with the Word of God.
2B. We find through the writings of the apostle Paul problems arising with the consciences of Christians. Sometimes a Christian’s conscience can be defiled. At other times, a weak conscience gives not only that Christian, but other Christians a great deal of trouble.
3B. Do you want to be a happy Christian? Then you will want to pay attention to keeping your conscience pure, and keeping your conscience good. And how can you do that? That is the subject of a whole series of messages. But the foundation to keeping your conscience good and pure is to make sure you are truly and genuinely converted to begin with.
4B. You see, First Peter 3.21 declares that baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. Thus, when a person’s conscience is in good shape for the first time in his life is when he has come to faith in Christ and had his sins washed away by the blood of Christ. Before conversion no one’s conscience is ever, truly, good.
5B. So, if your conscience gives you trouble, if your conscience afflicts you, if your conscience makes you feel guilty and in need of forgiveness, the place to begin in your search for a clear conscience is your so-called conversion experience. Only when your conversion experience has first been thoroughly scrutinized in the light of God’s Word do you dare move on to examining subsequent issues related to a defiled conscience.
3A. Third, YOUR COMFORT MUST BE SUBJECT TO EVALUATION BY GOD’S WORD
1B. What did you think you were letting yourself in for when you for the first time began to realize that you wanted to become a Christian? Did you think everything would be peaches and cream? Did you imagine the Christian life to always be happy and smiley? Did you give any thought at all to what the Christian life would be like?
2B. Do you realize that there will be times when your peace will be interrupted? Listen to the title of the 102nd Psalm: “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD.” That title tells you something, doesn’t it? It tells you that there will be rough spots.
3B. And what will you do when you have committed sin? Because of his sin, godly Moses lost the opportunity to enter the promised land. Because of his sin, Samson lost his eyesight. Because of his sin, David was told that the sword would never depart from his house.
4B. What will you do when you feel that your prayers are not answered, when it seems as though heaven is brass to you? In Psalm 77.4, David wrote, “I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.” What will you do when that happens to you, Christian? Will you give up? Will you quit? Will you stop going to Church? Will you stop serving God? Will you withhold your tithes and offerings? Will you go looking for a different Church? Will you go looking for a different pastor? . . . or a different spouse?
5B. Christians are subject to many different stresses, temptations, trials, and difficulties. Among those difficulties are times when it feels as though you are suffering more than you can bear, or that God has somehow withdrawn Himself from you, so that even though the Lord said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” it sometimes feels like you have been forsaken and left.
6B. What will you do then? Will you be demanding? Will you throw a tantrum? Will you sulk and pout? Will you fuss and fume for not getting your way? Will you selfishly make those around you suffer? Or will you see yourself as humble and undeserving of any of God’s mercies, and happy to get any consideration He grants you?
7B. Remember what Paul wrote, in Second Corinthians 1.3, 4, 8 and 9: “3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. . . 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”
8B. Take note that Paul recognized God as the God of all comfort, the God Who comforts those who are in trouble. Yet he also pointed out that when he felt he needed God’s comfort most that comfort was not forthcoming. That is, he so needed God’s comfort that he despaired of life itself, but God did not at that time comfort him. Why did God do that? So Paul would learn, verse 9, to not trust in himself, but in the God who raises the dead.
9B. Christian? There will be times when you feel that you need God’s comfort. There will be times when you desperately want comfort from God, and from God’s people. Yet, though God is the God of all comfort, what you want by way of comfort will not be given to you. When that happens, what will you do?
10B. Will you quit God? Will you quit the Church? Will you quit the faith? Will you pout and sulk and whine? Or will you evaluate your comfort, even your need of comfort, by the Word of God? Remember, you will decide now what you will be then. What do you now decide you will be then?
1. The Christian life is not for crybabies. The life of worship and service that God has called us to through faith in Christ is a life that requires much grace from God, a life that is described as a Christian warfare, and a life that necessitates each believer endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
2. God’s plan calls for Christians to bring most sinners to faith in Christ, primarily through the preaching of the Gospel. And in the beginning, baby Christians are to be led by the hand to take their first steps as Christians and to be trained how to serve God, again primarily through the preaching ministry of the pastor.
3. But there comes a point in time when you become somewhat less dependent upon the constant oversight of the pastor and are in need of following the directions of the Bible instead of being led by the hand all the time.
4. When that time comes you must step up and fulfill certain responsibilities for yourself. And these responsibilities can only be fulfilled by a person who feeds daily on God’s Word and prayer during private devotions, and who is faithful to gather with the saints at the appointed times for preaching and for service.
5. I have mentioned three of these today, your conversion, your conscience, and your comfort. Ultimately, these issues can only be finally settled privately between you and God. Real assurance of your own salvation, a really good conscience in the sight of God, and genuine comfort from the God of all comfort, are matters for which God has given to each believer his own priesthood.
6. So, make use of my evangelistic ministry to bring you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Persuade me that you are converted so that I will call for the congregation to authorize your baptism. Allow me to begin that lifelong process of equipping you for ministry, since every Christian will always need a pastor in God’s economy.
7. But then, somewhere along the way, as the spiritual maturity begins to come, you need to seriously address these issues of conversion, of conscience, and of comfort on your own. Of course, I am always available for answering questions, to function as a spiritual father in a sense, to provide spiritual oversight.
8. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace.”