Today’s Scripture:  “66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”  Psalm 119:66-67

Introduction:

With two messages to go after this one I’m no longer surprised by the fact that we’re once again back to Psalm 119.  I feel like this is going to be a really good message, and I also feel like we may be going on a side journey or two…but that’s all dependent upon the Holy Ghost.  I’m excited to see where the Holy Ghost leads us on this message titled:  “Following The Word”

Today’s Message:

The first point that’s jumping out at me before we even get into the scripture is the title of today’s message…Following The Word.  So…Why Read The Bible?  If you don’t then you are not a true follower of Christ.  Now, I know that you’re going to immediately ask me how I can say that…and the answer is the same as it always is.  If the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…that means the Word isn’t just some book, but it’s Jesus in book form.  Listen, I don’t know how many times we can read that verse…and just so you don’t think I’m making this up here is the verse that I constantly refer to here:  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14 (KJV)

Listen, The Word became flesh.  So, whenever you hold the Bible in your hands you are holding Jesus in book-form.  How’s that for awesome, and maybe eye-opening for some of you.  One of the main reasons to read the Bible than is because of this reason here:  If Christians are “followers” of Christ…how in the world can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t read your Bible?  The most simplistic of points and reasons for reading the Bible is because the Bible is Jesus in book-form.  Maybe if more people thought about the Bible that way they would be more interested in reading it on a more regular basis.

By the way…this here is for those of you who think that I made up the statistics about Christians and there Bibles.  This is from Dr. James Merritt of Cross Point Church.   This was actually a tweet from him that I read this morning.  “Even though 93% of Americans own a Bible, 50% never read it, including 23% of all followers of Christ.”

23% of all “followers of Christ” never read the Bible.  That means only 27% of the 50% who do read the Bible are actually really followers of Christ.  That’s astonishing to me that 23% of Christians call themselves followers of Christ, and they don’t even do the most basic thing…the don’t even read the Bible they own…and most Christian homes have several Bibles in them.  I know that I own 3 Bibles, I have the YouVersion Bible App on my computer and my phone, and I have the E-Sword Bible software available on my computer as well.

How in the world can you claim to be a follower of Christ…and not read the Bible is beyond me.  It’s beyond my ability to comprehend.  Now I didn’t say that they aren’t believers…but they most certainly are not followers.

Here’s the Holy Ghost right here ready:  “IF YOU DON’T READ THE WORD OF GOD ON A REGULAR BASIS YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BLAME GOD FOR THE FACT THAT THERE’S NO POWER IN YOUR LIFE.  THE POWER FOR YOUR LIFE IS IN THE WORD OF GOD.  NO WORD OF GOD = NO POWER.  THE ONLY WAY TO GET THE POWER OF GOD IN YOUR LIFE IS TO HAVE THE WORD OF GOD AS A PRIORITY IN YOUR LIFE.  I CAN’T MOVE IN YOUR LIFE APART FROM THE WORD OF GOD.  NO WORD OF GOD = NO HOLY GHOST.  NO HOLY GHOST + NO WORD OF GOD = NO POWER.”

Come on people…I don’t even for the life of me understand why we had to take 32 days to talk about why we should be reading our Bibles…and when I say reading our Bibles I mean study them.  I mean really getting into studying the Bible.  Doing like Paul writes and study to show ourselves approved, and searching the scriptures daily.  Doing things like meditating upon this book of the law day and night…and making daily Bible study and reading a part of our lives.

Here’s a truth.  I love what the Lord just said there because you hear Christians all the time talking about how God hasn’t moved in their lives in a long…long time.  You know why?  I’ll bet you it’s because you haven’t seriously sat down to read and study your Bible in a long…long time.

Listen to me here…this is personal honesty right here…ready:   I can look you square in the eye and tell you that the times when God was dormant in my life were the times that I wasn’t reading His Word on a regular basis…the reverse of that is true.  The times when God moved the most in my life were the times…like now…where I am making the Word of God the priority in my life.  When I’m reading the Word, hearing the Word, and responding to the Word of God…God moves.  I don’t know how many times I have to say this…but I’m getting ready to say it again…the Holy Ghost cannot move in my life without the Word of God.  I can pray until I am blue in the face, and until hours and hours have passed, but the Holy Ghost isn’t obligated to do anything according to my words…He is only obligated to respond to God’s Words.

That’s for someone right there.  If you would spend more time praying God’s Words than your own then the Holy Ghost would respond.  The Holy Ghost is under no obligation to respond to our words, but to the Word of God.  When we speak and pray the Word of God…that’s when the Holy Spirit can move and respond.

Well…we’ve gotten all this in just from the title of the message.  How about that?  I told y’all that I was feeling like this was going to be a good message.  Point one of today’s message is really quite simple…if I am not studying my Bible on a daily basis I’m not a follower I am just a believer.  Followers of Christ…well…they follow Christ…and they do that by constantly being in His Word…because the Word of God is Jesus in book-form.

The second point I’m sensing the need to get into and this is going to be one of the side journeys is this thing about judgment.  David writes:  “Teach me good judgment”.  I can almost guarantee you that when He sought the Lord for “good judgment” he wasn’t seeking the ability to judge people, but good judgment for the course and things in his life.  You know, one of the biggest pet peeves or points of irritation in my heart towards the body of Christ is their willingness to judge someone else’s life.  Listen, the only thing Jesus gave us the right to judge people by was the fruit of their lives, and the love that they have for one another.  Yet, we see the body of Christ judge people for being enslaved to certain sins, for having a divorce, and for drinking beer.

Can I tell you that the body of Christ has more to hurt me by their judgmental attitude than the world has?  I have been judged time and time again because of what the religious people believe is right, and what they think a Christian ought to look like.  I have been divorce and re-married.  I’m sure there are people who judge me because of that.  I have a daughter of whom I barely have ever had contact with, and am behind on my child support payments…and I know of people who judge me for that.  I still drink beer…and I know people judge me for that.  I am not licensed or ordained as a pastor…and I know I’m judged for that.

Can I tell you what God says about all that? “Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released.”  Luke 6:37 (AMP)

I realize that not everything I do in my life is the perfect will of God.  I also realize that not everything I choose to do in my life is God’s best for me.  However, I am perfectly secure in my relationship with God because I know what God has spoken to me, and I also know what God allows and what He doesn’t allow in my life.  I have had people tell me that I’m deceived, but the truth is…I know my Master’s voice, and I know that there are certain things that He’s allowing me to do because they have a purpose in my life.  I know that I’ve gone through certain things in my life so that I can relate to others.  But the biggest thing that I know is that I am forgiven and loved…and one day I am going to stand before God…and be told “Well done.”.  That’s the only thing that matters to me.

You can point your finger, look down your nose, and if you choose not to follow me or my ministry for any reason then that’s fine with me.  The Lord gave this to me one day…and I’m not sure who this is for, but it’s been brought back to my remembrance…so I’m going to add it here:  “ Don’t judge something you don’t understand…when you stand in judgment of God’s call upon someone…you think you know better than Him.”

So, good judgment, friends, isn’t about having good judgment about other people…but having good judgment for our own lives.  Listen, I have a very simply philosophy about being judgmental of other people…it’s not my job.  Even as a pastor it’s not my job to judge someone’s life.  Yes, I can look at things people are doing in their lives and know that it’s not God’s best for them.  However, there isn’t one single solitary sin that Jesus didn’t die on the Cross for.  There isn’t one sin that isn’t covered and washed away by the Blood of the Lamb.  So, who am I to stand in judgment of anyone for anything when my life is just as full of filthy rags as anyone else’s?  Who am I to look at the plank in someone else’s eye when I have a huge log in my own?

Yes, I can suggest and encourage people not to do certain things, but I don’t judge people’s lives because it really isn’t my job.  It’s my job to serve the Word of God.  That’s it.  I’m not here to point fingers at someone’s life because the truth is that person could point their finger right back at mine…and in some cases the things I’ve done in my life are worse than the things they have done…so I really have no right to judge anyone’s life.   Jesus is very clear about being judgmental. Don’t believe me…let Him say it to you Himself: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 (KJV).

I really believe that when Jesus was standing there with all those who brought that woman who was caught in adultery that when Jesus started writing in the sand…He was writing down the sins of those that were in the crowd with stones in their hands.  One by one they put down their stones, and the only one who had legal and every right to stone the woman was left…and that was Jesus.  He didn’t condemn her, He didn’t judge her, but He forgave her right then and there sending her on her way.  Do we do that?  No…we stone people knowing that we have sin in our own lives that God is dealing with us on.

You know what?  I believe part of the reason people are so willing to look at someone else’s life and judge their lives is because it makes them feel better.  They use phrases like…”I can believe they can call themselves a Christian and do ________.”  Well, my friend.  I can guarantee you that someone is looking at you and your life and thinking the same thing.  So…remember that whatever judgment you give out…that same judgment is being used against you…not only by that person…but by God Himself.

I don’t know about you…but knowing that God is going to judge me the same way I judge someone else helps keep me from judging anyone.  I know that I am alive and well today because of the grace and mercy of God.  I know that I’ve saved, sanctified and redeemed…and going to Heaven.  Not because of anything other than the grace and mercy of God.  I also know that I’ve done worse things in my life than others…so I have no room or right to judge anyone’s life…but my own.  Would you like to know where that is in the Bible?  “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”  1 Corinthians 11:31 (KJV)

Finally, the last point in this message is found here.  “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”  Anyone else other than me ever been here?  Before I was afflicted I went astray.  I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has ever gone astray from the Lord…am I?  Which leads me back to talking about being judgmental for just a second…we all are like sheep who have gone astray.  All of us were prodigal sons and daughters at one point in our lives.  Remember that when you look at others, and are tempted to judge them for what they do or don’t do.  What is it that you do or don’t do that someone else can judge you for?

“But now, I have kept thy Word.”.  There’s a direct connection to going astray and not keeping the Word of God.  Remember how the other day that there was a question on Facebook posted about the number one issue facing the body of Christ today, and all these people responded with all kinds of different reasons and issues.  Do you know why there are so many reasons and issues…they have not kept the Word of God…and do you know why they haven’t kept the Word of God?  Because 23% of Christians never even read it.

Can I suggest to you that 27% of Christians reading their Bibles isn’t a very good percentage?  Come on, 93% of Americans have at least 1 Bible in their homes…out of that 93% that own Bibles 50% of them never read it, and 23% of the 50% who never read the Bible they have in their homes…are Christians.  That leaves 27% of all Christians in America who own a Bible read it.  Which brings me back to the stats in the very first message where it was discovered out of 2,000 people surveyed 12% read their Bibles on a daily basis…leaving 88% that barely or hardly or never read it at all.

I got some flack for that.  I even had some people question those numbers.  I’m not the only one who has them.  Dr. James Merritt has no idea who I am other than the fact that I follow him on Twitter.  I am sure he has no idea I’m writing this series, and had no idea the statistics I had written in our very first message…but his numbers and the numbers I have are about the same…and the whole point of this is that when you think about the fact that 12% of the 27% who own a Bible read and study it on a daily basis…then you get a really good picture and understanding especially after we’ve been doing this series why the church as a whole has gone a stray…and why the church is so afflicted by so many issues.

Which brings me back to what I’ve been saying throughout this entire series.  If you want to fix the issues the church is afflicted with…then get the Word of God back into the pulpits of America.  Stop preaching from so and so’s latest book…and start “preaching the Word of God.”.

The implication of what David is writing here when he says:   “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept thy Word.” is that once David began to keep the Word of God…than those things that he was afflicted by that led him astray…no longer afflicted him…and no longer lead him astray.  So,  when you put that verse into our lives then it’s possible that we can limit the things that lead us astray by increasing our intake and study of the Word of God…and on a corporate body of Christ level…we can eliminate the things that have led the body of Christ astray by returning the Word of God to the pulpit instead of preaching “The Purpose Filled Life”.

Here’s some personal honesty here from me on this point.  The things that so easily beset me no longer easily beset me now that I’ve been writing these messages because they make me have to be in the Word of God on a daily basis.  The more I am in the Word of God on a daily basis the less the things that held me astray are able to keep me astray because the Word of God is working to remove those things from me and my life.

I’m going to close this message by saying that the way that the things that so easily used to beset me aren’t being removed from my life because of people who stand in judgment pointing a finger at me who wonder how I can call myself a Christian and a pastor…and do those things…but by the Word of God confronting me with the issues and things that have me afflicted…and it’s then as the Word of God shine it’s light upon those things that I can take them to the Lord…and seek His help in overcoming them.

You see…judging someone’s life isn’t going to help them, but hurt them…and we all know what Jesus warned when it came to hurting His little ones.  So…instead of thinking that good judgment involves you being better able to judge what someone else is doing…that’s not what good judgment is for…it’s about being better able to judge what’s going on in your own life…so that you can bring the things that have you afflicted can be brought to the Lord so that by His mercy, grace, and Word…you can overcome.

We overcome how?  By the Blood of the Lamb…and the Word of our testimony.  Stop judging…it’s not your job…Amen!?!

Points for Pondering:

66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Psalm 119:66-67

  1. What makes the Psalmist follow God’s Word?
  2. Have you ever felt like God was disciplining you?  When?

Conclusion & Prayer:

So, we covered three points in today’s message “Following The Word”.  I think the point I liked the most was the one we made in the beginning.  I believe that you can be a believer without reading and studying the Word of God on a daily basis, but I don’t believe that you can be a follower of Christ without reading and studying the Word of God on a daily basis.

So…I guess there is a third question for you to consider:  Are you a believer or a follower?

Lord, I know what I want my answer to be.  I want to be a follower which means I have to be rooted and grounded in Your Word.  I think You, Lord for the many afflictions that You have delivered me from through the study and walking out of Your Word.  I pray that Your Word would continue to shine it’s light upon areas and afflictions that beset me so that I can one day like David be able to say “But now, I keep thy Word.”.  I pray for those who are reading this message that You would do the same in their lives, and help them to develop and maintain more of a passion and fire for Your Word…and deliver them of their afflictions as they have more of Your Word shine it’s light upon their lives.  Help us, Lord, to not judge others lives, but to pray for them instead…and love them.  Forgive us for being finger pointers, and judging others lives when we have so many things that we should be judging in our own.  Teach us, like David writes good judgment…and help us, Lord to know that doesn’t mean good judgment of others lives, but our own.  Most of all, Lord…help us to really come to the understanding that Your Word is Jesus in book-form.  Maybe if we understood and looked at the Bible that way instead of being just another book…it might stir something in us to be more diligent to spend time in Your Word knowing that when we read and follow Your Word…then we’re following Christ.  We love You Lord, and ask these things in Jesus’ name…Amen & Amen