“Do not call conspiracy [or hard or holy] all that this people will call conspiracy [or hard or holy]; neither be in fear of what they fear, nor [make others afraid] and in dread.” (Isaiah 8:12, AMPC)
“Well, Father, I am not sure what the first part of this verse means but you are surely telling me that my fear can make others fear.”
Midmorning traffic was light as I drove down Manchaca, past the high school, the community college, and the string of small businesses, repeating my current Bible verse. At the light, I glanced at the next phrase on the printed page spread on the passenger seat, next to my purse.
“The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor his Holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety].”
As I made the left turn onto Jones, a little side street lined with homes, conviction came so strong I almost pulled into a driveway to stop and think.
“Oh, forgive me, Father! I see that I dishonor You when I do not depend on You alone as my only hope of safety. Oh, forgive me, Lord!”
I sped up along the entrance ramp and then the slow, arcing single-lane turn, ignoring the unsettling feeling of being suspended in midair. Although focused on driving, part of my mind repeated “The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor his Holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety.” All the while, a familiar undercurrent of gratitude flowed along at a semiconscious level, gratitude for the path the Good Shepherd had led me to follow.
“Thank You, Lord, for all the times the boys and I drove along this road on our way to the gym back when they were preschool. Thank You that diligent Bible study and meditation in my areas of need healed the depression and fear when nothing else worked. Thank You, Father, for the thirst You have given for Your Word! What an unspeakable gift!”
A personal message of deep love and concern. Friend, this piece of writing came about, with a strong awareness of God’s presence. It interrupted work on another subject. I do not, of course, claim to hear God’s voice perfectly, but I do know when I feel His presence especially strong, as I did when writing this. I plead with you to receive these words in the spirit in which they are written– keenly aware of my own weaknesses and with deep love and concern for your spiritual welfare and your life eternal. So, I ask you today. . .
- What are you doing with the Word?
- Are you planted in a desert?
- Are you planted in a fertile area?
- Do you have deep roots? Any?
- Do your roots seek a cistern or the Source Himself?
- Do you know about two more dangers?
- Do you hear “The full counsel of God”?
- Do you do personalized study for personal needs?
- God wants to teach you personally
- Only God knows my heart and what my heart needs
- A personal regret
What are you doing with the Word? Are you purposefully studying the Word, diligently, and in your areas of personal need? Are you purposefully meditating on the Word you find each day, all day? If so, press on! But if diligent Bible study and diligent, purposeful meditation are not part of your daily routine or if your Bible study consists only of trying to absorb Truth others have mined, I beg you, consider – where is the tree of your heart planted?
Are you planted in a desert? Are you planted in the desert of rebellion and disobedience regarding God’s command to “study and show yourself approved to God?” (2 Timothy 2:15)? Do you consider personal, serious Bible study and meditation unnecessary? While listening to preaching and teaching, do you play with your phone? Do you think about the week ahead? If so, if you seldom study or even read the Word for yourself and if you do not pay close attention to what preaching and teaching you do hear, then you rarely get rain and your heart is shriveling as is your soul although you do not perceive it.
You remain spiritually alive only by His grace, and, like a cactus, your trifling bit of life-sustaining moisture is hoarded deep inside, with thorns blocking the way of any fellow parched soul seeking sustenance. You bear no good fruit and provide no shade under which weary ones may rest. You are in grave danger.
Are you planted in a fertile area? You say, “No! I am like a tree planted where it receives abundant rain. I regularly study my Bible and gather with others for preaching and teaching. I eagerly stretch out my branches and let the rain revive my leaves and, thus, I am watered abundantly. My roots bring water to my soul and I bear good fruit.”
Ahh! That is well and good and you may be a fruit-producing tree but receiving life-giving water through leaves and shallow roots drawing on pooled rain water is a “backward sort of way for a tree to absorb water . . . At least 70 different species of trees in seven different ecosystems have been identified as using a back to front water transport mechanism like this. This is most common in rainforests where mist forms near the treetops, making an environment suitable for this type of water consumption.” (www.wildlifeinformer.com)
Friend, are you getting your spiritual nourishment—like trees feeding on the moisture in the treetops–only from the rain and from the atmosphere created by other believers as you discuss the Word that has been fed to you?
Do you have deep roots? Any? God obviously intends for us to be instructed. Every tree does indeed get some of its necessary moisture from rain and from close proximity to fellow believers as well as via shallow roots drawing on rainwater held in the ground. However, God also intends for every believer to diligently study the Word individually and to meditate on His Word continually. It is not God’s plan for believers to be watered with the Word only by what they hear from others, no matter how sound. What happens during drought, when water from rain fails?
Friend, I must ask: Do you have deep roots? Any at all? Do you take time regularly and consistently (not perfectly, but consistently) for diligent Bible study and diligent meditation? Or is your sustenance only from that treetop mist and shallow soil soaked with rainwater?
With love, I must ask again: Do you have any deep roots? Think about it. What if your source of water, of God’s truth, is now tainted or becomes tainted? God wants you to fully, from the heart, obey Scripture and become like a tree “planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1), so that you will be continually watered not only from others but from below, from the unseen depths of the Spirit directly. God wants you to have deep roots. And He wants your roots to connect to the spring, the Source Himself, of Living Water.
Do your roots seek a cistern or The Source Himself? Spiritual roots must not only burrow deeply into the soil but they must burrow in the right location. Otherwise, you will draw from a source that, like rain, is secondary to the True Source.
What do I mean? You may be drawing from a cistern. A cistern is an underground reservoir to hold rain. You may get good water, from sound teaching and your own diligent study and meditation upon about what you have heard, but you still are not getting water from the Source Himself. Why?
Roots grow toward water. If a tree, even a deeply-rooted tree, is planted far from a river, its roots will grow toward and inevitably draw from secondary underground sources, like cisterns or ground water.
If I establish myself, if I plant myself, in the habit of getting all my spiritual water from the teaching and preaching of others, I am planting myself above a cistern or a water table. Even though my roots do go deep, if my mind is open only to what I have been taught—all my roots reach sideways, into that cistern or groundwater, into that reservoir of the teaching of others. I will not hear from God through His Word directly. Friend, every human, no matter how holy, is but a “broken cistern” (Jeremiah 2:13). God wants us to hear from Him directly.
Unless I am planted close to the water so that my roots connect directly to the underground water that is part of the river itself, the Living Water cannot do His full work in me. The Living Word cannot uncloak truth as I study new Scriptures and He cannot reveal new depths of familiar Scriptures. He is limited to the interpretation of the person who taught me.
Suppose someone taught me that one has to be baptized in water to be saved. When I read that Jesus told the thief on the cross “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43, KJV)”, I will not perceive that this verse shows water baptism is not mandatory for salvation. If someone teaches me that the gifts of the Spirit demonstrated in the New Testament are not for today, I will read with that veil over my eyes.
Suppose my pastor only preaches Romans 13:1 (“be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established”). Study Romans 13:1-6 for yourself, and you will see God is saying obey rulers who do right, not wicked rulers. Was it right for God’s people to worship King Nebuchadnezzar when they were commanded to do so? No! And what did the apostles say when the governing authorities commanded them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus? The apostles said “We must obey God rather than men!” (Romans 5:29b)
Further, we are not to say silent in the midst of evil, as so very many are doing today. Proverbs 25:26 is clear. “Like a muddied fountain and a polluted spring is a righteous man who yields and compromises his integrity before the wicked.” (AMPC)
Blinders? A horse with blinders walks where he is allowed to see, blind to all things except what is right in front of his eyes, which is what his master has chosen for him to see. This was the sin that kept most of Israel from perceiving Messiah for Who He was and is and will ever be—God Himself. They believed someone else’s teaching, were blinded to all else, and rejected the teaching of the Living Word Himself.
In Matthew 23, Jesus called the teachers of the law and Pharisees, “hypocrites, blind guides, snakes and a brood of vipers”. Jesus told them:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13-14, NIV)
Jesus was addressing teachers of the law and Pharisees who were blocking the way to salvation. Why were they doing that? They were enslaved, controlled, by their own fleshly lust for power and wealth.
Beloved, today’s pastors and teachers are made of the same flesh as those teachers and Pharisees more two thousand years ago.
I am not saying the pastors or teachers you hear are teaching you lies or using you or purposefully leading you away from Truth, but I must ask: if you do not search the Word yourself, how will you tell? A child accepts whatever his parents tell him because he trusts his parents. Who does God tell you to trust, Him and His Word or those who claim to know His Word?
Again, I must ask, is it not possible that, though they have good intentions, some pastors and teachers are not connected with the Source of Truth and so are speaking only revised versions of what they themselves have been taught? Is it not possible that their own blindness and pre-judged interpretations cause them to err and, thus, lead you into error?
Suppose one is following another down the road and they both fall into a ditch. The leader says, “Oh, we are fine right here. This is the best place for us. No, no, don’t try to climb out. I know best.“ If the follower believes what the leader says, both will remain cold, wet, and miserable, mere inches away from the bright, warm, sunlit path God prepared for them.
Besides that dangerous kind of pastor and teacher, sadly, many so-called Christians today use and abuse God’s people and serve Satan just as much as the teachers of the law and Pharisees.
I beg you: let God open your eyes. Let Him teach you from the Word directly, not through the filter of anyone else’s understanding.
Two more grave dangers. As stated, if all I hear an know of the Word comes through someone else’s interpretation, I am planted above a cistern. Holy Spirit will not be able to show me fresh understanding of familiar Scriptures nd will be unable to open unfamiliar Scriptures.
Besides those grave dangers, (1) I will not hear the full counsel of God and (2) God will be unable to fully cleanse my heart of sin, bring full healing, and bring me to full maturity. Why? Let’s look first at the matter of hearing the full counsel of God.
“The full counsel of God, Acts 20:27”. There are many kinds of sin. We are ignorant of most of them until we learn God’s laws and He personally teaches us how His laws apply to our individual lives.
Most preaching and teaching in the United States today focuses on self-improvement and other humanistic self-centered themes. Most preaching and teaching does not call sin sin. Think. When was the last time you heard a sermon on sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, jealousy, or lying? These sins are so obvious that even most unbelievers know Christians are not to do such things, but how often do you hear preaching on these sins?
Even rarer are sermons and teaching against filthy language, immodesty, self-centeredness, the consequences of neglecting the Word, the need for holiness and our responsibility as believers to shine into the darkness of our current wicked culture and to fight for the Kingdom and our freedom.
God has called us ALL to live “upright and godly lives” in this current dark world. But if we do not hear preaching or teaching against sin—in all its forms—and if we fail to diligently study and meditate on the Word for ourselves, letting Holy Spirit speak to us personally, how will we live holy lives? How will we be changed from glory to glory? How will we gain a renewed mind? How will we conquer “the world, the flesh and the devil?” How will we hear God explain, through Biblical principles, what is happening in our world and what we must do about it?
Do you want to merely wipe the outside of the dish or do you want to clean the inside as well? (Matthew 23:25) The Great Physician has filled the Bible with His prescriptions for “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3)—right living in each aspect of human life. God has called us ALL to be holy because He is holy.
(14) [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].
(15) But as the One who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.
(16) For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. (I Peter 1:14-16, AMPC)
Part of holiness is maturity. In many places and with persuasive words, God urges us to press on to maturity, in verses like 2 Peter 1:5-11, Hebrews 6:1 and Colossians 2:6-8, to name a few. We can only do that if we hear what He says about each aspect of life—His full counsel.
Do you do personalized study for your personal needs? Finally, fellow sojourner, unless I seek unfiltered, fresh truth directly from the Word, through the teaching of Holy Spirit, for my particular needs, I remain—unknowingly—vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. I remain enslaved by (and reaping the consequences of) sin and iniquity concealed from my own awareness. And this can be in spite of decades of following God. (I stumbled at that point for many years)
Merely listening to teaching from others is like blindly grabbing a shirt from a huge rack holding every possible size. My need will be met only marginally and possibly not at all. Letting God teach me is like having the world’s best tailor make a garment for me.
God wants to teach us personally. Pressing on to maturity—until Christ is fully formed in us–is essential for every believer and possible only by the Living Word of God. Our loving God longs to speak to you personally, through His Holy Spirit opening His Word to you, about your personal troubles, like fear, temper, depression, or addiction. He wants to give you victory over every “trouble, trial, distress and frustration” (John 16:33). God invites us to reason together with Him, and to let Him cleanse every crimson stain of sin until we are white as wool (Isaiah 1:18). Holy Spirit longs to study the Word with you. If you seek Him, He will be as clear as if you were studying with a human friend.
Only God knows my heart and what my heart needs. Pastors and teachers do not know my heart. Neither do I–because “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
It is part of human nature to conceal sin. Consequently, so very much of our sins and iniquities are hidden. Thus the psalmist cried: “Who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” Psalm 19:12, NIV). God does use sound preaching and teaching to convict us of much sin—glory to God!!—but most of every iceberg is hidden.
You have never and never will hear a pastor or teacher tell you the precise occasion when you committed adultery as you allowed lustful thoughts, like birds, to build a nest in your hair. But God knows and His Word will convict you of that.
You have never and will never hear a pastor or teacher tell you that you are holding resentment and unforgiveness toward someone from 25 years ago – but God’s Word will.
Despite nearly four decades of weekly preaching I never heard a pastor explain how lies I believed about myself and God had created depression. But studying and meditating on the Word exposed those lies and replaced them with Truth, which set me free indeed. (John 8:31-21)
Sometimes prophets do bring God’s conviction to individuals, as Nathan did for David, but for most, God convicts us of our sins and iniquities through teaching and preaching AND personal study and meditation of His Word.
God says “I search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10). In that same passage, in verse 13, God sternly warns us through Jeremiah who said,
“Lord, You are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame; Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” (NIV, emphasis added)
Only washing with the Word, from the inside out, will reveal and cleanse hidden sin. Only washing with the Word, from the inside out, will bring living water to hidden areas of weakness and needed growth, transforming dust into malleable clay, useful for the Potter. Only truth can expose and destroy lies and tear down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Only the Word can shine light in caverns in your soul where, despite your best efforts, darkness yet reigns.
God longs for us to be healed and whole and living in peace as we labor, joyfully, in our work with Him. And He has made the way. That way is through the cross, the way of letting God’s Living Word crucify your flesh and then wash you and keep you clean.
A personal regret. With deep regret I confess that I did not truly study and meditate diligently—and in my individual areas of need—until two years of deep depression forced me to. Then I began studying passages phrase by phrase, slowly, carefully and digging deep to see the complete thought God was expressing. Often that involved the entire chapter as well as chapters before and after. And, finally, because God had put me in a dessert and I was desperately thirsty, I not only studied diligently but I also meditated diligently. I thought all day about truths God had revealed, repeating those passages and verses until I “accidentally” memorized them.
Only diligent Bible study and diligent meditation healed the depression and fear. Why? Because although I was outwardly obeying everything I knew about God and every command I heard and (thought I) had studied, the enemy’s lies living in my heart kept me in bondage to hidden sin, sins like doubting God’s faithfulness, His power for my life and His good intentions toward and promises to me.
Until I dedicated time and energy—and all my heart–to letting God teach me personally from the Word regarding my personal sins and weaknesses, until I then meditated on truth He revealed, until those truths renewed my mind, many areas of healing and needed growth remained hidden. So did many sins of which I was unaware – because I had heard no preaching or teaching about them even though I had pursued God with all my heart for nearly four decades.
Praise God that through diligent Bible study and meditation, Holy Spirit used the Living Water of the Word to reveal the precise portions of Truth I needed. Some need to have God’s truth flow in their hearts regarding a temper or lust or whatever. But I needed to have certain of God’s truths imprinted on my heart, the truths hat God loves me just as I am, that He truly will take care of all my needs, and that when I perceive His presence, His peace and love always drives out all loneliness and fear. I had heard those things but until I personally searched out Scriptures then studied and meditated upon them, letting the Living Word show me—or judge—which of my thoughts and intentions were true and which were false–I remained in darkness.
Let’s review. In Part One, we have seen some conditions regarding the Word in which believers may be trapped. Believers, even with good intentions, may be:
- Planted in a dessert – Not paying attention to the Word they hear and doing no personal study.
- Planted in a fertile area – Paying attention to the Word and doing some personal study but drawing strength and light mainly from the Word they hear taught and interactions with believers.
- Growing deep roots . . . but planted above a cistern – doing serious Bible study on their own but unknowingly interpreting all they study through the lens of what they have been taught.
- Not hearing the full counsel of God – Hearing and studying only what is taught in sermons, group study, or what others have written.
I pray that you and I will ever pursue the path of:
- Personalized teaching from Holy Spirit – Thirsting for and satisfied by teaching from Holy Spirit through the Word that reveals and heal personal sins and weakness and leads one to maturity. Then we will joyfully live as that “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1b, NIV)
In Part Two, we will continue investigating this vital topic, starting with these questions:
- Where is God telling you to look?
- “Where can you get this living water? (John 4:11b, NIV)