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The Journey Inward

Turning Point / David Jeremiah
The Truth Network Radio
December 29, 2020 12:24 pm

The Journey Inward

Turning Point / David Jeremiah

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December 29, 2020 12:24 pm

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This podcast is made available by Vision Christian Media, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. Your donation today means great podcasts like this remain available to help people look to God daily.

Please make your donation today at vision.org.au. If the events of the past year have forced you to cancel your vacation or travel plans, don't schedule a getaway for the year ahead just yet. Today on Turning Point, Dr. David Jeremiah has a suggestion for a different kind of trip.

A journey you can't arrange through a travel agent with each step drawing you closer to God. With a special New Year's message, here's David to introduce the journey inward. Well, you know, friends, we do go a little bit inward during this time of the year, don't we? We have some introspection going on.

All of us, we can't help it. I mean, the year demands it, the calendar requires it, the discussions we have with each other underline it. What has the last year been like and what have we learned? 2020 has been tough, it hasn't been all bad. We've learned many lessons through COVID, through the restrictions.

We've suffered, many of us, financially because of what's happened. But if we have our health, we know how valuable it is. If we have our loved ones, we're so grateful and we have the future. Most of all, we have God. You know, what I've said so often as I've talked about this in recent days is that when you go through something like this, it automatically edits your life.

The government's edited some of it, but we edited ourselves. And then all of a sudden we realize one day we wake up and we know the really important things are still there. We haven't lost anything that's eternal and that's the most important way we can live. And boy, does that ever help us as we get ready to chart out a new year. Today we're going to talk about taking the journey inward before we take the journey onward. And I hope you'll be blessed and encouraged as we open our Bibles to the Scriptures and talk about the journey inward.

Let's begin. The entrance of thy words giveth light. Those words were placed in the window in this church when we built the auditorium several years ago to be a constant reminder to us that we only have one textbook here, and that's the Word of God, and that when we study God's Word and carefully analyze its truth and apply its truth to our own lives, we end up as we learned with power in our lives. So I want to encourage you in that way as we think through today the message in the window. I want to talk with you about your journey inward, a journey that is not quantified by charts and graphs, a year that is not validated by how many or how much. I want to ask you to think with me for these moments about the journey inward.

When I speak of the inward journey or I talk about inwardness, what am I talking about? Well, Paul speaks about it in a very interesting way in his letter to the Romans as he talks about the pride that often keeps us from being who God wants us to be. He's speaking here to the Jewish people, and this is what he says in Romans 2, 28 and 29. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men, but from God. Now the apostle was reminding his readers that our outwardness is not authentic unless it is the reflection of the inwardness of our life.

In other words, he's saying to the Jewish people, it's not your keeping of the ordinances that makes you a Jew, it's the fact that in your heart there is the desire to do that. It's not the flesh, it's the spirit. When we think so much about the outwardness of our life, when we fail to deal with the inwardness of who we are in Christ, we end up with a powerless existence. When God fills our inner vacuum with his Holy Spirit, life works. When God does not fill the vacuum, a host of consuming appetites swarm through our better intentions. Brilliant people who should be masters of their appetites are at last managed by their appetites instead. As we think about the beginning of this new year and the opportunities it presents, I want to talk with you about the distractions that keep you from building your inward life. And I want to talk with you for a few moments about the disciplines that are involved in making you strong from the inside out. What are the distractions that keep us from having a strong inward walk with God?

I'd like to suggest to you that the first one is what we might call frenzy, frenzy. When we will not provide a place for the direction of the indwelling Christ, all that is left is the frenzied agenda of our hassled discipleship. If we needed any illustrations of it, we have just walked through a period of time, and we don't have to look far to determine what it's like to live a frenzied life. We're coming away from what we might call the most outwards at time of the year. Isn't it strange that our culture has turned Christmas inside out, making it a frenzy of materialism and greed and indebtedness and exhaustion? We revel in the lights and struggle to find time for the light of the world. We get caught up in the presence, but forget about his presence in our lives. We create great celebrations of his coming to us, and then we have no time or energy left to spend with the one who's coming.

We are celebrating. We run faster and faster as the day approaches, and when the day finally comes, we are lost in frenzy and fatigue. I speak to myself, for there have been many Christmases in my ministry life that did not do anything but dawn on a tired and worn-out family of Christ followers. You see, the faster we go, the less time we have to commune with the one we claim to love. The more we focus our attention on the outwardness of our faith, the less vibrancy and reality we have in our walk with God, because the Christian life is not built from the outside in. It's built from the inside out, and one of the things that keeps us from building the inward life is our satisfaction with what we see on the outside, which leads us to the second distraction for inwardness, which is familiarity.

The second distraction is familiarity. We become like the people that Paul wrote to Timothy about in 2 Timothy 3.5, where we read, they had a form of godliness, but they didn't have the power. It's possible to be a Christian and be so familiar with the outwardness of Christianity that we mouth the words, we understand the terminology, we say the right things, we sing the right songs, we even have the right expressions and nuances. But if we're not careful, we become like the churches that John wrote to in the book of Revelation, the church of Sardis, where we read these things says, He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, I know your works that you have a name that you are alive, but you're dead. And then he wrote to the church of Laodicea something similar. He said, because you say I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. What John was saying by the spirit of God to these churches was that what you appear to be outwardly, you are not inwardly.

And it's so easy for us to fall into that trap. We become so familiar with the outward tokens of our faith that they no longer draw us inward toward God. Many of us are like Samson, who did not know that his strength was gone until he needed it and it wasn't there. In the 19th century, there was a Danish philosopher by the name of Soren Kierkegaard, who was very disturbed by the church situation of his time. Kierkegaard looked about the city of Copenhagen and everywhere he saw Christians, but they were Christians in quotation marks. He saw professed Christians who were completely secure and self-satisfied, for they had the Bible. Many of them carried the Bible in their pockets. They had the Word of God.

It was theirs and life went on peaceably, happily, in a well-adjusted fashion. But Kierkegaard asked some important questions. He said, is this really the religion set forth in the Bible? And his answer was that such a religion is an impudent indecency.

In one of his milder statements of concern, he wrote these words. He said, a young girl of 16 summers, it is her confirmation day. Among the many tasteful and beautiful gifts, she also receives the New Testament in a very pretty binding.

Now that is what one may call Christianity. To tell the truth, no one expects, and probably right, that she any more than anybody else will read it, or at any rate, not as originally intended. The book given her as a potential consolation in life. Here, should you need it, you will find consolation.

Of course, it is assumed that she will never read it any more than any other young girls, but if she does, it will not be read as originally intended. Yet, said Kierkegaard, that is supposed to be Christianity. I would be tempted to make Christianity another proposition, he wrote. Let us gather in every single copy of the New Testament.

Let us cart the whole collection out to an open place, or up to a mountaintop, and then while all of us kneel down, let someone speak to God saying, take it all back. This book, we humans, the way we are, should not be involved with such a book. It only makes us unhappy. What he was saying was, that if we don't take the book, which is the word of God, past the surface relationship we have with it, it is only good enough to make us unhappy. In other words, there's no real way to be happy with a halfway commitment to the word of God.

Such a commitment will not allow you the joy intended, because you will always be finding those passages that make you feel guilty for your disobedience. Until you get past the word of God as simply a symbol of your Christianity, a token of your faith, and find that it is the means by which you come, not to know about God, but to know God, then the word of God becomes, to you, a distraction because of its familiarity. The distractions of the inward life are many.

I can only speak to two of them. But let me tell you that those distractions need not bog us down and keep us from knowing God. They need not keep us from building our inward life, because God has given us some disciplines to help us overcome that. Discipline, by the very nature of the word, says we're getting ready to do something that is not natural for us to do without some sort of pressure around us to do it. Christians are called to make themselves do something they would not naturally do. And I want to get rid of the idea that if you're a Christian, you will just always want to do the things that the Bible says you should do.

If you only read the Bible when you want to, how many of you can give a witness today that you wouldn't read it very much? Because sometimes you don't really want to, and sometimes you don't want to until you do it. And in the doing of it, you find the want to. How many of you know that if the only times you pray is when you just feel so inspired to pray that you wouldn't pray nearly as much as you ought to? You see, praying and the reading of the word of God are simply matters of obedience to the Lord, which require discipline of all of our lives.

The Bible tells us that in so many words in the letter that Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4, verses 7 and 8. Now, in that little verse of Scripture, there's one phrase that we've looked at before that I want to underscore in your thinking today. And it says this, bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come.

Notice carefully how that word is structured. It says bodily exercise profits little, but the exercise to godliness is profitable for all things. Now, the word exercise in the Greek text in this verse is the word gomnazio, which is the word from which we get gymnasium. And what Paul is saying is that just as we go to work out in the gymnasium, and can I stop just a moment and say, do you go to work out because you feel so inspired every day to get up and go get on the treadmill or go pick up the weights? Don't you just get up every morning and say, oh, I just can't wait until it's my turn.

No, you don't do that at all. Why do you do it? Because you see the value of doing it, and you also see the penalty for not doing it. Every time you look in the mirror in the morning, you get inspired to go to the gym. But you do it out of the discipline of your life. Now, watch what Paul is saying. He's saying just as you discipline yourself in exercise, in bodily exercise, you need to discipline yourself in spiritual things so that you can grow the inward man. Just as the outward man profits by bodily exercise, Paul says here it profits little. The inward man profits greatly from spiritual exercise, not only in the life that is to come, says Paul, but in the life that now is. He says we're to work out spiritually. We're to get in the spiritual gymnasium and exercise our disciplines. In 2 Peter 1, verses 5 and 6, there's an interesting progression of terms. I want to read that verse and see if you see what I'm talking about. But for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, and to your self-control perseverance and to perseverance godliness. What are the two words that precede godliness in this verse? Self-control and perseverance.

I want to tell you something from my own personal experience. Those are very honest admissions as to what it takes to live the inward life. It takes perseverance and it takes self-control. If we don't discipline ourselves to do the things that will offset the malaise that comes upon us as we walk through this world, we will end up never growing inwardly as God intends us to grow. You can't do it by going to church. Church should encourage you about your own spiritual walk, but church can never replace your own spiritual walk. Friends, this church is no substitute for your walk with God. It is to be an encouragement to your walk with God, to motivate you and inspire you and encourage you, but the real issue is your own personal walk with God. When I stand before God someday, I will be given the responsibility to give an account for my shepherding of this church, but thank God I don't have to give an account for whether or not you read the Bible every day or whether you pray.

That's your deal. You're going to have to do that, and it's a matter of discipline. Now, what are the disciplines that we practice? There are many disciplines we could go through today, but I want to just talk about two because I want to talk about the two that offset frenzy and familiarity.

What is the discipline that offsets frenzy? It's prayer, isn't it? It's solitude and prayer. We begin to realize as time begins to go and we're going faster than we ever intended and everything's flying around at Christmas time.

It's a great illustration. It's still fresh in our minds, and you have to get away from that somewhere where you can be alone, where you can find solace in God, where you can pray. Listen to what the Scripture says in Psalm 46, 10. Be still and know that I am God. Over and over again, I don't have to read you the verses that tell us to pray.

They're multiplied, both the Old and New Testament. Psalm 32, 6 says, For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to you in a time when you may be found. Colossians tells us to continue earnestly in prayer. I'm just saying that prayer is a discipline, isn't it? We pray because we're commanded to pray. And when we pray, we find why it is that God wants us to do it, because it helps us overcome the frenzied life.

Now let me just give you the last thought, which really is what this is all about behind me. What is it that takes you away from familiarity and brings you into the realness and reality of your faith? There's nothing I can tell you that will do that like the Word of God. It's like the study of the Bible. Sometime I hear people say, What you need in your life is the Bible. The Bible will take care of your problems.

That's not true. This book is not going to help you at all. It's the reading of the Bible that takes care of your problems. This book won't help you unless you open its pages and let it work in your life.

The only way you can get past the outwardness and the nuances of faith that's familiar to you is to get into the Word of God for yourself and find the truth in God's Word to help you grow. I wish I had time today to tell you everything I want to tell you about that, but I just want to read one verse of Scripture to you, and it's found over in the book of Thessalonians. It is in chapter 2 and verse 13.

Paul was writing to his friends in Thessalonica, and this is what he wrote to them. Listen to these words. For this reason we also thank God without ceasing because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the Word of God which also effectively works in you who believe. Here's what we're challenged to do with the Bible. Here's what God wants us to do with the Bible.

First of all, accept it. Accept the Word of God. It says here you received the Word of God which you heard from us. We need to accept the Word of God.

We need to hear it. Secondly, we need to anticipate the Word of God. It says you welcomed it. Hearing the Word of God is one thing.

Welcoming it is another. Have a hunger and a desire for it. You can only do that as you get into it.

It develops its own appetite. And appreciate the Word of God. Notice what it says. You welcome the Word of God not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the Word of God. What we hold in our hands here, men and women, is not just a collection of essays by some fishermen and shepherds from the Old and New Testament era. This is the Word of God.

Say that out loud. This is the Word of God. Every day you hold in your hands the infallible Word of God. It is God's Word to you and to me. It is changeless. It is timeless.

And it is powerful. Paul was so overjoyed that these people in Thessalonica accepted the Word of God not as the word of men. Please don't take the Word of God because it's something I say. But they accepted it as the Word of God. Men and women, if you don't accept this book as the infallible Word of God, it cannot do you any good. Finally, Paul said that the Thessalonians not only accepted the Word and anticipated it and appreciated it but they applied it.

He says it also effectively worked in those who believed. Let me tell you what I've discovered about inwardness, men and women. If you don't have inwardness, when the storms come, you don't do very well. It's the strength that you have in your inward life that helps you through the storms.

I don't know what you're going to face this year. But as I've said before, some philosophers said, we're either in a storm, we're coming out of a storm, or we're going in one. Storms are a part of life. Storms are not the unusual thing. Storms are the normal thing. And all of us will face some.

Some of you may have had one this past week or you know one's coming this week. If you want to be able to be stable and strong in the midst of the storm as a Christian, spend some time building the inwardness of your life. Don't get so caught up in the frenzy of the world in which you live. Let this year be the year when you grew the most inwardly of all of your life up to this point.

Make that your goal. And friends, you know what happens when you get strong inwardly, it affects everything in your life. It changes your family. It changes your faith. It changes your finances. It changes everything forever. So don't look at it as, oh this is quiet, this is passive, this is not important.

Oh yes it is. This is the whole key to the future, your journey inward. Tomorrow we're going to look at a famous passage of scripture in the book of Philippians and we're going to talk about facing forward. How to face forward in your life.

I hope you're among those who are inquisitive enough to examine what's inside and then get ready for what's around you. I'm David Jeremiah. I'll see you right here tomorrow. For more information on Dr. Jeremiah's special messages for the new year, please visit our website where you'll also find two free ways to help you stay connected, our monthly magazine Turning Points and our daily email devotional. Sign up today at davidjeremiah.org forward slash radio. Now when you do, ask for your copy of David's 365-day devotional for 2021. It's called Strength for Today and it's filled with biblical truth for the year ahead and it's yours for a gift of any amount. And to keep your spirits bright through the holiday season, visit the Home for Christmas channel at turningpoint.tv, your free source for Christmas music, videos, messages and more.

The Home for Christmas, channel at turningpoint.tv. I'm Gary Hoogfleet. Join us tomorrow as we continue our special messages for the new year. Let's hear on Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Thanks for taking time to listen to this audio on demand from Vision Christian Media. To find out more about us, go to vision.org.au. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-10 11:51:59 / 2024-01-10 12:01:39 / 10

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