Unlocking God’s Wisdom: The Power of Studying His Word

Transcript from Ps. Adam Cousins’ sermon Fruitful Study, preached on the 24th March 2024.

Well we are in the middle of a series called fruitfulness, a series called fruitfulness. And fruitfulness comes from being connected to the vine, that’s Jesus, this imagery that we use. use.

And the spiritual disciplines are a doorway to being connected to Jesus, right? In of themselves, these disciplines don’t bring about change. They’re simply a doorway that provides the opportunity for God to meet with us and to bring the transformation that he so desires in our lives. And so that’s why we’re looking through at these different disciplines.

And a lot of the content that we uuse actually comes from Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. It’s a great book. But I really love what Romans chapter 12 verse 2 has to say about this transformative work that God wants to bring in us, and it says, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is this his good pleasing and perfect will You know, I think Sometimes when I chat with people and it’s particularly like I get to chat with the young people a lot About the transformation that God brings in people’s lives Sometimes there’s this misconception that when God God transforms us, when we come to Him and like people say, “I’ve been made new,” believe it or not, some of the students they chat to go, “Man, does that mean God’s gonna erase “like my passions and my dreams and all that sort of stuff “and then I’ve gotta have new passions “and new dreams and whatever?” And I love to be able to have this conversation because the sense of wonder and awe when they hear it is amazing.

When I say, “You know what? God is actually renewing who you are to who you were truly created to be. He’s renewing you. God has given you some gifts and talents and passions.

And he wants to renew that. Sometimes he gives you a new passion, a new dream. And it’s like we’re a new person because it’s night and day between where we were without Christ, where we are with Him.

And so God wants to bring that transformation. He wants to renew us by the renewing of our mind, which in turn renews the way we think about others and love others. And so the spiritual discipline that I’m looking at this morning is the discipline of study.

And it is in many ways the primary door that opens the opportunity for God. God to renew our minds. You know, the way we think and understand the world around us.

It helps us to understand Godly wisdom and gives us clarity in all life situations. You know, even if we don’t know what the next step is or where the direction is ahead, there’s a sense of clarity that we know God’s truths, we’ve journeyed with Him. Him and we know that He’s come through in the past and He will be with us through whatever comes ahead.

There’s this sense of clarity. And the thing is when Nathan gave me this spiritual discipline to speak on, the spiritual discipline of study, I was both perplexed and intrigued to understand what was meant by study because, and it seems like… the people I’ve chatted to about this have had a similar sort of wrestling, they’re going, “What does it mean by study?” Because I understand the concept of studying God’s Word, and I wondered how that differed from, you know, reading God’s Word when we’re meditating, when we meditate on God’s Word.

Is it different from when we read God’s Word, when we’re practicing the spiritual discipline of solitude? solitude? Like surely there’s something that’s different. And it turns out there is a difference in the way we read Scripture. And it is this, I’ve got it up on the screen too, that in the study of Scripture, a high priority is placed upon interpretation.

What it means. We want to find out what did the author, author intend to communicate? What was he trying to say? And we dive into that and sometimes we need Help to understand the culture. You know, is this a poem? Is this a story is this a big word apocalyptic literature? Sounds hectic But it’s it’s not that’s why we journey together So we’re trying to find out what does it mean? mean? And then in a devotional reading of scripture, a high priority is placed upon what it means for me.

Now it’s subtle, but it makes a difference. And these two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I think to be fruitful, we need these two readings of scripture to mesh together.

When we neglect one for the other, they’re both undisputed. which comes from study, and transformation, which comes from devotion, is hindered. We need both.

We can’t just accumulate information and facts. We need to be able to absorb that and see how it fits within our expression and how we. interact with God.

And so the other thing that I found out when I started looking into study is that my understanding of what study was was far too narrow, right? So far I’ve mentioned reading scripture. That is a part of study. We need to study God’s Word.

In fact, it is the lens through which we see the world around us. It helps us to understand God’s Word. God’s heart and hear His voice when He speaks to us.

But my understanding of study, the discipline of study, needed to be broadened. The celebration of discipline which is Richard Foster’s book. He describes a spiritual discipline of study like this.

The principal task of study study is a perception into the reality of a given situation and counterbook and so on. We can go through a major crisis, for example, without any perception of the real nature of the tragic situation. But if we carefully observe and reflect upon what occurred, we can learn about the real nature of the tragic situation.

a great deal. It’s a lot of floweringness in that. But in other words, what he is saying is that the spiritual discipline of study is the careful observation and reflection on everything, on everything, with the intention to understand and learn something about God, his creation, and who he he created us to be.

When we do this, we open an opportunity for God to renew our minds, which in turn transforms who we are and how we love others. The spiritual discipline of study could be translated as the spiritual discipline of apprenticeship. We have apprenticeships in this day and age where not only do you learn the information you need to know to do a trade, you also walk alongside the master, the person who knows what they’re doing, and you apply that knowledge in situations.

And when something comes up that you don’t understand and there’s this rule that you’ve learned, you go, “Well, how does that apply? How can…” I actually use wisdom to apply this?” Because if you’ve done any sort of construction work, you know that if you just follow the set rules without understanding them, often you’ll come up against something you’ve never seen before, and you need the master to guide you through that. that. The spiritual discipline of study is apprenticeship to Christ.

It’s an intentionality about our observations. Reading Scripture is the basis. Yes, we need to study Scripture.

And in fact, I’m not even going to this morning really dive into the concept of studying Scripture, because there are plenty of sermons, plenty of books, plenty of resources out there for you to learn learn how to study scripture. In fact, if you are interested in going deeper, maybe you can come and chat with one of the partial team or Pastor Mark as well. He could help you find a Bible study to go deeper.

But I really wanna look at what it means to participate in the spiritual discipline of study as a lifestyle of looking at all situations, my motives. my interactions, creation, the way God is moving, with the intent to learn something about who God is and who He’s created us to be. So something Megan and I enjoyed doing while we did enjoy doing before we had kids was when we’re in a major shopping centre we love just observing other people.

right? Now we’re just busy observing where our two and a bit year old went. But we loved observing other people because if you’ve ever taken the time to do so, you will notice that other people are just as quirky as you are. Like people do some strange things and funny things.

And one great example of that is if you’ve ever taken the time to stop and look at one of those little pop -up stands in the middle of the street. of the walkways where they’re often trying to sell you solar panels or sign you up to some sort of charity. People have very different responses to that interaction and to that situation, right? Some people will stop and chat for a while and then politely say no, or they’ll chat and sign up or whatever.

But there is a vast majority that I’ve known. noticed who have varying techniques into how not to be stopped right like have you ever noticed that one guy who’s got leather jacket on lots of tattoos motorcycle helmet he’s walking along and then all sudden he gets really interested in the shop opposite and he’s looking in and I’m like yeah that guy wants a pedicure he’s just checking out the prices for lighter right? For me and myself, often we will get very involved in the conversation that we’re having about nothing, right? Like, yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re going to keep walking down this way and we’ll take the elevator up to get to, oh yeah, don’t worry about it. And we’re off we go, right? I don’t want to draw down these people or this situation, but what I want to do is highlight there’s something in us that promotes the way we interact.

And I wonder, I go, what is it about me that doesn’t want to be stopped in this situation? Just out of clarity. I wasn’t always that way. I used to frustrate Megan that I couldn’t help myself.

I’d start looking down and then look up and be like, hey, like I couldn’t help it. I had to smile at them and they’d be like, get a certain nice beard, how long is it taking you to grow that? Would you like to chat about? about so and so? He’s like, why are you just not looking? Anyway, but what is it about me that doesn’t want to stop? Is it because I just so badly want to get to the destinations that I can finally relax? Like that’s, I never stop and smell the roses. I just want to get to the destination.

Is it because you don’t like the tension in that situation where you have– to try to say no and break off the conversation and go. What is it? Reflecting on that. This is starting to move into the direction of what we’re talking about, the spiritual discipline of study.

When we start to reflect on situations and we invite God into that space to do that. us, we start to learn something about our character and the character of God. Like God, what is it in me that promotes that kind of interaction? That’s just one situation, but in all situations.

Like I’m talking with someone and I just, I cut them off and I go, it’s like, why did I feel that need to cut off right now? there? What could have God be doing in that moment? I mean, if you’re actively pursuing God and practicing the spiritual discipline of study, the ideal is in the moment to go, God, what is it that you wanna teach me right here and now? What is it that you want me to experience and to do? How do I love this person? Holy Spirit, be my response. Not only is it reflecting on situations that have been and studying what God is doing and has done, huge part of it, but we can also learn on the job, right? It’s that apprenticeship. So here are three things that Richard Foster says either happens or is necessary.

necessary when it comes to study. And it’s not just the spiritual discipline of study. This is study in general, but as Christians we’re going to apply this to the spiritual discipline of study.

And the first thing he says that we need is repetition. If you’re going to study something, repetition is key. Because regularly channeling the mind in a specific direction sorry, repetition regularly channels the mind in a specific direction and in turn it integrates habits of thought.

When we regularly channel our mind on a certain subject or a certain topic, it will integrate habits of thought. You know we talk about habits as things that we do, right? If you want to run a marathon, in order to get there, you need to integrate habits of getting up and running a little bit each day, eating healthier, all these sorts of things. I’m not a marathon runner.

You can speak with Nathan. I’m sure he could help you out. No marathons? (audience laughing) Not yet, not yet.

All right, but you’ve got to integrate these habits of that we do. But the thing is, what we do is, do comes from the things that we value, and how we value things is the way we perceive the world. In order to have the right frame of mind to do these things, you need to work on the ingrained thought habits.

And so, Paul gives us this warning, and Philippe Philippians 4 -8 about such things. He says, “Dear brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.

Think about such things.” Because if we are constantly bringing to the forefront things that are honorable, the truths of God, these upright and holy things, then these will become our thought habits, our knee -jerk reactions to situations. If you want to know someone’s character, the best way to see it is in times of pressure. because all of a sudden all walls are down and you tend to act on like instinct, like your knee jerk reactions, those ingrained thoughts of habits of thought.

And so we need to constantly remind ourselves and be thinking of such things. This actually happens all the time. You know, it’s not just about going, well, if I am participating in the spiritual discipline of study, then I’m channeling my mind towards certain things.

We’re doing it all the time, whether we recognise it or not. And so the caution is, what are we bringing to the forefront all the time? What are the things that we are allowing to form thought habits? habits. One such example is what actually happens when we’re scrolling on social media? What happens is we’re fed things that have the same sort of ideology over and over again, because it’s in their best interest.

Like when we see things we like, we wanna see more, it’s great, you know? And then if we see something we disagree with, or don’t like I don’t know about you but I go into the comments to be to have my thoughts to validate again oh yep this person disagrees as well right this is constantly bringing things to mind and the caution is what is it that we are bringing to mind is it things of life that are uplifting it’s tricky This is why we need to be aware of where we are directing our attention. Okay, so first thing you need when it comes to study is repetition. If in addition to bringing the mind repeatedly to a certain subject matter, a person would concentrate, that’s the next thing, concentrate on what is being studied, learning is vastly increased.

So in our day and age, we do not value concentrating on one thing. We often have lots of things happening at once, vying for our attention. And it’s funny when I was thinking about this concept of like concentrating, I was like, oh, so true.

Like often of an evening, when you go to relax, we watch a big screen with the movie on, and then we watch a little screen with something else on there. We’re doing two things at once. And I thought that was just an issue for today.

But as I read Richard Foster’s book, he said the same thing was happening in his time, except they were watching a movie and reading a book. It’s something that has been in our culture for a long time. And Beck spoke about this last week, this concept of simplicity, of not just adding more and more things, but simplifying and adding the things that God values into our lives, and defending those things.

There is a lot of things that we can’t control that come before us. us. If you go to the shops, there’s advertising, there’s lots of things going on.

If you watch a movie, there’s ads. You have people that you interact with and they might have negativity and all these sorts of things that we can’t control that are going to come before us. And the thing is, we are called to be sultans.

and light in our communities, to be God’s love to those around us. And so the solution isn’t to just withdraw and say, well, I need to make sure that I’m only concentrating on the things of God, instead we just need to be intentional about how or what we’re concentrating on. Because when there is negativity, when someone is speaking negatively about a situation that’s come up, this is an opportunity to say, “God, what is it that you might be teaching me “about who you are and how to love others?” What is it that is going on in this person’s life? And how can I love them and serve them? them? Like even in those moments where you go, man, I just can’t get away from this negativity, it’s like, well, why not remember that God is with us and that we can learn from Him on the job? It helps us to concentrate on the things that matter, on the things that will transform and renew our minds through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So there’s repetition, and if we do that with concentration, then what we find that comes next is comprehension. Now comprehension comes from when we repeatedly concentrate our attention on certain subject matter, dramatically increasing our comprehension, which then also leads to insight and discernment. See, the goal of this isn’t just to accumulate information or facts about God.

See, if you read scripture and you find that, okay, God is good, God is loving. It’s an awesome fact. It’s true.

God is good, God is loving. But that’s easy to hold on to when life is good. good.

Got a good job, got a great family. But what happens when tragedy and grief comes, God is good, it’s kind of hard to see that. If you have taken the time to sit before God and to study His Word, and how he loves his people and how he interacts in daily life, then what you will have come to realize is that God is good.

And so he loved us so much that he wanted us to love him in return, that he wanted us to have a genuine choice to love ’cause he didn’t want robots, right? And so in that choice we chose to go our own way. And then that’s where the world came from. broken and suffering but he provided a way for us to come back to him through the cross which we’ve been celebrating and we’ll celebrate on Easter.

All of a sudden this fact that you know about God that that sits well in the good times all of a sudden you understand it it in the times when it’s tough because you know that it breaks God’s heart to see that suffering and that ultimately the suffering will end and God has provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him. So it’s not just accumulating information, it’s about walking daily and reflecting upon God and His Word because it helps us. us to gain wisdom.

I know I said there was three things, but there’s actually four, but the fourth thing actually kind of encompasses everything. It’s like, without this, the rest is hampered, and that’s humility, because an arrogance and a teachable spirit are mutually exclusive. exclusive.

We need humility. Because what humility does is it opens us up to learn from anybody and in all situations. It opens us up to the idea that we might not know it all.

And the times where I’ve been challenged on this, being brutally honest, there are times where people have been sharing with me and I just go that’s not right No, that that’s not how you handle this This person hasn’t got much experience in this and God has said hey wait Listen Listen and all of a sudden I realize realize that even though I still didn’t necessarily agree, God did something in that moment. There was a sense of connection. This person felt heard.

They felt loved. And it didn’t cost me anything to just stop and listen and to acknowledge that thank you for sharing that. that.

I learnt something about myself. I learnt that sometimes I don’t listen to people if I’ve already made my mind up. That’s not a good thing.

We’re meant to be apprentices of Christ. We’re meant to be constantly learning. This is what happens when we seek God in all situations and what He might be teaching us.

Here’s something I’m going to leave you with. I really like, I actually really, really like looking at tractors and agricultural equipment. So, you know, from the old Massey Ferguson’s to some of the really new John Deere’s, the big ones.

with the tracks on them. I love looking at combine harvesters and all the jazz. Like, I love it.

And I’m just like, oh, I just pitched myself sitting on a tractor, play on a field. It’d be great. I’ve driven tractors before, but I only need to slash a field.

I’ve never done crops and stuff like that. And I know a lot of information about these things. But here’s the thing, an arrogant person has mistaken the accumulation of information for wisdom.

And for me, even though I know a lot about these tractors, I don’t have the wisdom to use them and put them together to plant a crop and take a harvest that’s fruitful. If all we do is study God’s Word, for the sake of knowledge, but we don’t live a life as students to Christ, then we won’t have the godly wisdom to live a life that’s fruitful. And so I want to encourage you to humbly ask God to be your teacher.

teacher, to seek the truth, to seek God’s truth, but allow that to actually sink in and be lived. Would you pray with me? Dear Heavenly Father, teacher, lawee, we come before you. and we recognize that you are the source of all wisdom and you know all things and God we just want to take a moment to to recommit To you and to a lifelong apprenticeship of learning and seeking your heart God I pray that as as we learn more about you through your word God that it would not just become facts and knowledge about you.

Lord I pray that we would continue to seek you and to know more about who you are and deepen that relationship with you. Lord that that might prompt us to live a life that blesses others, that brings light into the darkness, Lord, may we be those that love you so much that people just see it as we interact with others. And God, when our hearts are hardened, Lord, would you challenge us? And would we be humble enough to open up to that? God, we thank you that you love us and that you walk with us.

You do not. leave us to flounder on our own, that you want to teach us in your name. Amen.

Watch the full sermon here