Every good pastor has a set of principles and values he brings into his ministry within the church. These principles and values ultimately shape and define the life of the church. If you were to ask me, “Jonathan, what is priority number one for Lake Wylie Baptist Church,” I would, with zero hesitation, respond, “The Word of God.” The Word of God must be central if our church will be found faithful to Jesus Christ. This is not worship of the Word. Rather, it’s a focus on the Word because only the Word reveals the name of the One we are to worship.
To the law and to the testimony:
If they speak not according to this word,
It is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
I could give you scores of passages that exhort us to pay close attention to the Word of God. I could list verse after verse that explains the authority, necessity, sufficiency, and clarity of God’s Word. This verse, like so many others, communicates a simple and essential truth: whatever disagrees with the Word of God is false. Period. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Isaiah was called to preach to a people who refused to listen. God’s Word was not hidden from them; rather it was made plain. They rejected the Word of God to their own ruin and collapse. Consider a different scenario years after the ministry of Isaiah.
And the king… read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord… Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. (2 Kings 23:1, 2, 15)
When Josiah reigned in Judah, a member of his government found an old scroll that had been lying around in the temple: it was the Law of Moses that had been forgotten in Judah. After reading the Word of God, Josiah instituted reforms. Idols were toppled. Right worship was restored: an example of the Word’s power to convict and transform.
REFORM IS NEVER DETACHED FROM THE WORD
Examine any historic reform of the church and a common thread is a rediscovery of the Word of God. I’m currently reading through a history of the Reformation in England and I was struck by the conversion story of Thomas Bilney, who at the exhortation of a Roman Catholic Priest, had fasted, held vigils, attended masses, and even purchased indulgences yet had no peace within his soul. Bilney wanted to purchase a New Testament to read for himself but was told by his priest that the book contained heresies. Read the words of church historian, Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné:
“At last he took courage. Urged, said he, by the hand of God, he walked out of the college, slipped into the house where the volume was sold in secret, bought it with fear and trembling, and then hastened back and shut himself up in his room. He opened it— his eyes caught these words: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. He laid down the book, and meditated on the astonishing declaration. “What! St Paul the chief of sinners, and yet St Paul is sure of being saved!”
God creates by his Word. And God makes us new in Christ by his Word.
OUR DOGGED COMMITMENT TO THE WORD
Each week our sermons plod through books of the Bible. We explain, proclaim, and apply the Word to the entire church. If you come to me for counseling, I will counsel with the Word. When our children run back to their Sunday School classes, they are running back to rooms filled with the Word. There is no substitute or replacement for the Word. And beginning this week we’ll begin another year of the Bible Reading Challenge. From September to May, we’ll read the entire Bible. It’s no small task, but it is worth every minute you spend in the Word.
Decades from now, when we all are long gone, I pray that the legacy we are planting, one of Word-centeredness, remains. If the Lord delays his return and you were to attend a worship service at Lake Wylie Baptist in 2123, I pray you would find a church doggedly committed to reading, preaching, and obeying the Word of Christ.
Laden with guilt and full of fears,
I fly to Thee, my Lord,
And not a glimpse of hope appears,
But in Thy written Word
The volumes of my Father’s grace
Does all my griefs assuage
Here I behold my Savior’s face
In every page.
– Isaac Watts