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Forgetting To Live By What We Learn

Have you ever heard someone say something that immediately grabs your attention? You grab a pencil and some paper to write it down before you forget it. Then you read and reread it. Before long you can’t get it out your mind. You’re thinking about it and its implications all the time.

That happened to me when we were watching a movie recently. It was a movie about a man who had, with others scattered throughout the world, survived a global catastrophe. He walks and lives alone in a post-apocalyptic America. He carries the last copy of a very special book – the Bible. He was told to guard it and to carry it to the west to a place he would know it would be properly preserved. He only knew the direction and was told he would recognize the place when he arrived there.

He was given special survival skills to help him protect the book. When we meet him, he had been on this journey for 30 years. He has escaped a group who want to use the book to control people and to set up a despotic society. There he met a young woman who was determined to go with him. As they walk down the road he responds to a comment she makes with these captivating words, “I got so caught up in keeping it safe I forgot to live by what I learned.”

I find these words haunting me all the time. The more I turn them over in my mind the more I am compelled to think about them and their implications. I find it hard to get them out of my head. The more I consider them the more I believe I should keep them before me on a daily basis.

Remember, he is talking about the Bible. Toward the end of the movie we find it is a Braille Bible. It was written for the blind. As he traveled with this special Bible he read it daily. He was given the gift of the Bible and it appears he was given the ability to read Braille. In fact, in the end we find that over the course of 30 years he has memorized the entire Bible. Yet he makes this astonishing statement, “I got so caught up in keeping it safe I forgot to live by what I learned.”

I believe these words speak to a very real danger that we as Christians face in the days in which we live. We live in a time when the Bible is not held in high esteem by the general public like it was even 40 or 50 years ago. The Bible seems to be under attack on many fronts. Some view it as only one of a number of sacred books. Others say it is filled with errors so how can it be the source of truth? There are also those who want to keep it and its teaching out of the public arena. They view spiritual matters and the issues addressed in Scripture as a concern for the individual and not for application to public life like work, education, politics, and the neighborhood.

The danger we face is that we become so caught up in defending Scripture we continuously and relentlessly attack those who speak against the Bible. We never let up. We never stop to listen to others and answer their questions. We are on the offense at all times.

We can become so absorbed in our defense of Scripture we are like the man in post-apocalyptic America – we forget to live by what we have learned.

Paul spoke to this matter in 2 Timothy 1:13-14, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you –guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

We, like Timothy, are called to preserve and keep the faith that has been handed down to us. How are we to do that? First, we are to “keep the pattern of sound teaching.” We are to teach sound or healthy doctrine. One of the best ways to preserve something is to pass it on to others. Here is one of the primary tasks of Christians.

Second, we are to it “with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” We are to trust him to work in the lives of others. We are, also, to follow his example of loving others. This is another way of “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).

Third, we do it “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” We don’t trust in our own reasoning power or skills of logic. We don’t trust in our speaking ability. We let the Spirit guide, direct, and enable us. We submit to his leading as to when and what to say. We trust him to produce life in us and the ones we encounter in the course of life.

My prayer for us as a church and as individuals is that we won’t become so caught up in keeping the Bible safe that we forget to live by what we learn.

Your elder,

Jim Gordon