Be Occupied With The Word Not The Enemy
These are notes on the sermon, Be Occupied With The Word Not The Enemy, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 16 October 2022, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
- Introduction: Read the Bible for fresh revelations of Jesus, not just for knowledge
- Enjoy good success when you are occupied with God’s Word instead of your troubles
- How to read the Bible accurately and reap its benefits
- Key #1: Understand which passages fall under the new covenant of grace VS the old covenant of the law
- Key #2: Find out when and to whom the scriptures were written
- Key #3: Read the context of what comes before and after any particular verse
- Scripture reveals how God is supplying you with all you need—endurance, patience, and joy for every trial
- Salvation Prayer
- Closing Prayer
- OWN THE WORD (Life Application)
Introduction: Read the Bible for fresh revelations of Jesus, not just for knowledge
When we read the Bible, we should not do it to gain mere knowledge because knowledge only puffs us up and makes us confident in our own flesh. When we open the Bible, let us humble ourselves before God and ask Him to speak to us through the Word.
Ask God for a humble and teachable heart. It is as simple as praying, “Father, speak to me through Your Word and let me see Jesus. Grant me seeing eyes and hearing heart. I am coming to your Word not to accumulate knowledge but to receive a revelation of You.” God is able to use any portion of Scripture to give you an accurate word for the season or situation you are in.
This is what the enemy is most afraid of—you opening the Bible with seeing eyes and a hearing heart.
God desires to speak to you and give you fresh revelations from His Word. When your heart is open to Him, He can use any portion of scripture to reveal to you powerful and personal revelations beyond man’s understanding and knowledge. He can give you fresh revelations from familiar passages. When this happens, you will become a stable, rock-solid person whom people look up to.
This is what happened to the apostle Peter when he caught a revelation of Jesus.
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
—Matthew 16:15–18 NKJV
“for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” — Even though Jesus’ disciples were spending so much time with Jesus and saw Him perform all sorts of miracles, the revelation knowledge that He is the Son of God was something that only God could give them.
“on this rock I will build My church” — This rock refers to the revelation knowledge that Simon Peter had of Jesus being the Son of God. Such revelations are solid and stable. We must be mindful to only build on Jesus Christ, not man!
Because Peter had this revelation of Jesus, he also became rock-solid.
Enjoy good success when you are occupied with God’s Word instead of your troubles
“Study to shew thyself approved (‘dokimos’) unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
— 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
This verse encourages us to study God’s Word so that there will be no reason for us to be ashamed. This verse is especially applicable for pastors and leaders who are shepherding God’s people.
Similar advice was given to Joshua when he took over from Moses as Israel’s leader.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
—Joshua 1:8 NKJV
“meditate in it day and night” — When God spoke these words to Joshua, the children of Israel were facing many enemies. These enemies had been around since Moses’ time. Yet God did not tell Joshua to occupy himself with the enemies or obstacles before him, but to occupy himself with meditating on His Word.
“then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” — The result of meditating on God’s Word is good success! This kind of success does not come at the cost of time with your loved ones or time spent serving the Lord doing what He put in your heart. It is the kind of success that will cause you to walk in God’s abundance. You will not feel like you are slogging your life away for money and burning out.
In the past, new kings of Israel were instructed to copy the first five books of Moses by hand to keep themselves occupied with God’s Word (Deut. 17:18–20). This practice was to keep them in the fear (worship) of God and keep them humble in His ways, which would grant them and their families long lives and long reigns.
It is important for us to be mindful of what we are occupied with (what we are spending most of our time doing). With social media and news media being so accessible these days, it is easy to find ourselves being occupied with negative things. But these things have no benefit to us for they draw attention to the flesh. We can only be transformed from glory to glory when we are occupied with God’s Word, beholding the glory of God!
Besides reading God’s Word, we can also listen to the teaching of God’s Word from pastors and teachers. When Jesus ascended to heaven, one of the gifts He left for us are pastors and teachers of the Word. These are people whose lives God has worked through to minister to us. Listen to teachers of the Word who have a record of imparting scriptural revelations that have resulted in lives transformed.
How to read the Bible accurately and reap its benefits
All Scripture is God-breathed and can be used for our benefit. But we need to understand how to divide the Word accurately. Here are some keys to studying the Bible and interpreting different portions of Scripture correctly:
Key #1: Understand which passages fall under the new covenant of grace VS the old covenant of the law
While there are eight covenants in the Bible, we need to understand that the main two are the old covenant of the law and the new covenant of grace. Generally, the Bible can be divided into these two covenants.
When you open your Bible, you will see the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, it’s important to know that the new covenant of grace does not start at the beginning of the New Testament because the New Testament begins with Jesus’ birth. The new covenant of grace only begins after Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
We should endeavor to interpret the Word not based on our own opinions but based on the context of the chapters and verses themselves. We need to see if they were written under the old or new covenant.
We who believe in Jesus are under the new covenant. So we need to discern the scriptures that were written directly to us believers (e.g. the epistles—the letters to the churches in the New Testament) versus the scriptures that were written to people under the old covenant of the law. We can benefit from reading all Scripture, but we need to understand this difference to interpret what we are reading correctly.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
—Galatians 4:4–5 NKJV
The New Testament begins with Jesus being born under the law. All the miracles He performed before His death and resurrection were done under the law. Yet He was also greater than the law since He is God, the One who gave the law. When He touched the leper, He did not catch what the leper had. Instead, the leper caught what He had—health, healing, and wholeness.
Jesus did not come to enforce the law on mankind but to fulfill all the requirements of the law for us—“to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5).
Key #2: Find out when and to whom the scriptures were written
There are some people who think the words of Jesus printed in red in our Bibles take precedence over everything else.
But actually all the words in the Gospels are from Jesus, not just the words in red. The words written in the epistles by the apostles Paul and Peter are also from Jesus, the ascended Christ.
In the Gospels, Jesus Himself said:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
—John 16:12–13 NKJV
Jesus was saying that the things He spoke about in the Gospels (His words that are in red in our Bibles today) are actually milk and not meat. In fact, some of the things Jesus said in the Gospels do not apply to Christians today because He said them before He went to the cross to die for our sins.
It is important for us to interpret the Word in the context of when it was written.
For example, Jesus said to His disciples:
“These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
— Matthew 10:5–6 NKJV
What Jesus meant when He said this was that His first coming was to save the people of Israel. But after the cross, He instructed His disciples to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19–20).
Another example of rightly diving the Word based on the time it was written
““The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
Then He closed the book . . .”
—Luke 4:18–20 NKJV
In the verse above, Jesus was reading from Isaiah 61 on the Sabbath. If we look at the full verse in Isaiah 61:1–2, we see that Jesus closed the book and stopped reading before finishing that portion of Scripture:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,”
Jesus stopped reading after, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,” so He stopped short of reading, “And the day of vengeance of our God.” This shows us that we are not in the “day of vengeance” yet!
Some may think that we have already entered the days of God’s judgment, but according to where Jesus stopped reading in Luke 4:18–20, we are still living in the acceptable year of God. We are in the dispensation of grace. That is what Jesus came to proclaim. The disasters and destruction that we see in the world now are not a result of God’s vengeance, but they are signs of the second coming of Jesus (Matt. 24:8–13).
An example of inaccurately dividing the Word
Even Jesus’ disciples, James and John, once made a mistake in interpreting God’s Word.
“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.”
—Luke 9:54–56 NKJV
“command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did” — James and John were referring to what the prophet Elijah did years ago.
There were a number of times when Elijah called down fire from heaven.
The first time was when Israel, whose people had fallen into idolatry, was suffering from a three-year drought. At that time, Elijah went up to Mount Carmel and called down fire from heaven to consume an animal sacrifice to prove to all of Israel that the God he worshipped was the true God of Israel. The fire did not fall on the people of Israel but fell on the sacrifice because God desired to redeem His people. The fire of judgment instead consumed what Elijah had placed on the altar—the innocent bullock, the wood, and the 12 stones which represented the 12 tribes of Israel.
This is a picture of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. Yet it is not a perfect representation because in Elijah’s time, the fire of God’s judgment completely consumed everything on the altar, showing that the judgment was greater than the sacrifice. However, at the cross, when the fire of God’s judgment fell on Jesus who was bearing our sins, Jesus received all of God’s judgment and was not consumed. When it was over, He shouted, “It is finished!” and He remained. He still remains till this day. Unlike the sacrifice that Elijah prepared, the sacrifice of Jesus was greater than God’s judgment.
Ten years after this incident on Mount Carmel, the people of Israel had once again fallen into idolatry. The king reigning at that time sent his men to capture Elijah, and this is when Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume them (2 Kings 1). This is the incident the disciples, James and John, were referring to.
“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” — While James and John had scriptural precedence for calling down the fire of God’s judgment, Jesus corrected them because they were inappropriately applying the scriptures. What happened in Elijah’s time was for Elijah’s time. Jesus came to redeem, not to destroy or punish. He came to open the eyes of the blind, raise the sick, cleanse the leper, and give hearing to the deaf.
Before Jesus returns, there will be the spirit of Elijah, but this refers to the spirit that turns children’s hearts back to their fathers. Not the spirit of judgment.
We are living in the time of grace, not the time of God’s vengeance.
It is important that we do not reject God’s grace to us for the sin of rejecting grace is even worse than the sin of Sodom (Matt. 11:23–24). In fact, Jesus said that if Sodom had experienced the gracious miracles He did, they would have repented.
From this we can also see the key to helping people who are living in sin or suffering from depression or inner turmoil because of their life choices. It is to release God’s miracles so that they see God’s mighty works in their lives. Don’t judge them but pray for them. When we pray for the sick, they shall recover (Mark 16:17–18).
Key #3: Read the context of what comes before and after any particular verse
Yes, all of God’s Word is profitable for our learning and admonition (1 Cor. 10:11), and God is able to use any part of it to speak to us personally. But we need to discern the parts of the Bible that were written directly to us, the Gentiles, and the parts written directly to the Jews, so that we do not misunderstand Scripture by taking it out of context. This principle is especially important for those who are teaching others in the house of God as leaders and teachers.
Just as Miles Coverdale has advised:
“It shall greatly help ye to understand the Scriptures if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth after.”
The last part of Coverdale’s statement means to interpret the verse in its context just as we have learned from the example of Hebrews 10 (explained in last week’s sermon).
Below, we have a verse that is often misinterpreted because it is taken out of its full context:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
—Philippians 2:12–13 NKJV
“work out your own salvation” — Many have interpreted this portion of Scripture to mean that we must earn our own salvation. But this nullifies the work of the cross and is far from the truth! Even Abraham was justified without works, His righteousness was given to him because he believed in God. The salvation mentioned in Philippians 2:12–13, which also refers to healing and wholeness, can only be attained by grace. You cannot earn your own salvation.
When we look at what comes before and after this phrase “work out your own salvation,” we notice two things:
“my beloved” — This tells us that this portion of Scripture was addressed to believers, those who believed in the finished work of the cross.
“for is it God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” — What Paul meant to “work out your own salvation” was for believers to live out the salvation that God had first worked in them—to make use of the willingness, desire, and power that God had given them through the finished work on the cross.
Scripture reveals how God is supplying you with all you need—endurance, patience, and joy for every trial
Part of the salvation that the Lord has first worked in us is worked out in our moral character, e.g. being patient with others.
This is what truly pleases God. Some of us may think that God is pleased when we receive our breakthroughs, e.g. when we are financially blessed. Yes, God is pleased when we are blessed and happy. But what really pleases Him is seeing us patient and kind with others.
The pleasure of loving someone is not so much in having the love reciprocated, but it is in the ability to love itself. You should find your enjoyment and fulfillment in the act of loving itself, even if the recipient does not return your love.
The love of God does not require reciprocation. You should not love to get something back. When you understand this, you will be able to love even your greatest critics!
It is the Lord who supplies us with this love and patience.
“strengthened with all might (kratos), according to His glorious (‘docsa’) power (dunamis), for all patience and longsuffering with joy;”
—Colossians 1:11 NKJV
This is a Spirit-inspired prayer for the people of Colossians. Paul prayed for the people to have:
- Divine might
- Divine glory
- Divine power
This divine power came to them for:
- Patience — In the original Greek text, “patience” refers to endurance for trials or adverse circumstances. God has given us His might and power that enables us to endure these things.
- Longsuffering — In its original meaning, “longsuffering” refers to patience with people. God has equipped us with His might and power to be patient toward others, to not be short-tempered.
- Joy — Even as the Lord empowers us to be steadfast, enduring, and patient, He also supplies us with joy! We can be people who endure with joy and are patient with people with joy. When we are joyful, we do not see our responsibilities or duties as burdens but as privileges.
You can pray daily, “Lord, strengthen me with all might, according to Your glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy!” You may find at first that you are becoming more patient, but maybe not joyful yet. Don’t worry, you’ll progressively see yourself becoming more enduring of circumstances, patient with people, and joyful! If God uses all His might, glory, and power to cause you to have these qualities, they must mean a lot to Him.
“Heavenly Father, I confess that Jesus Christ died on the cross for all my sins and all my judgment. He was buried and you raised Him from the dead on the third day. Thank You, God, that Jesus is alive today. He is my victory. He is my righteousness. His closeness with You is now my closeness with You. Jesus Christ is my Lord now and forever. The blood of Jesus has washed me clean from all my sins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“This coming week, may blessings upon blessings fall upon you and your family that you might be a mega blessing to the people around you. Everywhere you go, may the grace of God be upon you—grace upon grace upon grace, favor upon favor, that you may have an abundance to do every good work as you flow in His Spirit. Father, strengthen every one of us with all might, according to your glorious power, to all endurance and patience with joyfulness for this coming week. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”
OWN THE WORD (Life Application)
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, . . . For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
—Joshua 1:8 NKJV
While you may be facing challenges or obstacles, the key to overcoming them and seeing God’s power flow into your situation is not to focus on your troubles, but to focus on God’s Word! Joshua 1:8 tells us that spending time in God’s Word is the key to flourishing in every area of your life—whether it’s in your relationships, career, and holistic wellbeing.
Here are 3 practical ways to spend time in God’s Word this week and start experiencing good success
- Occupy your time with God’s Word
What are you doing with most of your time? Instead of being occupied with bad news or entertainment, prioritize spending time reading God’s Word!
- Desire to receive revelations of Jesus
When you see Jesus in the Word, you learn about who He is, His characteristics, the power of His finished work, and your inheritance in Him. These revelations of Jesus are what will set you on the path to success!
- Read God’s Word through the lens of grace
When you read God’s Word, be assured that verses on God’s judgment and punishment no longer apply to you as a believer because Jesus bore all that judgment on the cross. Instead, focus on scriptures that show you new covenant truths, e.g. how God is strengthening you “with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:11)!
This week, allow the Word to nourish you and bring practical results in your life!
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2022
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.