In the Heart or Just Floating on Water?

paper boat floating on stream

For centuries, the Bible has been the best-selling book out of all literature. It can be found in print, electronic, spoken, and visual formats. It can be pocket-sized, or so large that it requires both hands to pick it up. Both Old and New Testaments combined have been translated into over five hundred and fifty languages, while individual books have been translated into almost three thousand languages. The Bible can be viewed graphically in comic book format, or seen dramatized in film and video. Both devout believers and adamant unbelievers often quote (and misquote) from it. Passages can be found displayed in many places, from very obscure locations to prominent public monuments, and even on blimps and hot-air balloons. It has also been, and continues to be, banned, censored, rewritten to please a particular group of readers, mistranslated, abused, maligned, and burned or otherwise destroyed.

Yet even though God’s Word has been available in so many places around the world throughout history, the message it contains remains little known, especially (and unfortunately) among those who are most capable of understanding it.

For many in this present day, the plot of a novel or the script of a movie or television show is more easily and frequently known or quoted than even a handful of verses from the Bible.

Why is this so? Since the Bible is available among highly-developed nations more than it ever has been since it was first mass-printed, why are we more likely to hear it quoted today by under-privileged people in third-world countries and repressed nations?

The answer lies in how we view the Word of God. The Bible must be the foundation of our belief in, and understanding of, Him. It must be the means upon which we build our relationship with Him. It should be regarded with great value. When we consider His Word as dry and somewhat meaningless, or just a collection of stories, morals, and advice, then we have no core or structure to follow as a believer in Christ. It becomes a shell with no real substance inside to us.

If the Bible is read as just an obligation or requirement, rather than as a desire, then we evidently have no real love for God. He will have become more of a religion to us rather than a relationship.

Our spiritual strength comes from having God’s Word inside of us. If it is only in our head, then we become unbalanced spiritually. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11, emphasis mine). Too many people boast of their knowledge of the Scriptures instead of their relationship with God. Some have memorized many portions of the Bible. Others can quote it with great eloquence. But is it really in their heart? Do they really know deep down what they are talking about? Even the devil can quote scripture. Does that make him holy, righteous, or a better being? The Word of Almighty God isn’t simply like a little, colorful leaf floating on water—beautiful, but insecure and easily sunk or removed from view.

leaf floating on water

The answer to dealing with the temptations of this life and the wiles of the devil is to have God’s Word rooted deep within our heart. If reading each passage seems to be drudgery, we need to ask the Lord to open up the deeper meaning to us. Almost anybody can just read the Bible, but godly wisdom and knowledge come from studying and meditating on it. God is delighted when we want to know more about Him, and He will then reveal more of Himself to us proportionately though His Word. “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119:68). But we must be willing to make that first step. “Draw [near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a). When we are not just reading His Word, but devouring it, we will discover that we will want to read it more and more.

“I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 119:14-16).

“And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (Psalm 119:47).

The Bible will be more to us than just a reference book, or a manual on how to live correctly, when we begin see it as a glimpse into the very heart of God. As we open our mind to His Word, and bury it in our hearts, it will no longer be like nothing more than a leaf floating on the water, but a stable fortification instead. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God(Ephesians 6:14-17 emphasis mine).

Have you let God’s Word become lost in a pile of books on a table? Have you carelessly left it someplace where it may become damaged or even ruined? Make an effort to locate it and read it. Study what it says, and put it in your heart where it will do the most good—for yourself, and anyone you may meet.

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Floating or Sinking?

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Have you ever watched an object float on the water? All it will do is float along and it won’t sink—unless water is allowed to come inside. It doesn’t matter whether it is a huge ship on the ocean carrying hundreds of containers of cargo, or just a plastic bottle cap on top of a puddle—both float on the water. Yet, when water gets an opportunity to come inside, both will stop floating and sink to the bottom, either slowly or very quickly, depending on how much water has been allowed in.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are like a ship floating in the ‘sea of humanity’. You have a responsibility to maintain your buoyancy in order to stay afloat. You can’t allow your exterior to deteriorate or corrode. If you do, holes will develop, or you may become structurally unstable and your ‘hull’ (a boat’s outer covering) will weaken and collapse or burst, allowing the water of godless humanity to enter in. This will cause you to sink. When you are floating in this ‘sea,’ you are in the world of the ungodly, but when you allow the water of this ‘sea’ to enter your ‘ship,’ you become full of this world of the ungodly. Then you will be liable to sink. Jesus told us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15, 16). The more of the corrupt system of this world you allow into your heart, the more your ‘ship’ fills with water and starts to sink. A sunken ship seldom has value to anyone.

sinking sailboat

The ways that the ‘water’ of this ungodly world can come into you are not always obvious, since Satan, the prince of this world, usually operates in subtle ways. One of the simplest ways he likes to use is to get you to decrease your desire to pray, to the point where you eventually stop praying altogether. Satan likes to use this method, since prayer is your communication with God and it is where He aligns you with His will. Regular communication is essential for a lasting bond to develop, whether in a marriage relationship, or just between two close friends, but especially in your relationship with your heavenly Father.

Satan absolutely hates it when you diligently continue to pray to God with all your heart.

Satan also likes to discourage you from reading the Bible each day, or, better yet, he tries to bring you to the point where you stop reading it altogether. The Bible is God’s standard for your life. It shows why we are all sinners in His sight, how you can obtain His mercy, how you can be redeemed from the bondage of sin, and that forgiveness for your sins is available because of His Son’s sacrifice of His own life on the Cross on your behalf. It also tells you how to live a righteous life that is pleasing to God by coming to Him through His Son (and only through His Son). It shows us the consequences of our past, and the future of everyone who does not believe in and obey God by accepting His Son and the ultimate sacrifice He made on their behalf into their heart.

Satan likes to lure you away with the things you used to do in your ungodly past. He might also try to distract you with things that, while not outwardly sinful, will still succeed in removing your focus from Jesus. Whenever Satan can get you to focus on yourself and not Jesus, then those holes start rapidly appearing in your ‘ship’s’ hull and let water rush inside. He may even get you to become so focused on what you want, and not what God wants, that you will actually start letting in water on your own, without the need for any holes or corrosion at all! God does not want you to ever lower yourself down to the world’s standards. He wants the world to come up to the standard you are to be following, which is Jesus Christ.

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The best way to be in this world of ungodliness, and not become full of it, is to put Jesus Christ at the center of your faith. Stop trying to operate your ‘ship’ by yourself and place it in His hands instead. Then you will no longer give Satan the freedom to force ungodly water inside as a result. If you take your focus off of Christ and all that He accomplished for you on the Cross, you will create openings that give Satan the legal right to work in your life. In other words, the ‘water’ of the world begins entering inside you. You can’t freely mingle with the sinful world as a child of God and still walk away afterward unaffected by it. Jesus told us to Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 emphasis mine). Fill your ship with God’s word instead. Keep your ‘hull’ strong by prayer, and you will be able to keep the ‘water’ of the world from causing you to sink, through Jesus Christ!

Tempted and Tried

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“Jesus said unto him, It is written again…You shall not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7).

What does it mean to “tempt” God? It refers to testing His strength, goodness, value, and truth, or to put Him to the proof to see if what He says is true. It means that we are not to intentionally enter into danger that only the power of God can rescue us from, in order to force Him to come to our aid and rescue us. It can also mean trying Him to see if He really exists. Will He actually come through for us when we really need Him to?

Do we really think that we are strong enough on our own to take it upon ourselves to dare the devil to tempt us, because we feel that we can win against him? Then we imply that we don’t need God to help us. We are purposely stirring God up—not to rescue us—but to leave us to our own devices, since we are so sure we know what we are doing.

And just because God has given certain people great privileges, these alone do not protect or exempt them from being tempted (tested, tried) also. Jesus Himself was put into a situation where He would be tried by the devil. His faith proved to be perfect and determined.

There was not even one thing He was willing to do to put the goodness of God to the test. Why? Because He was already positively confident that God is good. He didn’t need any proof of it at all. He already had all the proof He would ever need of the truthfulness and power of God.

Many people are tempted when they long after or chase their own strong hopes and desires. But Jesus did not have a fallen nature like the children of Adam, so He had no evil hopes or desires beckoning Him to pursue them. This is why the devil was the only one who could be used to tempt Him. All the temptations the devil threw at Him were for one primary purpose. He wanted to get Jesus to wonder if He could trust His heavenly Father in all things, at all times. He wanted to bring Jesus to the point where He would do something to sin against His heavenly Father.

When the devil tempted Him, Jesus did not plead His case against him, or even engage in a discussion with him. He simply replied “It is written” (in the Scriptures/Bible) and quoted the appropriate passage to him. The Devil can use the word of God too, and be very artful and clever about it. But when he uses it, he twists and turns it to fit what he wants to say, or to try to produce the outcome he is looking for. How very crafty he is, as he confronts and very boldly defies God.

But He can be successfully opposed, as Jesus has already proven for our sake. Jesus was successful when He encountered temptation because He met it head on with the proper weapon—the Word of God used in the proper way. How comforting it is to us therefore to know when we are tempted if we do not yield and no longer have ungodly lusts for the devil to appeal to. Then we are not so much tempted as we are tried.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Jesus learned by personal experience what it meant to suffer being tempted. This way, He was also able to learn what it was like to receive support from God the Father and to be delivered from His distress. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor [bring relief to] them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Since Jesus has already gone through temptation and successfully resisted it, we can be confident that we can also go through it and be successful too when we follow His example. He will be right there with us to bring assistance, and to relieve and deliver us from every difficulty, every need, every distress.

What can we learn from all this? We need to go to God for help when our need is oppressing, and nowhere else. We need to counter the devil with the Word of God, not our own pitiful ideas and arguments and experiences. We can be confident that our heavenly Father will provide for our need, just as He did for Jesus. Why should we presume? Why should we despair? He is right there to meet our every need and rescue us from every temptation!

Blueprint for Life

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When I was young, I used to enjoy wandering through homes and apartments under construction. Back then, we could freely do so when the construction workers were gone for the day. There weren’t all of the legal issues of liability, theft, etc., that would prevent one from doing this like there are today. It was fun to try to figure out what each area was going to become (closet, bedroom, bathroom, etc.), as well as watching how the building was being constructed.

Even to this day, it still amazes me how all the elements of various construction work come together. Something as simple as building a wall frame with a space for a window somehow works out right each time.

While I’m not totally inept at carpentry or technical work, I can’t just pick up several pieces of wood and build a simple structure or frame in a single attempt. I seem to always cut something wrong (yes, I measure twice before cutting once!). This usually happens because my original design was incorrect, resulting in my measurement being wrong and my cut therefore being off. Now if I had sat down and contemplated what I was going to build first, and ultimately created a drawn plan, I probably would have had better results. On a larger-scale project, such as a house or other building, plans like this are usually called blueprints. Before computers were used to design a building, all work had to be drawn by hand. It was then transferred to a piece of light-sensitive paper that would ultimately turn blue, leaving the drawn design (floor plan) in white and eventually white paper with lines that became blue (hence a blueprint). Today, the blue paper and blue lines are gone, and the term blueprint (when used) is applied to almost any type of printed floor plan and drawing.

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It has always impressed me how detailed the specifications are when a blueprint or design is made. When the building where I was working was remodeled, I used to pore over the blueprints used during construction. Each element of construction had its own floor plan: electrical, plumbing, climate control, refrigeration, etc.

There were detailed instructions on where each item was to be moved, installed, relocated, or removed entirely—all the way down to the exact inch in many instances.

There was rarely any generalization, or ‘leave it to the contractor to decide.’ Of course, there must be exactness and precise instructions, or the electrical outlets would be in the wrong places, floors would be crooked, doors wouldn’t open or close, windows wouldn’t fit, heat or air conditioning would blow into walls, or into a closet, and water or sewer pipes might go through the room instead of inside the walls surrounding it!

Are you aware that God also has a blueprint for each of us? His blueprint is the Bible (or the “Word of God”). Its pages contain the instructions for life, your life. It tells us where we came from and what our future will ultimately be. It gives us wisdom and guidance as well. Of course, it is not written in common instructions like ‘open the left door for happiness’ or ‘close your eyes when looking at the sun to prevent blindness.’ Yet it is written in a way that anyone, at any point in time, whether in the past, the present day, or the future, could read and understand it. In order to read the Bible in this manner, naturally it is necessary for you to have a desire to understand it, especially the deeper truths and meanings within it.

If you were to pick up a blueprint for a complex high-rise building and try reading it straight through, you would have difficulty understanding everything it contained (unless you had prior instruction), or, more importantly, the desire to really understand it.

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God wants us to seek Him and ask Him how to really read and understand His Word. It is not a nice piece of literature to read like poetry, but rather, our moral and spiritual guide and direction from childhood to the grave. And God not only wants us to read His Word, He wants us to obey it.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:22-24).

“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Anyone can simply read the words of the Bible, but only God can open your eyes to understand it. He wants to know if you are serious about understanding His Word. A lot of individuals are not serious about His Word, and they readily pull verses out of context to try to prove that the Bible makes no sense. (Actually, many books appear nonsensical when sentences are pulled out of context.) Even a blueprint for a simple room will make no sense if someone begins to add or subtract lines, or change the measurements given for a particular wall. That’s why we must ask God for discernment and understanding when reading His Word, and the works of others that teach or explain His Word.

To really understand God’s Word, you need to know God Himself, and to have His Son Jesus working in your heart and abiding within you.

If you want to really know Him better and fully obey His commandments, it is necessary to surrender your life to Him. The Bible is a blueprint for the house God wants to build that will last for eternity. And that house (dwelling place) is you, if you will let Him do this. If you want this house that we have the blueprint for, then you have to let God the Master Builder do the work. If you remain in the house you are in now, it will eventually disintegrate and return to the earth it came from and be lost forever.

The blueprint for life is already made and the choice is yours: knowing God and having a home made for eternity, or continuing on with your own plans, and no home for eternity.