“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” – Ezra 7:10
Over a year ago I came upon this verse and it subtly but surely took hold of my heart. It grasped me in a way that I almost didn’t quite comprehend at the time.
Quite a few years ago I had very little experience preaching the word of God with any sort of clarity, conviction, understanding, or guidance. I was a fool with a Bible who wanted to see people’s lives changed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, I knew almost nothing about preaching. I had heard hundreds of sermons from my favorite preachers, yet their distance and amazing abilities to articulate Biblical truths frustrated me and set, what I considered, a bar that was way too high for other preachers and teachers to reach.
After dissecting each and every one of their sermons, I began to learn how they studied, how they utilized mannerisms and tonality, how they “took off,” and how they “landed the plane.” Eventually, after weekly bible study after weekly bible study, and practice after practice in my room I eventually found a bit of confidence in my abilities. But with all this practice and all my study I was still missing something; convictional-application.
I was missing the point of preaching. I wanted life change but had no idea how to apply and work through the truths I was preaching each and every week.
So, about two years ago, I was preparing for a sermon I was preaching on Colossians 3 and during my devotional time I read the Ezra 7 passage. The Holy Spirit rocked my heart and mind to the core. He shared with me how I am to preach and study for the rest of my life and through this, I hope to bless you as well:
1) Seek It. Ezra had “prepared his heart” (NKJV) to seek the word of God. We need to be individuals who prepare our hearts for the coming word of God. We need to be people who spend countless minutes and hours in prayer seeking the face of God and yearning for the voice of God. We need to prepare our hearts for his coming presence.
How are we to come and wait for the King of Glory? Shall we wait with anticipation and excitement, taking every precaution necessary, and think about the opportunity day and night? Yes! Shall we merely read his decrees, do them, and never ask why, how, or to what purpose? No! We are called to “prepare our hearts.” We are called to seek after the living breathing God and seek after his truest, purest voice, which is his Holy word.
2) Love it. We must love the presence of God, and we must love the word of God. Seeking the face and voice of God then prepares our hearts to fall in love with his deep, infallible, continuous word. When we dive into the Bible hungry and thirsty, yet we have not brought any utensils or plates to contain the goodness of God’s word, we depart hungry and bitter. But, when we walk into God’s presence, pour out our hearts, feel his loving embrace, then dive into his living breathing word ready to devour and drink of its goodness, we have come prepared. We have prepared our hearts, prepared our souls, and now have prepared our minds for the joyous feast ahead.
3) Live It. Before Ezra spoke the word of the Lord to the people, he lived out its decrees. He first sought the word of God and the powerful presence of the Spirit, then applied its truths to his life. He followed the law with joy and comfort. He was shaken to his knees because of the reality of how great God is, and because of that, he was able to apply the truths to his life.
We cannot skip the first two steps and jump right into application. If we forget to look to God how on earth are we to know where to go, what to do, how to do it, and for what purpose it is to be done? We are merely modifying our behaviors and conforming our religious patters to moralistic deism at best.
4) Preach It. Only after we have sought the presence of God and his great comfort, prepared our hearts and minds, fell in love with his word, and lived out its truths in complete surrender and joy, then we are allowed to share it with others. For Jesus to say “take up your cross and follow me” the key phrase here is “follow me.” We are to follow the One who has already lived out what he is calling us to do.
No good preacher will every call his people to live out what he himself is not doing. No good preacher has sought the voice of God, studied his word, and not applied it to his own life.
Without seeking the word and presence of God, falling in love with it, living it out, and then preaching it, we are but motivational speakers that seep out lifeless water from our corrupt mouths. But if we seek it, love it, live it, then preach it; a water so pure, so fresh, and so eternal, graciously spews from our mouths and our hearts which can nourish and satisfy even the most dry and desolate souls.
About the Author: Joshua Shaw is a Masters of Divinity student at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado. He is passionate about his book, Spirit-Filled Truth, Church Planting, and Leadership Development. He has a wonderful family and a beautiful wife and live in Denver, Colorado. Josh loves to write and is currently in the process of writing his first book called Spirit-Filled Truth, which is why he gave his blog the same title. The book and this website are dedicated to encouraging Christians to fall more in love with their Heavenly Father and cultivate their relationship with the Holy Spirit. For more info please see: www.spiritfilledtruth.com