I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.1 John 2:14b
I believe John placed this purpose last for a very important reason. He has already described these young men as those who have overcome the evil one. He repeats that again, but he adds this explanation:
You are strong, and the word of God lives in you. He put that last because here is revealed the secret of growth. What makes one who is a spiritual child become a spiritual young man? The Word of God abiding in him? What makes a young man become a father? The Word of God abiding in him! That is the secret of growth. That is what will move him from one stage to another until at last he becomes a father, able to reproduce himself in others.
Here is the divinely designed instrument of growth: the Word of God. It is absolutely impossible to grow up as a Christian, or as a real man or woman, unless the Word of God abides in you. This is why the devil fights this whole matter of Bible study, the building of your life around the centrality of the Scriptures, and why there is loosed a constant barrage of attack at this level. It is the supremely important thing to move us into maturity. Though the devil cannot stop us from being Christians, he can certainly keep us from becoming strong Christians, and this is exactly the way he does it. He tries to divert our attention and get us off onto spiritual sidetracks. He brings in certain apparent shortcuts that offer to bring us to maturity in an instant. Instant spirituality, instant maturity!
Across the experience of years I have watched many things prevent maturity by diverting attention from the divinely designed instrument that will bring it about, the knowledge of the Word of God. I am not talking merely about Bible study. There is a very mechanical, wooden approach to Bible study that can acquaint a person with the teachings of the Bible, but that is not enough. This passage, remember, says the Word of God
lives. That means a knowledge of the Bible plus obedience to the Spirit. When the Scriptures speak of knowing the Word of God, they are never merely talking about the instrument of the Bible; it is always the Bible plus the Spirit. It is the Word understood in the light of the illuminating, searching power of the Holy Spirit. It takes these two together to produce maturity. It is not a matter merely of taking the teaching of the Word into the mind, but it is something deeper. The Word lays hold of us. We first lay hold of it, and then it lays hold of us, and thus the Word lives, it penetrates to the conscience, it lays hold of the will, it exposes
the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12b), and that is what produces maturity.
This means that our studying must be deliberate. The knowledge of the Word must be more than a hobby or a diversion with us, an option in life, a kind of low-calorie dessert that we can take or leave as we please. No, this demands time and strength. The exhortations of Scripture are to be diligent in this. Be diligent about searching the Scriptures and studying the Word.
Father, thank You for exposing my laziness, my unwillingness to read, and my slowness to obey. Help me to lay hold of the great provision for my maturity in Christ.
What joy is experienced when deliberate Bible study moves from a 'have to' to a 'want to!' How is our desire for, time with, and practice of God's living Word growing?