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
Ezra made it a priority to study God's Word. Notice the order of events here. He didn't start teaching first. He didn't start doing first. He started by reading and learning God's Word first. You won't know how to counsel or advise somebody, if you haven't first dug deep into God's Word. You won't know what to do or how to live your life until you have let God teach and guide you. Reading God's Word is the foundation that everything else comes out of.
I can't tell you how many times people have asked me questions like, "How do I know God's will for my life?" You want to know what God wants from you? Then, as Romans 12:2 tells us, spend time studying His Word! Set your heart to it like Ezra. That means you need to be reading it every day. You need to be memorizing verses. You need to be allowing it to teach you, rebuke you, correct you, and train you. You need to sit under good teaching at church and pay attention to the sermons. You need to work hard at it to the point where you can say, "I have set my heart to studying God's Word." Many people want to know God's will for their lives, few will truly make the effort into letting him speak to them by studying His Word with all of their hearts.
Obey God's Word
After Ezra studied God's Word, he set his heart also to do it. If you're anything like me, there are plenty of times when you read a passage from the Bible, check your Bible time off of your list, and go about your day. But we aren't just reading the Bible to fill our heads with knowledge are we? The goal is that God's Word would transform our lives and change our actions. When you read about Abraham's faith to sacrifice Isaac, don't just get up and walk away. Take a few more minutes and ask yourself, "What is in my life that I would be unwilling to give up for God? What are my idols?" Then go tear them down! When we read about lying, sexual purity, gossip, and more, we must not just walk away with a verse in our head. We must put God's word into practice and set our hearts to obeying Him.
It's not enough for you to simply know what God says. You have to obey. Like Ezra, we must set our hearts to obeying Him.
Teach God's Word
Finally, after studying God's Word and then obeying God's Word, Ezra sets his heart to teach it to others. I believe we all ought to do the same. "Hold on a second Mark! I'm no pastor!" While you may not be a pastor, there are plenty of people you influence. You have a chance to teach when your son or niece is getting picked on at school. You have younger siblings, nieces, nephews, children, friends that ask for advice, neighbors who ask for your opinion, and more. Even if you never officially teach a Sunday School class in your life, you will be given many opportunities to teach others. You need to take them! Don't miss the chance to share God's Word and what He has taught you through your time of study with others.
But be careful. Remember the order Ezra did this all in. First off, if you don't study God's Word but still try to teach others about God and what He wants from us, then you are just giving your opinion. This leads to false teaching and all sorts of problems. People don't need your opinion, they need God's Word. So before you start saying what you think, make sure your thinking has been conformed to God's Word through your own diligent study. Secondly, if you don't obey God's Word but still teach others that they should, then you are nothing more than a hypocrite. People don't listen well to hypocrites. So make sure you take the opportunities that you are given to teach, but be sure that you are first studying and obeying God's Word yourself. You'll never know it all or be without sin in this life, but make sure you have set your heart to these things before you open your mouth to teach.
Some questions for you. . .
- Are you earnestly studying God's Word? When? How?
- Which of these things should you start doing?
- Reading the Bible daily
- Paying attention/Taking notes during the sermon at church
- Memorizing verses, Listening to sermons online or through podcasts
- Reading a daily devotional
- When you read the Bible, do you spend time thinking and praying about sins you need to confess, ways you need to repent, or things you need to do in light of the passage you read?
- What things do you know that God wants you to do or not do that you are disobeying?
- What opportunities do you have to teach God's Word? To who? When? Where? How?