Recently, I have been clearing my bookshelves and getting rid of my books because I have not read paper books for years. All my books are now in digital format. As of today, I have 1,236 books in my Kindle library, and I have another 7,088 resources on Logos, which is my Christian digital library.
The reason I like digital books is that I can change the font size that I am comfortable reading since my eyesight is getting older. Another reason is I don’t have to turn on the light to read it at night, so I don’t disturb my wife when she is sleeping. Kindle allows you to set it to the night reading mode.
Since I have both Kindle and Logos apps on my cellphone, I carry over 8,000 books in my pockets all the time. That is like having a sizable library in your pocket. I can be somewhere in the jungle of Southeast Asia and still have all my books with me.
What is strange is that I am a slow reader, and I did not even like reading when I was in school. I read cliff notes to make do. However, at some point in my life, I suddenly became a voracious reader. I read one book a day on average. Over 300 books a year.
Now, I have slowed down because, as I get older, I don’t remember what I read anymore. For example, I saw a book recommended by a friend the other day, and I went on Amazon to buy it, but on the product page, it says, “You bought this item in 2010.”
“Seriously!” I thought, “I must have bought the book and have not read it yet.” So, I opened my Kindle and searched, and surely that book is in my library. I started reading it like a new book, but suddenly I came across a bunch of highlights and bookmarks.
“Yikes! Not only did I own the book, but also I have read it.” Then I realized I am getting old. I don’t remember what I have read any more. So, I’ve decided to slow down. These days, I like to read deep and meaty subjects and slowly chew on it.
As I said, I was not born a bookworm, but why all of a sudden, I became a voracious reader devouring knowledge like crazy, particularly on the subject of God and spirituality? I know I am not alone because I know some people who read a book a day.
According to Inc. Magazine, most American CEOs read about a book a week. Bill Gates still reads about 50 books a year, and he is now 65 years old. Many of my friends read at least one book a month. According to the Pew Research Center, average American adults read only about four books a year after college. So, if you read only five books a year, you are above average already.
However, my point is not about how many books people read. I want to talk about why I suddenly became so hungry and thirsty for knowledge that changed my reading behavior significantly. I have discovered God might have something to do with it. The Prophet Amos said,
“The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD,
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Am 8:11).
I wonder if COVID-19 is a famine like this? It is not a famine of bread, or a thirst of water. I wonder how many people during this pandemic have become hunger and thirst for the words of the Lord. How many have taken the lockdown an opportunity to read, particularly God’s words.
Amos said that God in His mercy would induce hunger in you at some point to draw you near to Him. That is a blessing. If God doesn’t love us, he would just let us drift away. Sometimes, a famine could be a call from God for edification.
When you hunger for common knowledge, it is called education, but when you hunger for spiritual wisdom, it is called edification. In other words, education gives you knowledge; edification gives you wisdom. Edification is the fourth blessing that we are focusing on today. Jesus said,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mat 5:6).
It is a blessing to have such a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Righteousness, according to Jesus, is not a legal term, but a relational term. Jesus redefined and simplified righteousness as the right relationship with God and with people. The Great Commandment is the definition of righteousness. Love God and love people, nothing more and nothing less.
According to Jesus, righteousness is not about being legally innocent but relationally harmonious.
People throughout history and religions around the world have misunderstood what righteousness is. They thought righteousness is about following a set of rules, regulations, and rituals for some brownie points from God or for avoiding God’s judgment. The Bible says,
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one.” (Rom 3:10).
If we look around the world, there is always some discord among people. Every time we turn on the TV, all we see is news of broken relationships among people, races, and nations. The political parties today have become the epicenter of the pandemic of hatred, inciting riots, violence, and conspiracy.
Which is worse, the pandemic of the physical virus or that of the spiritual virus? The spiritual virus destroys not only the body but also the soul. Jesus said,
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28).
The spiritual virus does not only destroy the soul, but it is also a silent killer. It quietly leads us away from God. That is why it is a blessing to feel the hunger and thirst for righteousness to avoid spiritual stagnation.
Edification is to feed the soul, and it is the fourth blessing. So now, let us briefly review the previous three blessings to reorient ourselves to the series of the eight blessings to the CAREFREE living.
The first blessing is Consciousness. It makes us aware of a higher level of living, known as the kingdom of heaven. It urges you to seek the kingdom and righteousness as your first priority.
The second blessing is Abandonment. It gives us the courage to sacrifice our ego and any other obstacles for the kingdom living.
The third blessing is Rebirth. After the death of ego, You are now reborn into Christ, as Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20a).
At each stage, you could stall. Some people become Conscious and never have the courage for Abandonment. Some people go through the Abandonment, but they regress into their ego living. Some people experienced Rebirth but never become mature. Edification is a process of maturity.
Paul said that some Christians are always like babies that can only drink milk and never able to handle solid food. He said,
“And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready.” (1 Co 3:1–2).
People misunderstand being childlike and childish. Jesus wants us to be childlike but not childish. According to Paul, there is such a thing as a childish Christian who is stalled at their spiritual infancy.
What is stalling them? They are not hungry and thirsty for righteousness. What is righteousness again? Relationship with God and people. Then Paul said,
“For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?” (1 Co 3:3–4).
Jealousy and quarreling are relational problems. There are two groups of Christians in that context—those who followed Paul and those who followed Apollos. Apollos was an eloquent preacher. So, some Christians were drawn to him, believing that he was a better faith leader than Paul.
To translate it into today’s context, when we say, “I am a Democrat” and “I am a Republican,” and have jealousy and quarreling based on it, we are childish and of the flesh. The state of the spirit in Corinth in the biblical days reflects the state of the spirit of today’s Washington.
We need to become spiritually mature. We need to fill our hunger for righteousness, signified by the right relationships. Jesus said,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mat 5:6).
Filling the spiritual hunger is edification. Edification is translated from the Greek word “oikodomé,” which translates literally as “building up.” The Bible says,
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Th 5:11).
“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Rom 14:19).
Notice it says “one another,” “each other,” and “mutual.” It means you cannot do it alone. You need to belong to a faith community that practices building each other up or edifying each other. You cannot become mature by practicing your faith alone.
Since righteousness means the right relationships, how can you have the right relationships without a community? There is no such thing as a Christian Lone Ranger. Those who practice Christian faith without a community will not grow beyond their spiritual infancy.
There are four more blessings to receive to live a fruitful life, and they all have to do with relationships.
The word edification or building up is used twenty times in the Bible, and all of them have to do with building up one another or each other. How do you learn to love without a community to test your love? How do you learn peace without a community to make peace?
Some people say that they love everybody around the world, but when they are put into a community, they could not pass the test. If they cannot get along with their own family or faith community, their boasting about loving the world is bogus.
Jesus established the church for edification. My church is committed to building up one another to cultivate a fruitful life. We maintain an atmosphere of edification.
How do you edify each other? The answer is with your words. The Bible says,
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29).
We live in a society of trash talk. If you can control your tongue, you can attain righteousness. You are edified as you edify others. So, this verse is your homework this week. Set a goal to let every word that comes out of your mouth “useful for building up” so that your words may “give grace to those who hear.”
Jesus is known for being full of grace upon grace. If you are now living the life of Christ, then your words should be full of grace upon grace and nothing less. I know it is a tall order because our tongues are the hardest to control, but we must because it is the sharpest weapon to destroy relationships.
You can say that righteousness begins with your tongue. So, set it as your lifetime goal to speak only gracious words to edify people and be edified. Grace is the measurement of maturity. Paul said that we keep building up …
“Until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:13).
The ultimate goal is to fully replace your identity with that of Jesus Christ, as Paul did. It does not mean you don’t maintain your unique personality. You can manifest the Christ identity in your unique personality.
Remember that last week we talked about the AAA of living your Christ identity.
1. Affirm Your Christ Identity Every Morning
2. Apply Your Christ Identity Every Day
3. Amend Your Christ Identity Every Night
You can add edification to the second part—Apply Your Christ Identity Every Day. Let every word of your mouth be edifying and full of grace, showing your Christ identity with your tongue.
Don’t worry if you failed because you could amend it at night. God is full of mercy. Talking about mercy, next week, we will talk about Forbearance, which is another word for mercy, and we will learn the fifth blessing.
Until then, let us aim at edifying one another to the full stature of Christ seeking first His kingdom and righteousness. Amen!