Put It in Writing
The written word is a treasure. That’s why a note from our friend is lovingly pinned to our refrigerator. That’s why a poem from your boyfriend is carefully placed in a special box. That’s why the constitution of the United States is kept in a sealed case under guard. Words, written words, are powerful things.
This is not surprising, because God made us literary creatures. From the beginning God “spoke,” and Adam “named,” and words became essential to human existence. The book of Genesis reveals that the world is well ordered, when words are well used (Gen. 1-2). On the other hand, our world crumbles when words are corrupted (Gen. 3). Words, marshalled together, form the mightiest force on earth.
In addition, when words are written by the Holy Spirit, they contain the clearest revelation of God on earth. Yes, at times God revealed His will orally, and daily His character bursts into view in creation and history. Yet, the most extensive, objective, and lasting truths about God are found in His written word. When God wanted us to know Him best, He wrote it down.
We understand the power of God’s written word, but do we see the potential in ours? Modern technology transforms us all into writers. We write thousands of words a day. Each word vibrates with possibility…to do what? Perhaps it is time to use our written words as tools to do God’s work.
Words, like all tools, need skill and wisdom to use properly, or else someone will get hurt. Thankfully, the Bible contains insight on how to write well. Over two-hundred times God commanded His people to “put it in writing.” These examples reveal how the written word can do God’s work. Consider these two.
First, writing clarifies what you believe. Many times, I thought I knew something, until I tried to write about it. Our brains have trouble seeing the holes in our reasoning, but the written word exposes the gaps.
A word written, becomes a word owned. Therefore, Israel’s king wrote a copy of the Law (Deut. 17:18), and Israel’s families wrote God’s word on their walls (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:18-21). The act of writing spelled out their identity.
Yet, confusion is the ruling tyrant of our day! People adopt their values from this corrupt culture and are drug in different directions by its ever-changing trends. Blurry eyed believers are left not knowing which way to go. It is time to go back to the source of wisdom—God’s written word (Prov. 2:1-5). A careful examination and explanation of God’s word (first!) can create clarity about our identity and priorities. So, write, if for no other reason than to know what God says more clearly.
Try this: Write to understand. That untamed area of your personality; that pressing question you have about your family; the challenging decision you face as a church; the hopes you have about the future, go to God’s word first. Listen to His wisdom, fully. Then write about it. Not for anyone else to see, but so that you will know.
Writing does its first and finest work in the writer (Jer. 20:9). Once it has, then we can move on to the next step.
Your writing can encourage others. The goal of good communication is “loving your neighbor.” Writing can spread that love to distant places and people. Godly writing has the good of others in mind.
The Biblical authors wrote to deepen the understanding of believers (Rev. 1-3), and initiate faith in unbelievers (John 20:30-31). Their writings revealed the wisdom of God, and we are all made better.
John, for example, wrote to “make your joy complete,” “so that you may not sin,” “to instruct you” and “warn you” and “so you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 1:4; 2:1,12,21,26; 5:13). That kind of writing encourages you to look to the Lord.
Before writing can be encouraging, we must guard our attitude. Be careful to write the truth in love and always be gracious (Eph. 4:15; Col. 4:6; also 2 Tim. 2:24-25). We must also know our audience. Paul spoke one way to Jews in Antioch and another way to the Gentiles in Athens (Acts 13,17). Some Biblical instruction is done in such an odious manner in the wrong place that it hinders its reception!
Yet, there is a place for spiritual encouragement in our writing. God’s wisdom can weave its way into our sentences. Prayers can be offered, instruction shared, correction given, and as a result people walk more faithfully with the Lord.
Try this: Write to encourage. Write a “Thank you” note to someone who strengthened your faith. Write a “Thinking of you” note to a friend who is lonely, hurting, grieving, or struggling. Mention the Lord. Drop in a verse. Highlight God’s promise. Share a Biblical truth. Just imagine the work God can do through your writing!
My children didn’t know my granddad, Curry Lynch. He died 30 years before they were born. Recently, I was digging through some files and came across a type-written letter in a yellow envelope, dated February 17, 1981. It was written by an old family friend. He ended his letter with these words, “I must include a personal note concerning Bro. Curry: He was my good friend and beloved brother; the church lost one of its truly good men when he passed away.”
I read the note to my children. It gave me a chance to talk about the importance of character and the church. The note was decades old, but it still did God’s work.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
I gave a little talk at the Florida College Lectures this year about writing.
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My first step in preparation was to examine the reasons God asked His people to write. The two points above arose from that study. Here are a couple additional observations that made me smile and helped me.
Keep on Writing. Sometimes we quit writing because we don’t think it is doing much good. We spend hours thinking of just the right words, and people hit the “delete” key or toss it in the trash. In those times, remember Jeremiah! Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch spent months writing down all the words God gave Jeremiah. What a treasure! It should be kept in the national archives under guard. But king Jehoiakim sliced it up and through in the fire.
A lifetime of work, gone. What do you do? You write again. Undaunted Jeremiah and Baruch go to work again, “writing the instruction of Jeremiah, all the words of the book which Jehoiakim, king of Judah has burned in the fire.” Now, here is the funny part. “And besides, there were added to them many similar words” (Jer. 36:31). When Jeremiah’s writing wasn’t appreciated, he kept writing, and wrote even more.
Sign on The Dotted Line. We have a saying, “Get it in writing, because talk is cheap.” We have the best intentions to change. We promise to do better. Yet, our words come to nothing. At this point it can be helpful to, “Get it in writing.” There is something about writing down our promise and signing our name that heightens our commitment.
Nehemiah used the power of writing to strengthen the loyalty of the people. In Nehemiah 8 the people confess their sins. In Nehemiah 9 the people pray for forgiveness. But in Nehemiah 10 they put their commitment in writing. “We make a sure covenant and write it” (Neh. 9:38-10:39).
Are you having trouble making some changes, don’t just talk about it, put it in writing.
Further Verses for Study: God often asked His people to write. These examples provide insight into why we should write. Below are a few of the verses I found helpful.
“Put It in Writing…”
For Knowledge and Transformation:
The King – Deut. 17
The Family – Duet. 6,11
Proverbs – Prov. 3:3; 7:3, metaphor for memorize, moved by
Jeremiah – Jer. 31:33, New covenant
Ezekiel – Ezek. 43:11
Luke – Luke 1:3, “write an orderly account, researched, true”
John – John 20:30-31, “written so that you might believe, and have life.”
Paul – 1 Cor. 4:14, write to admonish
Paul – 1 Cor. 5:12, write to instruct who to fellowship
Paul – 1 Cor. 14:37, write to make rules about worship
Paul – 2 Cor. 1:13, “write that you might understand…why we haven’t come.”
Paul – Phil. 3:1, “writing the same things” repeat, for remembrance
Paul – 1 Tim. 3:14-15, “writing so you know how to conduct yourself.”
Peter – 2 Pet. 3:1, “writing to stir up remembrance”
John – 1 John 1:4, “writing to make joy complete”
John – 1 John 2:1, “writing so you may not sin.”
John – 1 John 2:7, 8; 2 John 5, “writing the same things…not a new commandment”
John – 1 John 2:12-14, “writing to instruct”
John – 1 John 2:21,26, “writing to warn about false teachers.”
John – 1 John 5:13, “writing so they know they have eternal life.”
For Authority, Longevity (Something certain)
Moses – Deut. 27.8, 31:24
Cyrus – 1 Chron. 36:22
Esther – Esther 8:8; 9:25,32
Daniel – Dan. 5.7-ff
Jesus – John 5:47, “if you don’t believe Moses’ writings, how will you believe me?”
Jesus – John 19:21, accusation written on the cross…king of the Jews
Paul – 2 Cor. 13:10 “write with authority”
Paul – Gal. 1:20, “writing truth, not lying.”
Jude – Jude 3, “writing to contend for the faith.”
John – Rev. 1-3, “write to the church…words of authority”
John – Rev. 14:13; 19:9; 21:5, “write…blessed are those…these words are trustworthy and true.”
Nehemiah – Neh. 9:38, “firm covenant in writing.”
Ezekiel – Ezek. 9:3-4, “write a mark on the foreheads of the faithful”
For Influence, Testimony
Isaiah – Isa. 8:1; 30:8
Jeremiah – Jer. 30:1; 36:2
Ezekiel – Ezek. 37:16
Habakkuk – Hab. 2:2, “Write the vision, make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”
John – John 20:30-31, “written so that you might believe, and have life.”
Acts – Acts 15:20, the writing to create unity of faith and practice
Romans – Rom. 16:25-27, “the writings to bring about obedience to the faith.”
For Personal Expression / Affection / Authentication
Paul – 1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:18; 2 Thess. 3:17; Philemon 19,21; “with my own hand.”
Yet… John – 2 John 12, “writing not as personal as in person.”