September 25, 2016 sermon
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
2 Timothy 3:16
We want to start today by looking at our first value – the Bible. This is such an important value. It will be really good for us to talk about this value of Scripture.
Although there are mysteries in the Bible, we believe that when taken in context the Bible is true, that it fits together, and that it is good for us. – 2 Timothy 3:16
We’re going to go through the three things that that affirms about the Bible. Then we’ll talk about how I believe you personally should respond to these beliefs about the Bible.
We value the Bible. This is important, because it will give you a snapshot of our church. Here are just a few of the ways that you will see that value play out. We will –
- Deliver authentic, engaging, expositional preaching that makes us hungry for more of God’s Word (no pressure there!)
- Make the Bible the most important factor in our decision making
- Teach our children Bible content, not just character applications
- Have passionate teaching and preaching across our church, that shows that Scripture is alive, that’s it’s engaging, and that it speaks to every area of our life
This book is a treasure chest. It’s a compass for life. It’s a friend when you are lonely. It’s a corrective when you are wrong. It’s a how-to manual for life. It is the very word of God and, as Paul says, it can make us wise to salvation.
You have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world – and have had down through the ages – who would give almost anything to have their own copy of this book in their language.
A friend of mine met a Pastor in the Zambezi valley in Africa, and all he had for a Bible was two pages of Deuteronomy. Can you imagine what he would give for a Bible like yours? If you have a Bible, you are spiritually rich.
I want us to be the kind of people who love this book – and who go to this treasure chest again and again to find the riches we need for our individual lives – and for us as a church.
So let’s talk about the three things that statement says we believe about the Bible.
The Bible is True
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar. – Proverbs 30:5-6
I love that verse. It has some great things to say about depending on God and adding to God’s word. Notice it says “every word of God is true.” Later in the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us why every word is true:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. – 2 Timothy 3:16
Paul is saying that all Scripture is God-breathed – or we would say inspired. I believe that this book is inspired, and I believe in what is called “verbal-plenary inspiration.” There’s your 50 cent theological term for the day. Feel free to use that at the water cooler at the office tomorrow “verbal-plenary inspiration. No – it’s a big term – but what it actually means is just this: That God inspired both the:
- Words of Scripture – “verbal”
- Whole of Scripture – “plenary”
In other words, Scripture is true and inspired in a big-picture sense. That story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Response is God-breathed. Scripture is also true and inspired in more detailed sense. The concepts that are used by the writers of the Bible – the illustrations – even down to the very word choice – that’s all inspired. All of Scripture is God-breathed.
We don’t believe that the writers of the Bible went into a trance and just mechanically wrote. You can see their individual personalities in their writings and the differences in their grammar. But we believe that God superintended every word that they wrote. He worked through their experiences, and the Holy Spirit guided them, so that every word in the original manuscript of the Bible is God-breathed. So we believe that both the big stuff and the little stuff is true.
We believe that the Bible is both spiritually true and historically true. Just like that verse in Proverbs says, it’s all true.
We believe that the spiritual principles of the Bible – what it says about right and wrong – and the gospel – and eternal life – are true. We also believe that the events of the Bible really happened: the flood – the parting of the Red Sea- the Miracles and Resurrection of Jesus – we believe these things all really happened. The truth of this book is the foundation of this church and of my ministry, so I believe it’s true.
Just like our statement says, there are mysteries in the Bible. There are things in the Bible that we are not capable of understanding. Like the Trinity. I don’t think we are capable of understanding how God can eternally be three persons and yet one God. I can’t explain that.
I can’t explain how God’s sovereignty – his control of our lives – fits with our apparent ability to make meaningful choices. I can’t. So there are mysteries in the bible that we cannot understand.
There are mysteries in the Bible that I personally don’t understand. I don’t understand how all the chronology of the four gospels fits together. Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry, as John seems to suggest? At the end, as Mark seems to suggest? Did he do it twice?
I don’t understand how much of the book of Revelation is literal and how much of it is figurative. That’s a mystery to me. I don’t fully understand how the Genesis account of creation fits with science. I can’t fully explain that.
But here’s the thing: I don’t believe that those things in the Bible that I can’t explain are untruths. I don’t think they are falsehoods. I’ve seen too many of those kinds of things explained for that.
- They used to think that the chronology of John’s account of the Last Supper contradicted Mark’s account. Then they realized that John was using a Hebrew calendar, and Mark was using a Roman calendar.
- Isaiah talks about a King Sargon who ruled over Assyria. For years, archaeologists were saying that there was no such King. Then they realized that Sargon had moved the Palace in his reign. Now he’s one of the best documented Kings of Assyria.
- For years, they thought John’s gospel was written in the late 2nd or even early 3rd century by someone other than John. Then they found a partial manuscript of John from about 110AD.
So I’ve seen a lot of these things reconciled. Either we misread our Bibles or we were missing a piece of information. So listen – clearly there is some faith involved here – but I believe that this book is written by God – both the big picture and the words – and that it’s true.
That’s why I preach the way I do. That’s why sometimes we focus on just a word or two and get something out of it or we can focus on the bigger context. That’s why I preach expositionally, where we let a Bible passage do the speaking.
I believe this book is true: It’s the authority – the only authority – for everything I teach you. Who cares about my opinion? Who cares what I think is wrong? Or how I think we should behave? I hope you don’t! My authority doesn’t come from my intellect, or my position, or my experience. My authority comes from this book rightly taught – and only from this book.
That’s why any time I preach to you I’m always trying to do two things:
- I’m always trying to teach you what to think. I’m always trying to share with you what the passage says about right and wrong – or the gospel – or who God is – what to think.
- Almost more importantly, I’m always trying to teach you how to think biblically. That’s why I’m always giving you the historical background. That’s why I’m always taking you through the writer’s train of thought.
I want you to understand that this book isn’t just some magical book of gibberish and every once in a while an inspiring thought pops out, like – God works all things together for good. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you. Or cleanliness is next to godliness. (just kidding…).
I want you to understand that this isn’t gibberish with an occasional inspiring thought. It all fits together – and you can pick this up and read it for yourself – and it makes sense in context – and it’s true – and the truth of this book can change your entire life! It can nourish you! I want you to drink deeply from it!
I love it so much when someone comes to me and says “You know, I never used to read my Bible – but since I’ve been coming here, I’ve started reading it, and it make sense!” That is one of my favorite things ever to hear in ministry!
We believe that “yes – there are mysteries – but the first thing we believe is that the Bible is true.”
The Bible Fits Together
It all fits together! One of the most amazing things about this book is the fact that over 40 writers could compose it – in multiple languages – over the space of several centuries – many without knowledge of one another – and yet it fits so amazingly well together. The Bible fits together.
The languages of the Bible fit together: Hebrew is a language that is very earthy and poetic. In Hebrew, you don’t say “God got angry.” You say “his nostrils flared.” It’s a language that evokes images and touches the heart. So it makes perfect sense that the Old Testament, with its stories – and with the poetry of Job and the Psalms – and with the fiery prophets – would be written in Hebrew.
Greek on the other hand, is very precise. It’s very cerebral – way more complicated than English. There are over 300 ways to spell one Greek verb to convey just exactly what it means. So it makes sense that the Epistles, and Doctrinal sections of the New Testament would be written in Greek. It’s the perfect language for that. So the languages of the Bible fit together.
The prophecies of the Bible fit together. One of the most amazing things about the Bible is that it gives prophecy after prophecy after prophecy in the Old Testament that is fulfilled in the New Testament. This starts in Genesis 3. Immediately after the story of the fall – when God says “the offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent and the serpent would bruise his heel” – which is a reference to Jesus. The Bible carries on like that again and again and again…
- Predicting events that would occur much later in history.
- Predicting the rise and fall of nations. In one instance, the Bible gives the name and ethnicity of a Pagan King 200 years before he ever rises to power.
- And, of course, the Bible miraculously predicts the birth, the death and the resurrection of Jesus centuries before he was born.
In just one Psalm, King David predicted:
- That the Messiah would be rejected by his people
- That he would die a thirsty, exhausting death surrounded by wicked people
- That they would pierce his hands and his feet – which they did
- That they would cast lots for his clothing – which they did
- The very words that Jesus spoke on the cross
- And the words that his enemies spoke as he hung there
- The very ends of the earth will worship the Lord because of this death
- That a people will come into existence because he has done this
- And that is all fulfilled in the gospel story
Even though the two accounts were written 900 years apart: one by a King, and one by a common fisherman – in two separate languages – independently.
This thing fits together. The languages fit, the prophecies fit. And the two testaments – the two covenants – the Old Testament and the New Testament fit together – they do.
I know it’s a common thing to look at the God of the Old Testament, and say “I don’t like that God. I think he’s a different God than the God of the New Testament. I know that at times God seems harsh – even incomprehensible – in the Old Testament.
But the Old Testament and the New Testament fit together. I know some of those laws, and commands, and sacrifices seem harsh – but they are the foundation of the New Testament.
That Gospel story that we love so much – Creation – Fall – Redemption- Response – starts in the Old Testament and moves through the New Testament.
The Old Testament lays out the very necessary foundation that God created us:
- That he has a purpose for us
- That he is holy
- That he is not to be approached on our own terms
- That he is God – and we are not
- That his opinion of what is right and what is wrong – his opinion of the condition of our hearts – is what matters – not ours
The Old Testament, with its laws – establishes mankind’s need for the gospel – and without it – the concept of redemption is meaningless. There can be no such thing as forgiveness if there’s no such thing as sin.
These fit together. If we read thing through both testaments, we will find that through Jesus – who is the central figure of the Bible – we have not only been forgiven, but we have been set free from the yoke of the Old Testament law. As the old children’s saying goes:
- The New is in the Old contained
- The Old is in the New explained
- What the Old Testament conceals, the New Testament reveals
This fits together. That’s why we want to teach our children not just moral values or character applications. We want to teach them the story of the Bible. We want to put into their minds those stories of faith – and those memory verses – and the big story line of the gospel – so that later in life when their faith is challenged, they know why they believe what they’ve been told to believe – so that the content of their faith is there.
The Bible is Good for Us
I’m not going to camp long on this today – but in some ways, I wish I could. Because truth be told – this is actually the central issue with the Bible.
People may argue about reliability, and contradictions and preservation. But the truth is the central question on most people’s minds isn’t about whether the Bible is historically reliable or about the particular way in which it is inspired. The central question on most people’s minds is whether the Bible is beneficial – whether it’s really good for us. We want to know “if I entrust myself to the worldview of this book – if I entrust myself to the truth-claims of this book – if I entrust myself – really entrust myself – to the commands of this book – will it go well with me? Will I ultimately be glad I did that?” Or is this all some big hoax – made by man – or where God is trying to control us and withhold from us that which is really in our best interest.
That’s the question: And it’s the original question. I don’t know if you remember the story of Adam and Eve. The original accusation of the serpent was that God’s Word was not good for them – that God was holding out on them. He said “Surely God didn’t tell you not to eat of that tree, did he? He’s not really worried about you dying. That’s not it at all. Rather, he knows that when you eat of that tree, things are going to go really well for you. You’re going to be like gods, knowing both good and evil. God’s holding out!”
That was the original battle – and we’ve been fighting it ever since, haven’t we? It’s not just non-Christians that fight it, but Christians like you and me. Every time I pick up my Bible I have to decide whether that I read is really in my best interest or not.
I’m here today to tell you that it is. It is in your best interest. As a Pastor, I have the unique opportunity to be with people during the closing days and hours of their life. I can tell you without reservation: that in those final moments, the happiest – the most fulfilled people I’ve seen – are those who have settled this issue and lived a life of trust that this book is good for them.
This book will do so much for you. It will be a compass for your life. It will give you wisdom.
Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105
This book will give you wisdom – young people especially for you. It will give you wisdom in setting priorities – in building your character – in negotiating your relationships. It will give you surprising, beautiful wisdom.
This book will give you peace. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in turmoil, and I open my Bible to read (usually in the Psalms – and it has been exactly what I need for that moment. It brings peace. I’ve seen people on their deathbed – that you would swear can’t understand what’s going on in the room – and I’ve seen them settle down – and their heartbeat steady – and seen them pay attention as we read Scripture to them. This book will give you peace.
This book will give you strength against temptation.
Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you. – Psalm 119:11
This book will give you strength against temptation. How did Jesus respond when he was tempted by Satan in the desert? “It is written – it is written – “ every time, he responded with God’s Word.
Scripture can give you the strength to stand in your hour of testing – not just because it tells you what to do – but because it tells you why! It renews your mind and changes your thinking.
This book can give you wisdom, peace and strength against temptation.
Lastly, this book can give you eternal life. Everyone here who has trusted in Christ, trusts either because they read what the Bible says about Jesus or because someone told them what the Bible says about Jesus.
For all these reasons, we believe the Bible is good for us. It’s true. It fits together. It’s good for us. We love this book and, because of that, we will make this book the most important factor in the decisions we make as a church.
The most important factor won’t be our own cleverness – or our strategic plan – or vision statement – or what is popular at the moment. To the best of our ability, it will be what this book teaches. We are going to submit ourselves to this book – rightly interpreted.
That – and the other things I’ve spoken about today – are the ways that we are going to act on our belief that Scripture is true, that it fits together, and that it is good for us.
For you guys personally, I just want to give two quick suggestions:
- The first is going to come as a complete surprise – especially from me – but it is this: Read your Bibles! This thing is a treasure-chest, so open it up and read! If you’re new to it, don’t start at the beginning! Start with the Psalms or the Gospel of John. But just read this thing.
- And second, submit to this book. Just quit fighting it – and run up the white flag – and submit to God’s Word. Really, what would happen if you put away your own plans for yourself – your own insistence that you always knew what was best – and just put your life under the authority of this book? What would happen if you really tried to live out what this book says about your job? About your family? About your finances? What would it be like? It would change your life for the better. Many of you would know peace – and love – and meaning – and a family life that you never dreamed were possible.
We love this book, because it’s true, it fits together, it is really, truly good for us and, most of all, because it God’s Word.