Summary: Fifth in the "Back to the Basics" series, exploring the foundational beliefs of Christians. This sermon addresses the question, "What do Christians believe about the Bible?"
Have you ever gone to a movie with one set of expectations and then found out the movie wasn’t at all what you expected? Somebody told you that it was going to be funny, but the movie was really quite serious. Or you read in the newspaper that the movie was scary, but you found yourself laughing at all the scary parts? And you come out of the movie disappointed, because it didn’t meet your expectations. Yet, the funny thing is, if you had gone in with different expectations, you might have enjoyed the movie a lot more. If you had gone in knowing it wasn’t going to be a comedy, you wouldn’t have minded that you didn’t laugh, and could have enjoyed the movie for being a serious drama. The expectations going in make a huge difference in how you experience the movie.
When it comes to reading the Bible, we find that we have all kinds of expectations going in. And those expectations make a huge difference in how we read the message of the Bible. If we read the Bible with the expectation is that we will learn how to cook chicken teriyaki stirfry, we will obviously be disappointed. If we have the expectation that the Bible will tell us how to solve the AIDS epidemic or global warming, we probably won’t find our expectations fulfilled.
The expectations we start out with make a huge difference. Some people think the Bible is just full of names and geographic places that are hard to pronounce, so sure enough, when they get to the first name they don’t recognize, they quit reading.
Some people are simply intimidated by the size. The Bible by itself has more than 1400 pages, and a lot of study Bibles that have notes included push the size over 2000 pages. When the National Endowment of the Arts did a survey that found out that barely a majority of Americans, 56%, read *any* book last year, how likely is it that they’ll pick up a 2000 page book to read? If the expectation is that the Bible is going to be a difficult slog through a really long book, a lot of people just won’t try.
Some people have the expectation that the Bible should answer every problem we could imagine in the world today. Since there are all sorts of scientific and technological and societal issues that we face today that weren’t even in existence when the Bible was written, they figure the Bible can’t meet their expectation and simply dismiss it as an antiquted, obsolete book that isn’t relevant to our lives any longer. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Some people start with the expectation that the Bible is going to be too hard to understand. But sometimes the Bible is hard to understand because we take the wrong questions to it. Sometimes it’s hard to understand because we don’t even know what questions we ought to be asking of it. And it can be hard to figure that out because it was written in another culture, at another time, and in another language. Translating its meaning for us today can be a real challenge.
The good news is that the important questions people were asking back then are, really, the same kind of questions we have now. Who are we? Why are we here? What is life all about? What is our connection to God? Where are we ultimately headed? The Bible is the Word of God, a response to some of those questions.