Summary: Trends in America toward less regard for the authority of Scripture are alarming. This message addresses that problem and sets forth four ways Christians should relate to the Bible.
I want to use two passages in the Bible as my text this morning.
The first one is the instruction God gave to Joshua as he began leading the nation of Israel. (Josh 1:8) “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”1 Joshua’s future depended on how he related to the revelation God had given in His word. “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Tomorrow will work out well for you if…if you keep the word of God prominent in your life, if you think about it day and night, if you do what it tells you to do. Of course, we know that Joshua took that advice to heart and was successful in leading Israel into the Promise Land.
In contrast to that, we now move to the days of Jeremiah when Israel had set aside the word of the Lord and followed their own ideas. Listen to the word of the Lord to the leaders of Israel in those days, Jerm. 8:9 “The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have?” The rhetorical question : “They have rejected the word of the LORD: So what wisdom do they have?” None that counts! To reject the word of the Lord is to reject wisdom. The consequence of rejecting what God has already said is that you have forsaken the wisdom that is available to you.
The word of the Lord was available to the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day. They had the “Book of the Law” that God had given Moses. They had the Psalms that God had given David and the Proverbs of Solomon. They even had the prophet, Jeremiah, in their midst. He was giving them the word of the Lord, as well. God’s word was readily available to those people. That was not their problem. Their problem was that they had not embraced that word as the rule of life. First, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and secondly, as a consequence of that, they have no wisdom.2 Our wisdom is to hear the word of the Lord and let that word direct our course in life.
A study by the Barna Institute found that that the number of people skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible nearly doubled from 2011 to 2014. Those believing that the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contain stories and advice” doubled during that three-year period. That trend is alarming. The same study found that the number of people coming to Scriptures to connect with God is also declining.3 There is a drifting from the word or perhaps even a forsaking of the word of the Lord in our country. We will not be a part of that. We will follow Joshua’s example.
Four things we must do in our relationship with the word of God:
I. Respect the authority of the revelation in the word.
This is about our attitude toward the Bible. Is a book filled with interesting stories and advice from well-meaning men? No, it is much, much more than that. It is a revelation from God. It is designed to show you the way of salvation. It is designed to show you how to live life successfully so that the end result is good. It is authoritative above all other ideas because it comes to us from the Creator. Peter wrote in his second epistle, “knowing this first,” [as a priority get this down first of all] “ that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2:20-21). The Scriptures were initiated by God. The Holy Spirit moved on men and supernaturally revealed to them truth.
Paul warned the Christians at Colosse, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). There are ideas and philosophies of this world asserting influence all around us. There are ways of viewing life that are contrary to God’s will and many Christians are influenced by those philosophies. Paul says watch out that you don’t get deceived by those thoughts.
In the past few decades the culture has been significantly affected by a post-modern mindset. Most people think it’s their own reasoning; but, in fact, they have been influenced by the spirit of this world. They have bought into a worldview that does not acknowledge absolutes. So the rule of life becomes, whatever feels right for you. You let me live the way I want to live and I’ll let you live the way you want to live. There is something good about respecting one another’s free will. But when we add to that, the idea that one lifestyle is as good as any other lifestyle, we have been deceived. It is one thing for me to respect your free will and give you space to make your own decisions in life. It is another for me to say that what you do is right simply because that’s what you want to do. There are boundaries established by the Creator as to what is right and acceptable verses what is wrong and not acceptable. Since He made it all; and He owns it all, He is the One who decides what those boundaries are. And He has revealed some of those boundaries in His word.