Summary: The Bible is the inspired word of God.
One of the questions that I hear people ask a lot is, “How is the Church of Christ different from this group or that group? What makes you distinctive?” I won’t go into a full and complete answer of that question this morning, but one of the things that makes us who we are is our attitude toward the Word of God. The authority of the scriptures is one of our very foundations. It is our desire to understand the word of God more completely and to use it as a guide as we strive to apply it to our daily lives.
The Bible is a book that over the years has provoked a lot of different opinions. Mark Twain once said, "[The Bible] has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies." On the other hand, Woodrow Wilson once said, "When you have read the Bible, you will know it is the Word of God."
The attitude of most folks in this country seems to lie somewhere in between those two extremes. One Christian writer, Thom Rainer, writes about this subject and he makes a reference to an episode from the long-running sitcom Cheers that seems to depict the strange relationship that many people have with the Bible in America. In this particular episode, the bartender Sam says that that he has undergone a moral awakening and transformation. He has made a new promise to God — to live a celibate life from that day forward. His commitment is strong — until an old girlfriend shows up with a proposition. Unfortunately, Sam is overcome and leaves the bar with her.
The scene the next day has Sam’s buddies at the bar asking about his fall from grace. To their amazement, he says that "nothing happened." And he begins to relate his "spiritual" experience at the motel they went to. He happened to open a drawer in the bedside table. And, to his amazement, there was a Bible in it!
To get away from it, he took his would-be lover to a second motel. Sure enough, there was a Bible there too! Five motels later, he finally gave up, told the woman he couldn’t go through with it, and went home. Norm, Frasier, and Cliff didn’t have the heart to tell him about Gideon Bibles. They let him think that God had miraculously held him to his vow with a series of supernaturally-placed Bibles. They’d been there all along. Sam had simply never paid attention to them.
Thom Rainer draws a parallel and he says, "Such is the plight of American Christianity in the past few decades. We have the Bibles, but we never see them. Almost every home in our nation has one or more Bibles, but our citizens are biblically illiterate."
That’s an accurate assessment. A lot of people in this country will affirm the Bible as God’s written word, but then seem to know or do little about it. In a recent Gallup Poll, 82% of Americans said they believed the Bible was in some sense the word of God -- I’m amazed at how high that number is -- yet half of them couldn’t name one of the four gospels.
A poll by the Associated Press found the same thing -- most people say they read the Bible regularly, but less than half of them could tell who preached the Sermon on the Mount. In yet another survey by the Barna Research Group, over 600 adults were asked some questions about the Bible. Among the “Christians” answering, only 61% knew the book of Jonah was in the Bible; 39% thought it wasn’t. Ten percent thought Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, and 16% were sure the New Testament contained a book written by Thomas the apostle.
I share all that with you not to put anyone down, but to make the observation that it’s one thing to say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God” and something else altogether to believe that truth such that it makes a difference in what we learn and how we live.
I don’t want to suggest that affirming that the Bible as God’s word means that we all must become Bible trivia experts. There are people who know the Bible well but seem to have no clue as to what it is about. Just as there are people who memorize tons of trivial statistics about football, but never play the game or even attend a game. I like football statistics, but it’s the game that counts, not just storing up information only to be used in trivial ways. In the same way, we should study the Bible for its information, but it’s knowing, serving, and loving God that truly counts. It’s the living of it that makes the difference.