I am grateful to Timothy Peck on Sermon Central in his message “What Christians Think About the Bible” for much of the content for this message. Great Job Timothy
"Do We Have To Follow The Bible?"
9/15/13 Proverbs 2:1-15 2 Timothy 3:10-17 Pastor Rick
How many of you grew up with a large bible in your home? I can remember we had a great big thick bible. It started with a place for you to put your Family Name and the list of the children and grandchildren. It had a place for you to list weddings, baptisms and funerals. It had pictures of stories and events in the bible. It stayed in the living room. But in all my years, I do not have a single memory of us ever opening the bible together and actually reading it. We treated the bible as a holy book, but we didn’t actually use it, unless we thought somebody was lying and we wanted to make them swear on the bible. We even have presidents swear on the bible to be installed and then ignore what’s in it once they get into office.
It’s sort of sad that we didn’t get around to reading it, because it had a lot of good practical information for life inside. It contains information on how to make our money go further. It has information on how to have a great marriage with great sex. It has information on how to be healed from emotional problems. It has information on how to avoid debt. It has information about choosing a marriage partner or what you can do if you choose to be single. It has information on understanding why you like doing some jobs and not others, and why you are strong in some areas and weak in others. It has information on dealing with difficult people in your life. It talks about the pain and suffering we see in the world and what is our responsibility toward the poor. It has information on changing your life and starting over. It contains information on who God is, how much God loves you, and how you can be in a right relationship with God.
My sermon title is “Do We Have To Follow The Bible.” Well the answer to that should be obvious to everyone. All we have to do is look around us in the world and even in the church. We immediately realize that, “no” we don’t have to follow the Bible. God gives us a choice as to what and whom we follow. He created all of us to follow Him, but if we do not follow God, we will follow someone or something else. Don’t be deceived, everyone is following something. Even those of you who are not believers yet, you follow something that tells you this is right and this wrong. You even have a theology that you believe about the after life.
For instance if someone asked you, “ how do you get to heaven?” Some of us would say, well if you just try to do the right thing, and live by the good book, you will make it to heaven. Did you know that is not a biblical teaching? The teachings from the bible indicate, not a single one of us will go to heaven because we tried to do the right thing and lived by the good book. We find in the bible, that everyone of us has blown it, and messed up our relationship with God by choosing to do wrong. We disqualified ourselves from being able to enter into heaven and no matter how good we try to be, we will never be good enough.
I want us today to have a better understanding of the Bible and its message, so that we don’t worship the Bible, but we use it as the tool God intended for it to be. Now some of you dismiss the Bible as maybe having been written by a person who lived many years ago and this person fooled everybody into thinking it was from God. Well there are a couple of problems with this theory. If a person did this, they would have had to have lived for 1500 years, and been able to speak and write in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Do you know any 1500 year old people who could have done this.
Let’s look at some misconceptions about the bible. First of all the bible is not a book that someone wrote in consecutive order like you would a novel or a system of rules. It is a collection of 66 different books divided into two sections called the Old and New Testament, and were written by over 40 different authors. There are 39 books in the Old Testament which were written between 1500 BC and 400 BC going from Genesis to Malachi. Those books deal with the message of God’s plan for all humanity and God’s love for people. There are 27 books in the New Testament written over a 50 year period and they deal with Jesus’s Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection as well as the beginning of the Christian church and how live as a follower of Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew with a little Aramaic and the New Testament was written exclusively in Greek. The bible contains several different kinds of literature that is why some of it is easier to read than other parts are. The bible contains history, poetry, humor, prophecy, romance, letters, biographies, songs, journals, advice, laws and stories. So you see not only is it 66 books, but there are various kinds of books in the bible. You can read one of the shortest books in five minutes or less, and some of the longer books may take several hours.
Not only is the Bible not just one book, we now have several translations of the Bible. Some people insist that the King James Bible is the only true bible. Well the first Bible was not written in King James English. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. It has been translated from these languages into over 1946 different languages. There are nearly 30 different English translations of the Bible available to us all.
The reasons we have different translations is that different translators had different reasons for how they translated from the original language. 1) Some translators wanted to translate a word from Greek or Hebrew into an exact English word so that you have a literal translation word for word.( you translate the word man as man every-time even though the original word may include a woman as well) Blessed is the man that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Blessed are those who do not walk)
2) Some translators wanted to translate a phrase, so that you would have an English phrase that meant the same thing (you go from greet everyone with a holy kiss to—give everyone a hearty handshake.).
3) Some translators wanted to translate a phrase or word into a modern word or slang. (You go from man to humankind). It’s not that the message of the bible is being changed, often times it is to make the Bible more relevant and easier to understand by the people reading it. If you’re reading the King James and it says suffer little children and forbid them not to come to me, you may be confused. How much should they suffer. In the NIV it says, allow the children to come to me.
You will hear people say, isn’t the bible full of contradictions. Ask them which contradiction are you referring to in the Bible. There may be differences in numbers or names, but often that’s because of the intent of the author. But there is no contradiction in the bible on the teaching that all of us are lost, in need of a Savior, and that Jesus Christ is God’s Son who died and was raised from the dead is God’s means of salvation for humanity. Our faith is to be in Jesus Christ, not on a literal interpretation of everything we see in the Bible.
When we say the bible is the inspired word of God, what do we actually mean by that. First of all know , that God did not force the 40 writers into a room and start having them write the books of the bible. Nor did God always dictate, that is what I want you to write, so write it down, with a few exceptions such as in the book of Exodus, Jeremiah and Revelations. Some of the people did not even know they were writing books that would become part of the bible. Songs of Solomon is a love letter showing us the love between a husband and a wife or Christ and the church.
Some of the writers went to interview people to make sure they got accurate facts about what they were writing. Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke specifically tells us that he went and interviewed several eyewitnesses to the life and resurrection of Jesus and wrote down his gospel in a chronological order so that we would know the certainty of the things we have been taught.
We know that God was involved in the writers because some of the gave us prophecies and details about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, hundreds of years before he was born. The book of Daniel was so accurate in predicting the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman empire, that people want to insist he could not have written it.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).
These sacred writings are said to be "God breathed." Now some English translations render this word "inspired by God," but that’s not totally accurate because the word "inspired" means breathed into, as if God looked at all the different religious books in the world and then chose to "breath into" the Bible. But this word (God Breathed) means to breath out rather than in, and that makes the focus of this word on God’s breath being the source or origin of the Bible. What makes the bible unique sacred writing is that God is breathing life out it because its words has its origin in God himself. It’s not that the writers always knew that God was using them, but it was the reality that was using them in their everyday lives to get out God’s word.
What is going to make the bible useful is that God took the time to reveal Himself in it and to show us what is expected of us. If it were not for the bible, would know how we can enter into a right relationship with God. We certainly would not know that God became a man in the form of Jesus Christ who would love us enough to die for our sins and then be resurrected from the dead as proof that we have been forgiven.
We do not invite people to a new religion with a bunch of rules to keep to become good enough to go to heaven. Thanks to the teachings in the bible we know that we are to invite people to enter a relationship with God and that relationship they have with God through Jesus Christ is why they go to heaven.
But the bible is not a book just about heaven. It is more of a Monday-through Saturday book than it is for Sundays only. It has a lot more to say about what we are to do here on earth during the week. The two big commands are not don’t do this and don’t do that. The two greatest commands are to love God with everything we’ve got, and to love each other as we love ourselves. The teachings from the bible shows us how we are to put that love into action. God knows that left to ourselves, we become selfish and very self-centered. The teachings of the Scriptures help us to not fall into that way of thinking and behaving.
There are four areas that the bible is useful in making a difference in our lives on this earth. Those four areas :Teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Teaching focuses on the Bible as giving us instructions on how to live life. Now this assumes that we come to the Bible as learners, because only learners can be taught. This instruction or teaching isn’t just about going to heaven, but it’s about practical things like being a good spouse, being a good parent, loaning out money, starting a business, how to treat the opposite sex, how to love people who are different than you are, how to help people, and how to grow in your relationship to God.
Rebuking sounds kind of harsh, but really it just means confronting our wrong ideas about life. This assumes that all of us carry around misconceptions and distortions about God, about ourselves, and about life that need to be changed. For instance if I measure success in life by how much money a person has, but the Bible measures success by a person’s faithfulness to God, then my criteria for success has been rebuked, and I need to change my definition to conform to God’s definition. Some of us hold positions on abortion, sex, and politics, not based on the teachings from Scripture, but on what we heard on Oprah, movies, tv and our friends.
Correction is similar to rebuking, but it focuses in on behavior instead of beliefs. This assumes that all of us lose our way in life sometimes, that we can easily wander off the course God has for us and end up roaming around in circles. If we yield to the teachings of the bible, they corrects us when they gets us back on track in life, when they shows us where we are and how to get back on course with where God wants us to go.
Finally, training in righteousness focuses on the Bible’s role in helping us live the kind of lives that please God. This assumes that a life of integrity doesn’t come naturally to us, that we need help to live the kind of life of integrity we want to live. The Bible lets us know that the Spirit of God will help us to do that which we could not do on our own when it comes to a life of integrity. We learn that when we fail, the Spirit picks us up and gets us back into the race.
The Bible is made up of 66 books that are unified by the Spirit of God. We have to look at things in the Bible in the context in which they are written otherwise we can come up with some very bad teachings. Don’t just look at a verse, look at what came before it, what came after it, and which book of the bible it is in. There are some things that pertain only to a certain person, and because God used a certain person in one way does not mean that God will use everyone in that same way because it is in the bible. You need to be in a small group bible study class or Life-Sharing class to help you grow in the word of God. Don’t flip through the Bible for little pieces of the word or you may get the classic result.
It’s easy to take one or two verses and make them say anything you want them to say. The classic example of this is the guy who wanted to know God’s will for his life, so he opened the Bible randomly and read the verse that says, "Judas went and hanged himself." Then he closed the Bible, and repeated the same procedure, and this time the Bible opened to a verse that said, "Now go and do likewise." If that’s the way we treat the Bible, then everyone does have their own interpretation of what it says.
SINCE GOD HAS SPOKEN THROUGH THE BIBLE, IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO LISTEN TO ITS MESSAGE.
For 2000 years the Christian faith has affirmed that God has spoken through the Bible. Our role as readers then is to hear the message of the Bible, not to read into it what we think it ought to say or to use isolated parts of the Bible to justify our own ideas. We are to allow the Spirit of God to mold and shape us through the word of God. If we do, we will be changed.
Although the Bible reveals God’s truth to us, it’s primary purpose is not merely to educate us. It’s not how much Bible we know that causes us to grow in God. It’s how much of it that’s become active in our lives that causes us to grow. Are we loving God more and loving each other more is the bottom line. Look at Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (NIV).
The bible is not only called the Scriptures, it’s also called the Word of God, or God’s word. Even though our Bibles are printed with ink on pages, or even electronically on our phones, the author of Hebrews says that somehow God’s word is also living and active. This means that there’s a dynamic energy at work whenever a person reads the Bible, that somehow the living God is actively working in and through the words of the Bible to impact the reader’s life. This makes the Bible different from any other book.
The Bible is described as a sharp double edged sword, which focuses on it’s ability to penetrate into our lives. God shows us areas that we need to change. God shows us steps that we need to take. God gives us comfort in our moments of need. God offers us hope when we are discouraged. God helps us to see things more clearly. All of this happens because we are spending time reading the bible
SINCE GOD WORKS IN OUR LIVES THROUGH THE BIBLE, IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR OUR SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION.
Just as a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly, God works through the Bible to transform us into fully devoted followers of Jesus who wholeheartedly love God and others.
You see, the Christian faith is not merely a set of ideas. Being a Christian is first and foremost about a personal love relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. This love relationship is a life transforming one, because a person can’t encounter Jesus Christ without being radically changed.
Being a Christian isn’t merely accepting certain facts about God or about the Bible, but it’s becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. To become a devoted disciple of Jesus is to make a commitment to love people as Christ commands us to do. There is a huge cost involved to do that.
You may ask, do I have to believe everything in the bible to be saved. Absolutely not. But you do have to believe that you need a savior, and that when Jesus Christ died on the cross he died for your sin, and that when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, your sins were paid for. Your life is no longer your own to live, but you are to live it for God.
There are plenty of people who have right ideas about God, who intellectually accept Jesus as being God’s Son, who believe that the Bible is God’s word, but who’ve never entered into a personal love relationship with Jesus through faith. All these doctrines will do them no good, because the Christian faith is about being transformed not merely about being informed. Once we enter into a relationship with God through Christ, the Spirit of God is going to bring about an application of the teachings of the bible as a means of changing us
God certainly isn’t limited to the Bible because he also changes us in worship, through suffering, through prayer, through our relationships with each other and so forth. We need each other to grow and to become all that God wants us to be. Next week we are starting a series on We’re Better Together, 40 Days of Community. You need to understand that God created us all to be a part of a community. We invite you to come back next week to New Life At Calvary and to one of the Life-Sharing classes to understand what that community is all about.