Summary: Adherence to the Bible will teach us neither to be overly optimistic nor overly negative about human nature, but will give us both hope and harmony. Thus we must be serious Bible students.
Twenty-five years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped out of that lunar module and set foot where no person had ever gone before, on the surface of the moon. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." We were fascinated, and we still are. Nothing like that had ever been done; nothing quite like it has been done since.
But did you know there are people who do not believe that ever happened? There are a number of people who think that the whole moon landing was an elaborate public relations gimmick, all about politics, that our government needed to make a splash and so staged an elaborate hoax. According to these folks, Apollo was all done with smoke and mirrors and television illusions.
Obviously somebody is living in a fantasy world. You tell me whether it seems more fantastic to believe that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins really were up there, 240,000 miles out; or whether the fantasy world is the one the conspiracy people believe in. We say that it needs a reality check. A reality check.
A reality check is a kind of pause in the middle of things, where we ask the question, "Is this real? Is this happening? Can this be done?" A reality check is a momentary halt, a11owing us to get a grip on whether what we are doing is real or just a fantasy.
How do you establish reality? How do we do reality checks? Some people seem to live in fantasy worlds and never get out of them. You’ve heard me talk about making 1ists of all my tasks and even of making lists of the lists? Well, when I walk out of the house in the morning with a "To do" 1ist that is five pages long, I’m in a fantasy world. I need a reality check. There is no way possible that ten of me working around the clock could accomplish everything on that list. But I write it up, just the same. Obvious1y, I need a rea1ity check.
How do we establish what is real? How can we do reality checks? One answer is, "Look at the record." Read the record. Find out what has been done, discover what has been happening, check the record. Reality checks are done by looking at what the record shows.
For instance, occasionally I hear someone saying, "Our church is in bad shape. Financially we’re hurting. Why, just look; we are behind our budget goal. We never used to be behind our budget goal. Our church is in real bad shape." Reality check! When you look at the record, you find out that we are giving more money than we’ve ever given before! No, not as much as we set the goal for; but the record, the reality check tells us what we are actually doing, no matter what our feelings might be.
Or again, you know, I feel young. I just have always felt young. Inside me there is still trapped a young man or maybe even a little boy that wants to come out and play. I’ve never quite learned to think of myself as dignified, professional, middle-aged. Reality check! In my file I have a record; it’s called a birth certificate, and it clearly says "1938" on it. The record, the reality check tells me the truth, no matter what my attitude might be.
We need a reality check on our lives. The rules by which we live are full of fantasies. We tend to live by our feelings. We make decisions based on how we feel in the tummy at the moment. We want to be happy right now. But that’s a fantasy. Our lives need reality checks.
But now where did I say that reality checks come from? How do we get a reality check done? I said, "Look at the record; the record will tell us." The record will teach us the difference between illusion and reality, between opinion and truth.
Here is our reality check. For Christians, this written record, the Bible, is that reality check. The Scriptures teach us about ourselves, they instruct us about our relationships with God, they give us insight on our dealings with one another. If we learn to read the Bible seriously, it will not let us float off into fantasy-land. The Bible is the record of God’s saving actions; it is a reality check on all of our private opinions and personal quirks.
Turn with me to Romans, chapter 15. I want us to use the Bible to talk about the Bible, and I want us to practice reading the scriptures carefully and taking them in. Beyond all of our opinions, fantasies, and personal quirks, the Bible is our reality check. Let’s find out how that works.
Romans 15:1-6, 14-19