I don’t know exactly what everyone here believes, but I think I know most of you well enough that I can make a few blanket statements about what most of us believe.
- Most, if not all, of us here believe that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
- Most of us here believe the stories of Abraham, Moses, David & Goliath, and Daniel and all those other old testament characters.
- Most of us here believe that God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
- Most of us here believe that the little baby Jesus, born in a manger some 2000 years ago, was the Son of God who grew up and lived a sinless life, and was eventually put to death on a cross, but He rose again three days later.
- And most of us here believe that one day Jesus is coming back to judge sin and put an end to death and will usher in those who believe in Him into everlasting, amazing life together with Him.
And for most of us, these beliefs have radically changed our lives. These beliefs have changed how we see our world. They have changed how understand our purpose in existing. They’ve changed how we raise our children. They’ve changed how we work, how we interact with our neighbours, how we manage our money, even how we spend our free time. I mean, these beliefs have changed everything!
And for some of us, holding these beliefs have come with a cost. Some of us have lost friends because of what we believe. Some of us have been openly mocked because of what we believe. Some of us, because of what we believe, have had to make choices that set us back in our careers or cost us financially. And while I don’t think it has happened yet in our group (although we certainly see it in other parts of the world), the day may come when our beliefs may cost us our freedom, our families, or even our lives.
So holding these beliefs come with huge ramifications. These beliefs will change the course of your life forever.
And the issue that I want you to wrestle with today is that all of these beliefs come from one primary source – this book right here – the Bible. As Christians, everything we believe about our world, about God, about Jesus, about our purpose in life, about how to live life, about eternity – all of that is rooted and based on the words we find in this book.
We are risking our friendships, our finances, our family’s future – perhaps one day even our freedom or our very lives based on the words in this book!
How important is it then, that, #1, we know without a doubt that the words in this book are trustworthy, true, and reliable? and #2. that we fully know and accurately understand what this book is saying?
The stakes are so high! We are staking both our present lives and our eternal future on the words in this book.
So I don’t know about you, but I sure want to know with certainty that the words in this book are indeed true. And if I can establish that, if they are true, then I want to know and understand and apply to my life everything it says!
And so to that end, I want to spend the next couple of weeks looking at the issue of the Bible. What is it? How did we get it? Can we trust it? And if we can, then how do we make sense of it all? How do we understand it and live out what it says? How does it make a difference in our lives?
These are super important questions that we need to have answers for, and so I’m pretty excited to go through all this stuff with you over these next couple weeks.
And of course, this is all part of our “Healthy Habits” that we’ve been talking about. Reading and studying and understanding and memorizing and applying the Bible to our lives is one of the cornerstone practices of all healthy, growing Christians. Of all the spiritual disciplines that we’re going to be talking about in this series, if you want to start with just one – this is the one I want you to start with! The Bible lays the foundation for everything else that we do and believe.
If you were here last week, you’ll recall that we talked about how God has revealed Himself to us in two kinds of ways – general revelation and special revelation. And we focused on general revelation last week. General Revelation is where we can see pictures of who God is and what He’s like by looking at His Creation. I mean, we can see the evidence of God everywhere.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. Romans 1:20
And certainly when you consider the billions of massive stars and billions of massive galaxies that exist in our universe, it’s pretty hard not to see that it took an immensely powerful God to create all of that. Or when you look at all of the laws of science that govern our universe, how each one is perfectly set – and if just one of those laws was different by less than a trillionth of a fraction, the universe couldn’t exist. It’s pretty hard to see that and not realize that the mind our Creator is beyond anything we can imagine!
So God has revealed himself to us through His creation – and that’s called General Revelation.
The other way God has revealed himself to us is through Special Revelation. And we touched on this just briefly last week. This is where God somehow intervenes in human existence and shows himself to us. There have been times where God has literally done that – he’s has personally shown up and talked with different people like Adam and Abraham and Moses. That’s pretty amazing stuff to have an actual conversation with God Himself!
We also mentioned that God has also reveal himself at different times through dreams or visions. Jospeh and Daniel and many of the prophets had those kind of experiences.
And of course, the most vivid revealing of God came through Jesus. Jesus was known as Emmanuel – which means God with us. When Jesus was born on the earth some 2000 years ago, those people living at that time got to literally live life with God. There where kids who played games in the backyard with God. Peter and James and John actually went fishing with God. Pretty amazing stuff!
But for us today, we don’t have quite that same experience, do we? I’ve never gone bowling with Jesus. God hasn’t ever shown up at my doorstep with an important message for me like he did with Abraham. In fact, I’ve never even had a vision from God where God tells me about some future event.
But that certainly doesn’t mean that God doesn’t reveal Himself today. Today, God’s primary way of revealing Himself to us is through his Word – the Bible.
The Bible records for us all these different ways that God has revealed himself in the past. In fact, you could think of the Bible as one big story of how God has revealed himself to mankind.
I found a really cool description of what the Bible is all about and it actually comes out of the introduction to a children’s storybook Bible. I think it really gives us a good perspective on what the Bible is all about. It goes like this:
“Now some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what He has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They makes some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are down-right mean.
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about the story is – It’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one big story – the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this story.
And at the centre of the story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”
~ Sally Lloyd-Jones – The Jesus Storybook Bible
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of the Bible quite like that, but I think the author here does a pretty good job of summarizing what it’s all about. The Bible is primarily a love story. It’s not a romance novel of course, but it’s the story of a God who loves his creation, his children, so much, that even despite their best efforts to run away or disobey or just plain deny His existence, He has continued to pursue them with an unrelenting love! And indeed, at the centre of that story is a baby – a baby born in a manger, sent by God save His people.
I think if I were to choose one verse that summarized the entire story of the Bible, it would be Romans 5:8.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
And of course, a close second to that verse would be John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
That’s the story of the Bible. Right from Genesis to the end of Revelation – that’s the message of the Bible. We see the first hints of that in the story of Adam and Eve – it becomes clearer through the story of Abraham – it’s illustrated in the nation of Isreal, it’s foretold in the prophets, it’s detailed in the Gospels, it’s explained throughout the New Testament epistles, and it’s finally completed in Revelation! And the continuity of that message throughout all 66 books of the Bible is actually one of the strongest proofs that the Bible is actually true.
I mean, the Bible is made up of 66 different books, right? (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers – those are all different books that make up one big book.) There were about 40 different guys who wrote all those books over a time span of about 1600 years.
So for example, Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible around 1500 BC. The last book in the Bible (Revelation) was written by the Apostle John in about 95 AD. All the other books of the Bible were written at different times during those 1600 years in between. And they were written by all kinds of different people.
Moses was extremely well-educated – he learned from the finest teachers in Egypt. John, on the other hand, was a fisherman – (probably not so much educated.) There were parts of the Bible that were written by a farmer – others by a military general. Some parts were written by a priest – other parts were written by a doctor, still other parts were written by a tax collector. So there were all kinds of different writers.
And if that’s not enough diversity for you, the different parts of the Bible were written in 3 different languages originally – Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and it was written on 3 different continents. Some of the books were written from palaces – while other parts were written from prison. So you can imagine that there are all kinds of genre’s too! Some books were written to record history – some were written as poems and songs – other parts were written as personal letters.
So you can see that there was just an incredible amount of diversity in these books. And yet all of them fit perfectly together to create one cohesive story. They all have the same message. They all agree with each other – which is incredible! 66 different books – 40 authors over 1600 years written in 3 languages on 3 continents written for all kinds of different purposes – and yet they all fit perfectly together to tell the same story?!?!
The only possible way that could happen is if God somehow guided each writer to write exactly what God wanted them to write. Which is actually just what the Bible says happened. 2 Timothy 3:16 says…
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16a
To make it even clearer – the NIV says “All Scripture is God-breathed.” The words in this book come straight from the mouth of God. While there were over 40 different writers of the Bible – there was only ever one Author – God Himself.
Somehow God allowed all these different writers in their different circumstances to write down, in their own expression and in their own style, exactly what God wanted them to say. We read in 2 Peter 1:20…
20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20-21
So this book that we have today is the result of God speaking through different people throughout the ages, writing down exactly what God wanted them to write as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean they were in a trance or writing like robots, but God was involved in the process – ensuring that each writer wrote exactly what God wanted them to write.
And because of that, we can trust that the words in this book are indeed reliable, trustworthy and true. These aren’t just the words of fishermen and farmers, kings and priests – these are actually the words of God.
Now a lot of people in our world would disagree with that. Many people argue that the Bible is simply a work of fiction – some fantastical stories that somebody came up with one day. Well, I’m not sure how those 40 different writers could work together over 1600 years in all of their different circumstances to come up with one cohesive work of fiction that includes over 350 detailed prophecies about Jesus – written before Jesus was born, but all fulfilled in His lifetime.
But if you’re still not convinced, there is a whole pile of other evidence that we haven’t even considered yet today. One of the arguments for the truthfulness of the Bible that has always been pretty convincing to me is that history and archeology and geography all agree with what’s written in the Bible. We don’t necessarily have proof for every story, every place and every person in the Bible – but there is all kinds of evidence that the people, places, and events of the Bible really did happen the way the Bible describes. Let me just quickly show you one example: Chances are, sometime this Christmas season, you’ll hear this part of the Christmas story taken from Luke 2.
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. Luke 2:1-3
In just these three little verses, there are all kinds of verifiable facts. I mean you can actually travel to Syria, or to Bethlehem or to Nazareth. I know several people who have. These are real places. Real people live there today!
Open up your history book in school and you read about the Roman Empire and Caesar Augustus. Dig a little deeper and you’ll even read about Quirinius – who happened to be the governor of Syria during the time of Caesar Augustus. These are verifiable facts – verifiable people. And that’s just in three verses.
We can see all thoughout the Bible that the people, places, and events match up with what we already know and can verify.
Now of course, I’ve just briefly touched on some of the evidence that the Bible is true and trustworthy and reliable. There’s lots more out there that we just don’t have time to dig into this morning.
But at our Monday night get-togethers, we have all kinds of time! We’ve actually already spent a good amount of time looking at the evidence of Jesus’ death and resurrection specifically. And I know that in the future yet, we’re going to spent some time looking at this whole issue of the Bible.
We’re going to look at lot of the other evidence that shows that the Bible is actually true. We’ll talk about how we know which books should be part of the Bible. How do we know which writings contain God’s words and which are just somebody else’s thoughts and ideas? We’ll probably talk a bit about translations. If it’s all God’s Word, why are there some many different versions? If the words in my Bible are different from the words in your Bible – which one has the words of God? So there are all kinds of questions that we’ll explore.
And of course, you have other specific questions, we’re happy to explore those too – either on Monday nights – or I’m available any other time to talk about it.
But do look at the evidence. See for yourself that the Bible is indeed trustworthy and true. And not only that, see that it really is the Word of God.
Because if that’s true – if this really is a letter from God to you, what are you going to do with it? Do you realize what a treasure that is?
The Creator of the Universe – the one who blew our minds last week as we looked at His creation – that God, has given us an entire book that tells us the truth about Himself, about us, about our world, about the meaning of life and how to live it abundantly, and about eternity.
Wouldn’t you want to know that book inside and out? Wouldn’t you want to know who that God is and what He’s like? Wouldn’t you want to know how God designed life to be lived in the most fulfilling, most abundant way possible? Wouldn’t you want to know God’s intentions and his plans for you? We find all this in His Word.
In John 6, we read about a time when Jesus was teaching some things that were pretty difficult to accept – and at that point, many of the people who had been following him decided to turn away. It was too much for them. But then Jesus turns to his 12 disciples and he asks if they are going to leave too. And Peter has a great response. Let me read that part…
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. John 6:66-68
And I thought that was so good. While we may not have Jesus standing before us today, teaching us and talking to us – but we still have his words – and His words give eternal life.
If you want to experience the abundant and full and fruitful life that God has made available to you, you need to know and live in the truth of God’s Word.
Imagine if someone didn’t understand or they denied the truth about gravity! If they somehow didn’t know or didn’t believe how gravity works, the results could be disastrous!
In the same way, I don’t want to live in ignorance of the truth – the results could be disastrous! We talked at the beginning how our beliefs have huge ramifications for ourselves, for our children, and for the people around us. I want to make sure that I know the truth. I want to make sure that I live according to that truth.
And if I have a whole book that explains all of that truth to me – how foolish would I be not read it? How foolish would I be not to study it and try to understand it? But yet, that’s what so many Christians end up doing.
So here’s where I want to leave you this morning. I hope by now that you’re beginning to get a sense for why it is so important that we read and study and understand the content in the Bible. It’s not just a book of to-do lists. It’s not a self-help book. It’s not just a book of heros. It’s the true-life story of God. It gives us true answers to all the important questions of life.
The Bible is the foundation for everything we believe – we have to know and understand what it says! I think this is the most crucial of all of our healthy habits – our spiritual disciplines as Christians.
So next week, my plan is to do a ‘part two’ to this message. If this message is the “Why” – next week will be the “How”. We’re going to go through some very practical ways and examples of how that you can read and study and memorize and make God’s Word part of your life. We’re going to look and see how God’s Word changes us from the inside out – which is probably the most important part of all this.
But for today, I just want to remind you (or tell you for the first time, if that’s the case), that the Bible is the completely true, absolutely trustworthy and reliable Word of God. It tells us the truth about God, about ourselves, about our world, about the meaning of life and how to live it abundantly, and about eternity.
And if you believe that, then what are you doing about it? What steps are you taking to make sure you know and understand and are living out the truths found in the Bible?
And if you’re not sure that you do believe all that, then can I encourage you to do some research. Find out for yourself if this truly is the Word of God or not. Don’t just take my word for it – look at the evidence. Read it for yourself to see what it says. Examine it’s claims.
Because what you decided to do with the Bible will have a profound and eternal impact on you, on your family, and on the people around you.
The stakes are so high – you’ve got to get this one right!