Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 83: Students of God’s Words
2 Timothy 3:16-17
July 22, 2012
SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (Eddie Kelley)
START AT THE BEGINNING
Every week, I get up here and preach from Scripture, trying to help us understand and apply the Bible to everyday life. The reason we are do the “Inscription” series is because we believe that we NEED to READ and UNDERSTAND the entire BIBLE.
* But I seldom address the ASSUMPTION that is built on: Why should we care what the Bible says?
So this morning, we are going to talk a little bit about why we trust the Bible. This is how The Gathering views the Bible:
We believe that the sixty-six books Old and New Testament are be the inspired Word of God, having authority over all matters of faith and conduct, inerrant in the original copies and reliably preserved and translated throughout the ages by God’s sovereign power. (Elders’ Statement of Faith)
* This is our AUDACIOUS claim: That God has SPOKEN and WE HAVE those words.
Either we are ARROGANT, IGNORANT, self-DELUDED, EXCLUSIVISTIC, ego-CENTRIC, IMPERIALISTIC, UNSCIENTIFIC MORONS, or we are RIGHT. We had better be pretty sure.
* And it’s not enough to simply BELIEVE the Bible, you have to DO SOMETHING about it; we will be talking about both.
These are topics that I am PASSIONATE about because I love the Bible and believe it has the power to change us. This is a little more on the TEACHING side, but important stuff.
* A Q & A later, PREPARE your QUESTIONS.
Let’s begin by rereading the passage:
NIV 2 Timothy 3:16-17 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.
Paul says that all Scripture is INSPIRED by GOD. BTW: This doesn’t mean that they were like DICTATION MACHINES – their personalities and situations affected what they wrote, as is obvious by the radically different styles.
* But God BEHIND it all, was directing what they wrote.
Q But WHY should we believe it?
Not because the Bible says that about itself – ATHEISTS rightly mock that technique.
I want to briefly share with you WHY I BELIEVE the Bible, even when the doubts come, and they do, sometimes pretty strong because I don’t not believe in blind faith.
* It is a mix of REASON and EXPERIENCE, of MIND and HEART.
1. Everything in me (reason and emotion) drives to believe that GOD IS there, that this is NOT all BY CHANCE and that SOMEONE LISTENS when I pray.
* That makes MIRACLES possible.
2. HISTORY VALIDATES the HISTORICITY of Jesus and the Gospels make a logically compelling case for the RESURRECTION.
First, HISTORICALLY it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to say that Jesus did not exist and was not very remarkable figure.
* More likely the MOON LANDING is a hoax.
About the RESURRECTION: There is too much material, but the short version is something so radically affected the disciples that they RISKED EVERYTHING to follow an executed criminal.
* They had no reason to make up the resurrection, but lots of reasons to deny it – they died for it.
I have yet to hear a COMPELLING counter-argument. My atheist friend had nothing other than “It can’t have happened because MIRACLES CAN’T happen.”
* If JESUS was RAISED and the accounts of his miracles are more or less accurate, that VALIDATE him and his teaching.
3. I am in AWE of JESUS, moved by him. Whatever difficulties I have (with pain, etc.) are eclipsed by the fact that God became one of us and SUFFERED ALONGSIDE us.
I am DRAWN to him. In the FACE of Jesus I see the IMAGE and GLORY and LOVE and COMPASSION of the GOD that my REASON prevents me from denying.
4. JESUS TRUSTED the OT, and because I trust him, I trust it. Furthermore, it RINGS TRUE, especially because of fulfilled prophecy (e.g. DANIEL).
5. The NT was written by JESUS FOLLOWERS who knew him best, shortly after his death and RESURRECTION.
JUDGE OR STUDENT?
When everything is factored in, I believe the Bible stand up quite well to scrutiny “BEYOND a REASONABLE DOUBT.” Not all doubts, but reasonable ones.
* Faith is not IGNORING reason, but MAINTAINING a CONVICTION build on reason.
At this point, by faith I change from the Bible’s JUDGE to its STUDENT. This is a vital step, for I CANNOT LEARN from the Bible so long as I am its judge.
* It is VITAL to have this PERSPECTIVE set when we come to the seeming contradictions or troubling parts of Scripture.
Many people are bothered by all the SUPPOSED CONTRADICTIONS in the Bible.
On one hand, many are a failure to READ POETICALLY: “you shall eat dust...” even though snakes don’t literally eat dirt.
On the other hand, many reflect our PREFERENCE for HYPER-ACCURACY. EG: Is it the Sermon on the Mount or Plain? Ancient authors and readers couldn’t care less about those details.
* There is a type of SNOBBERY that values our idea of accuracy (EG: MEDIEVAL PAINTINGS).
There are others that are HARDER to ANSWER, but SILLY to TOSS out everything because of them.
HARD SAYINGS OF THE BIBLE
There are many things in the Bible that I don’t UNDERSTAND or make me UNCOMFORTABLE. One great example is:
Psalm 137:8-9 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
* Let’s see that on a Pro-Life bumper sticker!
There are three basic responses to passages like these: 1) IGNORE them, 2) JUDGE them, or 3) LEARN from them.
To their credit, ATHEIST are making it harder to IGNORE them (they “mean it for evil”), so many Christians are choosing to judge them and say that they don’t really belong in the Bible.
I have two problems with that:
a. Hypothetically speaking, if there are mistakes in the Bible, isn’t it CONVENIENT that the part we don’t like are wrong? What if “God is love” was the mistake?
b. In doing so, we are become a JUDGE were we are meant to be a STUDENT. When we say that a passage doesn’t belong in the Bible, we lose our ability to learn from it.
Looking at Psalm 137, there are some vital lessons we can learn from it, once we stop judging it:
1. It shows it is OKAY to hurt and be angry.
Q Have you seen SCHINDLER’S LIST?
Do you remember the sense of ANGER and INDIGNATION? Imagine that you are a JEW in CONCENTRATION CAMP. The NAZIS have slaughtered everyone close to you; you are almost dead from starvation and abuse. Now listen to those words.
* If Psalm 137 sounds strange to us it is because we have NOT SUFFERED as they have.
2. It teaches us righteous indignation.
It is NOT ENOUGH to say that they were “just expressing themselves.” These are the SAINTS, writers of the Bible. Aren’t they SINNING by NOT FORGIVING or TURNING the other cheek?
* YES and NO, no more than US, in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION.
This is what I mean: Yes, HATRED and VENGEANCE is NOT GODLY. If God FORGIVES his enemies and does not DELIGHT in the DEATH of the wicked, WE SHOULD NOT either.
But “NO” because their ANGER and VENGEANCE is a sin that is from a RIGHTEOUSNESS we LACK. In fact, OUR RESPONSE to these Psalms as distasteful says as much ABOUT US as about them.
Q What do I MEAN by that, it says MORE ABOUT US?
CS LEWIS said it’s important to read OLD BOOKS, not because those eras had LESS SIN, but they had OTHER SIN. They may have been blind to their errors, but we are also BLIND to OURS.
* OUR CULTURE is in no danger of ignoring God’s LOVE and GRACE, rather of IGNORING his RIGHTEOUSNESS and WRATH.
We have LITTLE DANGER of fearing God as our JUDGE, but we are in danger of OVER-FAMILIARITY and TRAMPLING on his HOLINESS. And this is where these VINDICTIVE psalms are so VITAL for us.
* I have found the passages that I LIKE the LEAST I NEED the MOST – which is why I want to be a student and not a judge!
Q & A
Back to the passage:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 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.
* The PIVOTAL TERM in that passage is not “GOD-BREATHED” but “so THAT.”
This week I read a book called “Blue Parakeet.” No, it is not about bird watching (as if I would have the patience for that), it is about reading the Bible.
* The author is a PROFESSOR at a Christian college and tells of a YOUNG man...p. 94.
This student is RIGHT, kind of. Doing the right things is meaningless if you are doing them to earn God’s love or some other unbiblical reason.
* But you can have all your understanding of the Bible correct, and still be wrong if you don’t do it.
The purpose of Scripture is not to DEBATE FINER POINTS of doctrine, but to change how we THINK, how we RELATE to GOD and OTHERS, and to change how we LIVE:
This is the way Paul writes all of his letters: DOCTRINE first, followed by PRACTICE.
* I would prefer that you DOUBT the INERRANCY of the Bible but DO what you believe is God’s than believe and do nothing.
To PARAPHRASE JAMES: “So you believe that all Scripture is God-breathed? Good! Even the demons believe that.”
I STRESS this because I have KNOWN many PEOPLE who know their Bible very well but haven’t been changed by it.
* EG: “Jacob I Have Loved” story.
But that is not our BIGGEST PROBLEM, ours is not reading it.
* Please text “Sunday School Teacher” ; service is almost over
Of course, this requires actually reading the thing, so I want finish with a call to read. We all know we should, but how do we take it from “SHOULD” to “DO”?
* It is like any good habit: It is a cycle of CHOOSING to do it because you SHOULD and FINDING you WANT to.
As I create a habit of reading, I find ANSWER to questions I am asking, I discover GOD’S love, I feel his PRESENCE, I find PEACE and CALM, and then I want to read more.
* But you have to start by doing it.
The first objection is always, “I don’t have the TIME.” Like so many things in our lives, we have to choose GREAT things over MEDIOCRE THINGS.
As I worked on my sermon at STARBUCKS, there was a guy sitting near me playing games on his computer. No big deal, until you realize that for the past 2 weeks he has spent an average of 10 hours a day playing computer games in Starbucks.
* Other partners are kind of annoyed by him, I am sad for him – such a WASTE of a LIFE.
I am not saying don’t watch TV or read non-Christian books, but I am saying to take time to nourish your soul.
* The Bible is like water to your soul; it has quenched my thirst so often.
But if we are in the habit of drinking soda, our thirst is corrupted.
If you are not already reading your Bible regularly, give it a shot. Find 10 minutes that could be better used. Read along with us on the reading plan. Read Proverbs and Psalms.