2nd Timothy 3:15 – From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17 – so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
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.
2nd Peter 1:20 – Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.
21 – For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
On this Mother’s Day I want to begin with a story about a mom. Her name is Anthusa—and she lived in the city of Antioch about 17 centuries ago [from 330AD until 374AD]. Historians describe her as “cultured, attractive, and from a wealthy family.”
Anthusa married a high-ranking soldier in the Imperial army of Syria but was widowed when she was only 20. I don’t know for sure—but I’m thinking her husband must have died in battle. Anyway, instead of re-marrying—which she certainly could have done as a culture, attractive woman from a wealthy family—she decided to devote her life to raising her son. Like many of today’s moms, she feared his being influenced by the culture of this fallen world—so instead of hiring a tutor or sending him to school she decided to homeschool him. Her son’s name was John Chrysostom. He grew up to become one of the greatest preachers and leaders of the 4th-century church. Later in life, he served as the Bishop of Constantinople. John was also a prolific writer—only St. Augustine wrote more than he did. But he was more than a writer. John had a heart for the poor and spoke a great deal against the hypocrisy of many Christians in his day. He once wrote these words:
“Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Then do not ignore Him when He is naked. Do not pay Him homage in the temple while you are clad in silk—only then to neglect Him outside where He is cold and ill-clad. He Who said: ‘This is My body’ is the same Who said: ‘You saw Me hungry and you gave Me no food’—and ‘Whatever you did to the least of My brothers you did also to Me.’ What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.”
Now—where do you think John Chrysostom got his mastery of Scripture? From his mom! John later wrote that his mother not only taught him to know and love the teachings of the Bible, but also that her life was a model of Biblical teaching. In other words, Anthusa didn’t just teach the Word. She lived it. Her walk matched her talk.
Now why would this mother believe that teaching her son the Bible was an essential part of her parenting? For that matter why do we make it one of our essential convictions here at Redland?
Why is the Bible to focus of our worship—the lyrics of the songs we sing—the textbook for the Sunday SCHOOL we run here every week? Why is the Bible the sole source of our authority?
This morning as we continue our series on CONVICTIONS THAT CONNECT, I want to suggest four answers to these questions.
First, the Bible alone is our source of authority because:
(1) It is INSPIRED.
In other words—we teach and preach and sing the words of this book—because we know they are not man’s words. As I say whenever I read from it, “This is the Word of the LORD!” And what do you say? “Thanks be to God!”
One proof of the Bible’s Divine origin its incredible unity. And I say incredible—because God inspired 45 different men to write the 66 books that make up the Bible. And “different” is an understatement because these 45 men included kings, poets, prophets, a physician, farmers, shepherds, fishermen—in His amazing grace, God even inspired a TAX COLLECTOR to put His words on paper. I mean, the variety in this group is truly amazing. These guys wrote their books over a period of about 1500 years in places all the way from Babylon to Rome. Most of them didn’t know each other and NONE of them knew that what they were writing would be combined into a single book. Yet, when put together their writings tell a complete story—and that’s basically what this book is—a story of our Creator—and His plan to restore His sinful, rebellious creation—and bring it—US—back to Himself.
Consider this word image. 45 different people who live their lives across the millennia are each told to prepare one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. They work independent of each other. And then 1500 years later all the pieces are gathered—and miraculously, not only do they all fit together perfectly—they also form a complete picture. That’s what the Bible is—that’s how it was put together. The only reasonable explanation for the amazing unity of the end product is the fact that these 66 books have a common Author —GOD through His Holy Spirit. He inspired the writing of every word.
Now—as you know, committee meetings are not my favorite things—and don’t misunderstand me. It’s not because they aren’t an important part of what we do as a church. They certainly are.
And—it’s not because I don’t enjoy your company—I certainly do. It’s just that it can be very difficult to get a group of people to agree about anything—especially if there is any degree of variety in the committee’s make-up. Word-smithing in a committee—well it can be agonizing.
And I’m not alone in my feelings about committees. Lots of people feel that way—which is why there are so many negative sayings about committees. Here are a few examples. I’m sure you’ve heard some of them. If you agree with the saying respond by saying “WORD!” — which I believe was a popular slang version of the word “AMEN” not to long ago.
- “A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.”
- “A committee is a group of the unprepared appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary.”
- “To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.”
- “If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into committees. That’ll do them in.”
- “A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.”
And I really like this last one:
- “Football is a mistake. It combines two of the worst things about American life: violence punctuated by committee meetings.”
I share all this to point out that the fact that this committee of 45 vastly different people, writing across 15 centuries, could compose a book like the Bible—a book that tells a complete story—is itself proof that it is inspired. No committee could do that unless God was running the meeting! If you agree—join me: WORD! But I really like how D. L. Moody put it. He said, “I know the Bible is inspired because it inspires me.” And that leads to the greatest proof of its inspiration.
You see, if you are a Christian, the same Holy Spirit Who inspired each of those 66 men to write each and every word—will guide you in your understanding of each and every word.
As I have said in the past, I’m a fan of Philip Yancey. I love his books. I’ve heard him speak a couple times—Sue and I stood in line to have in autograph our copy of What’s So Amazing About Grace. Well, whoever your favorite author is, think how wonderful it would be NOT to have to go to a conference and wait in line to ask him a question about his books. Imagine having Grisham on speed dial so that if you got to a part of his book that you didn’t understand—you could call him and say, “Hey John—what did you mean by this?” Well, if you are a Christian, you have something FAR BETTER. You have the AUTHOR of the Bible—God’s Holy Spirit living inside you 24-7. As Jesus promised in John 16:13, “When the Holy Spirit comes He will guide you into all truth.” This is one reason we refer to the Bible as a LIVING WORD—because we have the Spirit of our Living Lord—in us, guiding us as we read it—telling us how to apply its principles and precepts to our daily lives.
Here’s a second reason for our conviction about the Bible.
(2) It is TRUSTWORTHY.
And—we NEED truth we can trust. We need something we can rely on because so many things in this fallen world are NOT trustworthy. In fact, I did a quick Internet search for things we can’t trust. With the help of Buzzfeed here’s what I came up with:
- This golf bag—note that it says, “Assembery in USA”
- There are times when you can’t trust your friends—times like these.
- You really can’t trust Facebook profile pics—like this one.
- You can’t trust Sharpie Labels on bottles of OJ—like this one.
- You can’t trust the bank—note the Chuckie Cheese token in this roll of quarters. I wonder how many others are in there?
- And, of course you can’t trust fortune cookie fortunes.
All kidding aside—truly trustworthy things are rare.
- I mean, we can’t trust our feelings. They change too easily.
- We can’t trust tradition. We forget their purpose too easily.
- We can’t trust our intellect—because we forget everything too easily. Plus the more we know—the more we know we don’t know.
We NEED truth we can trust—UNCHANGING truth that we can build our lives on—and that’s one reason God gave us His inspired Word. As it says in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”
And as 2nd Samuel 7:28 says, “You are God—and Your Words are Truth.” Anyone, like John Chrysostom for example, who has built their lives on God’s Word knows that as Jesus put it,
“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
This week I read about an interview with a navy diver. The diver told about times when he was so deep that the water was so dark—that it was impossible to see. In fact, it made him feel disoriented and confused. He could literally not see his hand in front of his face—and got to the point where he didn’t know which way was up. The interviewer asked him what he did in times like that. He said, “I feel the bubbles.—when its pitch black and I have no idea which way to go, I reach up with my hand and feel the bubbles. The bubbles always drift UP to the surface. When I can’t trust my feelings or judgment, I know I can always trust the bubbles to get me back to the top.” The Bible does that for us. It is unchanging truth that tells us what is real—tells us which way to go.
Here’s a third reason for embracing the Bible as our sole source of Authority:
(3) It is BELIEVABLE.
I mean, experience has shown that our faith in this book is well-placed. I say this for three basic reasons.
First, contrary to what many have said over the years, the Bible has turned out to be good HISTORY.
To show you what I mean, let me take you through a little exercise. I’ll give you a few brief examples of historical statements and you tell me if they are good or bad history.
- Number one: World War I was a bitter four-year conflict fought from 1890 to 1894.
Good history or bad history? Right—this statement is bad history! Why? What’s wrong? Right! The dates are wrong. World War I was fought between 1914 and 1918. Good history pays attention to dates and gets them right. Bad history doesn’t.
- Second statement: World War II was a bloody conflict between Allied and Axis forces fought on the battlefields of Mexico from 1939 to 1945.
Now, are the dates right? Yes, the dates are right. What’s wrong? Right! The PLACE. The geography is wrong. WW II was not fought in Mexico, but rather in Europe, the South Pacific, and a few other places. Good history gets geography right. It pays attention to it.
- Third statement: Margaret Thatcher, premier of the Soviet Union, will always be remembered as the leader who engineered the unraveling of the USSR.
Okay “class” why is this third statement bad history? Right! It’s the wrong person. It was Gorbachev, not Thatcher and good history gets the people right.
- Okay, here is one more: Michael Jordan played basketball for over a decade for the Chicago Bulls in the ’80s and ’90s, but his play was rather lackluster.
Now, are the dates right? Yes. Is the place right? Yes. You know the person is right. Well, what is wrong? Of course, the essence of the statement is wrong. Michael had more than a little luster, don’t you think? I wish I had just a fraction of his luster!
Well, bad history, among other descriptions, could be defined as any account of an actual event that plays loose with dates, places, people or storylines. And unfortunately, there is a lot of bad history out there. For example, every once in a while a new book will pop up and claim that there was no Holocaust in World War II, that the whole thing was made up for propaganda purposes—and when they do people cry out that the history in this book is flawed because we know the dates. We know the people. We know names of murderers and those who were murdered. We know the storyline. None of that can be refuted so anybody who tries to alter the reality of the Holocaust or any other well-documented event in history is going to have a tough go at it—because good history will stand up to the challenges that come its way.
All of that is to say that when you study the Bible and you compare it to accepted history—you discover that the events surrounding the teachings of the Bible have all been well established historically. In fact, today, there is wide documentation and corroboration and cross-checking that show the Bible to be not bad history, and not just good history—hear me on this—the Bible has been proven to be OUTSTANDING history. The Bible passes with flying colors when it comes to things like dates, geography, people, and the storylines that it references.
A prime example of this is found in the book of Acts. Even secular historians admit that Luke’s history book is amazingly accurate when it came to dates, geography, people, and actual historical events. And Acts is not alone in this. The entire Bible has been found to be good history. In fact, and I must confess a certain prideful pleasure in this but the truth is over and over and over again information in the Bible that secular historians once disputed as fables or myths—has turned out to be absolutely true. For example, for many years, secular scholars scoffed at the notion that Moses could have written the first five books of the Bible. Historians claimed that in the days of Moses, people were preliterate. So they said, “This is an obvious situation where the Bible is bad history.” Many years later, however, archaeological digs uncovered tablets, scrolls, and writing instruments that clearly show that a good portion of Moses’ entire culture was literate—in fact, quite intelligent and sophisticated. Researchers discovered that mankind had been writing four hundred years before Moses even came on the scene.
There was a time when historians said the names of the kings of Israel that the Bible lists were legend at best because there was no proof that these kings ever really lived—much less ruled. But over the years as archaeologists have dug and dusted their finds, they have discovered concrete proof of the existence of every one of the forty-seven kings—in the exact places the Bible said they had reigned. It turned out to be good history after all!
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was once thought to be mythological, until evidence was uncovered that these cities were situated just as the Old Testament says. Archaeologist Clifford Wislow writes that he has found, “…permanent evidence of the great conflagration that took place [in Sodom and Gomorrah] in the long distant past.”
Here’s another one. The Bible makes about three dozen references to the Hittites and critics used to charge that there was no evidence that such people ever existed. But in recent years archaeologists digging in modern Turkey have discovered the records of this wicked and long-dead nation.
In his best-selling book, The Bible As History Werner Keller writes,
“In view of the overwhelming mass of authentic and well-attested evidence now available, as I thought of the skeptical criticism which from the eighteenth century onward would fain have demolished the Bible altogether, there kept hammering in my brain this once sentence: “The Bible is right after all.”
I love Keller’s statement! I mean, it’ so exciting to hear that the more we learn about the people and the times that the Bible describes, the more we see how historically accurate this book really is.
And you know, the fact is, we don’t have archaeological evidence like this for any other religious book from the ancient world. Now, please understand my spirit in what I’m about to say. I’m not trying to demean or degrade people who follow the Mormon faith, but did you know that the Book of Mormon—which millions of well-intentioned people put their full faith and confidence in, fails the history test flat? It fails so much that when the Smithsonian Institute studied the Book of Mormon they issued an official statement declaring it to be, “devoid of any historical reliability whatsoever.” In other words, when the Book of Mormon mentions a river that existed in the one civilization it describes, well, there is no record of that river or mountain or coinage or city or people group—not one shred of historical evidence that would tether it to reality, not one.
I would be weak in the knees if I were involved in a belief system where the truth source had no tether to historical reality. Wouldn’t you? Well, that’s not our concern with the Bible. The Bible is believable because passes the historicity test with flying colors.
We’ve also found the Bible to believable because it contains good science.
Don’t misunderstand me. The Bible is not primarily a book of science but whenever it addresses scientific issues it is absolutely accurate. For decades science and the Bible were thought to contradict each other. I remember my Old Testament professor in seminary talking about this, saying this was not true. He said, “Truth does not contradict truth.” In other words, he taught us that if scientists using their God-given brains discovered something to be true, it would not contradict God’s Word—because as I said a few minutes ago, this written word is truth. Well, my professor was correct, and today’s research scientists are discovering this. Those who are genuinely searching for truth they are realizing that God’s Word is truth, even scientific truth.
For example more and more scientists are finally admitting that their research shows that an outside power of some kind was necessary to kick-start the forming of this universe. They are finally admitting that the old equation: space + time + chance = the possibility of the start of the universe, they are admitting that this equation is flawed, that it doesn’t add up! They are admitting that you’d have to wait a long, long time—forever actually—for nothing plus nothing plus nothing to produce anything. Their study, their search for truth, is confirming this. Even some committed atheistic scientists are seeing a possible parallel between the creation story of the Bible and the Big Bang Theory. Some are now saying that at some point maybe, just maybe, something or Someone ignited the activity that resulted in the world taking form. I mean, the creation account is no longer considered as preposterous as it once was.
Another point of agreement between Bible scholars and scientists is that no new matter is being created. As all you science students out there know, the first law of thermodynamics says that the actual amount of energy in the universe stays constant, nothing is being added. And, interestingly enough, the Bible, written thousands of years ago, has always held that position. Genesis 2:2 states that after He completed His creation endeavor, God stopped creating. He rested. He decided not to add anything additional to the equation of creation. So, there’s no disagreement between the Bible and science when it comes to the formation of new matter.
Here’s one more. Back in Genesis 1:24, the Bible says that living creatures will reproduce after their own kind, and only after their own kind. Of course, for the last 200 years, scientists with an evolutionary bent have been desperately trying to show evidence for any kind of reproduction—some proof that would indicate a gradual evolution from one lower kind of living thing to a higher form of living thing. They’ve looked for proof of change within the species because the whole concept of evolution depends on showing this kind of phenomenon. But listen to what paleontologist, Stephen J. Gould, wrote a few years back:
“Species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they finally disappear.”
And he’s an agnostic scientist! Do you understand what he is saying? Scientific research is slowly forcing serious students of science to consider adopting the position the Bible has held for thousands of years—that living creatures only reproduce after their own kind—that ole Darwin got it wrong.
Well, I could go on. But my point is that we have found the Bible to be believable because it has been proven to be good science. Not a single scientific discovery has ever contradicted an important biblical fact, which makes sense because these words were inspired by the Creator of this universe.
And then another reason we consider the Bible to be believable is because we have found its teachings to be good psychology.
When people come to me for guidance I counsel them out of the wisdom of this Book. I do this because I am thoroughly convinced that the Bible teaches the best psychology available to human beings. I’m not putting down modern psychiatry or the amazing new drug therapies that are available. But I do believe that the wisdom of the Bible is the surest foundation a person can build their one and only life on. So, when people like you come to me and ask for input at critical decision points of life, I don’t look at the writings of the latest guest on a TV talk show—no, I turn to the Scriptures where God has spoken and given His wisdom. I do this because all my life I have seen the wisdom and truth from the Word of God contribute to people’s emotional stability and growth and deepening faith. For example, I have found that just as God says in Philippians 4:6-7, when I am anxious or worried, if I talk to Him about it, if I pray, “…the peace of God which transcends all human understanding…fills my heart and mind.” I have discovered that if I “…trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding…” well then just as Proverbs 3 promises, “…God makes my paths straight.”
He tells me what to do and what to say. My marriage is best when I obey the teaching of Ephesians 5 and “…love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”
In my conversations with people who are angry with me I have found that “…a gentle answer DOES turn away wrath…” just as Proverbs 15:1 says. I could go on and on reciting verse after verse but suffice it to say that I have not come across a single promise or precept or principle in the Bible that does not do what it says it will do. In other words, The Bible works. I’m healthier psychologically, healthier relationally, whenever I follow its guidance.
And I am not alone in this. Over the centuries millions and millions of people have discovered the same thing. In fact, thousands of faithful Christians have given their lives rather than reject the teachings of this Book because like me they have found that when we read it, and believe it—and apply it to our lives, we are never the same, which leads to the final reason we revere this book….
(4) It is POWERFUL.
When people apply the teachings of the Bible to their lives, they change. They are transformed into better people, Godly people. It’s amazing to behold! This week I read that the prisons in the Canadian province of Quebec enforce a ban on smoking. With no cigarettes, the inmates have resorted to creative solutions. In place of tobacco, some use a mixture of tea leaves and residue from the nicotine gum provided to help smokers kick the addiction. The concoction is rolled up in a page from the Bible. The Bible is used because those pages reportedly burn slower than normal paper. An inmate named Robert told reporters, “I smoked Matthew. I smoked Mark. I smoked Luke. When I got to John, I read about how God loves me. Now I don’t smoke, because now I am a Christian.”
Robert learned that the secret of this book’s power is that fact that it tells us how to come to know God personally—how to have Him actually walk through life with us much as He did the first human beings. And nothing is more powerful than that!
I’m reminded of a story I once came across about a five-year-old girl named Karen who was given a Bible for her birthday. A few days later her mom noticed Karen reading it. In fact, she watched and saw that Karen wasn’t just reading it, she was writing in it. She looked closer and noticed that her daughter was circling the Word of “God” whenever she saw it. She asked, “Karen, why are you doing that?” And Karen replied, “So I’ll know where to find God when I need Him.” Well, little Karen was wise beyond her years, because this is the main reason God has given us this Book—so that we can know where to find Him, or rather how to find Him, how to come to know Him so He can guide us to experience the full, abundant lives He intended us to have. In fact, this book has the power required to take a life that has been lived all wrong and turn it around. This book contains the power to help anyone start over; it has the power to enable a person to be re-born.
This week I read about a Christian university student who shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran.
The believer responded, “No, I haven-t, but I’m sure it would be interesting. Why don’t we read both together, once a week, alternating books?” The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he—the Muslim—became a believer in Jesus.
One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and said to the long-time believer, “You deceived me!” “What are you talking about?” the believer asked. The new believer opened his Bible and said, “I’ve been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!” He grinned. “You knew all along that the Bible contained God’s power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!” “And now you’ll hate me for life?” queried the believer. “No,” he answered, “but it was an unfair contest.”
And it was because unlike any other book, this book is God’s POWERFUL inspired Word.
You know, if I had to summarize my belief about the nature of this Book of books, I would say it is basically an invitation from God to us, an invitation from Creator to Creation. In these pages is God’s written offer to know Him personally, to walk with Him daily. And, like all invitations God’s word calls for our response. This morning you may need to respond by bowing your head silently and committing to center your life around the teachings of the Bible. You may want to come forward and join this church pledging to help us as we obey God’s Word and work to fulfill the great commission it contains. Or you may want to walk forward and publicly accept God’s invitation to a personal relationship, deciding to become a Christian and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.