1.13.19 What is the Bible?
What is this thing anyway?
It’s a book (actually a library of 66 books)
Is it a book of rules and regulations, a book of answers to every question, an outdated, irrelevant piece of ancient writings?
Have we long out grown and outsmarted this thing? Paul wrote to Timothy and said…
2 Tim. 3:16 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.
God-breathed is a single word in the Greek, used only here
in the Bible.
-Paul doesn’t explain himself as to how or why this is true…any more than Moses did when he simply said in Gen 1 “In the Beginning God created.”
The scriptures were seen by Jesus as being “God- breathed”…so they were easily accepted as such by Paul and the rest of the early church.
He knows they are…from experience…through their power…and because he knows their author.
Just as if you look with clear eyes at the world, you can see it was made by God.
If you do the same with the Scripture you can see it is God-breathed and useful for all aspects of our lives as humans.
They are Useful:
Not as a magic oracle (open a page and put your finger on a verse and get life direction).
Not as something to make me feel better in a purely emotional way.
it’s purpose is show us how we can line our lives up with God…this is the usefulness of the Bible
God’s word originates from his great mind…we can know what he thinks about things, what he holds valuable, what is good and what is not.
Paul gives 4 things here about the “use” the Bible…then
a summary impact.
Teach: We can know truth about the ways things actually are…the path to walk
Rebuke: We can know truth about how and where we have gotten off track
Correct: We can know truth about how to get back on track with what is good and real
Train in Righteousness: We can know truth about how to stay on track for the long haul…to hold a good course no matter what happens in and around us.
All this…In order that we would be thoroughly equipped for every good work: Able to live lives as they were designed.
We are able to become restored humans, people who live the thriving life under the reality of God’s purposes…the abundant life, Jesus called it.
Abundant life is not more stuff, or even more health…there are plenty of miserable people with both of those.
The abundant life is life lived under the blessing of God…we can know him because he has spoken and told us what kind of life is good to live.
We are going to spend the first quarter of this year looking at the flow of Scriptures…with the goal of growing in our confidence in them as the accurate, reliable source for understanding how to thrive as humans…how to live like we actually want to live.
What is good, and right to do and be…and how do we do and be that.
Then we will spend 9 months looking at some specific puzzle pieces in our lives and how to make sense out of them…by understanding how they fit in the overall flow of history as revealed in the Scriptures.
Like Rodney said…we look to the Scriptures to see the picture that makes sense out of the individual pieces.
How do we think about and deal with the real issues in our lives in light of the real picture of reality?
It’s not important that when we are done with this year whether or not you can defend the Bible’s accuracy and authority against someone who doubts both.
-Truth never depends on our ability to defend it…it stands on its own.
But it will be important that you grow in your trust in the Bible…is accuracy and authority.
It won’t matter whether you remember from memory the flow of biblical history.
What will matter: That you live in increased confidence in the God who is there and the God who has spoken.
and That you live in increasing love and obedience to him…revealed in love and grace for others.
*We are not done closing the gap…this year we shift the focus just a bit…
From closing the gap on “faith and love”
To closing the gap on “faith and life”
How do we consistently align our lives with the God who is there and who has spoken to us?
Don’t be put off by the words: teaching, rebuking, correcting, training…they can sound like boot camp, or school…mere academics…or information.
But it might help to hear them in a different way.
Imagine something super important to you, something
that matters so very much to your life:
Marriage, hobby you love, job, health, finances, children, personal happiness…you fill in the blank.
Now someone tells you…I have information that will allow you to be successful in this thing that matters most to you.
I can tell you things you may not even know about it, I can show you where you are off track in terms of your own goals, how to get back on track, and how to stay there over the long haul.
You can know how to thrive and enjoy the thing that matters so much to you.
Now remember this is not something someone else is saying should be important to you…this is something that is actually of great personal value to you.
If you were convinced the one offering you this training, this information was trustworthy…then you would see it as a treasure…a gift.
*This is how various programs, books, seminars are sold…they speak to what is of vital importance to people and then offer insight that proposes to allow people to thrive in those areas.
Sometimes the information is helpful, true…sometimes it is a scam.
But either way it illustrates the fact that we are desperate for help in the things that matter most to us.
This is what Scriptures are for you and me.
Most everyone values their own life…everyone wants to be happy, to make an impact, to live their own life in ways they will experience the good.
The problem is people do not on their own know how to experience this kind of life…and this is part of the plot line of the Bible and of human history at large…we miss the mark on good and evil. (sin is literally “to miss the mark”)
But that’s only part of that plot line…the fuller plot line is God’s plan for restoration of people to himself.
So we are going to spend some time looking at the bigger picture of Scripture…so we will be equipped to look at the smaller pieces that make up our day to day lives.
From 2009-2012 I struggled through a course called “Air War College.”…I thoroughly disliked it because I could not seem get my head around it.
After barely passing one test, then flunking another…I needed a different strategy than the one I was using.
What was my strategy?
Read, then read…memorize…read…hoping eventually I would make sense out of what I was reading…I wasn’t able to.
The tests were three hour written tests…that required you to actually understand the stuff…that was problematic for me…I didn’t
Could never find my place in the material.
Finally…I put a big whiteboard beside my desk…I did some overview studies, talked to some friends who were actual experts in this stuff…and I drew myself some pictures…a sort of map for each block of material.
Then I started reading again…and as I read…I would look at my “map” to see where I was in the larger picture.
It was still no fun…but I passed the course and came to understand some of what I was studying.
The most common plan to understand the Bible is to start reading…therefore many plans die somewhere around Levititicus.(That’s three books in if you haven’t tried it)
But even if you endure to the end…its unlikely you will get the flow of the Bible simply by reading it through.
It’s super important to read carefully through the Bible…but its best to do so with at least a general understanding of the flow and key themes.
This is so you can see where you are in the larger story and then make sense out of the day to day reading and reflection and application.
If we miss the larger picture then we are likely to apply the Scriptures in ways that God never actually intended them to be.
Then we will be perpetually disappointed and disillusioned by them.
But the fault will be in our understanding and application not in the Bible itself.
1 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.
This doesn’t mean the ones who wrote Scripture were passive puppets.
It means that God, through his Spirit spoke to and through men in their own life settings and circumstances and then
using their particular personalities brought about Scripture.
So God used men…but Scripture originates from the will and mind of God.
Or as Paul said…it is “God breathed”
God’s mind is not disjointed…so his word is not a random collection of vaguely spiritual stuff.
He used over 40 men over 1000 years to write the OT and it should be no surprise that it tied together in a wonderful consistent story…because it came from the mind and will of God.
So the Bible is this big narrative with many smaller narratives that all flow together.
If we don’t read with the larger story line in place we will miss the point of the smaller stories…we will misapply it.
Give an example of how we can miss the point if we don’t know the larger narrative:
Gideon one of Israel’s Judges…he lived during the times between Israel arriving in the promised land and the rise of the Kings.
If you read the story apart from the larger context you will likely come to the opposite intended conclusion.
So Gideon, whose tribe was being abused by a local people group (called Midianites) was told by an angel “Hey mighty warrior, the Lord is with you.”
Gideon’s response…”prove it!” So he did.
Then the “mighty warrior” went to take down the local pagan altar but he did it at night because…”he was afraid”
Then he was told by God to lead the people in battle against the Midianites.
But before he would trust God’s words…he tested God, two more times.
God allows himself to be tested and the enemy is routed. 13
So often what is taken from reading Gideon apart from
the fuller story is:
-Good tips on how to discern if God is really speaking to you.
-We even say “I put out a fleece” to see if it was God’s will.
As if that is a good thing to do…rather than the exact opposite thing that Gideon should have done.
So let’s back up and look at the larger plot line:
-The people are living in a state of ongoing disarray because of the ongoing lack of trust and obedience in God…this all goes back to the rebellion in the garden and is repeated over and over.
People wanting the good apart from God…and turning evil into good…is on ongoing part of the storyline of Scripture (and human history)
God calls an Israelite named Gideon to step up and save the people
But Gideon is no hero, and he is not a man of faith.
When he finally does listen to God and prepares to go to war…we find that now it was time for God to test Gideon.
He tells Gideon to to leave all but 300 or the 32,000 men behind…so God could show himself mighty.
The enemy was miraculously routed and the people were rescued.
The story of Gideon doesn’t end well.
We don’t see him as an old saint…passing on faith and wisdom to the next generation.
His story ends with him melting down some gold and making his own idol that he, his family and others worshipped and it became a trap to them all.
So…the story of Gideon taken from its larger context
-If you want to know if God is speaking or can be trusted -Make him give you a sign…like the great hero Gideon did.
Which is in fact the exact opposite of the point of the narrative…
“When will Gideon actually start trusting God?”
When will we actually start trusting and obeying God?
That is the point of the entire biblical narrative…and our own lives.
We see God’s commitment to his own covenant to his people such that he uses even people like Gideon to accomplish his big purposes.
When we take away the larger plot line…we become trapped in stories out of context.
Most often this leads us to read the Bible looking for ways to make life about us…rather than seeing what is evident there…and all around us…We exist for him…not him for us.
So again…the point of this side story about Gideon…is to demonstrate how important it is to not get “lost” along
the way…we need to keep our bearings as we move through the story of the Bible.
This so we can apply it correctly to our own life setting.
So…today…Let’s look at the plot line of the Bible in just a very few minutes…try to draw a picture of the whole.
First the plot in a paragraph: (From thebibleproject.com)
The entire Scripture is one unified story that tells us the truth about the human condition and sin while announcing God’s promise to one day send a messenger and then show up personally. He will defeat evil and purify a faithful remnant, establish a New Jerusalem (new garden…where he reigns as king and close friend) and bring peace, healing, and justice forever. It’s that promise that prompts God’s people to denounce sin, remain faithful to his covenant and hope for the future.
Let’s see how that plot works out in the Bible.
Bible begins with God…eternal, uncreated and beautiful
God creates the cosmos and on one planet puts a garden
In this garden he puts Adam(human) and Eve (life):
Commissioned them to rule under God to do meaningful life-giving work.
God gave them the choice to partner with him and find freedom by trusting him to define good and evil or to seize power and define good and evil on their own…which God warned would kill them.
They listen to the enemy and seized the knowledge apart from God…and this led to a dark downward spiral of murder, distrust, wide spread death.
God then raises up another couple(Abraham and Sara), and tells them that from them would come a new nation, a new people with the chance to make the right choice.
If they succeed it will open a new way forward…they were to make the name of God and his ways known to the entire world.
So the rest of the Bible story is about this family.
But it does not go well…this family continually tries to find the good apart from God
Over and over…people rebel…God does great reversals to keep his promises.
The trek through the Exodus, the Conquest of Canaan, the rise of the Kings…all carry the same story line through.
People continue to try to determine what is good apart from God…they suffer for it.
God continues to keep his promises to keep a family line from which the true King would come.
The prophets (all those strange books at the end of the OT) speak the same message over and over to the rulers and people over hundreds of years.
Because you continue to rebel, to re-define good and evil on you own terms…God will send you as conquered captives to Babylon.
As predicted in 587 BC they were taken there.
But then he then brought them back…as he said he would. But guess what…no change…even after all of that.
Then the Old Testament ends…in the last book…Malachi…about 100 years after the exiles had returned.
The people are back in the promised land…a much diminished people…with a much diminished temple…and they are complaining to God…again.
After all that.
Keep in mind…he had given them the way to live life…he had spoken to them…back on Sinai to Moses.
Then over and over through the prophets he reminded them.
He told them when they were off track…how to get back on…how to stay on track.
Remember what Paul told Timothy…they had his word.
Malachi, the last book of the OT…ends pointing to the gift
of the Scriptures.
-Encouragement to remember the Law of Moses and the prophets.
Then…like all the prophets did…he says “Look to the future.”
They spoke of the King from David’s line would who would change hearts.
Then, four centuries later…
A man who came from the line of David, Jesus, claiming to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament (and demonstrated this truth with his life)
He confronts the enemy and unlike Adam and Eve…resisted.
He announced that the Kingdom of God was here…that when they saw him they saw God.
He about God’s definition of good and evil…love your enemies, put the interests of others first, serve.
This was the right-side up kingdom in an upside-down world.
Jesus said the servants are the people who actually rule the world…this is the kingdom come.
The he demonstrated how dreadfully wrong we had been about what real greatness is…he washed his followers’ feet, then went and died for them and us.
Then he rose from the dead, proving his is teaching is true…because he is fact…God.
The rest of the New Testament is first how the people of Jesus spread across the known world.
Then letters were written to these groups of people to encourage them to remain faithful, to remember this will be hard…but it is the good life.
Using examples from the OT and the life of Jesus…they communicated how to close the gap on being these new kind of humans
All 66 books fit into this narrative.
And this narrative…fits what we see in the world around us.
In fact, it describes the world just as we see it and experience it.
And it prescribes a way of life that if lived out with some consistency…validates the God-breathed reality of Scriptures.
I have been working on this since early in the summer and I have been thoroughly inspired and encouraged.
It has not been merely academic…though I am looking at the “facts”…it has been powerful…because the “facts” are about the personal God.
These facts have over and over clarified my own day to day perspective…very practical ways.
When I see God at work through the formation of Israel, and the exile, the failure of Kings, the consistent message of the prophets.
I see what matters to him and what doesn’t as much…to
be honest my main application has been…
-I want to trust God with the details of my life
-I want to love the people God has placed in my life
“Really, studying thousands of years of history, and the grand movements and purposes of God in history…and your primary personal application is you want to be faithful and be kind?”
Exactly…you got it…that is what God really values…and it is clear from the flow of Scriptures that he does.
And…life experience bears this out…to the extent people live this way…the fuller, more abundant their lives are.
Of course it’s much more than just trying to be nicer, kinder people…it means live that we live with courage, and sacrifice, and with truth.
We value what is valuable.
This is what the Bible speaks to…it speaks to what matters the most to all of us…how to live life at its best.
Quick question: “If it is from God…why is so hard to
*Manual for the playground equipment Jim put together.
*The Bible is the reality of human life and God’s purposes…written over a thousand years meant to apply to all people everywhere.
*Why isn’t it harder to understand…is the question. Amazing book.
2nd…Quick Question: How can a modern, thinking person actually believe God gave us a book and this is that book.
I don’t know what modern or thinking has to do with the question at all.
-To believe the Bible is authoritative and accurate word of God…is supremely rational.
Since God exists, it makes perfect sense that he would communicate with us in clear ways…why wouldn’t he?
The question is, how would he?
*A written record compiled over a thousand years by 40 or so people…that has a single unifying story…seems like a good and compelling way to get his message to us.
Then Jesus…the singularity in human history…validated the OT with his life and words, and the NT was validated by those who were with him.
We have the personal “notary seal” of God became man on the Scriptures.
The Bible originated in the mind of God and like any personal, thinking, choosing being he set out to communicate…he had something specific in his mind to get across.
Of course, unlike all other thinking beings…God’s thoughts are perfect…so what he wants to get across is perfect.
God has spoken
We have his words
So we can know and love the God who exists
Let’s do the work to understand…and make the choice to obey when we do understand.
Want to see they are God-breathed…learn some, think carefully about it, and then try to put what you see there into your life.
Remember: The point will most often be: “Let God define what is the good…you simply trust and obey him.”