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The Bible

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"God has revealed himself in the Bible, which consists of the Old and New Testaments alone. Every word was inspired by God through human authors, so that the Bible as originally given is in its entirety the Word of God, without error and fully reliable in fact and doctrine. The Bible alone speaks with final authority and is always sufficient for all matters of belief and practice."


THE BIBLE

Reading: Ps.119:89-112

Introduction:
Some of you here this morning may have sung this little song many years ago in Sunday School. I wonder whether any of you remember it. It goes like this:

The best book to read is the Bible.
The best book to read is the Bible.
If you read it every day,
It will help you on your way.
Oh, the best book to read is the Bible.


Why is it that some of us get so enthusiastic about the Bible while to many of our contemporaries it is just an old, out-of-date book belonging to another era and another culture?

Well here at Sunnyhill we read the Bible out loud in our meetings; we spend a lot of time teaching what the Bible says and trying to understand it better. The only songs that we’ll sing in our meeting are songs that are consistent with the fundamental message of the Bible. We teach our children Bible stories and we encourage personal Bible reading at home. Many of us make it our aim to read some part of the Bible every day and several of us have read the entire Bible many times over. Some of us would have read the entire Bible more than twenty times. And it’s probably those who have read the Bible the most who are the most enthusiastic to understand it more.

In addition to all that we even support missionaries who have gone overseas in order to be involved in translating the Bible into yet more languages.

I suppose one explanation for our passion for the Bible would be that we are a bunch of freaks – and there may be more truth in that than we would care to admit – but then again there are freaks just like us in town after town, county after county, country after country. The Bible has met the needs of people the world over as they have wanted to know more about God and more about how they could have a relationship with him.

The Bible has met their needs and ours because it is God’s Word!

Yes, the Bible really is God’s Word
There are a several different reasons why the Bible is so important to us and I want to consider just a few of them this morning.

We’re going to begin with some of what the Bible has to say about itself. And basically we can summarise that very easily. The Bible teaches that God has spoken and continues to speak to us through his word which is the Bible. Listen to just a couple of verses that speak in this way:

2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"

1 Thessalonians 2:13 "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers."


In the Bible we find out what God is like and what he likes doing. One of the things we discover is that he is a God of truth. He is no liar and therefore what he says is true; what he says is something that we should all be ready to hear and to receive:

Proverbs 30:5-6 "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar."


Now some folk will respond by suggesting that none of that is really very convincing after all it is just the Bible talking about itself. And when they say this they think that somehow they have proved that the statements the Bible makes about itself are unreliable at best and false at worst! But do you realise that they haven’t proved anything of the kind. After all, if the Bible is the Word of God then surely we would expect it to tell us so in no uncertain terms, wouldn’t we? Wouldn’t it rather be the height of foolishness of God’s part to cause his book to be written and then not say a word about it?

Surely then this book which makes such claims is worth a closer look. Let’s not be hasty in our dismissals of it. After all it has done so much good wherever it has been made known. It is also the most widely published book in all of human history, the book that is translated into more languages than any other. The stats are impressive:

In Nov.2015 Wycliffe posted the following figures. The full Bible is available in 554 different languages, giving 5,054 million people access to Scripture in the language they understand best. The New Testament is available in another 1,333 languages, reaching another 663 million people. At least one book of the Bible is available in a further 1,045 other languages, spoken by 281 million people. There are a further 2,267 active projects known worldwide.

The Bible is also now available in so many different formats – you can read it as a book in your hand, on your computer or on your tablet or smart phone. One app for reading the Bible for free has been downloaded onto more than 200 million mobile devices! You can watch the counter increase as folk download it constantly.

In addition to declaring itself to be the very Word of God the Bible invites us in to see for ourselves:

Ps.34:8 "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"


As we take up the Bible to read what it has to say there are plenty of encouragements along the way.

We read that the Bible is up-to-date because its message is eternal:

Isaiah 40:8 "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever."


We read that it is effective in accomplishing God’s purposes:

Isaiah 55:11 "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

We read too that it is effective in dealing with us:

Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Deuteronomy 8:3 "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." This a text that Jesus knew and quoted!

Psalm 119:11 "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."

John 17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."


Psalm 19:7-11 "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."


So many people think they know all about the Bible and they assume it is all about what we must do and must not do. It’s true that the Bible does contain instruction about we are to live our lives but the Bible is much more a book in which God reveals himself to us and tells us what he has done for us when we were quite simply unable to do anything to help ourselves! The central person in the Bible is our Lord Jesus Christ who himself applauded some of the people of his own day for their desire to read the Scriptures adding that these Scriptures tell about him!

John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,"


How little we would know about this wonderful man if we didn’t have a Bible to tell us about him! We would know that in the first century a man named Jesus existed and that he caused quite a stir, we would know as well that his followers talked about him in such a way that caused a stir too. But we would know little more.

We wouldn’t know that he had an existence before he was born into this world. We wouldn’t know he was God who took a human form upon himself and by means of the incarnation became a real man. We wouldn’t know that he came into the world not to judge or to condemn but to save sinners. We wouldn’t know of his mighty miracles, his wonderfully memorable parables or of his teachings. We wouldn’t know that he was the only one who could save us and bring us to God the Father instead we would be left groping along in the spiritual dark as we lurched headlong towards hell. Without the Bible we would nothing of his death for our sins nor of his resurrection for our justification. His ascension into heaven would be forever unknown to us and we’d have not the vaguest idea that he plans to return one day bringing about the end of the world as we know it and ushering in the Day of Judgment.

Without a Bible we wouldn’t know how our sin had cut us off from God, nor would we know just how serious the consequences of that separation are. We wouldn’t realise our need of a Saviour and we’d never seek to discover more about Jesus.

How glad we should be that we have a Bible! How important for us to read our Bibles prayerfully, asking God the author to teach us! There is no reason for any of us not to get hold of a copy in a size and format that suits us and in a translation that we can understand.

The Bible is a book to be read, thought about and where applicable, applied. When you grasp what it’s all about and why you have it you’ll surely want to get to grips with it until your attitude is the same as the hymn-writer from Nottingham, John Burton, who wrote about like this:

Holy Bible, book Divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to chide me when I rove;
Mine to show a Saviour’s love;
Mine art thou to guide my feet;
Mine to judge, condemn, acquit.

Mine to comfort in distress;
Mine, with promise sweet to bless;
Mine to show, by living faith,
Man can triumph over death.

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom;
Holy Bible, book Divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.


No, we don’t worship the book itself but how glad we ought to be to God for it! When we begin to understand something of the value and worth of the Bible we’ll be glad to sing that simple Sunday School song that goes like this:

I am so glad that our Father in Heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.


I wonder whether you can honestly sing this simple song – I usually find my eyes filling with tears and my emotions choking when I do.

More Reasons for taking the Bible Seriously
I could give you some very general reasons why you should read the Bible, reasons that have very little to do with religion.

I could tell you to read the Bible because:

  • It is filled with some of the most famous and inspiring stories of the literary world.

  • No other book in all of history has had more impact on western culture than the Bible.

  • It has had a profound effect on the world’s greatest writers.

  • It is the world’s most recognized sacred text


I could go on and suggest that you ought to read it because:

  • Its themes of the Bible are noble and ennobling

  • Its appeal and application is timeless.

  • Its effects upon the life of our own country have been many and of great importance.

  • Its effects are repeated in country after country the world over


There are so many different and various reasons for taking the Bible seriously.

But I want to give you one more reason which, as far as I’m concerned, is much more important. I want us to think for a moment about how that most remarkable of men Jesus Christ reacted to the Bible. What was his attitude to the books that go to make up what we call Holy Scripture? If you claim to be a Christian, a follower of this Man, then surely you will be interested in knowing what he thought about the Bible and surely his attitude ought to be shared by those who claim to follow him. If you’re not a Christian then you need to be aware that you are out of line with Jesus who did take the Bible very seriously indeed.

Jesus and the Bible
We have already referred to Jesus’ high priestly prayer in which he declared his belief that God’s word was truth and this belief and conviction was reflected in the way in which he spoke about the contents of the OT – the Bible of his day.

Frequently as Jesus ministered and taught he referred to the historical narratives of the OT and when he did so he consistently treated them as straightforward records of facts.

Jesus spoke:

  • about individuals such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah and Elisha. He evidently believed in the historicity of the man called Jonah and his strange experiences!

  • about institutions and events such as circumcision, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the miraculous provision of manna to eat in the wilderness, the bronze serpent.

  • about creation and marriage setting his stamp of approval to OT teaching on these important matters


Jesus used passages from the OT to illustrate his own teaching and, interestingly, seemed to particularly like those passages that the so-called modern mind has most problems with! In several cases his teaching would be undermined were the illustration untrue or unhistorical.

If the OT contained true history for Jesus it also contained authoritative teaching. Consequently he had great respect for what the law, for example, really called for. He declared that he had not come to destroy this law of God but to fulfil it. And he taught his followers the need for obedience to the law – first and foremost in spirit, but also in letter.

He didn’t blithely set his own views over against the law of God as contained in the OT but presented his view as the correct understanding of what had already been revealed. This is what he did in the Sermon on the Mount where he countered false interpretations: "You have heard that it was said" with "But I say to you".

This reflects no disregard for the Scripture – the complete opposite is the case.

We also observe Jesus’ attitude concerning the authority of the OT in that if there was a clear statement to be found there on any subject the issue at hand was settled. When some of the Sadducees, who rejected any idea of resurrection, were trying to make him look foolish Jesus responded by referring to Scripture – as far as he was concerned the argument was over – the Sadducees were wrong because they knew "neither the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Mk.12:24).

So far we have seen that Jesus considered the OT to record historical events truthfully as fact and we have just seen that he regarded its commands as having relevance and authority. But there is yet more to be said!

Jesus knew that the OT contained a number of statements and prophecies concerning the future. What was his attitude to such things? Well, the answer is easy to find for he talked often about Scripture being fulfilled and having to be fulfilled. Just one example will suffice. Do you remember how he met his slow-to believe followers after his resurrection? Listen to this:

Lk.24:44-45 "Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures"


Jesus was convinced that everything the Scripture said would happen would happen.

Jn.10:35 "Scripture cannot be broken"


We can see this too as we read the Bible for ourselves and realise just how Scripture has been fulfilled. We can trust the Bible because here is further proof that it is indeed the Word of God.

Finally, Jesus trusted the Word of God and used it very practically in his own life too. I wonder if you’ve noticed as we’ve gone along this morning that the practicality and effectiveness of the Bible has been alluded to over and over again. We read early on Paul’s statement to Timothy where he highlighted the positive practical value of the Bible:

2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"


Well Jesus not only held a number of intellectual ideas about the Scripture he also evidenced a practical reliance upon its effectiveness. His attitude towards the Bible was by no means academic but it was intensely practical too. Just recall how he resisted Satan when Satan came to him with a set temptations offering Jesus far more than he ever offers us. We so often fail and yield to temptation but not our Lord. What was his secret?

Well, he didn’t have one but he did have Scripture – just like we do. And he used it. As he resisted each of Satan’s assaults he countered with "It is written... it is written... it is written."

Conclusion
We have so many reasons to take the Bible seriously. I don’t want you to leave this morning without the determination to read this book and to learn from this book and to live by this book. You will have wasted your time and mine this morning if you go away convinced that the Bible is important but without any intention to do anything about it.

  • For some of you that will mean reorganising your daily pattern so that you make the time to read regularly.

  • For some it may mean buying yourself a new Bible that is easy to read with decent print and a nice page layout.

  • For others it may mean looking out some Bible reading helps.


Perhaps you’ve tried Bible reading before and have struggled – don’t give up – talk to me, one of the other elders, or a Christian friend you trust – but READ the Bible – it is the spiritual food that your soul needs.


Amen.

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