The Bible is God's inspired word, containing 66 books written by 40 authors over 1500 years, which has unity of theme across time; it teaches us everything needed for salvation and godly living, equipping us for every good work, so we should appreciate, read, and obey God's word
Good morning. Will you do me a favor to start the lesson this morning? Can, can you put your hands on a Bible maybe it's your own, maybe it's one provided there in the pew for you, maybe it's in the form of a phone or an iPad or something like that, can you try and put your hands on a Bible for me, please?
I'm, I'm not gonna do, remember we had a preacher came and visited with us and preached for us, that was a couple of years ago, and he said, hold up your Bible, let me see your, I'm not gonna make you hold it up. But can you put your hands on a Bible? What you hold in your hands is the most amazing book, or more correctly, library of books, that has ever been written or compiled.
It is God's library. The Bible, which just means the books, has had more influence and changed the world in than any other thing that has ever been written. It has influenced your life, my life, our lives, in fundamental ways that we may not even realize. Its influence and power are difficult to overstate.
And perhaps we would do well just to allow it to speak for itself. As the Hebrew writer says in Hebrews chapter 4 in verse 12, For the word of God is living and powerful. than any two edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and of joint And is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, of our heart.
This is the power of God's Word. And it is that Word of God that I would like to spend just a few moments talking about this morning. As we seek to glorify God and as we seek to grow closer to Him. Thank you for being with us this morning. If you're here in person or if you're visiting with us online, we're grateful for your presence.
And I do see a few who are visiting with us this morning. As has already been said, you're our honored guest. We hope that you feel welcome. We hope that you feel comfortable being here. We also hope that you're challenged, that you're provoked to love and good works as we're striving to do to one another.
And most of all, it is our prayer that God is glorified by the things that we do here. What we live in a world that we so often think of is very secular, you know, that the nuns are the biggest growing group of people in religion, that they don't believe anything. And so it might come as somewhat of a surprise to us that the most recent polling data about the way people look at the Bible, the Word of God, Back in 2021, there was a poll where 69 percent of all Americans, from all backgrounds, from all religious beliefs, still believe that the Bible is a holy book from God, though obviously not all of those would believe that the Bible is true in all areas.
And yet, what does the Bible claim for itself? What the Bible claims is divine origin and divine divine inspiration from God himself, himself. It is the surest means of God's communication with people, even when compared to the apostles who saw and heard Jesus. Themselves. The apostle Peter, who was obviously very close to our Lord says in two Peter chapter one verses 16 through 21, for we did not follow cunningly devised fabless when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty, for he received from God the father, honor and glory.
When such a voice came to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, and whom I am well pleased. And we heard, Peter says, we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. We can read about this event, this transfiguration when they're up on the mountain, and Moses and Elijah are standing there next to Jesus, and there's the bright light, and then Moses and Elijah fade away so that this voice says this, that, This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.
And goes on to say, hear him, he's the one you need to listen to more than Moses and Elijah, more than the law and the prophets. And how amazing would it have been, how amazing would it have been just to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear the things that he said, to see the things that he did. How even more amazing to be on the mountain and see Moses and Elijah with Jesus and hear the voice of God, the father in this way.
And yet I am amazed by what Peter says next in verse 19. We also have the prophetic word, which is more sure than what we heard. which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private origin.
Maybe your translation says, any private interpretation. The idea is, it doesn't come from the hearts and minds of, of men. For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. And Peter says this, This, this prophecy that we have from God, this inspired word of God, this is the most sure communication that we have from God, our Father.
This library of inspired scripture is, is made up, here's the tail of the tape, if you want to put it that way. It is made up of 66 books that were written over about 1500 years, from let's say 1450 B. C. or so to 100 A. D. or so. And it was written by about 40 different authors, 40 different writers.
During six major world empires across history. On three different continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In three different languages, Hebrew and Greek primarily. And then a, a couple of smaller sections in Aramaic. And yet we see all of this vast diversity and breadth and span that this, this library of books was compiled and written.
And yet despite all of that, the Bible has continuity and consistency and unity that is unparalleled.
We have some readers in here, people who enjoy reading, love to read. I mean, my hand's up, and maybe it's because they're readers, they didn't put their hand up really high, I don't know. But I love to read, but isn't it super annoying when you're reading a book or a series of books? And let's say it's fiction, but even it would apply to a certain degree to non fiction.
When there's all of these, like, unresolved things, when, when things are just left out there and there's these plot holes and, and maybe your mind works that way, like mine, where you're just like I wish that they would address this. I wish they would come back to that. You can't just leave this hanging.
Where is the unity when it's just one author that's trying to write these things? And some of the best works of literature throughout history, the ones that have endured, are the ones that have the fewest number of those. At least that's one of the things that causes those things to endure. And so you think about all of these 66 books with all of these 40 different writers over this course of, of time, with different cultures and different countries and different places.
And what we see is that it has this kind of unity. It is a, a beautiful tapestry, finely woven without any mistakes in its original text. In its original form, I believe that the Bible contains no so called mistakes or contradictions. For which there is not a viable, reasonable answer. And that remains to be the case, despite 2, 000 years or so of many motivated, intelligent people who were looking desperately for such mistakes, so that they might discredit the Word of God.
Straining at every net to try and find one such and that's all really, honestly, that they have to find is one undeniable, unexplainable mistake while the believer has to defend the entirety of God's Word and yet still God's Word stands. That's impossible. No man or collection of men could have written a book like this.
And it's not just that those attacks haven't prevailed against the Word of God. To me, one of the great evidences for the inspiration of the Bible is the weakness of some of those attacks against the Bible itself. These attacks are often dishonest in nature, framing the argument in the least charitable way possible, and even then, they fall short.
Most of us who are believers, and believers in God and Christ The Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Most of us have been through a period of time in our life where, where we looked at those things and we studied those things. Not because, like me, you were trying to be a preacher or anything like that, but just in your own faith, you're looking through and saying, well, Well, is this really what it claims to be, as, as some book of divine origin, breathed out by God?
And something that grew my faith a great deal was looking at those things. And seeing them and thinking to myself, well, is that true? Is there a contradiction here? Is there a problem here? Is there a mistake? And we understand in the original languages as they were originally written and all those sorts of things.
I'm not talking about mistakes of translation or anything like that. And yet studying those things, to me, has been something that has been incredibly faith building. Because I see the weakness of so many of the arguments. And I don't want to put up some straw man here that I can knock down myself. And so what I did is, over the course of the past couple of weeks, I've been through a bunch of these.
And I tried to find an argument that is representative of what we see so often. And I ran across, this was Some time ago, I ran across a video, and it was very well produced, you know, it had a, a good beat in the background as you're watching the video, and it's, it's a video by a skeptic talking about the Gospels.
And, and I decided to use this particular argument because it comes from our Bible reading. A couple of you are smiling because I've sent this video to you. And the argument that is made in this video is that there is a, there's a contradiction about, What is above Jesus's head the sign that was above his head on the cross and the person in the video said that the Gospels Disagree about what was written above the head of Jesus and he quotes from each of the Gospels and says this is what each Gospel says was written above the head of Jesus Matthew This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Mark, the King of the Jews. Luke, this is the King of the Jews. And John, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. At the end of the video, after saying that, this is what he says, and I want to read it so that I, again, I don't want to misrepresent him or the organization for which he works. He said, if you are looking for the Gospels to provide historical accuracy, about the life of Jesus and the way they corroborate one another, you will leave disappointed.
And this is the example he uses to show that. And my response was, really?
That's the best you can do?
It's not. I mean, I could make better arguments myself, I think, but This is the kind of thing, if you've never heard it before, says, well, okay, well, how do we reconcile that? Well, you know, if you harmonize those four accounts, this is what you see. This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. And in order, can't we plug each one of these into that statement?
Matthew, this is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Mark, the King of the Jews. Luke, this is the King of the Jews. John, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. And never mind that we are told in John's Gospel that this statement was actually written in three different languages. And anyone who's studied languages at all knows that there is going to be some variation when you're putting it into a different language to translate those.
There is no contradiction here. All four gospel accounts are found in order in this combined statement. In each gospel, different details are emphasized without contradicting the others. And if this is what they're attacking, it should build our faith. And that's not to say that there aren't real difficulties in the biblical text.
There are, but none of those difficulties clearly show a lack of inspiration. And what we do find, in instance after instance after instance, is the incredible unity of theme and purpose in the Biblical text. This library of books has one unified theme across all of these books, across all of these authors and cultures and times.
And it's been expressed in a number of different ways. We might say, the redemption of man from sin, or God's plan for our salvation. Or a unified story pointing us to Jesus Christ. And you can trace this theme of redemption in Jesus dozens of different ways. You can pull one concept and trace it across the entire biblical text from Genesis to Revelation.
Concepts, themes like water, or trees, or seed, or stones, or blood, or sacrifice, or spirit, or light. Or words, or combinations of things like light and darkness, life and death, faith and works, grace and faith, war and peace, blessings and curses. Just to name a few of the ways you can trace that story of salvation through the pages of this book.
It is interlaced in the most beautiful way possible. And I know, in some senses I'm biased. I've been learning about this book since before I can remember. And I've been studying it for myself, truly, for, let's say, 28 years or so. And the more I study, the stronger my faith becomes. This, this library has become, to me at least, not for everyone, but to me at least, it has become the greatest evidence of a Creator God.
Spurgeon once said, Nobody ever outgrows Scripture. The book widens and deepens with our years. The older we get, the more we realize how much more there is to learn. Consider this. The Gospel message contained within the pages of this book is so simple that in one sitting, someone can learn everything they need to know in order to be a Christian and start living and following Jesus Christ.
And we see several examples of that in the book of Acts. That in one sitting, They learned enough to know what it is they needed to do in order to be right with God and have, have the hope of eternal salvation. And yet it is so deep that you can study it every day. You can start now and study it for the next however many years you have.
For some that might be 80, for some that might be less than one, who knows. But you can learn something new every single day that you study. I know that in part because of Stephanie's grandfather Bill Reeves and I remember going over to his house when he was in his early 90s at this point, and I would knock on the door, and he would greet me at the door with such excitement.
And he would say, Reagan, Reagan, I saw something today I have never seen before. And I thought to myself, now, have you never seen it before, or did you just forget that you saw it before, you know? But no, seriously, he would, he would shuffle back into his office, and he'd say, come on, you've gotta see this, you've gotta see this.
And he even said to me one time, he said, Reagan, I learned something new.
And if we are committed to reading and studying our Bibles, we'll learn something new about God and who He is and His love for us and His plan. We will see it in new and powerful ways every day. Paul puts it succinctly in Romans chapter 10 and verse 17. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
Faith, that's the fruit of sowing God's Word into your heart. Faith that is established, and faith that grows. It is beautifully described by Jesus in a number of places, as well as the inspired apostles and prophets, with that wonderful biblical metaphor of a seed. That God's Word is a seed that is planted in our hearts, that germinates.
that grows and produces fruit. And my favorite illustration of this is I, I've told you before about the 2000 year old seeds that they found in a jar at Masada which is in the desert in Israel. And, and they found these seeds and there was a big full jar of them. And they were doing some radiocarbon dating and they were doing some DNA mapping and, and then one of the, the scientists who was involved in this project, I like to think that, that this would be me on this occasion.
They had this, this beautifully bright idea, you know, what their idea was. Let's plant one. Let's see what happens. And so they take five of those seeds and they plant them. Two thousand year old seeds. And what happens? A date palm that has been extinct for hundreds of years grows. And so they find other seeds throughout Israel, some even older than these 2, 000 year old seeds, in jars in different places, and they plant more of them.
And you know what happens? After a few years of these plants growing, these date palms
producebecause that's what seeds do. When planted, they grow, and they produce fruit. That's the power of a seed, even a long, dormant seed. A question that I've received occasionally, that I had myself as a young person, and I think especially young people have this question, is As they study church history and, and they think about those times in history, the darkest times of Christianity.
When few knew the word because it was, it was hidden from the common people and only a few had access to it and were able to read it. And the church itself, so called, was all messed up and hypocritical and, I would take it that far in regard to so called heretics. The question comes up, where were, where were the real Christians, the genuine Christians?
Were there any New Testament Christians during that time? And, and my answer whenever someone asks me that question is, I, I believe absolutely yes, there were real Christians throughout all, all time from, from when these things took place. That there has always been a righteous remnant of the people of God.
But let's say, just for the sake of argument, just go with me on this. Let's say that there, that there was a time when there were no Christians at all. No true New Testament Christians. You know, we talked about reading. It's one of those dystopian novels, you know, where, where there, there's nothing. You can't, you can't find any religion.
All religion has been destroyed. Christianity would still not be lost. So long as the Word of God can be found. All it takes is one heart reading the Word of God, because this is living and active Christian seed. And when planted into the hearts of people, if it's allowed to grow and germinate, it produces, it grows Christians.
Both now, until the end of time when Jesus comes again. Again, Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter chapter 1 and verse 23. And speaking about us as believers having been born again. Not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible. Through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever. If we let it, this book can transform and equip us for everything that we need in our lives.
Everything we need to know to be right with God. Everything we need to know to love God and love our neighbor. Everything that we need to know to continue to grow, to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Most of you probably knew we'd get to this passage eventually. 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 15 through 17.
And coincidentally, I'm preaching all this about the Word, and every single scripture has been up on the screen. That's by design. Because there's probably some in the audience this morning who don't have a great grasp of this book, who are unfamiliar with this book, or perhaps have neglected it for a long time.
And I want you to see for yourself what this book says about itself. As Paul writes to Timothy, he speaks to Timothy and says, And that from childhood, that is, Timothy's childhood, you have known the holy scriptures. Now that's primarily referring to the Old Testament, right? What we call the Old Testament, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
But all scripture is given by inspiration of God. That is, it is God breathed. It finds its source in God in the very words. And it's profitable for doctrine, that is, teaching. For reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
And I, I love the words that, that Paul uses here. It's not just that we are equipped, we are thoroughly equipped for every good work. And not just equipped for some good works, we're, we're thoroughly equipped for every good work. Anything that God might ask us to do. And it's not just that the Man of God is equipped and complete in this way.
The, the word for man there, New King James, is that word anthropos. So we might say the person of God, the, the human who is devoted to God. Man or woman will be thoroughly equipped for every good work. If it is something good that we need to do, the scriptures can and will equip us to do it. And if it is so good, and if it is so important, we should start as early as possible in learning it ourselves and teaching it to our children.
Such is the relevance of this text, after all of these years, to day to day life in every culture in which it has been preached. hAve you ever read, maybe for a class, or maybe you're just, you know really into this sort of thing. Have you ever read any ancient works? Have you ever read any ancient writing that's been translated into English?
You know, it's interesting, some of it, at least, but, but not a lot of it is, like, super practical to the way I live my life today. It's just a different time, a different world, all of those sorts of things. And yet, this book, this book has not grown obsolete or impractical or stale. The Bible speaks to every situation we might encounter, whether specifically or in principle.
Again, 2 Peter chapter 1 and verse 3, Peter says, His divine power has granted to us, that is, the apostles, all things that pertain to life, Godliness. Not all things that pertain to science or history or any of those sorts of things, but if it's about living our life, if it's about being godly and our relationship with God, those things were granted to the apostles and the the apostles passed those things on to us through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellent think.
Think about that. We have principles in this book that govern every situation in all times, past, present, and future that are found. In the pages of this 2, 000 year old book. So, where do I start reading? That was a challenge that was posed to me a few weeks ago, and that's the occasion for which I'm preaching this lesson.
I was asked the question, Reagan, if I had to hand this book to someone, not had to, If I chose to hand this book to someone, where would you tell them to start? Have you ever thought about that? There's few greater gifts, I mean, it's the gift giving season. There are few greater gifts we can give to someone than a Bible.
But where would you tell someone to start? There are lots of great options, right? I mean, Genesis is a natural beginning point. It is the book of Genesis beginnings, after all. And it's the first book in this library. But if this story is one unified work that all brings us to Jesus Christ, I believe, and I suggest, that the best place to start reading is in the Gospels.
And the Gospel that starts in the beginning, and claims its purpose is written so that we might believe, is the gospel of John. And John says this toward the very end of his gospel. In John chapter 20 and verses 30 and 31, he tells us the purpose for which he wrote these things as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
He says, and surely Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. That is specifically the gospel of John. But these are written that you may believe. That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name. Two purposes, John says, for writing this book.
That you may believe, and that in that believing, you might have life in His name. Isn't that the point? Isn't that the point of all of this? Well, there are other points, too. I know that. But ultimately, for me, and for you, That we might believe and have this life in His name.
Who here believes? I'm not asking for a show of hands. Do you believe?
Most people here in an audience like this probably do. So, how is reading the Gospel of John, again, helpful to us? Well, I will ask you to raise your hand for this one. Who here has eaten before? Who here has eaten before? Well, so, how is eating, again, gonna be helpful for you in here in just a few minutes?
Because we continue to need that nourishment if we're going to grow. Without getting into the weeds on the variant of the tense of the word believe and all this we could talk about. This word believe can be understood in two ways. It can mean that you may hold fast to the faith that you already have, that you believe, and you're going to hold fast to that.
Or it could mean that you come to believe. You didn't believe before, but now you do. Either one of these would, would be appropriate based on the tense of the word and how it's used there. But what's amazing to me is that this book, this book of John, works perfectly in both those ways. If you have somebody who is genuinely curious about Jesus and, and they don't know what they believe, well, encourage them to read the Gospel of John.
But if you have someone who already believes and want to grow, and they want to grow in their faith, a great place to begin is by encouraging them to read the Gospel of John. And so here are our applications this morning, three applications that I want to make. Number one, as we think about this library of, of God, God's library, the Bible, the Word of God, the first application I want us to make is, is we must appreciate this Word of God.
We must love it. It must be a treasure to us as we sang about a moment ago. I, I'm on Twitter. Well, you know that I'm on and off Twitter from time to time, depending on my own temptations perhaps. But, but I'm on Twitter right now and, and just a few days ago I saw an interaction between a couple of, of.
of religious, biblical accounts that I follow. And the first person makes the post and they say, You know, what we need to do in the new year is we need to fall in love with the Word of God. I mean, doesn't everybody, that sounds awesome, doesn't it? And the first comment, right after that is, No, we need to fall in love with Jesus.
Well, you know, Twitter is such an incubator for good and reasonable discussion between people with good motives about what it is they, they think about one another and May I humbly suggest, you want to fall in love with Jesus,
read what Jesus revealed by the Holy Spirit. Read what Jesus said and did.
And I would suggest it's awfully hard to fall in love with someone if there's not two way communication. We go to God through our mediator, Jesus Christ. We speak to God through prayer. But God speaks back to us. He chose to speak back to us through this word that is even more sure, more certain. that came down at the Mount of Transfiguration.
Appreciate the Word of God. Fall in love again, or maybe for the first time, with God's Word. Number two. Number one, appreciate God's Word. Number two, read the Word. Come in contact with God's Word every single day. Make that one of your resolutions for the rest of December, but for 2024, that I am going to come in contact with God's Word every day because this is how our faith is established and this is how our faith grows.
And what I want to do this morning is just by way of final third application is provide something for you as a challenge for you. So we have some young men that are planted throughout the audience. If you guys want to get up right now, this would be a good time to do that. And they're gonna hand out some bookmarks for you counting today.
We have 15 days until the new year, we'll call it two weeks. For those who are willing, I want to lay down the gauntlet. I wanna offer a challenge to you to read the book of John in the next 14 days. And this is great in and of itself because we are reminded of the things that we've been studying over the last two quarters as we've gone through our gospel readings for our Bible classes.
Obviously, John's purpose is so that we might believe and build our faith in, in having this gospel that was written. And also, looking forward, it will prepare us as we begin in the new year, reading through the book of Acts. And coincidentally, that would be the second book that I would encourage people to read after they read one of the gospels, because it shows the beginning of Christ's church and what Christ continued to do through the apostles and prophets.
And so I I ask you, I beseech you, I challenge you to take up, to take up this, this calling to read the Gospel of John over the next two weeks. And you say, okay John's a long book what, what's going to be required of me in order to do that? Well, would you believe that it would only take about, about ten minutes a day, depending on how quick a reader you are?
Certainly less than 20 minutes a day for you to read entirely through the Gospel of John over the next two weeks. Would you give 10 minutes to change your life for the better? To plant the seed of Christ in your heart? Well, only you can answer that, but my prayer will be. And I will be praying for this, that you open your mind and heart, and then open God's library to the book of John, to believe in His Son, that you may have life in His name.
And if you're here this morning and you already have been exposed to this library, and you've read in it, you've heard what God's Word is communicating, and you believe it, And looking at your life, you know that there are things you need to do in order to fulfill God's will for you. You know what is required of you this morning.
And we, this group of believers, can help you in some way in order to fulfill that. Whether that is hearing confession of sin. Whether that is, Helping you to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins Or whether that is you just desire the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ We are here for you to help in whatever way we can and Jesus is calling you won't you respond?
Well together we stand and while we sing