Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Do You Believe About The Bible?

God would like to have a word with you.

Sanctification is a complex subject that covers many areas of our lives.
There are lots and lots of issues, people, topics and what not that we need to seriously take the time to consider whether Jesus has control of us in that square or whether we are the ones calling the shots.

Today's topic might seem like a no-brainer. The Bible. It's is our authority in the church. On the heels of last week's message about authority it seems logical to go toward this topic next. The Bible is a much maligned, yet absolutely necessary piece of the church history that still speaks to us today. It is a historical document that shows up the ups and downs, the rights and wrongs, the inner workings of a people seeking and trying and mostly failing to live up to the standards set before them by this Almighty God.

Our scripture today comes from a familiar place.  Paul is speaking to his student and "son" in the faith, Timothy. Through much of his writing Paul is simply reminding Timothy of all the he has taught the young man to believe and try and keep his spirits up as this new preacher of the message takes the work into the mission field. As we enter the 2nd chapter, we see Paul reminding Timothy what he has taught him about doctrine and scripture. This is drawing near the end of Paul's 2nd letter to Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:10-17

New International Version (NIV)

A Final Charge to Timothy

10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how 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 servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I'd like to share some differing views on what scripture is, how it came to be our authority in the church, and what it has in store for us today. Some of it may very well speak to you. It may bust up your cemented thoughts on the subject. It may further reinforce where you already stand. Most of all, by the time we have finished talking about this rather important subject, I hope that you can write Jesus over the square in your graph. Jesus is at the heart and center of this very book. 

God-breathed or inspired?
When I got to Thornville in 2012, in the course of those first few months I shared a message on Inspiration. The differing views here stem from feelings about whether or not God, in robotic fashion, commanded these Hebrew people to write exactly these words - or - whether it was a matter of the people feeling inspired by what they had seem and witnessed and been taught to believe that caused them to write such words. Verse 16 is quoted differently based upon the translators' feelings on the subject.  The NIV would say "
All Scripture is God-breathed", while the NRSV would state that "All scripture is inspired by God". There's actually only two versions, the NIV and the English Standard Version that go the route of saying that scripture is indeed "God-breathed". The NIV, being so widely read, has been quoted definitively as a solid viewpoint. 

The idea of scripture being "inspired by God" leaves the door open to humankind's involvement in the scripture writing process. People wrote what they wrote because they were so moved by God's workings and dealings with humankind they felt the need to record it for future use. Was God behind all of that? Absolutely. Did God inspire them to do so? That's what God does. God inspires. Look at the word.

Full Definition of INSPIRE

transitive verb
1 a :  to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration
   b :  to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on <was particularly inspired by the Romanticists>
   c :  to spur on :  impel, motivate <threats don't necessarily inspire people to work>
   d :  affect <seeing the old room again inspired him with nostalgia>
2 a archaic :  to breathe or blow into or upon
   b archaic :  to infuse (as life) by breathing
3 a :  to communicate to an agent supernaturally
   b :  to draw forth or bring out <thoughts inspired by a visit to the cathedral>
4:  inhale 1
5 a :  bring about, occasion <the book was inspired by his travels in the Far East>
   b :  incite
6:  to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of another
intransitive verb
:  inhale

Can you see God in that? Do you see God at work in your own life in these ways? Animating? Exhalting? Enliving? God influences. God moves us. God guides us along. It's not that God told these people to write these exact words down for us to read. It's a matter of inspiration. God moved in their hearts in such a way that they would want to record their history and share it with everyone. These Hebrews have been spurred on their whole lives. Imagine growing up in an environment where the impossible is made possible. Where seas were parted and blind men regained their sight. Would you feel the need to share that with everyone? When we see something incredible and wonderful or sad and depressing, we feel the need to tell someone else what we saw and experienced. We are moved that other people must know our story and share our feelings, sad or happy. That's how human beings are. Interjecting some divine movement into the process and you have inspiration. God, taking the human expression and elevating it, for the purpose of telling the world this story - God loves you.

The Bible becomes the authority in the church.
The Bible is a canon, that is, a list of books regarded as inspired by God and authoritative for faith and life. This is not a list that came to be over night or in one meeting between respected leaders from church history. Many letters and books were written. As time went on, many people were finding teachers from different parts of the country or world quoting and teaching from letters that had been widely circulated and found to be credible. About 200 BC we see the Hebrews bringing together their writings and thinking about what is authoritative to their faith. The prophets. The wisdom and historical literature. The first five books of the bible, referred to as the "Torah" - that is "The Law" were most likely restored and brought back to the public forefront during the rebuilding of the walls by Ezra & Nehemiah.

The New Testament takes a bit more definitive framework. The OT really has no clear beginning and ending dates as to in canonization. The NT is formed in much the same way but we can see the time-frame and thoughts of church leaders from their time period a bit clearer. In the first two centuries following the Ascension of Christ, we see many, many letters being written and sent about. As time goes on, church leaders and teachers and leaders begin to quote and use letters that seem to retain what is seen as "inspiration" and prophetic words about the message of Christ. Those letters that do not hold that inspiration are discarded. By the year 367 AD, the church father Athanasius is seen referring to the 66 books we have in front us as authoritative, Old Testament and New.
The Old Testament is made up of 39 books and form the bible of Judaism. Those who do not believe that the Messiah has come yet will stick to those Old Testament books. Those who do believe that the Messiah has come will include into their faith the 27 books of the New Testament. Those Jews who believe that the Messiah has come are referred to as "messianic". The prophetic nature of scripture is clear and relevant to the believer. God is speaking and the believer is listening. Do you know what it is to be in a state expectation about something? The reader of scripture who is looking to the Almighty for inspiration knows that God wants to speak. These 66 books seem to have that air inspiration about them. In the Old Testament we see God working with specific people and an entire nation. The work consists of God wanting to speak and share. Sometimes the listen intently. Sometimes their listening ears are not in place and they wind up in trouble. Which brings us to this final section...

Reading the Bible for all it's worth
I'm going to throw a couple of words out there. You might be familiar with the one. The other one will sound like German or something foreign to you. Do you read the Bible devotionally or exegetically? I can see the bend in your eyebrow. Most of us read the bible on a devotional basis. We have a schedule we follow. Maybe you have a daily guide you have found on the internet or in the back of the bible itself. Are you a morning reader or an evening reader? It usually the same time of day, every day. There is a habit and a ritual to be kept. You make sure the book is read every day. It's a good habit to have and a great way to start or end you day.

What does it mean to read in an exegetical manner? Exegesis is something that maybe you have done and you never realized that's what you were doing. What a pastor puts together a message, when a teacher prepares a lesson, when a bible study group sits down to talk through some scripture there is lots of exegesis going on. This is the process by where we break down the scripture to see what is going on. We want to know what the scripture has to say to us. We want to understand the language and the intentions of the writer. What is it they are trying to say? What thoughts or meanings are they trying to convey? Is there something not spoken about or is there something the scripture is eluding too? The process of exegesis is sometimes easy and sometimes takes us deeper into a more meaningful access of the mind of God. And, there's the big point. It's about God. It's not about us.

Too often when we read devotionally we end up reading because it's habit. We read because we feel some obligation to read. We are Christians. We are supposed to read the Bible. When we read it in this manner we end up making it all about us. And, the Bible is not about us. It's about God. Humankind may have had some part or piece in creating the book, but the inspiration came from God. The central character in the Almighty. In the process of breaking down the scriptures we should see who this drama and historical theater is all about. It's about God. In the beginning there was God, creating the entire cosmos. In the beginning was the Word. God spoke creation into existence. The Word was God. God watched as his creation fell into sin. God so loved the world that the only Begotten of the Father would come and gives his life so that all of creation could be redeemed.

When you read the scriptures do you hear God speaking to you? Do you read the scriptures in order to understand what God wants for your life? Do you read the Bible to get to know and comprehend who God is and what God is all about? God wants to know you. God wants to speak with you. God would like to have your ear. Can you give the Lord a moment of your time? Is this all some ritual that simply needs to get done and checked off your list for the week? Or, is there something deeper going on that requires us to actually feel and listen?

Jesus is the Word. The Word still speaks to us today. There is inspiration to gather for our lives.

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