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Saturday, March 25, 2006

thinking about: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

I know why many people don’t like the Bible. One reason many people don’t like the Bible is because they did not write it. Folks like to be in control, everything in reach and in order. See, the Bible has this strange quality of hovering outside time and above history. Oh, some people have tried to re-write it. Because they did not write it, the Bible never has spoken anything but the truth and in order to get the upper-hand, men over throughout history have tried to supercede it with their own writings. Then they learn a new way to dislike it because the Bible has this “contemporary” quality to it—it sort of hangs out there beyond history and outside time. It’s source is eternal, therefore its words are eternal.

Another reason why many don’t like the Bible is because it teaches. The Bible “says.” It is not a collection of difficult text to be solved and interpreted; rather, it is divine speech to be received, addressing the mind, the heart, character and conduct indicating what is not simply what we do but how we are with the author as it’s standard. When the Bible teaches, it is not simply performing the task of imparting information; rather, it is setting the pattern for thought and action.

Have you noticed the trend in restaurants? So many are now “self-serve.” They just put it all out there and you get to build your own. Ce Ce’s Pizza is just a pizza-lovers delight. Just take what you like. Chinese food has now drifted from the traditional service to the buffet. Ryan’s (now Fire Mountain) is a smorgasbord of American delight. No matter where you go, you can always have a salad.
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All fine and good eating, but this does not work with the Bible. Spiritual poverty exists because people like the salad bar, picking out the teaching they are comfortable with and ignoring the rest. Taking the salad bar approach to scripture is to tell the author that you know better, that what he is offering is not good enough. This is how prejudices are justified and personal consolation is nurtured into a stunted spiritual life. Martin Luther reminds us, “The authority of scripture is greater than the comprehension of the whole of man’s reason.”

When the Bible teaches, evil is disturbed, deception is exposed, truth is imparted, strength is offered.

The Bible is offensive because it doesn’t say, “You fail.” It says, “Here’s how you fail.” The Bible is fact that operates on the heart and life, bypassing the intellect and goes straight to the conscience. Addressing the person at the borders of his existence, the scriptures show how unlike God one really is.

The Bible contains this thing called “law” that says, “God is perfect and you can do absolutely nothing to meet that same standard.” Law shuts the mouth up. If we have told a lie, we are liars. If we have stolen, we are thieves. If we have taken God’s name on ourselves and have misrepresented Him, we have taken His name in vain. If we have looked at a woman (or man) with lust in our hearts, we have committed adultery. Right there are four of ten commands broken. We are worthy of hell. Revelation 21:8 says that all one has to be is a coward or an unbeliever to go to hell, not to mention the other things already listed. This is the reproof of the Bible! Look, if I’ve stepped on your toes with this, I apologize deeply because I was aiming for the heart!

If we have it in our mind that our God too loves to send anyone to hell, there is another commandment broken, making a false God and worshipping it. John Piper has written an excellent little letter called, "How to Respond to Horrifying Sayings of Jesus." In it, he reminds us of the authority with which Christ speaks. He also produces for us one passage that should make one think twice about how they think of God: "in Luke 19:14, Jesus describes the citizens’ relationship to the nobleman like this: 'His citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’' Then at the end of the parable Jesus says in Luke 19:27, 'As for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.' This is horrifying. Jesus says that people who do not want his absolute authority over them will be slaughtered before his eyes. What should our hearts and minds do with this kind of talk in the mouth and heart of our Lord?"

The wonderful thing that many people don’t realize is that while they get offended, they forget that the Bible also corrects. It teaches, it reproves (shows where we fail) and it corrects. The Bible shows us what we should be doing!

The first fact the Bible shows us is not that we are sinners, per se, but exactly what we have done to sin. The second fact the Bible shows us is that we can be delivered from the power of sin through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross. After that, we learn that once we accept Him by faith, we are set apart! Sanctified!

F.D. Maurice (1805-1872) wrote in his book The Prayer-Book and the Lord’s Prayer, “’The Bible,’ we are told sometime, ‘gives us such a beautiful picture of what we should be.’ Nonsense! It gives us no picture at all. It reveals to us a fact: it tells us exactly what we really are; it says, This is the form in which God created you, to which He has restored you; this is the work which the eternal Son, the God of Truth and Love, is continually carrying on within you.”

Another way to look at this comes through a testimony of Dr. John MacArthur. He tells the story that he had one year to finish his doctorate and was approached by an advisor who told him that he had too much Bible and not enough philosophy. His response: “I know the truth and I’m not going to spend the next three years learning error.” When the Bible reveals error in its truth, it does not leave one alone to wallow in revealed error. It points the way to truth and shows how to carry it out! Once one is taught, once one is reproved, one is corrected!

See, it takes God to understand man. God has written this book a handbook to go along with us, an instruction book to accompany that which He designed (after all, who understands what is made best than it’s designer). It tells what to do when things go wrong. This is why the Bible teaches, reproves, corrects and trains in righteousness! We need to get the Walter Cronkite attitude: That’s the way it is!
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Religion means one gets to stay as he or she is and gain “Heaven” (or something like it) and “God” too. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 say that we must change, God is the standard of change and is the way of change and the goal of change. As a result, we are able to do perform ethically.

So there are two ways to study the Bible: with your mind made up, or to let it make up your mind.

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