Monday, July 15, 2019

The Word of God: Reliable, Relevant, Relatable

There was an accident at a construction site. A man was hit in the head by a beam and it sliced off his ear. They looked around till they found the ear and asked the guy if it was his. He said, “No, my ear had a pencil behind it.”

Of course, the pencil behind the ear was temporary information. But, how many times have we tried to make life decisions with temporary information? A steel worker leaning into the wind to hold his balance is making a life decision based on temporary information. A driver racing through a yellow light is making a life decision based on temporary information. Marrying someone for their youthful looks is making a life decision based on temporary information.

The movie Hidden Figures follows the lives of three ladies who calculate for NASA. In one frustrating scene, when one of the ladies is finished with a day-long calculation the director takes her work and immediately throws it in the trash. He said it was already obsolete. Information was changing so quickly what they worked on the last hour may no longer be usable. It was all temporary information until someone decided it was a go.

We live in a culture of rapid changes. The second you take possession of your new car it becomes a used car and loses value. Your phone that was up-to-date yesterday may be out of date today. Something that was new and improved last week may be old and unreliable this week. Two identical products are on the shelf. The price is the same. One is labeled new and improved, which do you buy?

The great, world shaking advance in technology last year has already been replaced this year with something more advanced and greater. Its replacement is already in the queue for next year’s release. Why is the old suddenly unreliable and untrustworthy and no longer acceptable? It’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe.

To train circus elephants to stay put when chained to a stake, they begin when the elephants are young. Baby elephants are tied to a stake in the ground by a chain wrapped around their ankle. Because they have less strength, they can’t pull the stake out, so they stay put. Yet the big elephants that would have no problem pulling the stake out also stay put. Why? They were conditioned to believe with a chain around their ankles, staked to the ground, they were held captive. They accept something that isn’t true as though it is.

We’re taught when we try to hang onto the past we’ll be left behind. I had a computer that worked fine. I had no problems with it doing what I needed it to do. Then I got a notice: we will no longer provide support for this computer. No updates, no security, no fixes, no tech service. In other words, you can keep it but at your own risk. If you want to stay current you must upgrade, otherwise you’re on your own – another word for foolish.

And then we come to church. We open up an ancient book and declare in this book is the answer to the questions and issues of our lives today. Then someone wonders: wait, this book was written for a people and a time in history that no longer exist. How can this book be relevant to my modern life?

In anticipating that question, God had the writer of Hebrews tell us: Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Living: current – not past but always present. Not what it was but what it is. Not what it said but what it says. The word means always living.

Active: productive in its results. It accomplishes what it intends.

That’s God’s promise: Isa 55:11 My word be which goes forth from My mouth will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 
That was so important, God had Paul repeat it 750 years later: 1Thess 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 

Still, though, how can it claim results after so long? Because the voice of the One Who spoke the Word is still speaking through that Word today.  

There is a fascinating discovery that has taken place in breaking atoms down to their smallest parts. When we grew up the atom was the smallest element to consider with its nucleus comprised of protons and neutrons. We now have quarks.

But there is a modern theory that within all of creation on that atomic level, in everything that exists, there is a vibration within the most minute particle. It’s been called the God particle. I like that. The Bible says when God created all that is, He spoke it into existence. The sound of His voice created waves that made a vibration in everything that exists.

It is His voice that keeps that existence alive. So, the Word that has gone out of His mouth, written down in our Bibles, is as alive now as when He first spoke it, because it carries the vibration of God’s voice.

Col 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

Which explains: 2Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired [breathed out – there’s the vibration] 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. 

What God spoke is still being carried on His breath. His Words create life. His life keeps that life alive. So that: the Bible is as reliable today as when first spoken or written. It is as relevant today as it was two, three, four thousand years ago. Though the times have changed, the God who spoke it remains the same, making it as relatable to us today as it has always been.

But our world disagrees. Whether it’s the History Channel, the Smithsonian Channel or the bias of secular politicians, there is a vast network of naysayers who place no credibility in the Bible and consider those of us who do to be at some level of deplorable. What gives them a voice? The title Politician, Scientist or Theologian.

In 1997, 14-year-old Nathan Zohner got 43 out of 50 9th graders to vote in favor of banning dihydrogen monoxide. He said Scientists have proven that dihydrogen monoxide is a primary factor in flooding and storm surge. It was a test he designed to prove how gullible people are to believe misleading information. Dihydrogen monoxide is H2O or water.

Unfortunately, whenever those naysayers speak confidently about that of which they have no understanding, they are able to cause others to discount the Bible as a reliable source for life or to flat-out disbelieve what God has said all together. I have a nephew who is one of those casualties. After watching a series about the Jesus on the History Channel, he announced he no longer believed in the Bible. What little faith he had was now destroyed. Rarely is it the objective of those shows to prove the Bible true but to disprove it.

That was Satan’s tactic in the beginning with Adam and Eve. Gen 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 

The deceit was: You can’t trust God to tell you the truth, or what God said is only partially true, or what I tell you is more accurate then what God said, or let me tell what God really meant to say, or what someone else says is more reliable than what the Bible says.

Have I been affected by this lie? Question: How much of the Bible do you say is true? Some of it? Most of it? All of it? How much does God expect us to say is true?

In the early church, things usually went like this: Paul would visit a community. A group of people there would listen to the Gospel message and believe. Paul would stay for a while or leave one of his men behind to ground them in what it meant to be a believer and give them a pattern by which they could live the Christian life. The church would grow. Then, after he left, deviant teachers would stop by and challenge what Paul had said and give a different message of how Christianity worked. The message would confuse the people. And though some would stay on course, the rest would embrace the lie. Their lives and that church would be ruined.

Because he knew this was likely, he told the Elders from Ephesus: Act 20:28-30 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 

What eventually happened in Ephesus? Rev 2:2-4 To the church in Ephesus: I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 

I believe that by the influence of those wolves, the intensity of the people’s love for the Lord went cold. They lost the value of their relationship with God by no longer holding their beliefs as vital to their lives and shallowed instead of deepened their commitment. They eventually stopped loving the Lord with all their hearts.

How does that happen? By becoming more interested in the provision than the Provider. Only wanting the blessing not the Blesser. Wanting the benefit not the Benefactor. Wanting help but not the Helper. Wanting the effect of God, not the change that comes with that effect.

2Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 

Ears tickled means wanting only to hear things that interest or excite them.

Meaning: they want what temporarily satisfies the moment not what permanently affects the life.

You understand the difference between theory and fact. A fact is provable and reproducible. A theory is simply an opinion. When someone wants their opinion to have greater influence and importance, they begin to teach their opinion as fact. Paul saw these teachers spinning their messages from false theory. And the people bought into it, swallowing the lie hook, line and sinker.

That was James’ warning: James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 

Enticed means lured – like fishing bait.

Something in what they are saying is tantalizing a place within our minds where we want things like that to be true.

So, where is my safeguard?

2Tim 1:13-14 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. 

Retain: keep, go over, remind, rehearse the words. I’ll then have a standard by which I can judge the message of the world. Is it what God says or have they twisted what God says to say what they want said.

Every church Paul ministered to faced the same challenge. False teachers who would attack the church by bringing their message into the hearts of the people. It was these attacks that destroyed the faith of the people.
  • Judaizers – change the rules of Christianity. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved was not enough. You had to do more.
  • Gnostics – change who Jesus was. Discounting His authority and minimizing the effectiveness of His power.
  • Pagan Philosophy – contradict all the church believes while providing an alternative method for life.

So, we understand why Paul was so adamant about maintaining confidence in God’s Word. There will always be someone trying to tear down and disavow what God has said.

So, here’s your place to stand: The God who invented life gave us the instructions for how to live that life. He would never want us to make life decisions based on the temporary suggestions of false teachers but lean fully on the eternal truth of His Word which is reliable, relevant and relatable.

  1. There is a reason the Bible is banned in 52 countries around the world and its message minimized in most of the rest.
  2. It represents the ultimate threat to a godless society and the personal desire for a godless life.
  3. By hiding or discounting the Bible, the world is hoping to remove its influence.
  4. Yet, it has remained the foundation of life and godliness to all who believe since the very day God breathed it into existence.

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