Monday, July 22, 2002

The Bible: God’s Word for Our Lives
Part Four, New Beginnings, What It Means to Follow Jesus
July 21, 2002

Orville and Wilbur Wright were excited! On December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they succeeded in keeping their homemade airplane in flight for 59 seconds. They immediately sent a telegram to their sister in Dayton so that she could share in their elation over this accomplishment. The telegram said, “First sustained flight today fifty-nine seconds. Hope to be home by Christmas.”

On receiving the news of the world’s first powered flight, the Wright Brothers’ sister went to the editor of the local newspaper and handed the telegram to him. The next morning, the newspaper headlined its story about the Wright Brothers: “Popular Local Bicycle Merchants To Be Home For Holidays.”

I think that when it comes to the Bible, you and I may sometimes be guilty of the same thing that afflicted that editor. He saw the telegram. But he had no vision for its meaning. You and I can see the Bible. Sometimes, we may even read it. But often, we seem to lack a vision for what it is and what it can mean for us in our lives. My guess is that everyone in this auditorium today owns at least one copy of the Bible. That’s good! This morning, as we continue to explore the basics of being a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to convince you that the Bible is the most important item you possess in your whole home and then, I want to give you a way to get more out of your Bible.

So, why is the Bible important?

When World War Two broke out, an organization called the British and Foreign Bible Society was located on Jerusalem Street in Warsaw, Poland. As the Nazi Luftwaffe began bombing the city, the wife of the organization’s director moved some 2000 Bibles into a basement storeroom. She was trapped there by the bombing, was captured, and sent to a prison camp. She somehow escaped and after the war, got to those 2000 Bibles and distributed them to people in desperate need of them. Warsaw was flattened. But there on Jerusalem Street, one wall of the old British and Foreign Bible Society remained standing. On it, in large letters for all the world to see, were printed these words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” [Matthew 24:35] These words of Jesus, recorded in the Bible, had tremendous power on that Warsaw street in 1945. Though the city had crumbled, passersby could see that God’s Word still stood strong even among the rubble!

One of the keenest insights offered by Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran movement of which Friendship is a part, is that the Bible is important because it introduces us to Jesus. The Bible is about Jesus, Who is God in the flesh, Whose word will never pass away.

This is true even of those parts of the Bible written hundreds and thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. The Old Testament portion of the Bible anticipates and points toward Jesus, God come to earth, and the New Testament tells us about Him. When we read the Bible, we’re getting to know God intimately because Jesus is God!

No other sacred book in the world shows us God in the way the Bible does. The books which come from the world’s religions urge people to do things to earn God’s attention. But the book that comes from God, the Bible, insists that God already cares about us. It tells us: "...God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us!"

God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ just to die and rise for us and win us back into fellowship with God. The Bible is important because through it, we meet Jesus. The Gospel of John in the New Testament employs a Greek philosophical term, the Word, which was used of the universe’s originating agent, to describe Jesus. "In the beginning," we're told "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being...He came to what was His own [the world], and His own people [us] did not accept Him. But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God..."

The Bible is the cradle, the cross, and the empty tomb at which you and I can meet Jesus. The whole purpose of the Bible is to help us know Jesus so that we can surrender to Him and become children of God. Near the end of his telling of the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the apostle John writes, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing, you may have life in His Name."

The Bible is important, first of all, because it is the Word to us about Jesus, the one and only Savior of the world!

The Bible also is important because it provides us with counsel from God. The Bible has practical instructions from God on how to live our lives. And it can transform our lives. An American visiting a South Sea Island smiled condescendingly when an islander proudly displayed his Bible. “We’ve outgrown that sort of thing,” the American said. The islander smiled back, “It’s a good thing we haven’t. If it weren’t for this book, you’d have been my meal by now.”

Good things can happen in our world and in our lives when there is faith in Jesus Christ and an openness to the Bible as God’s guidance for us. The apostle Paul writes that, "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work."

On the pages of the Bible, the God Who accepts us we are, goes to work at helping us become all that we’re meant to be!

The Bible has power! It can give us intimacy with God. It can provide us with counsel from God. But it can’t do these things if we don’t pay attention to it. When we fail to pay heed to the Bible, it provides no more power for living than a receptacle provides to a lamp that hasn’t been plugged in.

Let me suggest a way you can plug into the Bible, a way based on what many of us learned during the recent Christian Life and Witness Course held in our city. Sit down for fifteen minutes each day with your Bible and the Our Daily Bread devotional booklet we distribute for free here at Friendship. As you read the Bible passages appointed for that day, watch for a verse or two that really jumps out at you, that speaks to you. Then, on a separate piece of paper, copy that passage down. Then circle two words that catch your attention. In your own way, define those words. Then, paraphrase the verse or verses you copied down. Next, jot down two or three ways in which you can apply the truth of the passage you’ve read to your life that day. I’ve been doing this in recent weeks and I can already see ways in which it is transforming the way I live my life.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately is writing Bible verses on three-by-five cards and memorizing the passages. I had my son Philip drilling me on my memorized passages this past week.

Now, if all this focus on the Bible seems crazy, a waste of time, so be it! I agree with the observation made by C.H. Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century preacher who said, “A Bible which is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t!”

The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active.” Digging into the Bible, along with prayer, is the most important thing that you and I can do each day. Don’t be like that Dayton newspaper editor. Do more than just see the Bible. Catch a vision of what it can do in your life! Make the Bible part of every day of your life. You will not regret it!

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