Friday, October 24, 2014

Why I Trust the Bible

(First let me say that John Piper addresses this exceptionally well at and it was John Piper that sort of 'inspired' this post.)

Why do Christians, in the face of opposition, and an abundance of critiques against the Bible,  still trust the Bible and believe it? 

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple; 
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes; 
9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever; 
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether. 
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold; 
sweeter also than honey and drippings
of the honeycomb. 
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; 
in keeping them there is great reward. 
12 Who can discern his errors? 
Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; 
let them not have dominion over me! 
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart 
be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. 

Why do I believe the Bible? Is it smart to believe the Bible? Does it do any good to give Bibles to people? Are there any good reasons to not believe it?
You know what I have found about trusting God’s word? It’s hard to remember all the arguments for it if someone was to ask you. I have books on apologetics where I can look up good info on it's trustworthiness. But if I run into a man on the street who asks me why I believe it, not only can I not remember all those details, but I don't think they are likely to convince him anyway! I mean, I guess I should be able to, I am a preacher! I went to Seminary!
I can tell you details about the Bible. How many prophecies fulfilled, how many authors there are and yet they all agree about things. But in a few days, you’d have trouble remembering all that too! 
For instance, one group of scholars counted, 1,817 prophetic predictions in scripture. Most of which have already been fulfilled in incredible detail and the remainder we fully expect to come to pass as well, they just haven't happened yet. 191 of those are prophecies about the coming Jewish Messiah. Close to 100 of those have been fulfilled, accurately, and the remainder we expect at His return and in eternity.
But 3 days, from now, ask yourself, how many prophecies are there? Do you still remember?

Now it is good to know and hear these things. It is good to know that Geisler and Howe wrote The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, taking on the accusation of 800 errors in scripture and refuted each one of them. Good info! But I believe there is another approach to this whole question.

So I want to take a whole different approach to this.
First, what do we trust it for? What does it Do for us?  
It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is…the true center of Christian 
union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions 
should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is…the focus of divine revelation[1].
Bottom line: The Bible gives us the Law, which tells us about the Holiness of God! And it tells us how far we fall short of God’s Holiness!
     It’s the basis for Christian union. I find myself in agreement with Baptists the most. But, guess what, I also have a lot of agreement with Presbyterians, Methodists and Yes, even Pentecostals – well some of them. If they are true believers and hold to the same gospel of Salvation by Grace thru faith I do. I know the Founders of the Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists believed that! But it also means I’m wary about other groups. While I have much in common with Catholics and the Church of Christ, in my opinion, they add works to the process of salvation. That is a big problem for me. Don’t get me wrong; There are true Christians among the Catholics and Church of Christ. And, there are lost people among the Baptists! But if we adhere to the clear teaching of scripture on salvation, on the nature of God and man, then we can have true Christian union. But, It also tells me some groups Like Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses are Not Christian at all.
   Also, it gives us a basis for our Behavior and Beliefs! How we should act, how we should think and believe is directed in the Scriptures. Even with all the technology, and the way the world has changed, you can't find a moral or ethical question the Bible doesn’t have something to say about it!
   And Most Important: The Bible Tells us about Jesus! Not Just the New Testament! Genesis 3 tells us about Him. The rituals of Leviticus, Psalms of David, Joshua, Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, even Malachi do, too. Then of course Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do it Supremely Well! There’s not a book on earth that can tell us about Jesus and how He came to save like the Bible!

Second, Why is this important today
1) More people today deny the existence of Truth. Oh there is your truth and my truth but there is No Universal truth to a lot of people. That idea begins to trickle down to all of us! In fact, It is taught that if someone comes along claiming truth, then really they just have an agenda to control you!
2) Others say there is truth but the Bible is a mixture of truth and error. To them the Bible is so full of myths, contradictions, absurdities, and even Divine Sins, where God got things Wrong!
3) There are more books competing with the Bible as Holy Books. Used to be the Quran was way over in the Syrian and Iraq. Now it’s here. And the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas etc. These are flooding the world! We need to flood the world with the Bible! 
4) And, it’s Important today because the Bible DOES make exclusive claims! It claims to be inspired by God! Look at these claims:

2nd Timothy 3:16  All Scripture is breathed out by God...
John 14:6 (Jesus says) I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me
Act 4:12 ...neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven... 
whereby we must be saved.

Last, Why Trust it? Is it just a blind leap of faith? Or is there something more?
John Piper gives a great example of why ‘blind trust’ doesn’t honor God. 
Suppose you were walking down the street and a guy comes up with a brown bag full of cash and says "go put this in the bank for me, here’s the bank and my account #" and then he runs off without explaining. What would you think? This guy is crazy. Not only that he’s stupid. He doesn’t know me. I know I’m trustworthy but he doesn’t. There’s nothing about that situation that gives you any credit. It’s all about his foolishness. 
But, suppose he runs up gives you all that and you stop and say, "why are you doing this? You don’t know me." And he says, "Oh yes I do. I have watched you. You’re a man of integrity. I've asked many about you and each of them says you are trustworthy. So I've done my homework and I know I can count on you. Now I have to take care of an emergency…"
Now it’s about Your character, and your trustworthiness. Many Christians don’t really do their homework. The preacher says, “Trust God” so they’re like "OK, we’ll do it." I don’t think that works well for them when troubles come, but it’s good enough for now. 

So why trust the Bible? Why Trust that it’s God’s Word?
Look at:
2nd Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful,
underhanded ways. 
We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's
word, but by the open statement of the truth 
we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience 
in the sight of God. 

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those
who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world
has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, 
to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel
of the glory of Christ, 
who is the image of God. 

5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves,
but Jesus Christ as Lord, 
with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 
6 For God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," 
has shone in our hearts to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Notice Paul is talking about the Word of God, the gospel and the knowledge of the Glory of God. 
All of these phrases refer to scripture. But there is a single, watershed event that makes all the difference. Has this event has happened to you?
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," 
has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Let me talk about me a second. WHY DO I BELIEVE THE BIBLE? Because God has pierced the darkness of my heart with the light of His Glory, and this glory takes on the Face of Jesus Christ. Bottom line? I Have Met Jesus Christ! I know the “Living Word”! You say, “well that’s just your subjective experience!” 
True, but I have found the Word of God “Self-Authenticating.” I appreciate all the “Reasons” like how many Bible prophecies have been fulfilled, how accurate its history is, and how beautifully its written and how all these writers from over hundreds of years all have the same view of God. Great!
But I know Jesus! I have met Jesus! He has changed my life! I have encountered the Glory of God. The outshining of His Shekinah Glory in the Person of Jesus Christ! HOW CAN I NOT BELIEVE?

And if you have met him, you know you can trust His word, too.
I didn’t answer the Question why should everybody in the world believe the Bible. I answered the Question why I do and you should!
You desperately need an encounter with God, where you have been convinced by the Holy Spirit, that you are a sinner.
And because you are a sinner you are headed for an eternity of separation and suffering.
But Jesus communicates His Love for you in that while we were all sinners Christ Died for us!
And if you will Repent and Believe the Good news, that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for your sins by shedding His own blood..
And if you will place your trust in Christ...
 He Will Forgive! He will give Eternal Life.
And you will Know the Truth and the Truth Will set you free!

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth...

[1] BF&M 2000

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Accept No Substitutes

God creates co-existence and wants us to hear and proclaim the Gospel in a multi-faith context. The challenge is, we believe we proclaim the truth in a world full of substitutes.
From Matthew 13

I don’t know how long the phrase “Accept No Substitutes” has been around, but I know its not new. Coca Cola used it in the early 1900s.  Schlotzkys started back in the 70s in Austin with one sandwich called “The Original.” They had an “original” and nothing else. So since you have the original you are qualified to say, accept no substitutes, and they did say that. Then there’s AMSOIL. Amsoil was the first popular synthetic oil for your car. One of the marketing phrases was – yep, "Accept no Substitutes." Think about that, a synthetic motor oil, which is a Substitute has the gall to tell you not to accept substitutes. Then there’s Porsche, the car maker, they did one better when then proclaimed: There IS no substitute. As if Porsche was the only car in the World. Everybody knows it’s a souped up Volkswagen!
Why am I talking about Substitutes? Well just like Schlotzky and Porsche and fake motor oil has to coexist with “Substitutes” the whole chapter of Matt 13 involves coexistence!
I’m not saying it’s ABOUT coexistence, because really, it’s about the Kingdom of God. But it involves coexistence. Coexistence with things that will compete for your interest but they are not "Kingdom." Things that will confuse the Kingdom, but they are not Kingdom. Things that will seem good, but they are not the Kingdom.

     First Parables (or story with a meaning) of the Kingdom are Coexistence Parables. 
And the first is the Parable of the Sower. Of the 8 parables in Matt 13 this may be the most famous, maybe 2nd to the Prodigal Son, but still famous.
Mat 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: 
"A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds 
came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much 
soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose 
they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among
thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and 
produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
You have probably all heard sermons on this passage, but lets just hit the highlights and get to the point. There are 4 results of scattering seed. 1) Birds eat the seeds, 2) The Sun burns them up, 3) the weeds choke them out, or 4) They grow and bear fruit. What do you notice? I notice 4 different outcomes that all coexist for a while. But only one of them does God accept. God Accepts No Substitutes!
Down in v.19ff Jesus explains these 4 outcomes. 1) The birds are the Evil One, the devil, who comes and steals the seed. The seed never even gets to sprout! Its just gone. 2) The Sun is tribulation or persecution. A person thinks they have the "Original", but trials, troubles and persecution make them give it up. 3) The weeds that choke the growing plant are worry and the distractions of wealth. Isn’t it interesting that both Trials and Treasures cause people to abandon the Kingdom of God? One group expected something God never promised, the other got something they thought was more valuable. And 4) The last group, grows and flourishes and Always bears fruit!
     Now we can extract a lot of ideas from this parable. Like, maybe it’s not a good idea to cast your seed on the sidewalk. OR better yet, maybe it’s better to prepare the soil and so help create a more receptive medium for the seed to be planted.
     And we’ve tried different ways to 'prepare the soil'. Like Pizza! Sure, are you gonna have an evangelistic meeting with teenagers? Feed them Pizza and when they get stuffed they’ll sit quietly and listen to the gospel! Altar calls! If we can just get them down front, maybe they’ll get saved! We’ve tried, soup kitchens and VBS and Gospel Blimps!
     And you know… I like Pizza and altar calls and soup kitchens and VBS. But those things do not prepare the soil of the human heart for the gospel. Only the Preaching of the Word of God does that! Wanna reach out to Young people? Feed them pizza, then Preach the Word. Want to reach a person that’s cold, give them a blanket then tell them they are lost and without Hope in this world, but Jesus gives Hope! Want to reach children? Give ‘em games, songs and crafts and Tell them about the Saving Power of Jesus Christ!
     But this first parable, is about the Reality and Co-existence of the Kingdom of God. There Really is a Kingdom and there really are Substitutes! That which is Not Kingdom! The Next Parable has a similar purpose.
     Then the Parable of the Tares:
Mat 13:24  He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be 
compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25  but while his men were sleeping, 
his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.
26  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27  And the 
servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed 
in your field? How then does it have weeds?'
28  He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you
want us to go and gather them?' 29  But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you 
root up the wheat along with them. 30  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at 
harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be 
burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Pretty straight-forward right? There is the Real Kingdom, planted by God! And a substitute planted by the devil. And if you think I’m making that part up look down at v.38 "The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one." They coexist. The evil one wants to choke out the wheat. And it's not because he's Gluten Free! He wants to dilute the field. He wants to cause the good ones to fail. God says let them both grow. We’ll sort it out at the end. And the evil ones will be punished, and the Righteous are fit to serve for God.
God accepts no Substitutes!

Next Parables of the Kingdom are the Impact Parables. The Kingdom has value and it makes an impact!
Mat 13:31 He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a 
grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all 
seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, 
so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." 33 He told them 
another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in 
three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

There is a garden, lots of plants; but one stands out. The one that starts small and grows and even gives the birds a home. Would Jesus start Small? You bet. 11 men and very few followers. But they would grow and grow, Even while they Co-exist with Evil.
Does the Mustard plant try to kill the other plants? No. 
Does it try to be like the other plants? No. 
It is unique, different, and it makes an impact.
But how about the dough and the leaven? I love this. Does the leaven turn the flour into leaven? No. The flour stays flour the leaven, which is yeast (a fungus), permeates and changes the whole lump of flour. It causes it to ferment and chemical reactions happen. Kinda funny Jesus is comparing the church to a fungus. But God invented fungus and yeast for a good purpose. Yeast also makes beer happen! God wants a garden with His mustard plant in it. He wants flour of the world permeated by the church!
But that’s not all! Look at v44
Mat 13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and 
covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 "Again, 
the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding 
one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

There is another impact. The Kingdom is a treasure in a field, a pearl of great price. 
The Kingdom has value for those who find it. It makes sense to sell everything to buy the field. 
The treasure is obviously more valuable than anything this guy owns.
BUT, there’s another value here. There is value to the King. 
He finds his kingdom in the field. He sees many pearls but finds the right one, the perfect one, the one that has value to Him. And did Jesus pay a price for it? Did He? Did he Buy the Field and Buy the Pearl? You bet He did. 
Seeing the Kingdom as field of wheat with a lot of weeds teaches one principle. But seeing the Value of the Kingdom to the one who paid the greatest price teaches another.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you are valuable to the King. Jesus Accepts you and He Accepts No Substitutes! He doesn’t want to share you with the weeds. He doesn’t want to share you with the rest of the garden or the pearls. But, He doesn’t want you to make the mistake of thinking that you won’t live in an evil world, and there won’t be trouble, and hunger and poverty and persecution and tribulation there will be! There will be. But then end will come.

Which brings us to the Third kind of Kingdom parable:
The Judgment of the Kingdom and the Lost.
Mat 13:47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and 
gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and 
sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of 
the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw 
them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In v.47 Many fish are caught and they are sorted out the bad from the good. This is similar to the Harvesting of the field with Good wheat and weeds. So there is the idea of the Reality of the Kingdom and of Coexistence, But, there is another idea going on in these stories.    
    Remember how the people of Israel were looking for another David; a King to throw off their oppressors. But Jesus is becoming the suffering Messiah. He needs them to see good and evil will coexist 'til Judgment Day. And, it seems, the Day of Judgment is a good ways off. I think it best if we take the same point of view. God will sort it out When He is ready. And He Accepts No Substitutes!
     Jesus uses these Stories - these parables – To unlock ancient mysteries. These are truths that have been a part of God and His Reign as King forever.
     Winston Churchill had a lot of wonderful lines, and not just ‘cause he had a good writer, he was smart. In speaking of Russia one time he said they are “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I always loved that. Well, Russia is still that way, but they 'got nothing’ on God. God is the ORIGINAL Riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – But Jesus came to open the enigma, unwrap the mystery and show us the riddle. 
     And God has NEVER accepted Substitutes. There were many peoples in the World, yet He made the Hebrew People. There were many races in the world, He made the church. There are many religions in the world, where people try to earn their way into God’s Good pleasure. But,

God Made a Way of Salvation. And no one can come to Him unless He comes by The Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Original Savior and God Accepts No Substitutes!

Have you come to God by Christ alone? There is No Substitute!