More than a simple collection of stories, the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, and infallible word of God, the source of truth we seek to live by. We read and study it to shape our understanding of God and a view of the world. In it, we discover timeless truths that guide us through the shifting waves of culture.
I will self-evaluate how my understanding of the Bible influences how I read the Bible and how often I read the Bible.
I will re-evaluate how much time I spend reading and meditating on the Bible.
I will commit to spending time with God, actively engaging in Bible reading and exploration. Read More
You’ve heard the saying ‘you are what you eat,’ but have you ever heard the saying ‘you are what you read.’ You probably haven’t because I literally just made that up, but doesn’t make it any less true. We are what we eat; your mom reminded you of that when you didn’t eat your veggies and your Hume counselors reminded and will remind of that this year when you try and eat ten scoops of ice cream in 10 minutes. We know that what we ingest, what we eat, impacts us physically. And friends what we read has a similar effect. We are what we read.
We are what we read because we understand and know that words are powerful. A favorite singer of mine, John Mark Pantana, wrote a book explaining one of his albums and the book starts out talking about how words hold power because words are seeds. He says that “every word that we willingly accept in the soil of our hearts, we give permission to grow and bear fruit; whether that fruit is death or life always depends on the substance of the word.” Words here are tiny pockets that produce powerful growth, and that growth can bring life or death. Words are powerful and so We are what we read.
Today we are going to talk about what we read; we are going to be talking about the Bible. In our time today we are going to explore what the Bible is, we are going to be talking about how this Bible reveals God’s truths, and how the authority of the Bible can and should help us as we shape our identity in and through God.
Before we tackle the purpose and power of the Bible, we are going to briefly talk about the structure of the Bible. I find this helpful because the Bible, while one book, is a book of a lot of different styles and stories. So let’s begin by looking at the structure, the framework of the Bible.
We call the Bible the Bible but you wont actually see the word Bible written in the Bible. That’s a lot of Bible. We get the word for Bible from a Greek word, Biblos. Biblos was used to describe ancient scrolls. Often times scrolls held important writings, sacred writings. The word biblos taken from the scroll understanding found its way into latin texts and eventually into european languages and finally came to be used to describe this one, sacred, Christian text. Our Bible.
The Bible in its structure is this collection of books and chapters and words that reveal God’s relational truth for us. If you open your Bible right now you would see that it consists of 2 Testaments. These two testaments are broken down into 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,202 verses. These two testaments are probably familiar to you, we know them as the Old and New Testament.
The Old Testament is a compilation of 39 books, making up a good chunk of the entire Bible. The Old Testament can be divided into three sections, and people refer to these three subsections as the TaNaK. The Tanak is comprised of the Torah, the Neviim, and the Ketuvim. The Old Testament starts with the first five books, the Torah or sometimes called the Pentateuch. These five books tells foundational stories about God creating and establishing and delivering, histories of people and places and journeys. After these five books we have the Neviim, the historical and poetic prophetic books. The Old Testament ends with the Ketuvim, these writings and collection of wisdom books and narrative books. Throughout the old testament we find narrative literature in the stories and histories and biographies, We find poetic literature, poems revealing the artistic, emotional, imaginatively envisioned world. And we have discourse literature or things like the 613 laws and speeches that bring big ideas into logical arguments. All of these books, all of these chapters, tell one epic story of how God is working in and through people to bring beauty and order to the chaos of life. The Old Testament ends with hope, the hope of a new leader who would come and renew all of creation. Yet the end is missing, we hear of the hope but we don’t meet the new leader.
That is where the New Testament comes in. Over 27 books we see how Jesus carries the Tanak forward, Jesus is this new leader who brings a new reality into the world. The New Testament begins with four books that tell the story of Jesus, we commonly refer to them as the Gospels. Jesus, coming from a line of Israel Kings, brings the promises of the Old Testament to completion. Resisting evil, serving with power, and sacrificing to save Jesus brings about a new transformational way and a new relational connection. The rest of the New Testament tells stories through narratives and letters of how early Jesus followers adopted their new faith. Transformed and changed we see these followers walk amongst a world that challenges them, finding hope and peace in their community and in their relationship with God. It’s helpful to understand a little bit about the structure of the BIble, about what is found in the midst of its pages. And yet the BIble is more than just words and stories, its more because the Bible is Gods words for you.
The Jewish people and the early church believed that in and through these stories that God spoke, God spoke to them, God spoke to their world, and God spoke to their future. The Bible, while a book, is also more than a book. The Bible, every word and verse and chapter, is God’s words. The words that fill the pages are God’s words, for you. Scripture was breathed out of by God, we see this in 2 Timothy 3. Paul writes
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul, a religious leader turned church planter understood that the stories he knew and the letters he was writing were God’s words, spoken by God so that every verse we read in the Bible now is God’s breath. When we read the Bible, we encounter God. We encounter God’s words. Some Bible versions will translate God-breathed to inspire, so that God inspired the words and yet I think a better understanding is this idea that scripture is God-breathed so that every word came from God. God didn’t just inspire, God breathed out the words because God speaks, God spoke to the people and through scripture God speaks now.
This idea brings up an obvious question, right? Well, how exactly did God breath out words? In some instances, we find God audibly speaking to the book authors, in both Isaiah and Revelation we see God speaking direct words. In other areas, in other chapters, the directness of speaking is a little bit more of a mystery, God speaks in various ways but always speaks his words. I love how Tim Challies and Josh Byers put it, they said that
God ordained and oversaw the personality of the authors, their circumstances, their style, their training and their process of writing to bring about his word. Human authors were really writing and God was really breathing.
God breathing in and through the authors shows not only this unique understanding and connection that God has with each member of his creation, but it also shows the incredible ways that God speaks. God speaks directly to us, God speaks in and through others, God speaks in and through his word. Now I recognize that this sort of God breathing scripture is challenging for some of us, it can be hard to accept the mystery that is God breathed Bible, and yet just like our discussion on the trinity sometimes the mystery of God are a part of our faith journey.
The Bible is this grouping of books, structured stories and poems and laws breathed out by God and written by human hands. That helps us understand the structure of the Bible but we are going to spend the next bit of time looking into the purpose of the Bible, the so what question.
The Bible, in its 66 books, is purposeful for us because it helps us get to know God AND it helps us lean into living with God. We get to know God, and know ourselves, by exploring the truths about God that we read in the Bible. We see these truths throughout the Bible,
in fact a funny thing happens when you start reading and diving into the Bible more and more, you begin to see these patterns emerge. Patterns that reveal truths about God and about Us. The patterns not only unify the stories in the Bible, but they help us better know God and know who we are.
Some of the patterns are pretty cool, one of my favorite patterns is this storyline of God bringing humans through chaotic waters into a new world. We see this pattern in Genesis 1, where God separates waters to craft dry land, a land in which creation is birthed from. God bringing humanity alive through chaotic waters; we see it in the story of Noah, the story of the Exodus, Joshua and the Israelites, Jonah and the Whale, Paul and his countless boating accidents. Patterns of God bringing humans through chaotic waters to a new world. They tell stories of humanities struggle, fear, and of Gods strength and power. Many of us have our own story, God bringing us through chaotic waters into a new world. Maybe its literal, like the one time where myself and some friends had to be rescued from a flash flood during a white water rafting trip on the exact same day that they were doing railroad work. Maybe no water is involved in your story, maybe God has brought you through intense pressure moments, intense anxiety. But God brought you up, he cleared your chaos for a new world. The Bible reveals the pattern, God bringing people through chaotic waters.
Some patterns are profound, bigger than a Gillgians Island tale. Some patterns show how God works; one of these patterns shows us how God integrates humans into God’s work, but how humans desire for something else. We see this pattern in the story of Adam and Eve, in Abraham and Sarah, in Aaron at Mt Siani, in the Israelites and Saul, with David and Basheeba, with Peter and the Roman Guards Ear. These stories, these patterns, reveal a deep truth about the ever-present desire in our hearts, desire that can lead us astray.
Or one more pattern, one we talk about with our students all the time. The pattern of God using small people, ostracized people, to do big things. From Moses who couldn’t speak in public, to a small non soldier named David, to a widow named Ruth, to a Jewish woman named Esther, to a man who doubted named Thomas we see God working in and through God’s people for incredible, massive movements. God working, a truth.
See these patterns tell us of how God works and lives and moves, in history and in our own lives. These stories connect us to so many, and as we read through the Bible these patterns help us learn who God is. God as protector and deliver, God as provider, God as healer, God as present. The stories also help us learn about ourselves, some of the ways we get distracted or tempted, they tell us stories of how we may fail and how God sees us through that. They tell us stories about deep struggle, laments and cries and anger, but they tell us stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Stories about Jesus tell us how patterns can be broken, how we can respond with Your Will Be Done. Stories about Jesus tell us how patterns of sin and brokenness and shame are destroyed, how grace and service and love win. The Bible is purposeful because it tells us who God is and tells us who we are and when we engage in the Bible we can adopt and learn those stories so that as we journey in our faith we can be resilient, we can be restored, we can be the hands and feet of God.
This call to be actively engaged God followers, or disciples as Scott talked about a little last week, brings us to the last purpose of the Bible. The Bible tells us truths through patterns about God and us, and when we actively engage with and lean into God’s words the BIble becomes purposeful because it transforms us. Words, like seeds, planted deep into our hearts sprout new life, they bring new ways of thinking of acting of loving. See friends when we live into the Bible, when we allow Scripture to surround us, we are transformed.
The Bible is this collection of Gods words, words that carry patterns of meaning that help us understand who God is and who we are.
The Bible is also an invitation, an invitation to lean into what God is doing, the Bible invites us to participate in Gods redemption here, right now and because of this invitation the Bible is not only transformational for us but also should have something to say about how we act and serve. We call this ‘something to say’ authority. The Bible has authority. As you all know I work with Middle and High School students and while every student is a blessing some of them are a bit tricky, right. I was the same way when I was their age, I was trying to figure out who I was and what my role was in life and what my purpose was in life and so I was snarky. Snarky against authority, against my parents and teachers and coaches. And, well, I imagine if you are a parent or an aunt or uncle or interact with kids you know that they are snark machines.
We have a problem with authority as we explore who we are in our teenage years, we don’t want to be confident or conformed by outside sources and so we push against them. And frankly some of us probably carry the same hesitation when we think about the Bible as authoritative. The Bible challenges us to conform our hearts, our desires, our purpose to God and that can trigger some of us. And yet, if we truly desire to be people who live in a Christ Centered way, we should accept the transformational invitation that the Bible presents.
We can see God in the revelation of existence, but we can’t fully know God or participate with God without being transformed by the words of God. We see and experience God’s glory all the time, Psalm 19 tells us
‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’
Romans 1 tells us the same thing,
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
And yet simply reveling in God’s greatness isn’t enough. We need to be plugged in, exploring, meditating on Scripture in order to fully be transformed.
Romans tells us this, a few verses before the verse we just read we read this,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Paul, the author of Romans, understood that the gospel or the words of God or the Bible is powerful because it brings transformation, newness, to those who interact within it. Paul hints at this transformational quality of the Bible. He later goes on, in chapter 10, to express this more clearly saying
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
And again in chapter 12 writing,
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The Bible isn’t just hallow words, it isn’t just a book we use when we need a door stop, it isn’t just stories, the Bible is the transformational word of God. When we read, when we meditate, when we spend time with God we are transformed. The words should challenge us, guide us, stir deeply in our spirits. And when we take the words seriously, when we allow them to have authority in our lives, we step into our ultimate purpose of joining with God in the redemption and love and care of the world around us. We read the Bible to get to know God, to know Gods will, we read to define who we are, to bear fruit as we live, we read the Bible to participate with God. In the Bible are words that are seeds, planted and rooting deeply into us these seeds produce life and grace and goodness, reflections of God.
The Bible is purposeful because through it we learn how to live, live with God and through God. And as we live that way we are transformed; we become focused on what God is leading us to, what God desires for us. We learn how our story is God’s story. The Bible is purposeful because it transforms our lives.
Friends, the Bible is pretty rad. It is this incredible, breathed out book that helps us know God and be transformed by God. And heres the extra cool thing, it’s literally accessible to you any time, any place. You can buy it in physical form, if you can’t purchase it come to the office and Ill give you one. If you don’t like paper you can get it on your phone. But plug in to it this week, explore a chapter or a book or even just a verse, plug in to knowing God and beings transformed by God. The Bible, 66 books of God’s words, of stories about God and about us, that help us live deeply into who God is calling us to be.
Blue Oaks Church