Stand on the Word

Posted by Pastor Paul on

Stand on the Word

Blog Post for March 8, 2021

 

As we navigate the challenges of life in the 21st century - and even more as we seek to follow God and fulfill His call in our often challenging culture - it is imperative that we take our stand on what will stand![1]

Throughout history, and in our present world, we observe resistance to the Word of God. Like King Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 36, who destroyed God’s Word with a knife and a fire, many people hear the Word of the Lord and then, column by column, page by page, verse by verse, slice off the parts that don’t agree with our positions or support our alliances and destroy them. But the Word of God will not be destroyed, and if we refuse to listen, to seek to understand, to allow the conviction of God’s Word to lead us to repentance and salvation, it will, like Jehoiakim, lead to destruction. I realize we may struggle to understand it, and I realize we often don’t like it when we do. But God’s Word, the Bible, Holy Scripture, remains the strongest support we have - in conjunction with our relationship we have with Jesus Himself - to encourage, strengthen, and secure us AND to help lead those we love into a life-saving relationship with Jesus. Remember - God did not give His Word to Jeremiah, or to us, out of a desire to destroy us. He gave it to lead us to repentance, to bring about our salvation, to give us life and teach us to live.

David wrote in Psalm 19:7-8:  The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.

With this in mind, I want to share how we may access and apply God’s Word. I realize the Bible can be intimidating - that’s one of the primary reasons we invite you to hold the Bible in your hands as we study God’s Word each week - whether digital or print version. If this is something you do daily - read and interact with God’s Word - then you know the impact of this powerful resource. But for many of us the Bible is not a regular part of our lives. I would like to help take away some of your hesitation so you may discover how accessible God’s Word is and begin to experience what it can do for you. If you’re not yet familiar with how to access a copy of the Bible that’s ok - let’s start there.

You may have a printed copy of a Bible - that’s great. I love to hold a Bible in my hands. There are many different English translations - some are older, some newer. If you have difficulty reading the language of your printed Bible - try a different one or perhaps access a digital Bible that will allow you to easily compare multiple translations. To access a digital version of the Bible - go to the app store for your device, search Bible, and look for YOUVERSION BIBLE APP. Or search your browser for YOUVERSION BIBLE and it will lead you to this FREE app - currently used on over 465 million devices worldwide. You can also access the Bible app on our Church app. Text Madparkapp to 77977. Select the second link - “Sermon Notes” - and it will lead you to my notes each week where you can follow scripture and write your own reflections during the message. You may also follow the LINK TO YOUVERSION box there which will take you directly to the digital Bible.

Now, the Bible, whether print or digital, is more like a library, a building, than a book. As you walk into that building what do you see? Lots of books, carefully collected, classified, and arranged. Instead of trying to read all the books in the library all at once, you look for guidance, or search a database to guide you to the section that you want to read. Then you make selections that address your needs. You might want to research a particular topic, to learn about a subject that interests you, or to broaden your perspective and understanding. If you will approach the Bible this way, it will help to diffuse the intimidation factor.

In your Bible, locate the Table of Contents. It’s typically at the beginning of a printed Bible. If you are using a digital version, you might see a “Bible Book List” drop down menu or something similar. This is your guide to the library of the Bible. The Bible consists of 66 books divided in two sections. The distinction between the two sections is the birth and earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. The first section, referred to as the Old Testament, contains 39 books written before the birth of Jesus. The second section, the New Testament, has 27 books written after the birth of Jesus. These are further divided into history books, poetry, prophecy, biographies, and letters. The table of contents or drop down book menu will help you find a particular book in the library.

To help us find specific sections within each book, we further divide them by Chapters and Verses. Chapters and verses were not part of the original writings. People added these so we could study more easily. We express the location of passages by noting the Book, Chapter and Verse like this - Book Chapter: Verse or, for example, Jeremiah 36:1. This is called a “reference.” The word tells you the book, the first number the chapter, the second the verse. Within each book of the Bible, you will see larger numbers at the beginning of longer sections noting the chapter and small numbers in superscript noting the verses.

Now you know your way around the Bible. You know where to find the whole Bible, how to find specific books, and even how to find specific verses. I want to draw your attention to one additional feature that is similar to the classification systems of a library. If you are using a print copy of the Bible, turn to the back and look for the “Concordance.” The Concordance highlights key words or concepts and gives references to scripture passages that use these words or deal with these topics. Follow the guidelines we’ve given to find and read them. If you’re using a digital Bible, it’s even easier. Use any search engine to type your topic and a Bible search. Type something like “What does the Bible say about hope” and follow the links. You will find multiple options, typically with multiple verses or passages on any given topic.

God’s Word is more accessible to us now than at any point in History. You don’t need to be afraid of it. You can easily find God’s Word, and find out what it has to say to you, wherever you are. I encourage you to read it, reflect on it, and apply it to daily living. This is God’s intent for His Word and it will change your life!

We have touched on the accessibility of God’s Word - let’s focus for a moment on something equally important. You may have questions beyond accessibility - questions about the validity, the authority, of God’s Word.

One of the challenges we face regarding the authority of the Bible is the reality that there are many versions. The Holy Bible was first translated into English by John Wycliffe in 1382. However, it was the work of William Tyndale in 1526 that laid the groundwork for all subsequent English translations[2]. The American Bible Society estimates that today there are as many as 900 distinct Bible translations or versions.

This is another distinction to be aware of: translations, versions, and paraphrases. A translation of the Bible is an attempt to move the original language into a new language while preserving as much of the original text as possible. A version is adapted from a translation with an emphasis on capturing not only the text, but the communicated intent of the original language. And a paraphrase is an author’s work that focuses on readability and accessibility above all else, attempting to capture the words and the spirit of the original language and reframe them entirely for the intended audience. Typically, at Madison Park, we use the New Living Translation in our worship services and notate when we use other versions or translations.

I encourage you to study multiple expressions of God’s Word. One of the features I love about our digital Bibles is they make it so easy to read multiple translations, versions, or paraphrases of God’s Word side by side. Our goal, I believe God’s goal, is to capture the heart of His Word so that it may form and reform our lives. As we read in Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 

You may, or may not, be aware that there are even different versions of the English Bible. Protestants and Catholics include different books in their Bibles and there are also other writings from the same time periods of scripture that some people claim should, or should not, be included. This is the question of CANON, which is a word that refers to the recognized and accepted books of the Bible. No single church or even group of churches established our Protestant Canon of 66 books. Rather, the 39 books of the Old Testament were taken from Judaism and the 27 books of the New Testament were accumulated as early Christians read and received various writings as God’s Word - authentic and inspired guidance for their lives and God’s Church.

According to the International Bible Society, a Church Father named Athanasius was the first to provide the complete list of 66 books we now hold in the canon of our English Protestant Bibles[3]. It is important to know that Athanasius did not choose the list. Rather, he identified the list that was widely accepted by believers following Jesus in the earliest centuries of the Christian faith. This understanding of Canon helps establish not only the authority, but the relevance of the Bible in our cultural context. The books in our Bible are writings recognized as distinctly impactful for Christian living.

While some may question the Bible’s validity, there are millions of people who will testify to the authenticity, authority, and relevance of the Bible as THE premier guide for our daily lives. The best testimony I can give you is personal. In my own life, through decades of reading the entire Bible from cover to cover many times and in my own study and application, I would stand in a court of law and defend to the death my utter conviction that the Bible is without doubt the Word of God. I have found the declaration of the Apostle Paul to be profoundly true of the Bible I read and use every day…

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The people I share life and ministry with agree. Here is a statement from our Movement - The Church of God - summarizing our view of the supremacy of scripture and its impact on our lives:

We are a people of the Bible—the Old and New Testaments, supernaturally inspired, preserved across time, cultures, and continents, delivered to us, useful for reproof and instruction, for righteousness. The Scripture is our backstop, the ultimate field of inquiry and judgment, the measure of conduct, faith, and practice. Whatever the question, whatever the test, whatever comes before us, in the end, it is the Scripture, above all other disciplines, that informs and defines us. All other sources of knowledge fall beneath its shadow. [4]

You can be confident today that the foundation for your life is the Word of God. You can “Stand on the Word, because God’s Word will stand.” But I also want you to know that the Word of God is not merely a scroll, a book, or even a library. The Word of God is meant to communicate His essence - not only what God says, but Who God is. It is not intended to be solely a source of information or education, but of REVELATION. The Word of God reveals the heart of the God who loves us and created us in love and for love.

The greatest revelation of God is the Person of God - the Living Word. As the Apostle John wrote: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14, NIV

Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God - the full expression and the personal communication of God’s Himself. The Living Word of God reveals and proves the written Word of God. Pastor and author Tim Keller declares that if you believe Jesus is Who He says He is - the Son of God who gives His live for us - then you must respect the Bible, because Jesus does[5]. The Gospels are the biographies of His life, the letters are the inspirations of His life for His people, and even the Old Testament, the scriptures written before Jesus was born, all point to His arrival. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and the hope of salvation that is present from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus personally quoted from 25 of the Old Testament books and the New Testament in whole quotes from 34 of them. Jesus not only inspired the scripture, He knew the scripture and He used the scripture for His life and ours. The Living Word of God and the written Word of God are meant to go hand in hand because they reveal and reference each other. If you want a deeper relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ, then build a deeper relationship with the written Word - the Bible.

Stand on the Word, because the Word will stand.

I pray that you not only have a greater appreciation for God’s Word, but that you have a better idea of how you may access it, of the authority it has to guide and shape your life, and that you are inspired and motivated to devote yourself to it. Nothing will impact your spiritual life more than your personal connection to God’s personal communication - both through His Son and through His Scripture. Don’t be like Jehoiakim - slicing the scripture to suit your own agenda. Instead commit to immerse yourself in God’s Word, the Bible, so that you will have a foundation for living on which you may stand.

Let me encourage you with the words of Psalm 1:1-3 from God’s Word translation:

Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of the Lord and reflects on his teachings day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams - a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. He succeeds in everything he does.

None of our understanding of the accessibility and authority of God’s Word will benefit us unless we commit to open our Bibles, to read God’s Word, and to invite it to penetrate our hearts. Toward that end, I challenge you to prioritize time each day to read the Bible. Even if you will start with a single verse per day, I believe it will make a difference. May I suggest beginning with the Gospel of John. If you will begin in John 1:1 and read even one verse each day for 30 days, you will have begun a practice of scripture reading that will dynamically impact your understanding of God and your relationship with Him.

May God bless you as you read and relate to His Word - the written Word of the Bible and the Living Word who is Jesus Christ!

[1] This blog post is excerpted and expanded from a message shared at Madison Park Church of God on March 7, 2021. The video of that message may be seen at https://youareloved.life/watch-online/view-past-services/

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-translation

[3] https://www.biblica.com/resources/bible-faqs/how-were-the-books-of-the-bible-chosen/

[4] https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/our-beliefs/

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZAPFKXMy_Y