Why Do We Read the Bible?

In Joshua 1:8 God speaking to Joshua says,

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Jos 1:8)

Joshua highlights one of the main reasons we are to read and meditate on the Bible — “so that [we] may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” As much as the Bible is an intellectual exercise, intellectual knowledge shouldn’t be the main reason we read the Bible.

Instead, one of the main reasons we are to read the Bible is so that we can live according to God’s will and bring Him glory.

Our Benefit

As you can see, there is a benefit in living according to God’s will. It allows us to be prosperous and successful. Apart from popular opinion, God is not out to punish us or to take the fun out of life. God wants us to flourish. He wants us to be successful. If we live according to God’s Word, more often than not that’s going to happen. Not necessarily in a health and wealth gospel type of way, but in a real biblical since we will be prosperous and successful.

Warning

But, I have to warn you, as you make reading, meditating, and seeking to live according to the Bible a practice in your life, you will find that: The Bible, at times, will provide the encouragement you need to keep doing what you are doing. However, at other times, you are going to find that the Bible will call you to think and live differently.

No Surprise – The Bible Will Disagree with Us

The Bible calling us to live and think differently shouldn’t be a surprise to us. When you study 2 Timothy 3, you learn that the Bible is useful for:

  • Teaching
  • Reproving
  • Correcting
  • Training in righteousness

When we come to the Bible, then, we should not only expect it to encourage and teach us, but we should also expect it to disagree with us from time to time. If you think about it, that has to be true — the Bible has to disagree with us if it’s going to teach, reprove, correct, and train us so that we mature in Christ and live as God would have us live. Honestly, if you find that God’s Word never disagrees with how you are living or thinking, you can be sure that you aren’t reading and applying it correctly.

Why Things Need to Change

The way we live and think must change because we are a people who have been deeply affected by sin. It has corrupted our mind so that we live and think in a way that’s unhelpful, that doesn’t produce human flourishing. So we need God to come in and correct and teach us so that we can live in a way that not only pleases and brings Him glory but also causes us to flourish as humans.

Question for Reflection

  1. How has the Bible disagreed with you this week?

Resources

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Post developed from my sermon What should we do with the Bible?

How Do We Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message?

Before the ball dropped and the New Year started, I posted an article entitled: Jesus the True and Better Prophet, Priest, and King. In my next several posts, I want us to explore those roles in more detail.

Much like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus’ message didn’t resonate with everyone, especially the high ranking officials in His day. Since He opposed their way of life and threatened their power and position, they rejected Him and had Him killed.

The Jews, however, weren’t the only ones to reject Jesus. We are still rejecting Him today

How Do We Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message?

We reject Jesus’ message in a number of ways. Certainly, this is happening through:

Laws that are being enacted. 

Under the Bloomberg administration, New York City sought to keep churches from using public schools to hold worship services.

While this was disguised as an attempt to separate Church and State, it was clearly an attempt to silence the message of the gospel in New York City. Space in New York is limited and expensive. Without the ability to use the school’s facilities many churches would be forced to either move out of the city or quit gathering altogether[1].

Or think of the battle over bathrooms that is currently happening in our country. While the battle over bathrooms is generally taking place in the public sphere, in Massachusetts it’s even affecting churches. On September 1st, 2016 the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination released a Gender Identity Guidance legislation, which says, among other things, that all places of public accommodation have to allow people to use the bathroom of their choice.

Churches aren’t exempt from this ruling[2]. They say,

“Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”

So if a church denies a person from using the bathroom of their choice, they could be prosecuted. Going even further, they say that the failure to use a person’s preferred pronoun at these events would also trigger anti-discrimination laws and the church could be held liable [3]. Clearly, this is an attempt to silence churches from speaking the truth by forcing them to participate or pay the price.

In the State of Texas, the city of Houston tried to silence pastors’ speech from the pulpit about these same transgender issues.

Those few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are people right now pushing for laws, legislation, and ordinances that seek to silence Christians.

Closer to Home

The above, however, aren’t the only ways Jesus’ message is rejected. Bringing it a little closer to home, there are people in Decatur, the town in which I live, who reject Jesus’ message.

We reject Jesus’ message because we don’t recognize we are sinners

Many think they can save themselves because they see themselves as good. For some reason, we have this idea that God keeps a tally of our good and bad actions. When we die and stand before Him, He is going to bring out His heavenly scale and weigh our good against our bad. If our good outweighs the bad, the pearly gates are going to open and we are going to be ushered into heaven.

This thinking, while it leads to moral living, at least moral living that is better than the guy down the street, ultimately leads to a rejection of our need for Jesus, because the core of this type of thinking believes that Jesus came not to save, but to provide the ultimate example of how we should live. In this way, then, we change Jesus’ prophetic message from one of repent and believe to follow My example and everything will be alright.

While some, then, may not be working to enact laws, or blatantly stifle Jesus’ message, we still rejecting Jesus’ prophetic message when we claim and even teach others that we can get to heaven by simply doing more good than bad. But that’s simply not true. We can’t work our way to heaven by doing more good than bad, which is why:

We Shouldn’t Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message

Instead, we should listen to it.

The Bad News

Paul provides a good summary of Jesus’ message in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 3 starting in verse 10, Paul paints a startling picture of just how despicable we are when he says,

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Ro 3:10–18)

This is us! This is the bad news. “no one is righteous”. “No one does good.

If no one is righteous and no one does good, how then can our good outweigh our bad? The answer is: It can’t! Our good can’t outweigh our bad if all we do is bad. So, even if God kept a tally and weighed our works on a heavenly scale, the “good” side would be empty. Instead of being ushered through the pearly gates, we would be ushered into eternal destruction, if it’s our works that we rely on.

You see, we are that bad, and since we are that bad we can’t save ourselves. In verses 19 and 20, Paul says,

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Ro 3:19–20)

You see what he is saying? The idea that we can work our way to God is the same idea that condemns us. That’s because we learn what is good or bad through the law. Either the law of God given in the Bible, or in the case of those who don’t have a Bible, the law that is written on their hearts; the one that is apparent in their society (Rom 2:14-15).

Once we have this law, which we all have, we all stand condemned. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight”, Paul says. And “No one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:12b-c). We are all sinners who are incapable of working our way to God.

I don’t know about you, but that is enough to convince me that I need to listen to Jesus’ prophetic message. But in case you still think that you are a pretty good person, consider what Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, revealed about God’s knowledge of us. There we learn that God doesn’t just judge us by our outward actions, He also judges according to our heart. That’s a scary thought for someone who is trying to justify themselves by their works. Outwardly you might appear to be a good person. You might do and say all the right things, fooling yourself and those around you into believing you are a good person. But God looks past the facade. He peers into the very depths of your soul, judging you not just by what you do, but also by what you think, want, and desire. He knows the motivation behind every action. We all know our thoughts, wants, desires, and motivations aren’t always righteous, which means we really are that bad.

The Good News

We, then, need to listen to and believe Jesus’ prophetic message. Realizing that Jesus isn’t just a prophet announcing the coming of the Kingdom, instead, He is the One who brings the kingdom. He is the bread of life. The One in and through whom we find our salvation. He is the true and better Prophet who offers complete forgiveness and reconciliation.

Don’t Reject Jesus’ Prophetic Message

Instead, hear it, believe it, turn to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and experience the good news of the gospel for yourself.

If you have already experienced salvation in Jesus, praise God for sending His prophet, His Son into the world, to not only announce the good news but to be the good news Himself.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you realize that you are that bad?
  2. Do you see your need for Jesus?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as Prophet

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[1] Washington Post

[2&3] Mass.gov AND Washington Post

What exactly is a Prophet and Why is Jesus Considered One?

Before the ball dropped and the New Year started, I posted an article entitled: Jesus the True and Better Prophet, Priest, and King. In my next several posts, I want us to explore those roles in more detail. Today we start with Jesus as Prophet.

What Exactly is a Prophet and Why is Jesus Considered One?

A prophet is a messenger sent by God, who functions as the mouthpiece of God. In other words, they speak for God. The Bible is full of Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, as well as Hosea, Amos, and Malachi are just a few that you will find tucked between the pages of Scripture.

The Prophets Had a Three-Fold Ministry

(1) They witnessed on behalf of God. 

Meaning they told others about God — who He is, what He has done, what He promises, and what He expects. In other words, they speak to the people about God.

(2) They pointed out the sins of the people and called them to repent.

The beginning of the book of Isaiah offers a good example. Starting in verse 16 of chapter 1, Isaiah not only calls Israel out for their sins, but he invites them to repent when he says,

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Is 1:16–17)

Isaiah, speaking for God, confronts the people with their sin and calls them to repent so that they could experience the blessings of the Lord instead of His judgment.

(3) They also pronounced God’s forgiveness and pardon.

The message of the prophets wasn’t all gloom and doom. Again the book of Isaiah offers an example. In chapter 40, starting in verse 1 we read,

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Is 40:1–2)

So the prophets not only pointed people to God, preached against sin, and called others to repent, but they also proclaimed a message of pardon and forgiveness.

A Tough Ministry

While the prophets proclaimed the good news from time to time, being a prophet was a tough ministry. If you think about it, and if we are all honest, we don’t like to be confronted with our sin. The prophets weren’t just confronting you or I — good church going people, but large populations of people who were not only made up of the righteous but the unrighteous; the commoner as well as the high-ranking official, who had a lot to lose if they were exposed. So one of the hazards of a prophet was being killed for your message.

Jesus As Prophet 

When we think about Jesus’ ministry, His message and actions fit the description of a prophet well.

(1) Jesus came not only witnessing to God, but He is the Word of God. 

John 1:1 says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)

(2) Jesus also proclaimed our need to repent and believe in Him.

In Mark 1:15 He says,

“…“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” (Mk 1:15)

(3) Jesus also proclaimed a message of pardon and forgiveness.

In that all familiar passage — John 3:16 — Jesus talking to Nicodemus says,

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)

As well all know, Jesus’ ministry was tough. He was ridiculed, challenged, and ultimately killed just like the prophets of old.

Jesus’ ministry, then, fits that of a prophet.

The True and Better Prophet

Jesus, however, wasn’t just another prophet in the long list of prophets that had come before. Jesus is the true and better Prophet because He offers a message of complete forgiveness and reconciliation. He not only proclaims the good news; He Himself is the good news. He’s the One who has died in our place, offering Himself on our behalf so that we don’t have to suffer the wrath of God.

All those who believe Jesus’ message — that He is our Savior — will be forgiven. Their relationship with the Father will be reconciled and eternal life instead of eternal hell will be their’s. For that reason, Jesus is the true and better prophet for which Israel had been awaiting. The true and better prophet which we all have been awaiting.

There are many messages out there that offer us hope and salvation. None, however, deliver like Jesus. He is the only One who delivers on His promises. He is the only One who truly satisfies and saves, which is why Jesus is the true and better prophet.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe Jesus is the true and better prophet?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as Prophet

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