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Monday, March 19, 2012

“The Power of the Word – Part I” - (03/18/12)

What God’s Word will do in the life of the believer. 
March 18, 2012

            Today we are celebrating God’s Word, the Bible.  Our friend from the Gideons has shared with us the ministry of Gideons International that seeks to put a Bible in the hands of every person on the planet who wants one.  We’ve also spoken briefly about the work of Bible translation through groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators who have as their goal, to provide God’s Word in all of the languages and dialects of every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth.
            But why are these groups so “gung ho” about getting Bibles to everyone?  What’s the big deal about having a Bible?

            That’s a fair question, and this morning I want to try and provide a good answer.  Of course, we who are believers already have an opinion on this subject.  I’m not looking at this subject from a purely objective standpoint because the Bible has already made a profound impact on my life.  I love the Bible and I believe that it is God’s Book, His revelation of Himself and of His plans for time and eternity.  His Word has been my comfort and my guide.  The Bible has been my friend and companion.  I am incapable of being objective today because I am a fanatical Bible-lover, Bible-believer, and Bible-thumper.  And I will never apologize for it.  Let me tell you why.
The words of Jeremiah 15:16 come to my mind, “Your words were found and I ate them [absorbed them, digested them], and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.”  That is the testimony of countless millions who, like me, have learned to love the Word of God.  It is the same thing David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 19:7-10, The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring 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 judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. 
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.”
In September of 1832 Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet lay dying.  Sir Walter, a great Christian, said to his secretary, “Please bring me the book.”  His secretary stood there looking at the thousands of books in Scott’s library and she came back in and said, “Dr. Scott, which book?”  He said, The book, the Bible, the only book for a dying man.”  And I would have to add that the Bible is not just the only book for a dying man, but it is also the only book for a living man, because it is the Word of Life as well as our Hope in Death.
This is going to be a 2-part message.  Next week my goal will be to explain some things that God’s Word will do for you if you will study it faithfully.  That’s the pragmatic part.  That’s next Sunday.  But before we get into that subject I need to lay some groundwork.  Today, to prepare us for that, I want us to take the next few moments to explore why the Bible is so powerful, why it is unlike any other book ever written, and why we should study it.

First of all, I need to state from the very beginning that I’m approaching this subject from the standpoint that the Bible, the Scriptures including the 39 Books of the Old Testament and the 27 Books of the New Testament, are the Word of God.  It is not man’s opinion, it is not human philosophy, it is not just somebody’s ideas, it is not a polling of the best thoughts of the best men, but it is the Living and Abiding Word of God.  That’s our jumping off place for this study.  And as such, there are several things we need to realize about the Bible and about why we should study it.
There are seven characteristics of the Scriptures that I want to share with you this morning.

#1. God’s Word is Infallible
That just means the Bible has no mistakes in it.  In it’s original autographs it is without error.  In Psalm 19:7, which I read to you a moment ago, the Bible says of itself, “The law of the Lord is perfect.”  That means it is flawless; in fact, it has to be flawless because it was authored by God who is flawless.  If God wrote the Bible, and if God is the ultimate authority, and if God is flawless in His character, then it follows logically that the Bible is flawless and the Bible is the ultimate authority.  You see, the fact that God is perfect demands that the original autograph, the original giving of the Word of God, must, in and of itself, also be perfect.  So we begin by saying that the Bible is infallible, which is the first reason to study it, because it is the only book that never makes a mistake.  Everything it says is the truth.

#2. God’s Word is Inerrant
Not only is the Bible infallible in its totality, but it is also without error in its parts, down to the smallest details.  The word we use to describe this quality is “inerrant.”  In Proverbs 30:5-6 we read, Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 
6 Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.  Psalm 12:6 puts it this way: The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.”   Every word that God utters is tested and found to be pure and true.  Not only is the Bible in total the infallible Word of God, but also even in the smallest details, every word is true.

#3. God’s Word is Complete
The Bible is not only infallible and inerrant but it is complete.  There needs to be nothing added to it.  There are people today who believe we need to add to the Bible but they are what I like to call “wrong.”  They say that the Bible is just an old, outdated record of peoples’ spiritual experiences from centuries ago.  They say that we need to update it to reflect modern man’s more enlightened spiritual understanding of things.  In fact, many of them say that the Bible is still being written.  They say that when someone stands up in church and says, “The Lord spoke to me and said such-‘n-such…” they are equally inspired with Isaiah and Jeremiah or any of the other prophets.  In other words, they claim that the Bible is not complete.  However, at the end of the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, we read these words in 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”  I believe it’s significant that the Bible ends with a warning not to take away anything and not to add anything.  That’s a testimony of its completeness.  It is infallible in its total, it is inerrant in its parts, and it is complete.  But there’s more.

#4. God’s Word is Authoritative
If it is perfect and complete then it is the last word.  It is the final authority.  One of the greatest musical compositions ever written was Handel’s “Messiah,” and one of the loveliest oratorios of that magnificent opus was based on Isaiah 40:1-5, which says, Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.  2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”  3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 
4 Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; 
5 then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  When God speaks, everybody listens because His is the final authority.  This same passage in Isaiah 40 drives this point home in verses 7-8: The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.  8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.”  The Word of God will be around long after everything else is gone.  Moreover, the Bible demands obedience.  It is not a book for discussion, and by that I don’t mean that we shouldn’t discuss its implications, applications, and meanings, I mean that we shouldn’t discuss whether or not it is true.  It is authoritative, and it affirms for itself that it is true and calls upon us just to believe it.
In John chapter 8 you have the little incident where Jesus is confronted by some of the Jewish leaders, and as Jesus faces these leaders there’s a little dialogue going on, and there of course are other people there and it says in the text, As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  No doubt some of them were leaders, but Jesus said to them in verse 31, If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  In other­ words, He demanded a positive response to His truth; He demanded a response to His Word.  That’s because it is authoritative.  In Galatians 3:10, Paul quoting the prophet Habakkuk said: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them [to do them].”  Amazing!  Cursed is anyone who does not continue in everything that is written in this book.  That’s a tremendous claim to absolute authority.  And one more passage… In James 2:9-10 we read this: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  In other words, to violate the Bible at even one point is to break God’s law.  It is authoritative in every part.  So we have seen that God’s Word is infallible, inerrant, complete, and authoritative but we ought to add yet another word, and this is truly a great word.

#5. God’s Word is Sufficient
For whatever it is in the heart of a man that is necessary the Bible is sufficient.  In II Timothy 3:15 there is a great message from Paul to Timothy: “…and that from childhood you have known the Sacred Writings [i.e. Scriptures] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  First of all then, God’s Word is sufficient for salvation.  The Bible is able to make you wise unto salvation.  Ask yourself this question: “What is more important than salvation?”  Nothing!  The greatest wisdom in the universe and the Bible is that which leads to salvation.  But there’s more, verse 16 goes on to say: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable” now watch this... “for doctrine,” that’s teaching, principles of wisdom, divine standards, divine truths; “for reproof,” that means you’re able to go to somebody and say, “Hey brother, you’re out of line, you can’t behave like that.  There’s a standard and you’re not making it with that standard.”  That’s reproof.  But God’s Word is also profitable “for correction.”  That says to that person you’ve just reproved, “Don’t do that, do this; this is the right path over here.”  So through the Word you teach, you reprove, and you show a corrected way.  And further, God’s Word is profitable, “for training in righteousness.”  Now you point out the new way and, show them how to walk in it, step by step toward Christian maturity.
I’m telling you, the Bible is a fantastic book!  It can take somebody who doesn’t know God, who isn’t saved, and save them.  And then it can teach them, and then it can reprove them when they do wrong.  But it doesn’t stop there.  It will point them to the right thing to do, and then show them how to walk in that right path.  And then the result is in verse 17: “That the man of God may be adequate [complete, talking about character], equipped [talking about life-skills] for every good work.” The incredible reality of the Bible is that it is sufficient to do the whole job!  It is one product that does everything.  The Bible is infallible, inerrant, complete, authoritative and sufficient.  But that’s not all.  Let me give you two more qualities that it has.
#6. God’s Word is Effective
Listen to the words of Isaiah 55:11, “So will My Word be…” says the LORD, meaning, this is the way My Word is going to work. “So will My word be… which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”  Isn’t that great?  God’s Word is effective.  I can tell you that one of the incredible things about being a preacher of the Word of God is that I know with certainty that it will always do what it says it will do.
Years ago I tried my hand at door-to-door sales work but I wasn’t very good at it.  I found that it is hard to sell a product in which you do not have total confidence.  But that’s never a problem with the Bible, because it is always effective, it always does exactly what it says it will do.  That’s a tremendous reality about the Scriptures!  In I Thessalonians 1:5 Paul comments on the effectiveness of God’s Word in the lives of the Thessalonian believers: “For our Gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  He’s reminding them that when they first heard God’s Word they knew immediately that it wasn’t just words.  That’s because when the Word goes forth it has power; it has the Holy Spirit and, you can have the assurance it will do what it says!
So what have we said up to this point?  That the Word of God is infallible in total, inerrant in its parts, complete so that nothing is to be deleted from it or added to it, authoritative so that whatever it says is absolutely true and commands our obedience, sufficient so that it is able to do to us and for us everything we need, and effective meaning it will do exactly what it says it will do.  But I have one more to add.

#7. God’s Word is Determinative
This last one is a little bit harder to explain.  What I mean by “determinative” is that how you respond to the Word of God is the determiner not only of your life here and now, but also of your eternity.  In John 8:47 we hear Jesus say, He who is of God hears the words of God.”  Did you get that? “He who is of God hears the words of God.”  Notice that it’s in the plural there.  Then Jesus goes on to say, “For this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”  In other words, God’s Word is a determiner of whether an individual is of God, or not of God, based on whether they truly give heed to the Word of God.
In I Corinthians 2:9-14 Paul explains that there are two kinds of people: Christians, who can understand and receive the things of God, and, “Natural People,” meaning unbelievers, who cannot understand and receive the things of God.  What makes the difference?  Those who know Christ have the Spirit of God living in them and it is the Holy Spirit that opens our mind to God’s Word.
You’ve probably spoken with people who readily admit that they don’t understand the Bible so they never even attempt to read it.  That’s because an unbeliever finds the Bible to be a closed book, impossible to really understand.  That’s because they lack the one thing necessary to unlock it—the life of God in their soul evidenced by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  So, the Word of God is just a book of poetry, pretty sayings, and interesting yet irrelevant old stories.  To us who know God, on the other hand, it is Living, and Powerful, and Life-giving, and Glorious.  That’s because it is infallible, inerrant, complete, authoritative, sufficient, effective and determinative.

            So what can I say in conclusion?  God’s Word, the Bible is a marvelous gift from God himself.  In the words of Hebrews 4:12 it is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  It contains the words of eternal life, and if you read it, and study it, and believe it, it will make you “wise unto salvation.”  

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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