Values: 5. Biblical

Biblical (2 Timothy 3: 14-17 and Psalm 119)

Today we’re exploring our next value:  In all that we are and do, we will seek to follow God’s ways, understanding and keeping the truths of Scripture interpreted and taught by the church down the centuries. (2 Timothy 3: 14-17 and Psalm 119)

Let’s pray together:

Almighty God,

Through the written word,

and the spoken word,

may we know your Living Word

Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

In recent years several polls have rated the nations favourite 100 books.  Books such as Pride and Prejudice, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird always feature in the top 10…. But top of the list each time – considered the most influential book ever written is the Bible. 

The Bible is the most popular book in the world.  The most successful literary creation of all time. 

Did you know that each year over 100,000,000 Bibles are sold or given away? 

And today there are many different Bible apps available too, the leading Bible App has been downloaded 300 million times!

The Bible is the most popular book of all time, and many would say it is also the most powerful.  It has the power to change individuals and to change societies. 

On her coronation, our Queen was given a Bible with these words ‘we present to you this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.’ 

The Bible is incredibly precious, the writer of the Psalms says the Bible is more precious than gold.  And over the years many, many have given their lives to make sure that the Bible is shared with others. Often risking life and limb to make sure that the Bible is shared in hard and difficult places.

The Bible is of course a collection of books by over 40 authors over 1600 years.  Each bit of it was/is inspired by God.  We heard in our reading the Apostle Paul’s words –  that all of scripture is inspired by God…  Now the word Paul uses for ‘inspired’ in the original Greek carries with it the idea that each word written down is God-breathed.  God’s breathe is in it all.

Nicky Gumbel  – an Anglican priest and developer of the Alpha Course says this: 

‘The Bible is the inspired word of God – because it claims to be, seems to be and proves to be.’   The Alpha course has a session which considers the importance of the Bible, and here Nicky shares his experience that as he has read God’s word and studied it, time and time again it has spoken truth to his life.  And as he has learnt to live it out and put it into practice – he has sensed God speaking to him through it.   And so, Nicky’s encourages us all, to read God’s word, to try it out, to give it a go – for then we’ll see God at work in our lives in the most amazing ways. 

Many, many thousands would testify similarly:  Rick Warren – an American pastor says this:

“Reading the Bible generates life.  It produces change.  It heals hurt.  It builds character.  It transforms circumstances.  It imparts joy.  It overcomes adversity. It defeats temptation.  It infuses hope.  It releases power.  It cleanses the mind.”

So, the Bible was written by over 40 authors – doctors, fisherman, kings, scholars, philosophers, statesmen, prophets, lawyers, historians, teachers… and they wrote different types of literature… history, poetry, prophecy, letters – so the Bible is 100% the work of human hands… but it is also 100% inspired by God.

St Paul’s Cathedral in London was built by Sir Christopher Wren – a great architect of his time – construction began in 1675 and continued for 36 years under his direction until it was finished in 1711.  Now we talk of Christopher Wren building the cathedral and yet he didn’t dig a single hole or lay a single stone, rather it was built by a number of stonemasons, carpenters, labourers and artists. 

You see Christopher Wren was the inspiration, the cornerstone of it all, without his idea, design and direction it would never have been built.

And so, it is with the Bible – yes there are many writers/authors but the inspiration, the architect is God.

Now in places there are some apparent difficulties with the Bible.  On the surface it can look like there are several contradictions.  The Apostle Peter, Paul and James all seem to say slightly different things, they have different understandings of events and ideas.  In places it looks like there are moral or historical contradictions – and if you’ve read much of the Old Testament there are some difficult themes to deal with, some shocking events and it can be hard to see how they are inspired by God.

Well some of the apparent contradictions can be overcome by understanding the type of literature you’re reading and the context to which it applies. 

Crucial to it all is recognising that Jesus is the interpretive key to it all.  You see Jesus is love, he is the supreme revelation of God…if we want to know what God is like – we can look at Jesus.  The more that we trust that the Bible is the word of God – the more we begin to understand and unpack.

The Bible is the primary way in which God communicates with us.  It is the way he reveals himself to us.

Now God has also revealed himself through creation.  Everywhere we look – the beauty of creation, the stunning scenes that we see, the vastness and glory, we say wow, there’s got to be a God.  Or you can look at the stars late at night – the huge expanse, and think wow, there must be a God…someone who created all of this, and the very fact that we are here, the fine tuning of the universe, surely only God could have done that.  The fact we’re created with a longing for something more, something deeper and spiritual  – so yes God has revealed himself in nature- in creation. 

But supremely he has revealed himself in a person – Jesus.  And of course, the main way we know about Jesus is through the Bible, through the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the rest of the New Testament… but also the Old Testament – which when seen through the right lens – is also about Jesus… pointing to him.

And retuning to Jesus – he himself believed in, trusted in, and quoted the Old Testament – for him it was the word of God – it was to be respected and treasured.

The Bible is God’s inspired word – this has been believed by the church through the ages and is believed today by Christians all around the world.  It is central to the Church of England. 

The Bible is understood to be authoritative – and is full of wisdom – practical wisdom about how to live and make good decisions.  St Paul says the Bible is useful to teach us what is true, and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

The Bible is full of practical help and wisdom, and principles for relationships – how to love and forgive others, advice on healthy living, working with others, bringing up children and that sort of thing. 

It gives us boundaries and guidelines to help us get the most out of life.  Not a rule book, but rather a way of living that encourages freedom, wholeness, safety, growth and fullness of life. 

These boundaries are set in God’s overwhelming, irresistible, generous love to us… with a desire to see us thrive and not get hurt.

So, God has spoken through the Bible – and he continues to speak through the Bible…

The Bible has been described as a love letter from God…  it is a communication from the person we love and choose to believe in. 

It is exciting to study it…not that we gain facts and head knowledge, but rather we discover more about the person of Jesus Christ and more about God.  The purpose of the Bible is to bring us into relationship with God…  and it is this relationship that really counts.

And that is at the heart of the Christian faith.   God loves us, he longs to be in relationship with each of us, he longs to communicate with us, he longs to speak to us… and so the best way to invest in this relationship is to read God’s word, to study it… to allow God to speak words of life into our hearts and minds.

Above all the Bible gives us truth, hope and joy.  The Bible gives us a certain hope, that this crazy world we live in today, is not all that life is about… but that one day, the heavens and earth will be restored and renewed when Christ returns.  Billy Graham said this:  “I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out alright.”. 

For all these reasons, the Bible is important to us…it is crucial to us…

It is God’s inspired word, it is popular, powerful and precious – it carries authority and provides wisdom on how to live, it is God’s word to us today… his love letter to each of us, revealing his character and his heart of love. 

The Anglican church to which we belong has always accepted the Bible as truth and therefore it is our value – that in all that we are and do, we will seek to follow God’s ways, understanding and keeping the truths of Scripture interpreted and taught by the church down the centuries.

And so today can I encourage you to read and study God’s word at home each day, to get stuck into it either on your own or perhaps with a friend, or spouse or with your children. 

Two of the best ways you can do that is either to use a daily set of bible notes… or a Bible App. 

There are all sorts of Bible reading notes available from Scripture Union or Word Alive, CWR or the Bible Reading Fellowship. You can search for them online, there are many different resources, however I would really recommend these they’re called New Daylight by the BRF.  Each day you’re given a small passage of scripture to read, and then there are notes to help explain, with questions and a short prayer.  If you would like to find out more, please speak to John Byrne – and if you want to he can place an order for you for 2019.  They work out at about £12 for the year. 

Or if you’d prefer something you can use on your phone or tablet there are a range of Bible Apps.  I would recommend the Bible App (YouVersion) or the Bible in One Year (HTB), or Daily Reflections (CofE)….  You can download them through your Google Play store or IWith each of these Apps you can read the scripture yourself, or have it read to you…again there is commentary with it, links to other passages, questions, reflections, and prayers and you can share passages or ideas with others.  An App for a phone or tablet is a great way of taking God’s word with you everywhere and being able to access it while on a train, or sat in a coffee shop.

And if you would like recommendations for some really good notes or Apps for children and young people please speak to myself or John.

I’m going to close with a quote I used earlier from Rick Warren. 

Because like Rick it is my experience, it is my belief that God’s word, the Bible brings change and transformation to heart and minds and is full of truth and life.  It is worth following, it is worth trusting.

“Reading the Bible generates life.  It produces change.  It heals hurt. 

It builds character.  It transforms circumstances.  It imparts joy.

It overcomes adversity. It defeats temptation. 

It infuses hope.  It releases power.  It cleanses the mind.”

Amen.