Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Word

In my last post, I started off this series by considering briefly a few of the reasons why we as Christians believe that the Bible is the standard upon which we base our lives, and why we believe it is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. 

In that post, we considered why men and women trust in the Word of God. But what about that Word?  What does God himself say about His scripture?

What God says about His Word

All scripture is inspired by God and useful for us
God’s word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).

God’s words give light and understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scriptures are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
* Did you catch that? All scriptures are God-breathed. Not just some of them. Not everything except the first chapter of Genesis. All scriptures come directly from God.

The author of Hebrews declared, “God’s word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
* It is living and penetrating - perhaps this is why so many refuse to believe that the Bible is wholly and uncompromisingly true.  If you trust that all scriptures come directly from the LORD, you have to accept its ability to penetrate and judge your own thoughts and attitudes. 

God’s word is our very bread (Matthew 4:4).

His Word is perfect
God’s words are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times (Psalm 12:7).
God’s word is right and true; He is faithful in all He does (Psalm 33:4).

God’s every word is flawless (Proverbs 30:5). 

Jesus himself declared that His words are holy and true (Revelation 3:7).
* If you proclaim Christ as your Lord, yet deny that His words are fully true, you are calling Jesus a liar.

The Word brings life
Moses exclaimed to the people of Israel that God’s words to His people are life (Deuteronomy 32:47).

James declared that God gave us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created (James 1:18).

God grants eternal life, not condemnation, to those who hear His word and believe (John 5:23).

His words are spirit and life (John 6:63).

His Word will never pass away
God’s word is eternal – it stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89).

God’s word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).

God’s words will never pass away or lose their power (Matthew 24:35).

Peter declared that God’s word stands forever (1 Peter 1:25) and that God’s word created the heavens and the earth, destroyed the earth with the flood, and reserves the present heavens and earth for fire (2 Peter 3:5-7).
*No matter what this world endures, and no matter how much we lose historically, God's word always endures.  There is no reason why we should have complete books written three thousand years ago, when for much of antiquity we have only single-parchment scraps. But God's word endures.

God's word will always come true, no matter what
God declared that He remembers His covenant forever, and His word for a thousand generations (1 Chronicles 16:15).

 His word is not chained (2 Timothy 2:9).

God’s word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

God proclaimed that He always fulfills His word (2 Kings 10:10).
* All you have to do is look at the prophecy in scripture to see that God is faithful to keep His promises.  Though the Jewish people were kicked out of the land of Israel for over 1878 years, God did not forget His promise to bring them back to the land, and did so in 1948. But keep in mind that this means His judgment will come as well as His mercy.  When God proclaims that the world will be judged, you can be assured that it will be. You cannot separate God's mercy and love from His holiness and righteousness.

Jesus IS the WORD of God!
John declared that God is the Word of Life, and that He appeared to us (1 John 1:1-2).
* Who is that Word who appeared to us? Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity and our Lord and God!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).
Jesus is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13).
* If you proclaim Christ as Lord and your God, and that His Word is true and completely useful for your righteousness, you cannot claim to only believe one section of scripture. If Jesus is the WORD, and all scripture is God-breathed, you cannot profess to follow Christ and yet deny all that He (God) said in the Old Testament. If Jesus is God, the Word, and the Bible is His holy Word, then the words of God in Exodus are just as true as the words of God in John.

These are just a sampling of the statements God made about His Word.  When we reject the Word of God, we reject Him and call Him a liar. If you profess to follow Christ and simultaneously deny the truth of His Word, my question is this: why do you follow Christ at all? If His Word is not reliable, then why do you trust in Christ in the first place?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who is God, part 1

Who is God?

It seems that everyone these days has an opinion about who God is, and what He’s like. Some prefer to picture God as a grandfatherly person sitting up in heaven just waiting to take care of you and help you out because he loves you. Others picture God as the clock maker – the creator who lets things work on their own and does not really intervene in daily life.  Still others depict God as a horrible, judgmental being who condemns people unjustly, is the reason for pain and suffering, and should be hated and reviled.  Still others depict God as Jesus Christ, the perfect man who did not sin and who does not condemn but forgives and accepts all who come to him.

There are probably as many different depictions of God as there are people in the world.  And these days, there are many depictions of God that sound wonderful but deny who He says He is. So which of these – if any – is right?

We are left with these questions:

Who is God, really? 
What is He really like? 
What does He say about Himself?
How can we describe Him?
How do we know for sure? 

Let’s embark on a journey to find out more about the God we serve.

How do we know anything about God?

Our first question needs to be, “How do we know anything about this God?” How is it that we, as human beings, know anything about God?  Your answer to this question is vitally important, because it sets the stage for everything else that we are going to explore.

As Christians, we believe that we can know about God and who He says He is by reading the holy scriptures He has given us: the Bible.

What is the Bible?  It is a collection of 66 “books” written by upwards of 40 different authors over the course of perhaps 2000 years, in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), directed and given by God to reveal Himself to us.

You might be thinking, “How can that possibly be the work of God, when you just said it was written by all different people over a huge amount of time?”  That’s a good question, one that goes to the heart of the question of reliability.  To be reliable we want evidence that we can trust that what it says is true and trustworthy.

First, let me say that we have more ancient copies of portions of the Bible than we have of any other ancient text. Despite what secularists claim, we have almost no evidence of the message of any part of scripture being deliberately or unconsciously changed over time.[1] 

One of the best tests we have to prove the reliability of scripture is through the evidence of fulfilled prophecy.  The Bible is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of prophecies that were totally and completely fulfilled.  While this project cannot fully identify all the prophecies that were fulfilled, here are just a few to consider:

  1. God told the people of the southern tribes of Judah that they would be taken captive by the   Babylonians (led by Nebuchadnezzar) – see the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies did in fact come and destroyed Jerusalem in 609 BC. 
  2. God predicted that Babylon would rule over the Israelites in captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12) – and Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon exactly 70 years later.
  3. God predicted that there would be 4 great empires: Babylon, represented by the lion with eagles’ wings; a second empire “raised up on one side” that conquered three kingdoms; a third kingdom that would conquer swiftly but then be broken into multiple parts, and a fourth kingdom that would conquer the world and would be the last great empire of man (see Daniel 2:32-33 and Daniel 7).  These perfectly predict the 4 great kingdoms: Babylon; the Medo-Persian Empire (where the Persians were ascendant over the Medes) who conquered the Babylonian, Lydian, and Egyptian empires; the Macedonian empire that rose quickly and was divided into 4 parts after Alexander’s death; and the Roman Empire.
  4. God predicted that Israel would be expelled from the promised land, but that they would be returned, and that the land would be fully restored. In the 20th century, Jews returning to Palestine restored the land and the nation was recreated in one day in 1948.
 Some theologians have also pointed out that the very notion of “standards of truth” come from no other legitimate source but that of God and His word.  Consider our relatively universal assumptions about our life and our universe:

1)      The universe works according to laws that are understandable and that exist virtually everywhere, no matter who is observing.
2)      The human mind must be capable of rational analysis.
3)      Lying is wrong.

If the universe came together by virtue of totally random physical processes, why then would we expect that there should be universal laws that work everywhere?  Why should the world be understandable and logical?  For that matter, why should we be able to understand it at all?  And if what I'm saying about God is a conscious lie, why would that be wrong?[2]  Outside of the standards that God provided for us, we ultimately have a hard time answering the questions listed above. 

We also could look to the thousands upon thousands whose lives have been changed completely by placing their faith in the Word and the God who wrote it.  Ultimately, however, there is nothing that I can say that will convince someone that the Bible is the Word of God if they do not have faith in God in the first place.
It is a matter of faith.  So I'm going to stop trying to persuade.  This is just preliminary, however, to the main question - who is this God that we say we serve? 

How can we serve a God that we don't take the time to get to know?  Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." 

I want us to take a look at who God says He is in His Word.  My starting point is that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God that can be fully trusted and is the basis for my faith. So now, let's start getting to know our great God!

[1] Adapted from The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity, by Alex McFarland. Published by Regal Books, Ventura, Ca., 2007, 1-800-4-GOSPEL,
[2] Jason Lisle, “How to do ‘Foolproof’ Apologetics,” in How do We Know the Bible is True? Vol I, edited by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2011), chapter 10.