What Do You Expect from Your Bible?

Text: Psalm 119:1-8


I.         When you open your Bible, what do you expect from it?

II.        Some Expect a Rule Book

            A.        Just the other day I was asked “Where do I find a list of God’s laws in the Bible?”

            B.        The Bible is not a reference book where you can look up “Cheating” and find everything you need to know on the subject. Nor is it a set of statutes commonly found in lawyer’s offices where you find related items index and provisions listed by topics.

            C.        God’s laws are contained between the covers of the Bible, but the laws are presented in a variety of ways.

                        1.         Stories that make the needed information readily memorable

                        2.         Letters discussing problems and solutions

                        3.         Historical accounts showing how laws fit into the context of events

                        4.         Genealogical lists

                        5.         Poems

                        6.         Collections of wise sayings

                        7.         Accounts of dreams and visions in symbolic terms

                        8.         And yes, there are occasional lists of things to do or not to do.

            D.        It might strike you as an impractical way to relay information

                        1.         But if you look at man’s history, it is the way we have been doing it since the very beginning

                        2.         When is the last time you met someone who was memorized Webster’s dictionary? Or who knows the IRS tax code by heart? Better yet, who would want to memorize such boring things?

                        3.         Yet millions of people have memorized all or significant portions of the Bible - Psalm 119:97-103

            E.        The Bible contains a wealth of information - II Peter 1:3

                        1.         That is a broad subject matter for such a relatively small book.

                        2.         I have dictionaries bigger than my Bible.

                                    a.         Try carrying the Encyclopedia Britannica around sometime.

                                    b.         I wonder how many rooms I would need to hold all the rules and regulations of the United State’s government.

                        3.         Yet, God says He has managed to tell me everything I need to know about life and godly living in one book that I can easily carry with me.

            F.        The Bible’s error correcting abilities

                        1.         In computers, we know that it is dangerous to keep only one copy of a piece of information.

                                    a.         One small change can make a significant loss of information

                                    b.         We are encouraged to make back-ups.

                                    c.         But even internally, a computer duplicates information.

                                                (1)       Memory contains check bits to detect alterations

                                                (2)       They use error-correcting information so that small changes can be repaired.

                        2.         Imagine if God only mentioned every subject just once.

                                    a.         A copying mistake or a lost of passage would severely alter what God would have us to know.

                        3.         People have attempted to alter the Bible in the past, but they always get caught.

                                    a.         Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible alters John 1:1 to say “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” because they refuse to believe that Jesus is God.

                                    b.         It has been rightly rejected because this is not the only verse mentioning Jesus’ deity.

                                    c.         The same information is located in the Bible multiple times in a variety of ways – some blatantly obvious, but others subtly hidden amongst other things.

                                    d.         Because of the interlocking information, we can even used the altered New World translation to show that it is in error because the alterations create internal contradictions.

                        4.         I don’t know of any comparable book written by man with this capability.

III.       Some Expect Immediate Understanding

            A.        Pentecostals believe that the Holy Spirit gifts them perfect understanding.

                        1.         Thus they spend little time studying the Bible. Instead, it is used as a proof text.

                        2.         Their mind is already made up, after all they understand! So phrases and verses are quoted and referenced to back up their preconceived ideas.

            B.        Some sit down and expect to read through their Bibles like a novel, but when they lose track of the plot, the put it down in disgust.

            C.        The Bible is meant to be understood - Ephesians 5:17

                        1.         Psalm 119:25-27 - Much of the design of the Bible lends itself to easy recall

                        2.         Stories of events and characters

                        3.         Parables

                        4.         Even the Psalms with their parallel and contrasting thoughts make them easily recalled.

            D.        But there are hard sections - II Peter 3:15-16

            E.        Even more, the Bible is meant to be studied - II Timothy 2:15

IV.      Some Expect Total Confusion

            A.        Several denominations, most notably Roman Catholics, teach that the Bible too difficult to understand by the average layman.

                        1.         Many, therefore, walk away with really trying

            B.        While portions are difficult, the whole is not

            C.        Christians have the words as a part of them

                        1.         Word is to dwell in us - Colossians 3:16

                        2.         It is truth that lives in us - II John 1-2

                        3.         Hidden in our hearts - Psalm 119:9-11

            D.        Some are assigned the task of helping others gain better understanding

                        1.         Under the Old Law - Nehemiah 8:8

                        2.         What Paul did - Acts 17:2-3

                        3.         What Philip did - Acts 8:30-31

            E.        But these people didn’t tell other to listen to their own words. They taught people how to understand the word for themselves.

V.        Some Expect it to be Outdated and Irrelevant

            A.        Mankind in its arrogance and ignorance believes that they are different from all past generations.

                        1.         They believe that society has changed and evolved so that past understanding cannot be applied to today’s situations.

                        2.         Yet, the Bible warns that nothing really changes - Ecclesiastes 1:10-11

                                    a.         Rather, each succeeding generation forgets what has happened in the past.

                                    b.         Newness is only an illusion brought about by ignorance

            B.        People have the same flaws as they had in the past. They face the same sins. They need the same solutions to their problems - Luke 17:26-30

            C.        God doesn’t evolve or change - Hebrews 13:8; Psalm 102:25-27

            D.        Morality or ethics taught in the Bible doesn’t evolve or change - I Peter 1:22-23

VI.      Learning from the Bible

            A.        A reading schedule

                        1.         Read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

                                    a.         They repeat, but they are eye-witness accounts of Jesus’s life, each written from a different person’s point of view.

                                    b.         Unlike multiple witnesses among men, they harmonize perfectly

                        2.         Read Acts and see how people responded to the gospel message and the impact that message had on the world

                        3.         Pick several of the letters in the New Testament written to churches and see how people dealt with applying the laws of Christ to their day-to-day lives.

                        4.         Turn back to the Old Testament and learn the history of God’s dealing with man. See how we came to point of the New Testament.

                                    a.         Read: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

                        5.         Return to the gospels and suddenly you will notice things that you missed the first time you read through them.

                        6.         Now read all the letters to the churches.

                        7.         Study the books of wisdom: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms

                        8.         Read through Isaiah and then start again

            B.        With each pass through the Bible, expand on what you learn by examining a few more books.

                        1.         If something doesn’t make sense, make a note of it, but move on.

                        2.         Something you read later will clarify what you didn’t understand earlier.

                        3.         The Bible is one of those rare books that becomes more meaningful each time you read it.

            C.        My grandfather, after forty years of preaching, mentioned that there wasn’t a day that he took up his Bible that he didn’t learn something new from it.

            D.        Give attention to reading - I Timothy 4:13, 15-16