Friday 26 October 2012

2 Timothy 3 verses 16/17

Sunday next is the day many Churches will recognise as Bible Sunday. For more than thirty years I always recognised Bible Sunday as an important day, and this year I will miss being able to do so.

At one time Bible Sunday was always the 2nd Sunday of Advent when the whole Church joined in celebration of the giving of God’s Word. In recent years Bible Sunday has been moved to the 4th Sunday in October when it is now only optional against the normal Lectionary readings. I see Racial Justice, One World, Peacekeeping and Education, have been marked out for special attention, but apparently Bible Sunday does not warrant special mention, which says a lot about priorities.

However, there is always the option of celebrating Bible Sunday and the giving of the Word on any Sunday.

If we are to face the challenges of our time, the Church and all Christians have to be people of the Bible. So let us look at verses 16/17.

All Scripture is inspired by God. The important word is all. The Bible has become less relevant even to people within the Church, including those whose duty is to teach the Scriptures. Thereby, where as once people might have thought twice about their actions in consideration of what the Bible taught, there is less restraint.

There is a total lack of restraint, rather like a car which has been parked on a hill and someone releases the handbrake causing it to go out of control. A recent poll suggested we were the most godless nation in the world after Japan.

There are so many people within the Church, clerical and lay, who are prepared to settle for less. Moral values clearly laid out in the Bible are set aside to cater for indulging in, or condoning in, behaviour and ways which are contradictory to Scriptural teaching. There is no pick and mix option. Biblical integrity demands you accept what is written, and not choose just those parts that fit in with your own desires.

When you buy something which is under guarantee or warranty, you are given a manual which instructs how you are to look after and care for that article. If you do not conform to the terms, the person who made the article is not obliged to do anything to help, and you have no rights about which to protest.

The maker of the world has laid down the terms in His manual, and if people do not conform to those terms they can have no reason to complain when turmoil occurs.

We are told God inspired and guided forty men, using their different characters and occupations, to write the Scriptures which would be His message to the world. We can reasonably presume that if God gave us these words He would not have done so just to fill pages, but meant us to take note of all that was given.

There are 66 books in the Bible, 39 of which are in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, written by 40 men all but one being Jewish. God used their individual personalities to communicate His words, and none of them would claim it was any thoughts of their own. God wants us to understand and know Him and the only way we can do that is by Him telling us, which He does in this book.

We should be ready to turn to it and study it more. For most Christians I fear Bible reading is confined to someone else reading it in the service. It is not a coincidence, it is fact that as the Bible has become so irrelevant to so many people, life has become so much more coarse and immoral and we have a breakdown in society. There seems to be no sense of shame on the part of many people, even those in the public eye.

We now see politicians rushing to condemn the moral condition of the nation, a condition which most of them legislated to create and encourage, and which they now realise is a moral monstrosity

Timothy is called upon to reprove, rebuke and exhort, which in fact is the task of all preachers. In other words, we have to be concerned with mind, will and emotions by correcting wrong thinking, pointing out what is wrong in behaviour and attitudes, and encouraging those depressed. This has to be done with caring, but positive words.

Many people say they cannot understand much of the Bible. We must first realise it does not solve every problem we have in life, nor answer all the questions we would like to ask. Some things remain a mystery which God has chosen not to reveal this side of heaven.

When Billy Graham, the most successful preacher of all time, was starting out in ministry, he was troubled as to whether the Bible really was God’s Word or man’s idea. There were passages he could not understand. He was so concerned he went up into the mountains near his North Carolina home and read and re-read his King James Version of the Bible, then turned to God and said, ‘I have seen enough of your transforming ability in this Word to know you are behind it. I know there are many questions I do not understand, but I take it by faith that it is your Word and will preach it as your Word and trust you.’ The rest is history. He always encouraged people to take their Bibles with them to his crusades and meetings.

In my visits to preach in Churches I have been amazed how few provide the Bibles. I went to one Church where there was not one Bible, not even for the reading of the Lessons.

The Bible is in fact a collection of books with different styles, all written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is history, poetry, prophecy, as Paul here states, ‘to instruct unto salvation’.

The Bible is essentially a book of salvation and there has never been any doubt that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. He is the focus and climax of the Bible from start to finish. The whole Bible focuses on the coming of Christ, after prophet after prophet in the Old Testament foretold His coming. In the Old Testament Jesus is predicted. In the Gospel Jesus is revealed. In Acts Jesus is preached. In the Epistles Jesus is explained. In Revelation Jesus is anticipated.

The Bible is given to teach us and guide us in the way God wants us to live. This is a very stressful world in which we live. This is a post Christian age when most people under the age of 40 have little if any knowledge of the Christian faith or Church.

The aim of many public officials is to erase Christianity from public life in which no mention or expression of the faith is allowed, and some Christians are swept away by the tide of opposition. In some intellectual and academic circles, the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature, and this is being taught in schools, colleges and universities, simply because it doesn’t fit in with some modern thought.

Paul feared that Timothy, young and timid man, was in danger of yielding to the anti-Christian pressure facing him. His message to Timothy, and which also applies to us, is to stand firm even if it means standing alone. Don’t weaken under pressure.

Timothy was brought up in a Jewish background and so was taught the Scriptures from an early age by his mother and grandmother. It was customary for Jewish boys to be taught the Scriptures from age five. Whilst these would be the Old Testament, he had also been taught by Paul and Peter, who between them had written most of the New Testament, so he would in fact have virtually the whole Bible as we know it in his knowledge.

There is a great tragedy in the fact that children are growing up here without ever hearing the stories of Jesus or the main biblical characters, as parents do not have the time, inclination or knowledge to help them. But it has not always been like that.

Many of us here to-day grew up in a totally different culture. We may not have had all the wonderful technological aids and comforts that now are available, but we benefited in other ways. Like Timothy we were taught about the Bible at home and went to Sunday school as youngsters, learning the stories about Jesus, which gave us standards and values and a good foundation for life. We had morning assemblies in all schools, now largely avoided in (state) schools. This may not have been widely followed up in life, but the basics had been laid and our lives were directed by Christian values. Children are now denied these foundations and are growing up without knowing the country’s religious faith and heritage.

Compare the situation in other faiths’ homes. Muslim children are faithfully taught the Koran and will never allow their holy book to be abused in the way our Bible is; similarly in Jewish homes, where children again are taught about Judaism and the Ten Commandments from an early age.

The argument that because the Bible was written so many years ago we can look at it with a different approach to the present day, doesn’t hold. God was not just the God of the first century, but for all time. So is His Word.

The Bible gives us access to the mind of God. The more we read the more we will know God’s intention for us. Just as you spend more time in a person’s company you get to know them better, so as you spend time with God through His Word, the better you will know Him. For in the Bible God speaks His mind.

The Bible also tells of the consequences for not following God’s will for us. What then can the Church do? Is there an answer?

The Church has a wonderful opportunity to recover lost ground at the present time. The nation has woken up to the moral collapse and the Church should take the opportunity to remind the nation how far it has strayed from Christian influence. Above all, we must defend the authority of Scripture.

Today the Church in the West is in decline, in stark contrast to Africa, Asia, South America, where the Churches have memberships of thousands. The reason these Churches are so strong is because of the strong biblical foundation, and they have not been tearing the Bible away as we have in the West. They still believe it and boldly proclaim it
Many Churches in the West have given up on Scriptural teaching and have engaged in dismantling the Bible and re-interpreting to fit in with the morality (or lack of it) they wish to portray and avoid any suggestion of future judgement. Can you imagine a Muslim cleric challenging the Koran?

All Christians need to stand firm and challenge the moral collapse. But we have to be strong for the forces against us are. Secularists and minority groups have already blocked any attempt to protect Christians from the oppressive Equality and Diversity Act. There are people wanting to stop any public expression of our faith

Be in Church on (Bible) Sunday. May God bless you.

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