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Tag: Bible

Because It’s God’s Word

Some of the stranger moments in my ministry have to be when people have asked, “Why would you preach that [topic]?  My answer on some of these occasions has been less than stellar but I have always tried to emphasize it’s because it’s God’s Word.  But mostly, I think I have been dumbfounded by this question.  This is especially true given the fact that I preaching expositionally–meaning that I strive to draw my “topic” from whatever the topic the verses I am preaching presents.

It has been my experience that the “Why would you preach that?” question has been primarily in regard to more debated issues, and unless I preach those issues uniform to what the hearers have always been taught or have always assumed, then people tend to get upset.  Here are a two reasons I have heard over the years for their disgruntledness.

1)  “It’s confusing for people”–While I completely understand this concern, I don’t believe it is ever a reason to shy away from any biblical topic.  Certainly, some biblical topics must be taught age appropriately or even spiritual-age appropriately, but the Church must never back down from preaching the Word and trusting the Holy Spirit to apply it to hearts as He sees fit.  How often did Jesus teach His disciples something that only led to their being wholly confused?  One of many examples is when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn.2:19), and the disciples had not a clue what Jesus meant (cf. Jn.2:22).

2) “It creates doubt in the hearts of people”–Again, I completely understand this concern, but I don’t believe it is ever a reason to shy away from any biblical topic.  We should certainly anticipate the potential doubts that may arise, but that’s part of the job of a pastor.  It is his responsibility to be patient with those who have doubts, but it would be irresponsible for a pastor to avoid a topic for fear of creating doubts.  After Jesus was raised from the dead, some of His disciples doubted it (Matt.28:17).  Does that mean Jesus was irresponsible in raising Himself from the dead?  Or does this mean that pastors who preach the resurrection are irresponsible for preaching it?  God forbid!  What we must realize is that oftentimes doubt is just a polished up word for unbelief.

I remember in particular being asked once why I would even bring up the doctrine of election because it only leads to confusion and causes people to doubt their salvation.  This person tried to defend his statement by saying, “What if someone has been a member of the church all their life and think that they’re saved but they’re not.  And when they hear about election it creates doubt that troubles their heart.  If they are not elect, wouldn’t it be better for them to live in peace for the few years they have on earth before they die and go to hell.”

Needless to say, I was astonished for several reasons.  First, I would never just “bring up” a difficult doctrine like election unless I think it necessary.  I would say that 9 times out of 10, I have only brought up election and similarly difficult doctrines only if the doctrines are mentioned or alluded to in the Scripture that I am preaching.

Second, I’m pretty sure Jesus never held back anything in His preaching that would discomfort unbelievers who thought they were believers.  On one occasion in which the Jews were arguing with Jesus about eternal life, the Jews said to Him, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you make yourself out to be?” (Jn.8:53).

Jesus ends this argument a few verses later by answering all of their questions with great finality: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn.8:58).

What do you think their response was to Jesus?  Great joy?  No, anything but.  Their reaction was unbelief and anger and murderous intentions (Jn.8:59).  Here are the Jews who thought they were “saved,” but in reality they were not.  And here is Jesus who did the most loving thing He could in that situation–He taught them the truth.

So in the power of the Holy Spirit, and speaking the truth in love, may the Church proclaim all the counsel of God–because souls hang in the balance and it is better to trouble a soul a little here than to see an “untroubled” soul perish in hell.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

God Has Spoken

God has spoken.  Of all the things that the Christian believes, he must believe this.  The controversy, however, swarms around the question of how has God spoken.  Historically, God’s people have believed on the Scriptures as God’s primary means of speaking to them.  We are talking over 2,000 years of hearing and reading the Bible (keeping in mind that the earliest believers only had portions of the canon of Scripture, which was completed in the late first century A.D.)

From the beginning, Satan was a liar and the father of lies.  That is the first thing we learn of him in the Bible as we find him selling his elixir to Eve. When it comes to the reliability of the Bible, many professing Christians today have swallowed the ancient venomous brew of Satan.   As a part of a major, conservative, Baptist denomination, I have been surprised at how many individuals I have had to counsel on this subject.  I’m not talking about general questions or confusion.  I’m talking about people who say things like, “Writers in the New Testament were only giving their opinions when they were writing.”

I have literally spent hours attempting to answer such objections to the simple statement, “The Bible is God’s word to man and not simply man’s word about God.”  It is to the point that many local churches do not even examine a ministerial candidate’s basic theology or view of the Bible.  This results in churches placing people in ministry positions that have no solid foundation of truth because the source of authority of these candidates is themselves.  Unfortunately, I know of more than one person who has served or is serving in important ministry positions who do not believe in the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible.

Some are tempted to say at this point that people like me are splitting hairs or making a mountain out of a mole hill.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Let me be very clear at this point: Believing God’s word to be God’s word is a matter of life and death.  Because this is such a serious matter, I want to share a few reasons, along with biblical citations, why I believe the Bible is a trustworthy collection of writings and why disbelieving it puts a person in danger of eternity in hell.

1.  The Bible contains self-claimed authority:The Bible itself claims to be authoritative truth from God.  So either the biblical writers are looney liars, or they really were recording God’s truth.  In essence, God’s credibility is at stake (2 Tim. 3:16).

2.  The Bible contains eyewitness testimony: From Moses to John (that is Old Testament to New Testament), the Bible is full of eyewitness testimony.  For example, the Gospel of John is written by a man that claims to have seen, heared, and handled Jesus, not to mention experienced the ministry of Jesus firsthand.  Can you imagine witnessing the dead being raised to life, the deaf given hearing, and the blind given sight?  Can you imagine seeing some 20,000 people fed with only five loaves and two fish?  Again, either John and the other biblical writers were looney liars, or they are giving us a subjectively objective account.  By subjectively objective, I mean that God allowed them to use their own personality, style, and perspective in writing, yet everything that is recorded is exactly what God purposed for them to write (Jn. 21:24-25; Acts 1:16; Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pt. 1:20-21; 3:2).

3.  The Bible brings spiritual life: There is no spiritual life apart from hearing the truth contained in the Bible.  A person in the darkest jungle may have an awareness of God and His moral law, but that person cannot be right with God through this limited awareness.  The gospel of Jesus must be read and/or heard for salvation to come to a person whose spirit is dead to God but alive to sin (Ps. 119:130; Acts 26:15-18; Rom. 10:12-15; Eph. 4:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:15).

4.  Reading the Bible requires faith: The words recorded in the Bible are ludicrous to the unbeliever.  God’s word is not meant to be purely logical, and there are innumerable paradoxes and stories that defy logic.  Yet, that is the very nature of God’s truth.  God’s truth only “makes sense” to those who have been given life by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  God’s word is meant to reveal who God really is and who we really are in relation to Him.  Believing that God is holy and pours out wrath on unrepentant, unbelieving sinners requires faith that we don’t have.  Believing that we are sinners incapable of producing a righteousness that pleases God also requires a faith that we don’t have (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 12:3; 14:23b; Php. 1;29; Heb. 3:12).

5.  Faith includes belief in God’s providence: Providence is the teaching found in the Bible that describes God’s will being worked out in every detail of the created order, from a flock of birds that fill the sky to a single bird feather that falls to rest on a blade of grass.  God works all things according to His good pleasure.  If God is so involved in the minutest detail, would He not ensure that the Bible is wholly inspired, infallible, and inerrant?  Yes!  He would and He has (Ps. 115:3; Matt. 10:29-31; Col. 1:17)!

There is no way in this article to answer all of the objections and mention all of the intricacies of the debate over the Bible.  But the things that have been noted are sufficient to make the point that the Bible is God’s Word to man, and the only proper and saving response to His Word is belief.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta

Our Greatest Enemy

Believers in Jesus Christ have a lot of enemies in life.  Some are more serious than others, but there is no doubt, we have many enemies.  For some it’s a co-worker or a classmate.  For others it’s a family member or a former friend.  But I want us to ask, who or what is our greatest enemy?  Now before you answer that too quickly, you might want to think about it on a deeper level.  We are tempted to answer emphatically, “It’s Satan!”, but I’m not convinced he is.  No, I believe our greatest enemy is even more deceptive than Satan.

To identify our greatest enemy, let’s turn to Hebrews 4.  The main topic here is entering God’s Sabbath rest, or heaven.  In the Old Testament, the Promised Land was the rest that the Israelites sought after, and it served as a foreshadowing of the heavenly city to come (Heb.11:13-16).  Hebrews 4:11 emphasizes the seriousness of entering God’s rest, saying,

Hebrews 4:11–“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

The word strive is the main verb that drives verses 11-13.  It is a word that describes a passionate effort to do something even at the expense of comfort.  In this case, we are to “strive to enter” heaven because it is worth every pain and discomfort, for we have been called to bear the painful cross of Christ.  We see in verse 11, however, that the Israelites failed to enter God’s rest because of disobedience, and their disobedience remains a temptation for all people even today.  In fact, this disobedience is our greatest enemy.  So this leads us to ask a few questions:

What was the Israelites disobedience?
  The Israelites disobeyed with their unbelief.  Even so, the core of sin is always prideful and selfish unbelief.  Every sin under heaven is a constant cry “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU GOD! ”  or else, “I WON’T BELIEVE YOU GOD!”  Hebrews 3:19 notes the Israelities disobedience through unbelief:

Hebrews 3:19–“So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

What did the Israelites fail to believe?
  We see the answer to this particularly in Hebrews 4:2:

Hebrews 4:2–“For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”

They failed to believe the good news of God’s word—His promises of protection, provision, and ultimately salvation.  Rather than believe God, what did the Israelites do?  They listened to their own sinful hearts rather than God.  We too have received good news, called the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Listen carefully.  Believing God’s word is necessary for entering God’s eternal rest, “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom.14:23).  That makes unbelief our greatest enemy because it threatens us with hell.  And beware of pride at this point, for pride and unbelief go hand-in-hand.  We often proudly proclaim that we believe God’s word, that we believe the gospel.  But unless a godly lifestyle of repentance and obedience accompanies our belief, there is no real belief.  The Bible testifies to this fact again and again:

2 Corinthians 7:10–“For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

James 2:26–“You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

James 1:22-24— “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at  himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”

What is our only defense against our greatest enemy of unbelief?
  Hebrews 4:12-13 answers this question for us most powerfully:

Hebrews 4:12-13–“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Our only hope of slaying the great dragon of unbelief is the word of God.  Notice the three main characteristics of God’s word here that bring us hope.

1.  God’s word is living:  The verb used for “living” actually begins the sentence, which emphasizes to us that this is one of the most unique characteristics of the Bible.  It is not your average book.  In fact, there is no other book like it.  It is a living book, and as such, it is life-giving.  We see a multitude of examples of this throughout Scripture.  Here’s just a few:

1 Peter 1:23–“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”

Deuteronomy 8:3–“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Ezekiel 37:7-10–“So I prophesied as I was commanded.  And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them.  But there  was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”

2.  God’s word is powerful:  The word for “powerful” is one used to describe God’s word as both effective and active.  As such, God accomplishes His will through it.  Do you remember what God said through Isaiah?

Isaiah 55:10-11—“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do no return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

We must be careful not to get caught up in our own expectations of what we believe the word ought to accomplish.  Too often the preacher is blamed (and sometimes perhaps rightfully so), but friend, if the word of God is preached faithfully and truly, God is doing a mighty work that only He fully understands.

For example, I once had someone approach me after a morning sermon complaining about the length of the sermon (though it was really about the length of the service) and how people “had places to be” and “things to do.”  I politely responded, that if “people have more important things to do, then they were welcome to excuse themselves.”  Interestingly, while this person and a handful of others were murmuring, two people contacted me the next week testifying to the power of God’s word in their lives from that sermon.  God’s word is powerfully effective!

3.  God’s word is piercing:  The Bible is said to be sharper than a double-edged sword.  Such a sword is designed for maximum effectiveness.  The writer piles up the language here.  It’s not just that God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword but that it is beyond-sharper.

Because of its effective sharpness, God’s word cuts very deeply.  It cuts things that would otherwise be inseparable, like soul from spirit, joints from marrow, and thoughts from intentions.  The point is this: the word of God penetrates to the deepest part of who we are and judges what is there.  Ultimately, God’s word pierces to the depths of the heart discerning whether our thoughts and intentions are believing or unbelieving.  And this is exactly what we need because our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer.17:9).  Hebrews 3:12-13 says it like this:

Hebrews 3:12-13–“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

As a double-edged sword, God’s word has at least two characteristics:

a.  It can be a painful-pleasure: Much like the surgical scalpel that cuts through tissue and muscle in order to get to the cancerous tumor, God’s word can be both bitter and sweet.  The cut can be painful, but the cut will result in healing and godly pleasure for God’s people.

b.  It can be a controversial-peace:  It embitters unbelievers and believers alike because it exposes sin deep in our hearts.  Unbelievers that refuse to believe will continue in this bitterness because they refuse to submit to God’s surgery.  Believers, however, will be renewed through repentance and belief, or else they do not know Christ (1 Jn.1:8-9).

Though the word can be quite controversial, it always brings peace to God’s people.  Listen to what Jesus has taught us, and notice how He alludes to both the controversy and the peace that results from God’s word:

John 16:33–“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have  peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Verse 13 then gives the reason that the word of God is so alive, powerful, and piercing, namely God has a full view of every created thing.  All things are uncovered to the eyes of God.  Literally, the word means naked, which tells us that God is omniscient, knowing all things.  Psalm 139 is one of my favorite reminders of this:

Psalm 139:7-8—“Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee  from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

And all people will give an account to this all-seeing God.  We will all answer for our sin, and only those who have treasured Jesus more than anything else will find mercy on the Day of Judgment.  For Jesus is our high priest, representing His redeemed people before God the Father (Heb.4:14-16).  By God’s grace, may we hear the word of God, submit to the painful process of cutting out unbelief, and be renewed through repentance of sin and faith in God’s promises.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta