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The Bible Part Two: Rediscovering the Word

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 34:1-33, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Timothy 4:13
Date: 01/07/2006 
The second in a two part series on the Bible. Rediscovering the Word is about appreciating the Bible. It is a precious book that will make a difference in your life for good.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning, happy New Year. I’m glad to see each of you here and I hope you’re entering this new year with vision and enthusiasm and glad to be a Christian and looking forward to Jesus’ soon coming. If you were here last Sabbath you know that we talked about the centrality of the Bible in the Christian life, how the Bible is the ultimate resource, and I told you today I would give you the second installment on that dealing with Bible study. You’ve noticed in your bulletin, I’m assuming, that there’s a card “Home Bible Fellowship.” One of the goals in the message today is very specific. I’d like to encourage you, everybody, to be willing to at least participate, perhaps open your home. That may mean you would be willing to help lead out in some form of a small group or Bible study fellowship during the week sometime other than Sabbath morning when we’re here. I believe that the word of God needs to be part of our lives more than just Sabbath morning. Do you believe that? And it won’t happen unless you make the decision I’m going to do that this year. I’m going to be part of a home Bible study group. So be thinking about that and I hope that you’ll at least put down your name and address if you’re a visitor here of course this may not be relevant for you but I hope you do it where you live. And at the conclusion of this service we want you to hand these to ushers that will be at the door and we’re going to try and help put the leaders and the participants together. We’ll share more with you about that.

Every now and then I get emailed some interesting comments about the tech-support at computer companies. Some of you know that when a person buys a computer there are still people learning the basics of a computer. Some people have never owned a computer. How many of you here still don’t have a computer in your home. Yeah, quite a few. Am I safe to assume that the others all have computers or some of you, how many of you never raise your hand? Got you. But I remember it is really something hearing some of the responses that people get.

It’s like one lady said, “I can’t get my printer to work.” And the technician on the phone is trying to troubleshoot what the problem with the printer was. Evidently she was holding a piece of paper up to the monitor and pressing the print button and hoping that that would print it. And then you heard about someone else that was trying to shop on the Internet and they would drop their credit card into the DVD ROM drive and, “It asked for my credit card so I dropped it in there and pressed close and now it’s jammed and I don’t know what went wrong.” Or somebody else that they called up and they said, “The computer is working, but the cup holder broke.” And the technician says, “Cup holder? Is this something… is it an aftermarket product that you bought that went with your computer because I don’t know that we sell them with a cup…” She said, “It’s part of the computer. It comes in and out.” And she had been setting her coffee up on top of the CD ROM drive, thought, “Well, that’s nice.

A cup holder. Look at that. It goes in and out.” But one of the best I heard was someone got on with tech support and they actually recorded it. And this is back before with floppy, you know the little floppy disks are pretty much obsolete now, but that’s back when they had the little floppy disks, 3.5” floppies. And she said, “The floppy disk is stuck in the drive and I can’t get it out, and I took a pair of pliers, needle-nose pliers and I tried to get it out, but it just snapped off and I want a new computer.” And the technician said, “Well, now tell me once again what the problem is.” And she says, “Well, it won’t come out and I’ve tried to get it out. She says, “I even took a turkey baster and I melted some butter and I took the warm butter and squirted it off into the drive to try to lubricate it so I could get it out and I want a new computer!” And they were very irate. And he said, “Well, did you press the eject button.” And there is a long pause. “Well, I want a new computer!” “You should know we don’t owe you…” “I’m going to sue!” “You can sue but you didn’t read the instructions.”

So many people get into trouble because they don’t read the instructions and as I’m getting older I’m finding out, you know, my attitude is first to get something and try to put it together to see how it works without reading the instructions. And I’m learning you can save yourself a lot of time by reading the instructions. The people who made… You can save yourself money too. I’ve broken things before because I’ve tried to force something that would have happened very easily if I’d read the instructions and the makers of the cars and the computers or whatever the device might be know best how it operates. The Bible represents our instructions for life. It is the operating manual of the Creator and many of us are having problems and things aren’t working and we’re frustrated and we’re threatening to sue, but really it’s our fault because we’re not reading the instructions. We need to read our Bibles. We need to read them frequently.

Now the sermon today is entitled “Rediscovering the Word” and I chose that because I believe many of us here are here because we have read the word, but sometimes we can get to the point where we take it for granted. It’s like the Children of Israel when they went through the wilderness, what a miracle it was, how awesome it was, how much they enjoyed when they were hungry the manna that came down from heaven. To go out and find it not only after the first day, but the second day and to gather that and realize I’m being fed food created by God before my very eyes! It was a wonder. There was an awe to it. But do you know after a few years in the wilderness the awe wore off and they actually got to the point where the complained about angel food cake.

They said, you know, “We’ve just been eating this manna, manna, manna every day! Can’t we get some onions or quail or fish or something else? We’re so tired of this manna.” And the Bible says that the Lord withdrew his blessing and serpents came in among them and bit them and they began to die. That’s the story in the Bible where Moses he made this bronze serpent, put it up on a pole, and all who looked lived and Jesus referred to that in John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent,” so we look to Christ. The whole problem with sin and the serpent came because they stopped appreciating the manna. Our problems enter when we stop appreciating the word of God. Why is there sin in the world? Because God said, God said don’t and the devil said don’t believe what God said and because of doubting the word of God, that’s why we’re in the pickle we’re in. And so I’d like to suggest to you that if you would rediscover how precious the Bible is it’ll make a big difference in your life for the better. Now I want to begin with a story that’s sort of a jumping off place.

Turn in your Bibles to II Chronicles 34, and just to give you the background here, this is during the reign of young King Josiah. He began to reign when he was eight years old; he was a godly king, one of the best kings of Israel. And it actually tells us that he brought a revival, had the cleanse the temple and created a number of improvements, got rid of the abominations and he was basically just going on the word of God that had come to him as passed on by the priest, the oral communication of the word of God. It says “he began to seek the Lord,” verse 3, “of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images…” Go down to verse 8, “In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city… to repair the house of the Lord.” And then you go down to verse 14 and it says that “Now when they had brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest,” as they were cleansing the temple and reorganizing and putting things back, notice this, “found the Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses.”

You would think… Why would the Bible mention that Hilkiah the priest found the book? It said they had found the book. Maybe they were wondering if there was any money they had left somewhere or looking for a new place to store it but it says they found the book. Wouldn’t you believe that they had the word of the Lord? And it’s understood by some scholars, you might have wondered what ever happened to the original scroll of the law that Moses wrote with his own hand. Deuteronomy was not written in stone. It was written on paper and it says Moses wrote these words. And it could be he found the original copy of the word of God, the five books of Moses maybe including the book of Job that they had lost place of for years.

They still knew the Ten Commandments. They had the oral tradition, but they hadn’t been reading the Bible and that explains a lot of the problems that they were having. Roller-coaster experience, a lot of foreigners were coming and carrying off the people of the land and invading and after they found the book they brought it to the king (Let me go back here and read this again.) and it brought about a revival. Verse 18, “then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king. And now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes.” He realized how far they had wandered. “And the king commanded Hilkiah…” to go and inquire of the Lord… and find out what would become of them. And because of the king reading this he brought the people together and he read the whole book of the law to them. It could be the five books of Moses. Some have wondered if it was just Deuteronomy. And it brought about a great revival. Notice what happened here. And there’s a sequence. In verse 14 he found the book of God while cleansing the temple.

Do we need a cleansing of our temple? Did Jesus cleanse the temple then preach the word in the temple. He read it, he believed it, and he repented. He went to church, you read in verse 30 and he shared it with the people. The word of God leads you back to the temple. They took a stand for the word of God. They said let’s do something about what we’ve read. Let’s follow it. And verse 5 a great revival and reformation, one of the greatest in the history of Israel resulted and what was the genesis of it all? They found the book. Some of us need to rediscover the book. The Bible is the foundation for our belief. Now in the word of God we’re told that there’s a battle between good and evil and our hearts and minds are the battleground. And in any war there are weapons. The devil has his weapons and God has given us our primary defensive weapon is the word which is the sword. During the first gulf war known as Desert Storm it was an interesting piece of history because everyone was trembling before we went in to liberate Kuwait at that time because at that time Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world. They had spent billions of dollars in their oil money on the latest, greatest state-of-the-art equipment bought from Russia, some from China and France (which was part of the reason I think the French were reluctant when we went in). And you know why they were so quickly overcome? What Saddam threatened would be the “mother of all wars” turned into what history calls “the mother of all surrenders”. You know one of the main reasons?

They had all of this equipment but they didn’t know what to do with it. They didn’t know how to operate it. They didn’t know how to aim it. They had not been trained. And say they were completely overwhelmed by the superior training. The American military were acquainted with their equipment. They trained regularly and trained in all these different environments. They didn’t know their weapon. The Bible is your sword. Do you know how to use it? I’d suggest that a lot of people are struggling in their personal lives and they’re being overcome. The Bible says, “Thy word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin.” It is a defense against sin, but they don’t know how to apply it in a practical way. We need to study our Bibles. Hebrews chapter 4 tells us it’s quick and it’s “powerful.” Verse 12, “…sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…” I Timothy 4:13 Paul said, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” It is the studying of the word that fills our mind with noble thoughts and it has an influence on our lives, but we need to take an effort to make this happen.

I heard someone say, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” A Bible that is, you ever seen someone, they got a dog-eared Bible and its pages are coming out and they gotta keep pushing them back in there? A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t falling apart. And if your Bible is in perfect condition and you’ve had it for thirty years could be why you’re falling apart. You need to make the Bible fall apart by use and study the word. Bible study is central to salvation. Follow the sequence of what I’m about to say. Bible study, regular Bible study, more than just what happens once a week in church, is central to your salvation. Notice the logic to the sequence here. We are saved by grace through faith. Amen? Is that true? Faith comes from the Bible. You can’t be saved without faith. Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I’m glad you know that.

We’re saved by knowing Jesus. Jesus is revealed through the scriptures. John 5:39 Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and these are they” the Scriptures “these are they that testify of Me.” The scriptures testify of Jesus. People are saved by knowing the truth. The truth will set you free, right? Amen? Are you with me? Follow this logic. John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” This is the word of God. It is truth. This is a revelation of Christ. This is where we get faith. All of the crucial vitamins for salvation are in this one pill. If you will read your Bibles you will find that it solves a lot of the solutions. Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed… to Your word.” Somebody once said BIBLE is an acronym and it represents “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” I like that. BIBLE, can you remember that? Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Well that leads me to the next important point. How do you study the Bible? It’s one thing to own one, but how do you go about studying the Bible? Is it a locked book?

I mean can we understand it? Do you need to be a theologian, a scholar to understand the Bible? I’m exhibit A that that is not true because when I first started reading the Bible I was at that time a high school dropout. Comparatively uneducated, not that good of a reader and it was a King James Version of the Bible and God was able to speak to me through His word and I was able to understand it. Didn’t understand everything, but little by little you understand more. First of all, before you read the Bible, pray. It is a divine book. Even in the Bible it tells us “the word is Spirit and life” and you need to read with the Spirit. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Pray before you read. James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Pray for wisdom to understand as you read. Pray while you’re reading. Pray after you read and say, “Lord, help me to apply what I read to my life.” No one is going to understand the meaning of a book better than the author. Who wrote the Bible? God. Sometimes you might read a book and you say, “I’m not sure what they meant by that,” and you might know the author. You call him up and say, “What did you mean when you wrote this?” And they can explain it. They wrote it. And so ask God to help you understand His book. He will. I Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, for they’re foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they’re spiritually discerned.”

Spiritually things are spiritually discerned so you need the Holy Spirit to discern and recognize them. John Bunyan the author of Pilgrim’s Progress this is what he said, “Read the Bible.” And by the way, he has written, I think it’s the second or third bestseller of all time and he was a technically uneducated man. His education came largely from the reading of the scriptures. He said, “Read the Bible and read it again. Do not despair of help to understand something of the will and the mind of God as if they are fast locked up from you. Neither trouble yourself though you may not have commentaries and expositions. Pray and read and read and pray for a little from God is better than a great deal from man.” Keep after it. I mean if we recognize that this is a sacred book and that God, it’s a love letter from God to us. Now I understand that soldiers that receive love letters from their girlfriends back in the states over there in Iraq. Do you think they read it once? They read it, they pull it out, they read it again, they hold it up, they smell it, they stroke it, they put it back, they pull it out later, they read it again.

They wonder, they want to read between the lines, don’t they? Every little nuance. Why? Because it’s a love letter. This is a love letter from God. Read it. Be willing to apply to your life what you read. One of the biggest keys to understanding the word of God is to read the word of God with a willingness to do the word of God. If you’re approaching the word of God with a cynical curiosity well then don’t expect to understand anything. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Jesus said, John 7:17, “If any man will do His will, he will know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of Myself.” If you’re willing to do His will you’ll know the doctrine. You’ll understand. The biggest battle in comprehension that we all face is a willing heart. You know I have this theory there’s some things God does not allow us to understand because you are responsible for what you understand. Jesus even said to the disciples one time, “I have many things to say to you, but I’m not saying it now because you can’t handle it.” I’m paraphrasing. But He did say that. And in the same way I think some things in God’s word He doesn’t reveal to us because we’re not living up to the light that He’s already given us and it will just make us more culpable in the day of judgment. But if we are willing to walk in the light He’ll give us more light.

A willingness to do His will. What did the people say when they heard the Ten Commandments? “All the Lord has said we will do.” He said it; we will do it. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Living by the word, are we willing to do it? James 1:22, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” So as you approach Bible study say, “Lord,” and if you’re not willing, be honest. I wrote a song once called “Lord, Make Me Willing to Follow Your Will” because if you’re not willing at least you could have sense enough to pray that He’ll make you willing, right? And that’ll get you on the right road. Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness…” Who is filled?

Those that are hungry to know. They’re hungry after God. Another tip, when you’re reading the Bible, and by the way, I’m hoping next week to assemble an insert that we can give you that will have some Bible reading tips. We’re going to stay on this theme of Bible study because I think that’s the power of our church; that’s the power of the spiritual life. Let the Bible speak for itself when you read it. II Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Sometimes we over-spiritualize things and there are spiritual symbols in the Bible. Matter of fact, I think if you go to the Prophecy Code website www.prophecycode.com we’ve got some of our study notes there that free you can download it’s got Bible symbols and what they mean. This is for prophecy study, but some people so over-spiritualize the Bible. You know, it says “and he woke up in the morning”. Oh, what does that mean? What’s the spiritual meaning of that? I means he woke up in the morning and so people twist things around and I’ve heard some folks do some really bizarre crazy things with the Bible.

First when you read the Bible, read it for just its factual record of what is it saying and let it speak for itself. Also don’t read the Bible with preconceived ideas that you’re using it to prove what you already believe. Let the Bible decide what you believe. How many times have you met somebody who said, “I know I’m right. I’ve just got to find a verse to prove it.” And they enter into their Bible study searching not for what God says but what they want to prove. And you and I know that it is possible to butcher the Bible and different scriptures so that you could rearrange and cut and paste the verses and make it say what you want it to say. You ever seen one of those ransom notes that the FBI get and they don’t want to be able to trace it to a certain typewriter or certain handwriting so they go through a variety of magazines, they cut a word out here, they cut a word out there and they assemble a message from all these different magazine clippings and they’re all glued and taped together. You know what I’m talking about? That’s some people’s modus-operands for Bible study. They cut and paste, you can make it say anything when you do that.

Let it speak for itself and read and say what is it saying? Some of it is so plain it can’t be missed. I think it was Towser that said “The Bible is like a telescope. If a man looks through his telescope he sees worlds beyond. If he looks at his telescope he just sees a telescope.” The Bible is not a book to be looked at. It is something to be looked through. The world view that you have should be Bible based. Do you know what I mean when I say world view? It’s your philosophy for life. It’s what controls you. It’s the context for everything you believe. Before you have the Bible and before you have Christ, and by the way, don’t forget Jesus is the Word, you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know what you’re doing here, and you don’t know where you’re going. You can’t have context, you can’t have a world view unless you know something about where did I come from, what am I doing here, and where am I going? The Bible gives you all that.

It tells you the great scenario, the plan of salvation, what the purpose of life is. Amen? So let it speak. When you’re studying the Bible there’s a lot of different ways to approach it and I could take a lot of time going into this but sometimes you might want to study a book in the Bible. You might want to study a topic or a story. In your home Bible studies that you participate in whether you go to a home or open your home you know however the Lord leads you there’re a lot of different ways to do it. Some people just read through the Bible and they say we’ll stop verse by verse and try to understand it. That’s a very healthy way to study the Bible. In your personal Bible reading. Wait, I want to ask a question. How many of you, yes, I’m going to ask you to show me your hands, are involved in a regular, personal Bible study program? If that’s one verse a day or one chapter or reading through the Bible are you involved? If you didn’t raise your hand I hope you feel guilty. I want to stir up your spirit and if I’ve got to shame you a little to do it then forgive me, but you need to read your Bible. You need to make some commitment. It’s not too late. What’s the date? The seventh? It’s not too late to have a New Year’s Bible reading program. Say alright! And you’ve got to plan it. It doesn’t just happen unless you make time.

Say alright at this point in my daily schedule I’m going to read the Bible. Bible tapes you know I hear that more and more ministries aren’t even making cassette tapes anymore. Everything is on CD. Bible CDs. I’ve got the Bible on my computer in little mpg’s. I can download them onto my Palm Pilot and I’ve got this little stick when I’m on an airplane I can plug in and I can listen to some guy read the Bible. It takes one little battery and it goes for hours. There’re so many ways now to be able to read the Bible. There’s a program on the computer. While you’re sitting there at your computer and you’re doing something you can click it, it’ll read the Bible to you while you sit there. If you’re too lazy to read it yourself you’re without excuse, amen? It’s not like you can’t… “Oh, Doug, I can’t find a Bible anywhere.” Well, God would probably forgive you if you lifted a Gideon from a hotel room if you’d read it. I mean none of you have an excuse.

I’m not endorsing that, but believe me I know people in the Gideons and they sort of, they wink at that. That’s sort of why they’re there. But just read the Bible. When you’re reading consider the context of what you’re reading. That’s so important. The Bible, with the exception of Proverbs, is not a series of one liners. Some people study the Bible like that where they just read one verse and then they jump to another verse. Make sure you’re presenting that verse, read a little before and a little after and make sure what the context is. Sometimes you can’t even get the whole context just by reading before and after. You’ve got to read the whole chapter. Sometimes you don’t get the context unless you read the whole book because there’s a theme that the author has in the book and it helps in the context there as well. Sometimes you need to consider there’s going to be historical and geographical context.

Knowing where this happened, what the culture was, what the history was, that all plays into your Bible reading. It goes a long way… I remember reading in the Bible when Jesus said something about honoring your father and your mother, but you who say Corbin and He goes on. I’m going Corbin? Who’s Corbin? I don’t know what Corbin is. Well, I had to do a little studying to find out that in their culture there was a rite that they would dedicate their wealth instead of using it to support their parents in their old age they’d dedicate their wealth to the temple and they then weren’t required to take care of their parents because it was technically God’s property now. And see I had to find out what the culture was to understand that.

Then you read in the Bible where it says that they went from Thessalonica to Berea. Get out a map. They’ve got them free online. Back of my Bible I’ve got maps. A lot of Bibles have them. And say how far is that? And sometimes it’ll say that in two or three words and you don’t realize they went seventy miles in a day. They were tired. You read about where Samson carried the gates from Gath up to Hebron and you’re going how far did he carry those great big gates? That was quite a ways! Miles. You get your map out and get the context and understand what’s going on. It will really help you. Consider the language that it was written in. Sometimes when things are translated from one language to another there’s… How many of you speak more than one language?

Then you understand that some languages say things better than others and there are some languages it’s almost impossible to take a thought and communicate it exactly because the words don’t exist the same way. There’s little nuances of meaning. Understanding something of the languages will also help. Now start where you’re at. If you don’t have all that, don’t get discouraged. Furthermore when you’re arriving at truth in Bible study it tells us that you need to allow for two or three witnesses before you nail down a conclusion. In the mouth of two or three witnesses, II Corinthians 13:1, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established.” There are people who will read one verse in the Bible and they create a whole doctrine on one verse.

I frequently get a question about I Corinthians chapter 11 where it talks about women cutting their hair and covering their heads when they pray and some churches have made a doctrine about this and I’ll tell you it is a difficult passage when you read it the way it states and I’ve read all different kinds of commentaries on it and the jury is out. Well I don’t have to worry about it because I’m not a woman and I don’t have any hair. But in any event I tell people whenever I share my beliefs on that verse, I say, be careful to remember that there is no other verse that addresses this and so you don’t want to die on that mountain so to speak. You don’t want to build a whole doctrine on one verse. It may have been a custom. It helps when you get some supporting witnesses.

Some of you have done a little bit of carpentry and you know if you’re going to put a shelf up let’s suppose you start out by nailing a 2x4 parallel there on the wall. You put one nail in, you let go, right? What happens? That thing will spin around like a propeller. How much difference does that second nail make? Big difference, right? And then a third nail it’s not going anywhere especially if you don’t hit the sheetrock if you get it into the stud. And so every additional verse that you get in the Bible makes a world of difference. Harold, come here for a second. I don’t want to embarrass you. I’ve done this before, but some people haven’t seen it. I didn’t tell you I was going to do this, did I? I just grabbed you because you look like you’re healthy. Alright. Spread your feet, cross your arms. Cross your arms. There you go. I’m going to try and push you over with one finger. Don’t let me do it. I’ll break my finger.

Alright, now lift up one leg. Keep it up. Can you hold that? I’m going to draw a line for him and have him walk it! Okay. Thanks a lot. How much tougher would it be to push him over if he had three legs? See, so what the difference is, some people build a whole doctrine on just one verse and don’t do that. It’s dangerous. Make sure you get a lot of supporting witness. Some of the very popular false teachings in other churches they keep going back to one or two nebulous misunderstood verses and they build these very pillared doctrines on these verses and they neglect the weight of evidence where there are hundreds of verses on the other side of the equation. So make sure as you’re studying a point look for support through the Bible. Amen?

It’s good practice for Bible study. Isaiah 28:10, “Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” Running to and fro through the Bible comparing scripture with scripture, it will all work together to support what the truth is. You won’t be embarrassed if you study the Bible that way. Then of course avoid private interpretations. II Peter 1:20 and 21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Sometimes people get together with some verbose leader in a Bible study group and he just begins to share what he thinks a verse means and someone else says, “Well, I think this is what it means,” and “I feel in my heart it could mean this,” and you know, “because of a dream I had last night I think it means this.” And it’s sort of an ignorance orgy when they get together like that and they just start saying, “I think,” “What do you think,” and they don’t let the Bible speak for itself and they develop private interpretations.

People who don’t study with other people develop eccentric beliefs. Now I do believe that God can speak to people alone through His word, but it is almost without exception that people who only study by themselves, that don’t bounce their thoughts and their understanding off other people they can come up with some very bizarre ideas. I remember when I first read the place in the Bible where Jesus said, “If your right hand offends you, cut it off.” Well, I was being very literal back then and I struggled with that verse because I’d been a thief. I said, “I stole with my hand and I’ve got to cut it off.” And I labored what does that mean? Pluck out your eye if you’re offend with your eye. I was glad when some other Christians sat down with me and said, “Doug, it’s a principle of the heart that he’s talking about here.” Oh, man. Whew! But every now and then you’ll meet people who have kooky theology because they are a law unto themselves.

They develop these private interpretations. They don’t get involved in comparing scripture by scripture and don’t forget in the multitude of counsel there is safety. Find other people who are seasoned in the word that are able to teach and compare it with them. Acts 20:30 Paul warned, “And of your own selves will men arise, speaking perverse things,” meaning perverse teachings, “to draw away disciples after themselves.” Some people come up with private interpretations. Do you know why? Because if they don’t have something unique that nobody else has they won’t have a following. So in order to get a following they come up with some exotic doctrine and I could just go through a big list of people that are in the religious world out there and they’ve got their own pet doctrine trying to be unique, trying to be profound and it’s really to draw away disciples after themselves. “I’ve got something… I’ve got a revelation nobody else has. Follow me.”

Private interpretations. Avoid that. Acts 17:10-11 it talks about when the people of Berea, you know this verse. “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

We struggle I think in an age of biblical illiteracy. This is such an important thing for me to communicate to you because there are going to be a lot of false teachings in the last days and a little superficial shallow breezing through of the Bible is not going to prepare you to defend your faith against the very clever deceptions that the devil has and if you don’t think that the devil is going to use the Bible in the last days, did the devil use the Bible when he tempted Jesus? you’ve got to know your Bible better than the devil does because he’s got his advocates out there that are really… they know the Bible and they know how to twist it.

The Bible speaks about those who twist it to their own destruction. And yet there is an appalling Biblical ignorance that prevails not only in much of the Christian church, even in our church. Last night Karen played a tape for me and I said this is great I’ve got to share this with the congregation and so we typed this up so we could share it with you tonight. This is from a message, some of you have heard of Josh Harris. I think he’s the one that wrote that book, is he the one that wrote the book I Kissed Dating Good-bye? Yeah, same guy. And he’s relating a story to his audience about a backwoods preacher, a country preacher who is applying for a new position at a country church.

So this backwoods country preacher is applying to be pastor of a new church and he goes before the church search committee and they say, “Well, do you know your Bible?” And he says, “Yup.” And they say, “Well, okay then, tell us what’s your favorite book?” He said, “Mark.” And they asked, “What’s your favorite part?” He said, “The parables.” And they asked, “Well then, what’s your favorite parable?” He said, “The story of the good Samaritan.” Now do any of you know that’s not in Mark? And they said, “Could you please tell us the story?” He said, “Sure can. You see one day a man was traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem and he fell down and the thorns grew up and choked him, but he shook himself and he got up but he didn’t have any money and by chance he met the Queen of Sheba and she gave him a thousand talents of gold and a thousand changes of clothing so he jumped in his chariot and he rode furiously but he looked back and his hair got caught in a juniper tree and he became hung up in the tree. And he hung there for many days, but the ravens brought him bread to eat and water to drink.

So he ate five thousand loaves and two fish but one night while he was hanging there his wife Delilah came like a pillar of fire and cut off his hair and he fell on stony ground. And he got up and started to walk and it began to rain and it rained for forty days and forty nights and finally he stopped and he came to the city and he looked up and he saw Queen Jezebel sitting high in a castle window and he said, ‘Whosoever will, throw her down.’ So they threw her down. He said, ‘Throw her down again!’ So they threw her down seventy times seven. And of the fragments that remained they picked up twelve basketfuls not including women and children and they said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers so whose wife will she be on the judgment day?’” And the pastoral search committee sat there astounded and decided to hire the pastor on the spot. Because they didn’t know any better. I’m sorry; I hope you’ll indulge me. But you know that is sort of indicative.

A lot of people you could read that to them and they’d go, “Sounds biblical to me.” And they wouldn’t realize that it’s just a cartoon. And that’s the way it is with a lot of Bible study. You know what Paul said, I’m sorry Peter. I Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you might grow thereby.” Now my question for you is how long have you been a Christian and are you still drinking milk or eating meat? Those of you who have been Christians for years you ought to be into the meat of the word and I’m not talking about vegetarianism or eating meat now. We’re talking about meat that’s got grist and substance. Food, real food or just the bland pabulum that babies eat. The typical church today is getting 7-11 songs and baby food. We’ve talked about the music before, right? Where we ought to be singing the great anthems of truth and in the meat of the word especially here in the last days. And yet people who have been in the church for years are so easily deceived because they don’t know their Bibles. I Corinthians 3:1-2, “And, brethren, I could not speak unto you as spiritual but as carnal, even as unto babies in Christ.

I fed you with milk and not with meat; for up to now you’re not able to bear it, neither even now are you able.” And you wonder how much things have changed since the day Paul wrote that to the Corinthian church. He says, “I should be able to talk about the deep things of God with you, but most of you your eyes are glazed over.” I’m talking about what Paul said to Corinth. I know that isn’t true here. Hebrews 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers…” Why do we want to study the Bible? So we can teach! So we learn that we might communicate the same things to others and that’s how you disciple. “...though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles,” the basics, “of the oracles of God…” And if that’s where we’ve got to start then let’s rediscover the word, amen? “…and you’ve come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he’s a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

I remember hearing the story of the mutiny on the Bounty. Some of you are acquainted with that famous, epic story in history about how these sailors who were sailing with Captain Bligh, first mate was Christian, Fletcher Christian, they mutinied, put Bligh and a few of the officers in a boat (and they managed another epic journey to survive). And they knew the English ruled the sea that they had to find a place to just fall off the edge of the earth and Fletcher Christian was very clever. He found some old charts where this map had been noted during one of Captain Cook’s journeys of a very remote island and it was noted that it had fresh water and some food on the island. And he found the Pitcairn Island and went there. They took everything they could off the ship, the burned the ship hoping the English would not find it because it wasn’t a very good harbor there. Well, when the mutineers went on their mutiny they stopped along the way and they picked up I think nine women and a handful of men from Tahiti to help them man the ship and work on the island. And after a little while living on the island one of the sailors learned how to take some of the locally grown food and ferment it, distil it, make alcohol. Well, it wasn’t very long what could have been a paradise… They had water; there was an abundance of tropical fruit and food and fish.

They all began to fight and quarrel and argue and kill until it got to the place where every man on the island had killed the other men, most of them fighting over wives, until only one man was left, John Adams. And he sort of came to his senses and he’s now got, the island has got eight or nine women and twenty children and he’s isolated from the world and he’s got this tribe to take care of and he realized that the debauchery that had destroyed them all had to change. While he was fishing around in Captain Bligh’s chest he went down to the bottom, which he thought he’d done before, but instead of hitting the bottom it was actually the cover of the Bible, great big sea captain’s Bible. He thought it was the bottom of the chest. He pulled it out and he began to read the Bible. He realized that God spoke to him. He went through a dramatic conversion, and he began to read the Bible to everybody on the island, his big extended family. To this day everybody on Pitcairn is a Christian. There’s no drinking, they have no jail, it is a place that has become a little piece of paradise and most of them are Seventh-day Adventists. Did you know that?

One of the miracles is they read the Bible, the learned the Sabbath truth, and they without any scholars telling them if they read the Bible for itself when Seventh-day Adventist missionaries came there, there was very little they had to teach them. They pretty much had accepted it all. They said, “We believe the Bible.” They said, “Well, that’s what we teach.” And everything just fit right into place. But they matured, they got through all of the fighting and stuff when the just started reading the Bible. The word of God is the rock on which the wise man builds. The Bible is more than a book that you read. It’s a book that reads you. Now I’m trying to stir you up. I don’t know if I’m getting anywhere. I want to encourage you to get involved in a home Bible study group. There are a number of people in our church that are doing this right now. Matter of fact, I’m going to ask some of them to come. Jason, are you nearby? Jason or, here, Jason, come on up here.

Lori, are you or Dave willing to say something? Karen, why don’t you come up for just a second? Can I have a microphone, Jim? Just grab a handheld. We’ve got a number of families in our church and people that are involved in weekly home Bible study and I know there are a number of others here I’m not even mentioning, but I just called a few last night. I knew this woman here and so I said, “Would you mind?” What happens every Monday night? “I go to Bible study.” Sometimes it’s at the Batchelor home. “Yeah, sometimes. I started a Bible study group at our home about six or seven years ago, ladies. And we have been going ever since and right now we’re studying the book of Revelation and we also share prayer requests and that’s probably been the most solidifying aspect of our time together is not only studying the word of God and learning more of He’s saying to us, but being able to pray for each other and it’s so exciting to have a prayer request and then the very next day start calling everybody and say hey, by the way, the Lord answered that prayer and this is how He answered it. So we’ve been very, very blessed and it’s really pulled our group together very closely.” Alright. We also in your Bible study it moves from place to place every week. They sort of have this secret, you never know where they’re going to be next.

They all call, so it doesn’t even have to be at the same place every week. “We rotate houses throughout the month.” And the last Bible study was at the Cheesecake Factory. “That’s right.” So it can be fun. You know it develops social bonds. Thank you, Mrs. Batchelor. David, tell us what you’re doing. “We meet on Wednesdays from seven to eight and we try to keep it real close to an hour. At this time we’re studying ways to memorize texts and one of the keys is to carry them around with you and so this is a verse pack and we got this from FAST Bible lessons, and I think you may have given those to somebody. So we’re finding that to be a real joy.” Bible memorization. “Yeah.” Amen. “Yeah, I just really encourage everybody that has been in one or is at all inclined to being part of a study, it’s a real charging of your spiritual batteries. It keeps you accountable to each other.” Amen. And it brings the people together too. Thank you very much, David.

Jason, your Bible study ended recently but tell us what happened last year because your house is under construction now and so you’re going to be part of a new one. “Well, when we first started we intended it only to be with one person and I do believe that was Albert Colmenares and from there on out another person heard about it. We were basically going over just the fundamentals and Jason Antey started taking part and then we started praying why don’t we make it bigger? Lord, can you please bring people and make it bigger. Next thing you know we’re taking a picture up here with twelve people.” Amen. “And it happened really quickly. And not only did we get to know the Lord better and know our Bibles better, but we also obtained good friends through it whom we still keep in contact with.” Amen. So it develops friendships and relationships. “Yes, it sure does.” Thank you very much. I just wanted them… You can take that back to Jim there.

I just wanted you to get a little sampling of what’s happening. You have a card in your bulletin, a Bible study card. If you’re willing to open your home and host a Bible study we have some leaders in this department in our church that will help you to facilitate. If you would like to be part of a Bible study group would you check that? We want to help make this happen. There may be some of you who say I’d like to be part of a study group, but I don’t know what I should study or if there’s a book or a topic or what resources are available. We have all that. There is so much stuff. Amazing Facts has got a warehouse full of things that you can start with in personal Bible study. But one hour a week. Find a group. You know people end up flocking together and they make new friends and that’s what gives a church strength is when the fibers overlap it’s what gives it strength. It’s when the roots interact with each other and we need this. It needs to be more than coming together once a week. Amen? And if our relationships and if our church is welded together based on let’s get together and find out what God says, let’s find out what God wants, there’s so many other fringe benefits and blessings connected with that. How many of you are praying and you’re thinking I think I’d like to be part of a weekly small group or Bible study group?

Let me see your hands. I’m looking for commitments. Praise the Lord. After our service today I’m hoping that you will take… sermon is not over yet… After our service today I’m hoping that you’ll take your cards, give them to the ushers that are at the door. Now I’m going to go out on a limb just a little farther. What Bible version should I read? Have any of you, maybe you’re thinking of buying a new Bible. I’m not going to dictate to you that you should read from any particular version. Some translations are better than others. As you know when I preach to you I’m reading from the New King James Version. When I listen to the Bible at home I listen to the King James Version. There are some benefits to other versions.

The New American Standard Version is another good version. The further away that we get from the actual meaning with some of these paraphrase Bibles I become a little more uncomfortable. I think we ought to try to memorize scripture every day as David was just saying. “Thy word I have hid in my heart.” We’re told in the Bible that we should meditate on the word of God. There is spirit and life in the words and it will give you new life, friends. Amen? I heard a story one time about a man who was walking. He dreamed he was walking out in the desert and he heard a voice and the voice said, “Pick up some stones and put them in your pockets.” He didn’t understand it, but he obeyed and then later when he got home in his dream he pulled the stones out of his pockets and they were jewels and he was happy and sad. He was happy he’d picked up some. He was sad he hadn’t picked up more. There may be a day when your Bibles are taken away. And all you’re going to have is what you’ve stored in your heart. I have a suspicion when the devil came to Jesus in the wilderness He didn’t have a backpack full of scrolls.

That when He said, “It is written,” He was quoting from what was in His heart. I have a suspicion that on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached he didn’t have a scroll in front of him, but the Holy Spirit brought to his remembrance words that he had studied formerly. You may be brought before kings and rulers to defend your faith. They may not hand you a Bible. We’re going to need to know how to give an answer for what we believe. Amen, friends? It’s in the word of God. You know I’m out of time here and so I’m going to close with a couple of quotes. Great Controversy page 51, “Satan well knew that the Holy Scriptures would enable men to discern his deceptions and to withstand his power. It was by the word that even the Savior of the world had resisted his attacks. At every assault Christ presented the shield of truth saying, ‘It is written.’ To every suggestion of the adversary He opposed in the wisdom and power of the word.” Notice this, “In order for Satan to maintain his sway over men and establish authority he must keep them in ignorance of the scriptures.” The devil wants to keep us in ignorance of the scriptures.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote this poem. “We search the world for truth/We cull the good, the pure, the beautiful/From craven stone and written scroll/From all old flower fields of the soul/And weary seekers of the best/We come back laden from our quest/To find that all the sages said/Is in the Book our mothers read.” It’s not very far from thee, the word, but we’ve got to reach out and read it. We’ve got to gather the manna, amen, before it disappears. I’d like to encourage you, urge you, plead with you, beseech you, that if you, and if you’re too busy to be involved in Bible study then you’re too busy. What good is it if you become the richest body in the graveyard? The thing is a relationship with the Lord. Faith, a knowledge of Christ, victory over sin, sanctification, they all trace back to the word of God and so I’d like to commend to you this book and encourage you to get involved besides our weekly Sabbath worship. Prayer meeting is a starting point, but get involved with a small group where you get together and you build relationships and you study the word of God together. Amen? Let’s turn to our closing hymn 271 “Break Thou the Bread of Life”.

Break Thou the bread of life, Dear Lord, to me, As Thou didst break the loaves Beside the sea; Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word.

How many of you would like to just lift your hand before the Lord and say, “Lord, I maybe have taken Your word for granted. I want to get to know You better. I want to know the truth that sets us free. I want to have the power of Your word in my life that I might reflect Jesus and share the truth with others and avail ourselves this year better of what the dynamo is in the Christian life, the Bible.” Is that your prayer? To get to know Him better and to read the Bible. Let’s sing verse four together and then we’ll have our benediction.

Spirit and life are they, Words Thou dost speak; I hasten to obey, But I am weak; Thou art my only help, Thou art my life; Heeding Thy holy Word I win the strife.

Loving Father, dear Lord, we are so grateful that You have placed within our hands an owners manual. It is the Manufacturer’s instructions. You know, Lord, what we need not only for this life but for preparation for eternal life. I pray that we can be willing to turn down the volume of all the different voices that often distract us and to turn up the volume in Your word to be willing to hear what the Spirit says to us and to the church. Forgive us, Lord, for our neglect. Forgive us for our ignorance of Your word. Lord, I pray that we’ll do all we can humanly to get to know You better, to have Jesus within us. Help us to make sure that we reserve time, sacred time, not only on the Sabbath day, but through the week, for the reading of the word personally and even to gather with others of like faith to study to know You better. Bless this church that we might be a people of the book if nothing else. And thank You for hearing this prayer because we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God bless you. You might be seated. And don’t forget on your way out take your Bible study cards if you have filled that out and give it to the ushers that are at the door.

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