The Ultimate Resource, Part 1

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: Commander William R. Anderson and his crew were the first to reach 90-degrees north . . . under the ice. The trip, dubbed "Operation Sunshine," was made possible by a technological marvel, the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. Under hundreds of feet of ice, the Nautilus' nuclear reactor not only powered the vessel but enabled the crew to have the filtered air and water needed to reach their destination. Moreover, unable to surface for direction, they traversed the dangerous waters using a new invention called the gyrocompass. On August 3, 1958, at 11:15 P.M., Anderson announced, "For the world, our country, and the Navy - the North Pole." The ultimate vessel in the world had enabled humans to accomplish what had been deemed the impossible, reach the geographic underside of the North Pole.

The church is something like a nuclear submarine, submerged in the waters of a world steeped in sin and darkness. And just as water shouldn't infiltrate the hull of a ship, so the world shouldn't infiltrate the church.

On our long, often-dark journey through these troubling waters, the Bible is as crucial to us as the gyrocompass was to the USS Nautilus, because without it we would be lost. Just as the gyrocompass would have done the crew no good were it not used, the Bible cannot help us find direction unless we take advantage of it. We can have it on our shelves, or even on our home computers, but unless we open it up and let it into our hearts, we will be without direction and we will drown in the sinful waters of the world.

In this article, we'll look at what God has given us in His Word and what we can expect if we make its study a central part of our lives.

Get Exercise
My family is pretty good about exercise. Karen and I belong to a gym that we use! You see, at the start of every year, enrollments at health clubs spike. To compensate for holiday food-induced bulges, and with the best of intentions, people sign up in droves. Only problem is, most rarely show up to use their memberships. It's as if they think that a club membership is a substitute for actually exercising.

In the same way, people often think that membership in a church is a substitute for reading the Bible. It's not. You need a personal, abiding relationship with Jesus, and your Bible is the number one catalyst that will enable you to have just that. But you have to read it!

I know from personal experience. Without my own study of the Bible, I might still be lost, perhaps steeped in the teachings of some New Age cult. It was the Bible that turned me into a Christian, which is kind of a miracle considering that I was a high school dropout from a Jewish family full of cynicism about Christianity. I'd been taught evolution and believed that the Bible was full of fiction and fantasy. Yet in a cave, all alone, I picked up the Bible and this dynamic, powerful book changed my life.

A Little History
In the beginning, the messages of God to man were communicated orally. God spoke to Adam face to face in the garden of Eden, thus Adam received revelation straight from the mind of His Creator. In turn, Adam shared this knowledge with Seth, and Seth passed it down to Lamech, who passed it on to Noah. Though sin had infected the world, Adam and his descendents possessed brains fashioned from the hands of God - more powerful and sophisticated than any supercomputer. Prior to the Flood, when lives were measured by hundreds of years, humans had a vast capacity to remember virtually everything said, heard, and seen. (Today we would call it photographic memory.)

Yet after the Flood, something different started happening. The lifespan of humans began to shorten dramatically. The environment, and subsequently, lifestyles began degenerating. In short, the ability of men to remember God's oracles had become severely limited. By the time of Moses, after years of His people being held bondage in a pagan-infested nation, God saw that is was necessary to codify His messages to humanity. As a result, Moses became God's first scribe, and Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and perhaps Job were written in the wilderness after the Jews' emancipation from Egypt.

Transcribed and copied on paper, leather, or clay tablets, the first collections of Scripture were all written out by scribes. (Of course, the original print of the Ten Commandments was written by the finger of God in stone.) These rare copies (each one written out by hand!) were treated like precious jewels. To have Scripture was such a privilege; it's something we can't appreciate today. Then, over 500 years ago, Johann Gutenberg developed the printing press, enabling the mass production of Bibles.

A Little Warning
Never has there been a time in history when we have had more of the Word of God available to us and more commentaries to dissect, critique, and explain it. In fact, I have a "pocket PC" with multiple versions of the Bible, along with Bible dictionaries and inspired commentary. I can even listen to the Bible and watch Bible videos on my small handheld computer. Moreover, the internet offers free Bible software and even free electronic Bibles.

Are we taking all of this for granted? Frankly, it's frightening to think that we have so much knowledge now, because won't we be more accountable for this informational wealth? I think so. We have no excuse really to be ignorant of the Word. So you're much better off clinging to and treasuring at least a few verses than to be surrounded with so much Scripture and never letting any of it reach your heart.

The old saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is true - the church is more biblically illiterate than ever in its history, despite the proliferation of the Bible. It's as though we're walking through a Bible buffet, but all we want are a few carrots. A Bible sitting on your shelf at home isn't a substitute for reading it. And unless we read it, the Lord cannot use it to change our lives. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).

The Sword of Christ
The Word is a powerful weapon. Every time Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He quoted from Scripture, saying "It is written." It's evident from this exchange, and others, that Jesus had memorized considerable amounts of Scripture: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11). And He used this mastery to fight off Satan's attacks.

As with Jesus, so with us; that is, we must use the Bible to fight off temptation. Revelation 19:11 declares, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True." This passage closely parallels Christ and the Word itself. It is a vision of the Word. The passage continues, "And in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."

Who is on the white horse? Jesus or the Word? In fact, there isn't even a difference in that the Word is the expression of Christ. Jesus Himself is the Word. Does the Word of God make war? Jesus answers, "I came not to bring peace but a sword."

The Bible is a weapon that we can use to invade the devil's territory. In Revelation 13, we learn that the beast received a deadly wound by the sword. What is that sword? The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. And Ephesians 6:17 affirms, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" - our primary weapon against the enemy.

The Light of God
We live in a very dark world. Even if you stood outside on the equator in the middle of a desert underneath a clear blue sky at noon, it would be utterly dark compared to heaven. It's so dark here that we can't navigate our way around without clear direction from God. The Bible presents that direction. It is the light that illuminates our path. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). Furthermore, "For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light" (Proverbs 6:23).

A few years ago, I was able to experience absolute darkness. I like caving, and I went to explore a place that advertised itself as the "Endless Caverns." Of course, the cave isn't endless, but it does go hundreds of feet below ground. As we were making our way down, the tour guide said, "If you want to know what absolute darkness is ..." and then she shut off the lights. It was surreal; it looked the same whether I had my eyes closed or open. After a little while sitting there in darkness, I took out my keychain that had a little LED light. When I turned it on, it was like one of those giant spotlights at the grand opening of a new store. That little bit of light made such a tremendous difference when compared to the abject darkness within the bowels of the earth.

That's what the Bible is like in this dark world. It's a giant spotlight advertising heaven. It always encourages me to meet someone who has taken that advertising hook, line, and sinker. They don't know anything about Christianity, but when they get a hold of a Bible, they say, "Wow! This is really good stuff! Now everything is starting to make sense. Life really does have purpose!"

An Enduring Truth
Psalms 119:89 proclaims, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." In a world full of uncertainty, Scripture does not change, no matter what happens on earth or in heaven. "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever" (Isaiah 40:8).

Honey is an animal byproduct that never goes bad. Sure, it might crystallize, but unlike food kept in vinegar, it will never spoil. It is a natural preservative that can be reconstituted simply by warming it in hot water. Frankly, it's quite a miraculous feat. The Bible says, "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103). The Word of God, the law of the Lord, is sweeter than the honeycomb. In Ezekiel 3:3, God instructs the prophet, "Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness."

The Frenchman Voltaire was a skeptic who didn't think Christianity would last long and that the Bible would soon be an extinct form of literature. How ironic that in the exact spot where Voltaire made that bold prediction sits a Bible warehouse - churning out Bibles! It doesn't matter how often it's attacked, the Bible is "an anvil that has worn out many hammers." Jesus assures us, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35). And Jesus Himself is that Word, and like Him, the Bible is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Words of Life
The words in the Bible are not just words in the Bible. You might see black and maybe red ink on white paper or even just pixels on a computer screen, but it is much more than that. It is a message that is made of spirit and life with an unexplainable vitality. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63 NKJV).

When you read the Word, it comes alive. It's real, and it's unlikely that anyone could ever open it - with sincere desire - and never get something out of it. A.W. Towser said, "A loving Personality dominates the Bible walking among the trees of the Garden and breathing fragrance over every scene. Always a living Person is present speaking, pleading, loving, working and manifesting Himself." When people read God's Word with their hearts open to hear what the Spirit is saying, it becomes a living testament to Christ.

Sometimes we get caught up in what Jesus looked like. We see pictures, and we begin to form our impression of His looks. But is anyone exactly sure what color His eyes were? Or how tall He was, or how much He weighed? It doesn't matter, because what changed the world were His words. Soldiers were sent to arrest Jesus, and they came back saying, "Never [a] man spake like this man" (John 7:46). It's the Word that changed everything, and that Word is Christ. Moreover, Christ is eternity; thus the only book that will make a restful pillow when you're dying is the Bible. Every other book will be like stone.

Food for the Soul
We usually don't miss too many meals. If we miss one, we're not going to miss the second because we get very hungry. My question is, do you hunger for God's soul food? "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts" (Jeremiah 15:16).

During a checkup, a doctor might ask you about your appetite. Why? Because a lack of appetite could mean something serious is wrong with you. It's a sign of bad health. Likewise, it could be a sign of bad spiritual health if you have no appetite for the bread of life. "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

People also develop a taste for what they eat. As much as I travel, I still get surprised at what people call food. You eat some exotic Asian food and it scorches your plumbing from bow to stern. How did they ever get to a place where they relish that? On one Pacific island, they eat a pounded root extract called saguaro, and to me it is just so bland. Yet they crave it just thinking about it. And in Germany, they eat those strange sauerkraut dishes. In my opinion, it's like intestinal torpedoes, but everybody has their favorite peculiar food, including me.

And that's because we eat it. It is a part of our lives and culture. We force broccoli or even brussel sprouts down our kids' throats, hoping they'll develop a taste for it. In fact, I eat some things now that I hated as a kid. You might be saying, "Doug, I have no appetite for the Bible." Read it anyway, and as you read it, you'll eventually start developing a taste for it and ultimately crave it. "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).

Harmonious and Accurate
The Bible is a miracle in so many ways. For instance, though written over a period of 1,600 years by about 40 different authors - on three different continents, speaking three different languages - it's completely harmonious. Written by kings and peasants, with a broad spectrum of education in between, it delivers one message and one voice. Moreover, in Revelation, you'll find reference to Genesis, and in Genesis you'll find a reference to Jesus. It's so harmonious that it overlaps constantly. It's like gazing into the electrical room of a skyscraper and seeing thousands of little wires crisscrossing everywhere connecting every function in the building.

It's also a miracle of accuracy. Sin entered the world because man doubted God's words; we shouldn't make the same mistake today by doubting the accuracy of the Bible, especially with so much proof on its side. For instance, Daniel prophesized the correct sequence and time of the Babylonian fall from power, along with the rise and fall of the Medo-Persia, Greek, and Roman empires. He also correctly predicted that Rome would be split up into 10 separate nation states.

Consider some of the amazing Bible passages that perfectly foretold the first coming of Jesus and their fulfillments. The Dead Sea scrolls testify to the fact that these prophecies were written well before Jesus was born. Moreover, they all came to pass. The accuracy of the Bible is miraculous. Why neglect it when it is so precise regarding the first coming of Jesus? Don't you think we can trust the prophesies regarding the second coming?

The Word Is Proven
President Woodrow Wilson said, "I am sorry for men who do not read the Bible every day. I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and the pleasure." That's what happens when you read about God supernaturally intervening in the affairs of men to accomplish His redemptive purposes. The greatest testimony to the Bible is the way it changes lives.

I never cease to marvel at the transformation in people when they pick up a Bible. These people's lives were a total mess, but when they started reading the Bible, they turned around. I know that feeling, because it happened to me. Drug abusers become clean, marriages are restored, and alcohol and gambling addicts are freed.

Why? It was the Word. It's the anchor of our souls and the bread that comes down from heaven. Christ said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." We need to learn to love that bread, more than the unhealthy food this world has to offer. The Bible says, "Love Me and keep My commandments." You can't obey Jesus if you don't love Him. You can't love Him if you don't know Him. And you will never know Him unless you take time to know Him.

The Bible is the primary way that God reveals Himself to fallen man. Maybe you are studying your Bible, but you're just picking up a few crumbs that fall from the children's table. Maybe you're not studying at all. Whatever you do to increase your time in the Word is going to create a positive blessing for you spiritually.

But you need to choose to do it. If you join a health club, it's going to cost you something. It will cost you time and money that you can't spend elsewhere. You'll have to give up something, but it will be worth it. It's the same with the Bible. Don't neglect His Word in preference for such trivial, passing things like television. God is saying to you, "Do you really want to know Me? My promise is, ‘You'll find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart.' " He's not very far away - however far away your nearest Bible is. If you really want to get to know God better, ask Him for help. The devil is never more afraid than when you drop to your knees and pick up God's Word.

If you're not part of a weekly Bible study group, I'd like to encourage you to join one. Just take an hour, once a week, to get together with others of like faith and read the Word of God together. It will do wonders for your spiritual health. Not only is it a great means of strengthening and fortifying your own soul, but it has tremendous evangelistic potential because you've got friends and neighbors whom you could bring.

Yes, it's a cold and dark world out there, and it's easier to get lost in it than it would be under the North Pole in a nuclear submarine. But God has given us a never failing gyrocompass in His Word, and if we read it - with a desire to follow it and know the God who inspired it - we will have a sure guide, one that will never let us go astray, and one more powerful and effective that all the nuclear submarines in the world.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." - 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

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