This sermon is from the series THINGS JESUS TAUGHT US and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on November 10, 2013 by Pastor Paul Mims. You can listen to this sermon at www.csbccl.org
The first time I remember seeing a Bible was the big family Bible in our home. It was a thick one and not very large in width. I can remember our family seated around the fireplace in the evening reading that book.
As a child, I remember that on the pulpit in our church was a large pulpit Bible. When our pastor would preach, he would open that big Bible. It had such significance to me that he was going to tell us what the book said. I knew that it was important just by the way it looked.
I do not remember having a Bible of my own until I was an older child. I remember that it was one of those little dime store Bibles with a red color all around the edges of the pages. This became a very precious treasure to me. The first time I remember seeing a Testament was when the Gideons came to our grammar school and passed out little brown New Testaments. It became a real treasure to me. My church taught me to read the Bible for myself. I didn’t know where to start or how to understand it. I didn’t know what any of the books meant. I discovered that some of the words in the New Testament were written in red and that these are the words of Jesus. Then I really wanted to know what he said.
When I became a teenager, I was taught to read the Bible daily and to have a quiet time of prayer and meditation. Our Sunday School quarterly had daily Bible readings and we had to fill out the six point record system and indicate if we had read the Bible daily that week. There were selected passages for us to read with a brief synopsis of the key ideas. I found that these passages spoke to me and helped me in my daily life and I wanted more.
When I was fourteen, I sensed the claim of God upon my life and that He was saying to me, “I want you to give your life to the proclaiming of this book.” I remember how my heart was warmed and my mind was electrified.
Then as a growing Christian I was taught that you could take the Bible and show individuals how to become believers in Christ. It was a great thrill to show others how to become Christians.
When I went to college I took a survey course of the Bible and it all began to come together in my understanding. The course was THE STORY OF GOD’S REDEEMING LOVE and outlined the Bible this way:
Redemption Needed – Genesis 1-3:14
Redemption Promised – Genesis 3:15-Genesis 11
Redemption Planned – Genesis 12 – Malachi
Redemption Provided – The Gospels
Redemption Shared – Acts
Redemption Explained – The Epistles
Redemption Realized – Revelation
Then came the Seminary years and I gained a deeper understanding by studying the biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, historical backgrounds, critical analysis, theology, and individual books of the Bible.
Then came the highest privilege of my life – that of proclaiming the whole counsel of God to His people. Also, I have had the privilege of recording the King James version of the Bible on Cassette Tape, CDs, and a solar computer chip, for national and international distribution.
I have said all of this to indicate how precious the Word of God can become to you. It is my responsibility to teach and preach the Word to you that you may consider it a treasure in your life.
I. THE WAY JESUS LOOKED AT SCRIPTURE “Do not think that I am come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (vv.17-18)
The “Law” or “Teachings” represented the Torah or the first five books of the Bible which the Jews understood to have been written by Moses. The “Prophets” represented the rest of the Old Testament which comprised the “Bible” in the times of Jesus. Jesus said this will remain the Word of God as long as the heavens and the earth remain. Not one “jot” or “tittle” shall be changed – meaning a period or comma in the Hebrew language.
It would be interesting to know the process that Jesus had in childhood and youth in coming to know and love the scriptures. He wanted everyone to know that he revered the scriptures so highly that his mission was to fulfill them and not to abolish them.
We are living in a day when people are trying to abolish the scriptures. I was reading that a professor of law at Harvard, Dr. Howard Benton, developed a thesis about religion and law. He said that in the western world we are losing the impact of our laws and our judicial system because behind our laws there has always been the Judeo-Christian ethic. But in our society, there is the diminishing of the role of religion, and therefore, the laws themselves are in an empty vacuum without the authority of scripture and religion behind them. Behind our laws is the moral law of God. But in a day when the concept of God is being taken away, our society is becoming more secularized.
Notice that Jesus said: “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v.19)
The Ten Commandments call for respect for God and his Name, for God’s Day, respect for parents, respect for the sanctity of life, respect for property, respect for the worth of the individual, respect for truth, and respect for oneself. These are the foundational principles of our society. Jesus came to make all of these more real and personal for each of us.
Jesus also taught us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (v.20)
In the time of Jesus, the religious leaders had added several hundred rules and regulations of their own to which the people had to obey. What Jesus is saying here is that Christian discipleship involves far more than just keeping rules and regulations. In verses 5:21-48, he amplifies this statement: “Not only murder, but hatred is prohibited; before you give to God, get right with your brother; not just adultery, but lusting after another is prohibited.” These are just a few of his amplifications of the law.
From the time when Jesus was a child and talked with the elders of the Temple about the things of God to the times when he quoted the Old Testament, he revered the scriptures and lived by them.
II. THE WAY WE SHOULD LOOK AT THE BIBLE
We should see the Bible as DIVINELY INSPIRED. It is the Word of God handed down to us and was inspired by the Holy Spirit. You can read it and know that it is different from any other kind of book. I have on my desk a copy of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. I pick it up and read it and much of it is ethical teachings, but it does not have the quality of Divine Inspiration about it. But as I read the Bible it connects with my spirit and nourishes me in my relationship with the Lord.
There were four basic criteria for including the books we have in the New Testament. First, it had to be written by an Apostle who saw the resurrected Jesus or an associate of an Apostle such as Luke. Second, the content of the book had to have the mark of the Holy Spirit upon it. Third, it had to have universal appeal. Fourth, it had to contain evidence that it was God-breathed.
We should see the Bible as INFALLIBLE IN DIVINE TRUTH. This means that the Divine Truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit is incapable of error. The skeptics have assaulted the Bible as a flawed and human book that has nothing to say to our culture today. Spiritual blindness such as that is what Jesus indicated would have no part in the kingdom of heaven. Man had much rather follow his own wisdom than that revealed in Holy Scripture. Truth found anywhere in the world has been put there by God. Without understanding the Bible man has fallen into a crater of errors.
Once, the Devil was walking along with one of his cohorts. They saw a man ahead of them pick up something shiny. “What did he find?” asked the cohort.
“A piece of the truth,” the Devil replied. “Doesn’t it bother you that he found a piece of the truth?” asked the cohort. “No,” said the Devil, “I will see to it that he makes a religion out of it.” We should see the Bible as AUTHORITATIVE FOR OUR LIVES. It is a treasure of divine instruction. When we read the Bible with a desire to know God we should select a passage of scripture and ask, “What does God want to say to me through this scripture and what do I have to do to implement this in my life?”
To answer these questions I must read with understanding. That is, I should not make this scripture say what I want it to say. The Bible is not magical, it is spiritual. It should not be used as a roulette wheel – just opening the Bible where it falls and putting my finger on a verse and interpreting it out of context.
We must read the Bible with a prayer, “Lord, help me to listen to what you want to say to me.” Sometimes the Lord will speak to you directly out of the scripture and you will know its application for your life. At other times the answer will come through meditation as you internalize the scripture.
We must PUT WHAT WE READ IN THE BIBLE INTO PRACTICE.
Ridgecrest is our national Baptist assembly, nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. All summer long, every year, thousands of Christians go to Ridgecrest for training, inspiration, Bible study, and challenge. I have been there several times.
Joseph Smith relates the following story: “A few years ago, during a conference, people began to notice a man hanging around the grounds. He did not look like he had just stepped out of your typical Sunday School class. His clothes were tattered and torn; they looked like something even the Salvation Army would throw away. His face had not been visited by a razor for a long time. His shoes could best be described by the title of Hymn No. 2 in the book – “Holy, Holy, Holy”! And worst of all, there was the BO. Let’s just say that when you got close, you did not get a whiff of Chanel No. 5. This young man was clearly “not one of us”, not the kind of person you normally see at Christian campgrounds.
What did he do? Not much, really. He did not approach anyone. He did not harass anybody. He did not ask for money. He mostly just hung around. When chapel services were held, he would walk across the front and sit down. When classes were under way, he would lie down on the grassy slopes nearby. And when meals were being served, he would stand on the dining hall porch, not far from the long lines of people clutching their meal tickets. No begging, no demands, just standing around.
At the end of the week they announced that there would be a special speaker for the closing service, and that he would speak on the theme, “Inasmuch as you have not done it unto one of the least of these, you have not done it unto me.” They promised that the audience would truly remember this message. The hymns were sung, the prayers were prayed, the choir sang, and the special speaker approached the podium. Who do you think was that special speaker? Who brought that memorable message?
That scruffy young man! That hang-around bum with the worn-out clothing, the messy beard, and the offensive BO! It turns out that he was a young pastor who had been asked to play a part by the organizers of the conference. And his message stung as he said to the crowd, “No one tried to include me in anything. No one asked me if I needed help. No one invited me to the dining hall. No one sat down to listen to my story. A few put religious tracts into my hand. One or two pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to me. But most of you turned your eyes and pretended not to see me. My appearance offended you, and you left me out.”
Could that be said of us? Our righteousness must exceed the studying of the Bible and keeping of all the external expectations of the Christian life.
Jesus wants us to do what he would do in living out the gospel. It is fruitless to read the Bible and not do what it says. But if we truly become PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, the joys and rewards of the Christian life are ours in abundance.
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!