27 Jun Christians Might Be Crazy #5 – Authority
– All right, this will be a fun one. Here’s today’s sermon. We’re gonna talk about authority and this is a quote from one of our focus groups, “I don’t share the beliefs that the Christian faith tells me I should.” How did we arrive at this? I want to figure out what the primary objections and questions were regarding Christianity. So we had random digital dialed phone calls to, I think it was 913,000 people if my memory is correct, boiled it down to a thousand people, interviewed them, found the top seven objections and questions regarding Christianity. This one was number six. It was the issue of authority. Wanted to then figure out and find out what the specific thoughts were surrounding and regarding these issues. So focus groups, eight of them, were commissioned with the facilitator in four major U.S. cities. One of them was right here in Phoenix and this is a statement, a quote from one of the participants. The basic question that we’re answering and asking today is do you recognize any authority beyond yourself? Do you recognize any authority that you will listen to, trust, yield to, submit to, bend the need to, bow the head to, submit the mind to, is there anyone or anything beyond you that is in authority over you? And here are some quotes from the focus groups regarding the Bible. One man in San Francisco says, “I don’t care.” Speaking of the Bible. “I don’t care what the Bible is telling you to do. What do you feel internally?” How many of you have only done what you feel internally and it didn’t go well? Amen, amen. How many of you have done that? We’ve all done that. Well, it felt good and then it wrecked my life. What do you actually believe? And then go with that. Be true to yourself. So we’re talking about allegiance and alliance, is it to God? Do I trust God? Or do I trust me? He says, a little bit of potty mouth, “Screw this whole higher power that you think is telling you to do something. I want you to do what you feel is right.” That’s a statement. There’s a woman in Austin says, “In Christianity, you’re essentially closing off your common sense and closing down your ability to think and you’re worshiping an idea or a book or a thought. Christianity itself is based on the idea that you can’t trust yourself because you are bad.” Is that true? Totally. Right? You know why sometimes, little secret, sometimes you feel bad, you know why? You’re bad, okay. Simplify all of this for you. How many of you have learned that the most dangerous person in your life is you? How many of you have learned that you’re the cause of your problems? You’re not the solution. How many of you you’ve gone with what you thought was right and your way didn’t work? Goes on to say, “Common sense, your primal feelings, your primal actions, your primal desires.” She says, “Sadly, the Bible says can’t be trusted.” How many of you don’t want a roommate like that? Right, I would sleep with a cap on, one eye open and 911 on speed dial and a hand gun under my pillow ’cause we’re in Arizona. If I had a roommate that I said, “Well, how do you make your decisions?” Primal urges, primal instincts, primal desires. Rut row, right. Now, and then what happens is if we live out of our instincts, we harm each other because we’re selfish and we have brokenness and the world is a flawed place. So the question ultimately comes down to this. Do you recognize any external authority beyond yourself? And the conversation came to the Bible. I interviewed the facilitator of the focus groups and what she noted was that most people in the focus groups having these few hour long conversations, they had very little and minimal Bible knowledge which I totally understand. Maybe they knew that, you know, David was a little guy, took down Goliath, the big guy that, you know, Jonah was in a fish for a couple of days or that little kids love Jesus. But other than a few stories that they picked up, you know, perhaps from their childhood, there was very little understanding or awareness of the Bible. That makes sense to me, that was my story. How many of you grew up in a home that had a Bible that you never opened? That was me. We had a huge Bible in my house when I was a kid, huge. We had a coffee table and a Bible on it that was as big as the coffee table. It was like two coffee tables and on the front of the Bible was hippie feathered hair, Toga dress, Birkenstock, hippie Jesus on the front. I of course never opened it. It’s like, this is not my end zone. Hanging out with sheep, wearing a dress. Anyways, and so I never opened it up and also as a kid, I thought it’s so big. What am I gonna do? If I sit down and put it on my lap, I’ll probably break a leg or cut off circulation to my lower extremities and this was not a book you were supposed to read. It was more like a lucky rabbit’s foot, right. Or a boyfriend with a job. It’s something superstitious, right? Just there in case you need it, okay. But not really something that has any day to day value or use and so I never read it but I assumed I thought I knew what the Bible said. I’m a good person. I believe in God, blah, blah, blah and so then I started dating Grace and some of you know a bit of my story. We were 17 years of age in high school and I was arguing with her and she got tired of arguing with me. So she actually gave me this book. She bought me this Bible. This was my first really nice Bible. She actually had my name put on it, right. So that I couldn’t, you know, sell it. I’m, Kind of stuck with this. You know I could get a lot of money for this and so I started reading it in college as a freshman and the first thing I realized is I don’t know the Bible. I didn’t know the books, I didn’t know where to go and the first thing I realized, I disagreed with most of it and all of a sudden what I realized was Grace had stopped arguing with me and then allowed me to start arguing with God and she knew that was gonna be an argument that I would ultimately lose. So thank you, sweetheart. I appreciate that and ultimately, I became a Christian reading the Bible and what I found was two things. Number one, my eyes were opened. All of a sudden, things I’d read started to make sense. How many of you, that’s your experience? The Bible says that the God of this world, Satan and the demonic realm has blinded the eyes of people that they don’t see it. So people who don’t understand the Bible, they’re not dumb. They’re spiritually blind. They need a supernatural understanding. This is the book that God wrote and he needs to open your understanding so that you can understand it. So all of a sudden it’s making sense. Number two, my appetite’s changed. I had, before I became a Christian, I had no desire to read the Bible, none, zero and then I became a Christian, all of a sudden, I wanted to know the Bible. There’s guy named Peter in the New Testament he says, “When a baby’s born, they’re ready to eat. Well when a Christian is born again spiritually, they need the nourishment of God’s word.” I’ll never forget it. I think it was a Friday night. I was a freshman at a state university and it was Friday night which means you’re gonna go out and break commandments and do things you regret and just, you know, shenanigans is the only thing on the agenda and a couple of buddies of mine said, “Hey, we’re going out tonight. Won’t you go with us?” I couldn’t even believe what came out of my mouth. I said, “No, I don’t wanna go.” They said, “What are you gonna do?” I said, “I’m gonna read my Bible.” And they looked at me like what? And I looked at them like what? I said it and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I have become Ned Flanders from the Simpsons.” Oh no brother, I’m gonna be in the word of the Lord tonight. This is me. They looked at me. They’re like, “Why are you gonna read your Bible tonight?” I said, “I have no idea. That’s just what I wanna do.” How many of you, that’s your experience? You’re like, I don’t, God changed my heart. All of a sudden I’m thinking differently and I have a new appetite to feast upon the goodness of God’s word. That’s my story. So I started reading the Bible, studying the Bible. I’ve been a Christian now for almost 30 years, been teaching the Bible for more than 20 years. I’ve taught through dozens of books of the Bible and I agree with the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon. He said the Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to the person whose life is not, okay. And so every Sunday, if you come to a Christian Church at some point, they’re gonna say open your Bible and the questions are, well, what is the Bible and why are we opening it? And those are the questions that I want to address today. So the first question is what are the scriptures? Scripture means writing, Bible means books. A Holy Bible means Holy book. This is actually a library of books. There’s a portion called the Old Testament before the coming of Jesus that is 39 books and it’s two thirds of your Bible. There is also the New Testament from the time of Jesus and forward into the first Christians that’s 27 books of the Bible, by content that’s about a third of the Bible. Furthermore, the Bible is written by roughly 40 authors in three continents, Africa, Europe and Asia. So it’s a multicultural book. It’s also a multilingual book. Most of the Old Testament is written in the language of Hebrew. Most of the New Testament is written in the language of Greek. There are also parts in Aramaic. As you open the Bible, you’re gonna see all kinds of different literature. You’re gonna see legal documents, family trees, biographical sketches, historical records. You’re also going to see songs and poetry. You’re gonna find all kinds of different literature. You’re also going to find chapters and verses. The chapters were added in the 1200s and the verses were added in the 1500s for the same reason that your home has a street and an address so that people can find things. But those weren’t in the original, they were added later to help us locate certain things in God’s word and the Old Testament was written basically on a form of paper called parchment and the New Testament was written on basically animal skins that were stretched out for the scrolls. That being said, both of those means by which the word of God was written down, there subject to decay especially in a dry environment like the Middle East which makes it all the more shocking as we get into it a little later that we have as many manuscripts as we do but that’s the Bible. That’s the word of God. That being said, the first question is, well, what did Jesus say about the scriptures? If Jesus didn’t believe in the Bible, we shouldn’t believe in the Bible. If Jesus didn’t quote the scriptures, we shouldn’t quote the scriptures. Here’s what the Lord Jesus has to say about the scriptures. Matthew 5:17-18, and let me just set this up a little bit historically before we jump right in. The Old Testament was fully established and accepted truly with very minimal debate by God’s people at the coming of Jesus. Canon means measuring rod. God’s people had the Old Testament fully established and there wasn’t a book of the Bible written for about 400 years until Jesus comes along. Jesus comes along and here’s what he says, do not think, Matthew 5:17-18, that I have come to abolish the law of the prophets. That’s his summary of the Old Testament. I have not come to abolish them but to what? Fulfill them. Jesus’ saying, okay, we have the Old Testament. I’m not changing any of that. I’m not editing any of that. I’m fulfilling all of that. For truly I say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot. We’ll say things like dot your I’s and cross your T’s, that’s the equivalent. Will pass from the law until it is all accomplished. So Jesus accepted the Old Testament as it was. He was a rabbi, which is a teacher of the Old Testament. On dozens of occasions, Jesus appeals to the authority of the Bible. He says, and I quote, “It is written.” So when there’s debates, discussions and dialogues, Jesus says it is written and he keeps quoting the Old Testament. He speaks of Moses, Isaiah, David and Daniel as authors. There are also parts of the Old Testament that tend to be more controversial and Jesus confirms them. One is creation, and a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. Jesus said they really truly existed and that God made the world. There is also a man named Noah who built a big boat during a flood. Jesus said that actually happened. Also, there’s a guy named Jonah that spends three days, we are told in the Old Testament, in the belly of a fish. And Jesus says, that’s a fact and that was all foreshadowing him being in the grave for three days and three nights. So Jesus quotes the Old Testament, Jesus tells us authors of the Old Testament and Jesus confirms even some of the most controversial portions of the Old Testament. He quotes it in significant moments of his life. On the cross he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s a quote from the Old Testament book of Psalms. He says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” That is also a quote from the Old Testament book of Psalms. Two of the most favorite portions of the Bible regarding the Bible for me are John chapter five and Luke chapter 24. In John chapter five, Jesus is having a debate with religious leaders and scholars about what is the central message of the scriptures and he says, “You diligently study the scriptures thinking that in them, you have eternal life. Yet you fail to recognize that these scriptures testify about me and you refuse to come to me and have life.” Here’s what Jesus is saying. The Bible, hear me in this. It’s for you but it’s not about you. The Bible is about Jesus and it’s for you but you are not the center of the Bible, Jesus is. You’re not the center of human history, Jesus is. You’re not the solution, Jesus is. You’re not the savior, Jesus is. So the Bible is primarily about Jesus and it is for you and so what Jesus tells them is you don’t know the Bible unless you know me. The whole point of the Bible is to bring you into relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the center of history. He is the hero of the story and he is the big idea that holds all of the Bible together. He demonstrates this in Luke chapter 24 after Jesus rises from death, it records that he had this Bible study where it says that he walked them through the entire Old Testament showing how everything pointed to him and was fulfilled in him. The big idea is this, when you open the Bible, you learn about Jesus and ultimately the Bible is all about Jesus, amen. That’s the big idea of the Bible. So then the question comes, well, who wrote the Bible? Who wrote the Bible? There are human authors that are named David, Moses, Joshua, Solomon, Nehemiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Habakkuk, many of the Old Testament books, they just tell us who the author is. Similarly, the New Testament books, Paul, Luke, John, James, Jude, early on they just tell us who they are. Some of the books we’re not sure of the author, the human author but ultimately what makes the Bible unique, distinct superior and authoritative is that in addition to the human authors, ultimately the author behind the authors is God. We call this a dual authorship that God works through people. Now here’s what’s amazing. God is perfect, people are imperfect. God can do perfect work through imperfect people. I want that to encourage you. Amen. We don’t need to be perfect for God to do something, we just need the perfect God to do it through us. What happens in the Bible, God reveals to a servant. They either speak it and somebody writes it down or they write it down with their own hand and then we’ve received the first copy of that particular revelation from God. A few hundred times in the Bible, it says, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” In some form or fashion and the author is saying, I am the messenger, not the writer but ultimately I’m delivering information that I am not creating. I looked it up about 3,800 times in various form or fashion throughout the Bible, it is said that this is a word from God. This is a revelation from God. This is something that God is saying, okay. So ultimately we believe that behind the human author is the divine author. I’ll give you two scriptures on this, 1 Peter 1: 10-12, the prophets, he’s talking about the Old Testament prophets who prophesied about the grace, that’s Jesus. That was to be yours, searched and inquired carefully. What he’s saying is this is that, you know, people take the word of God very, very seriously. They study very diligently. They pray wholeheartedly, that this is not a matter that is taken lightly in any regard. Inquiring what person or time the spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. What it is saying is that all of the Old Testament was foreshadowing the forthcoming of Jesus and that those who revealed this information, received it from the Holy Spirit. The same spirit that empowered the life of Jesus Christ, that’s why the Holy Spirit here is called the spirit of Christ that he worked through the human servants to reveal the future regarding the coming of Jesus. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you. What he says is that, you know, books of the Bible were written by people who didn’t get to see it happen. It happened many years later. You and I are in this privileged position in human history where God told us that Jesus was coming, that he would live without sin, that he would die on the cross in our place for our sins and that he would rise from death as our savior and they knew that was coming and now we have this privileged position to see all of that finished work in history. In conclusion, the things that have now been announced to you through those who preach the good news to you by the Holy spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Here’s what he is saying. You and I now get to study, consider, contemplate things in the word of God that the angels were wanting to learn and know. That’s amazing, right? As God, the Holy Spirit works through the authors of the Old Testament, things are written down promising the coming of Jesus and the angels are in heaven having their own life group and small group and Bible study and they’re all like, “How do you think this is gonna go down? What do you think this is gonna be like?” And now we get to do the same thing that the angels did and we do so, learning things that they long to know. Here’s what I need you to know. This is the book that God wrote. This is the only perfect thing on the earth. This is a supernatural book that comes from God. It comes with the power of God to change hearts, minds, and lives. I’ll give you one more verse. This one is perhaps the most familiar on this particular matter. 2 Timothy 3:16, all scripture, okay. How much scripture? All ’cause what happens is, invariably you’re going to read the Bible and say, “I wanna get rid of that.” Okay, we all do this. That’s why Thomas Jefferson sat down in the white house with a pair of scissors and cut out all the portions that he didn’t like. He came up with something called the philosophy of Jesus Christ. He tried to reduce Jesus from savior and God to sage and philosopher. Invariably, you will read the Bible and you will think this needs to change. Here’s what you need to know. The Bible will disagree with you and you will have to decide if it should change or if it should change you, right. And this is what we believe as Christians, if we read the Bible and disagree, we’re wrong. That if we read the Bible and it is telling us something that we don’t want to do then we need to trust what it says rather than what we think. It’s an issue of faith. It’s an issue of trust. It’s an issue of respecting some authority beyond ourselves and let me just say this, most people’s objections to the Bible, they are moral in nature and particularly sexual in nature. I’ve never seen anybody read the Bible where it says God loves you and they’re like, “That part troubles me. I don’t like that.” Keep your pants on. Well, I don’t know. What’s the Greek word for pants? We get very particular with our objections, okay. So how much scripture is breathed out by God? All, all scripture is breathed out by God, just as God breathed life into our first father, Adam, God breathes life in and through his word and it is profitable. This is the language of finance. Some of you think that the most valuable thing you have is your wealth. It’s not, it’s the word of God. That ultimately your wealth will fade but the word of God endures forever. That more profitable than your retirement account, your bank account, more profitable than your equity in your home or your credit score. The things that we tend to pay a lot of attention to and those things are important but what is more important is the word of God. There is more value. There is more profit. What I’m telling you this, there is better return on investment in the word of God than anything else you can invest your time, your energy and your life in, amen. It’s profitable. It’s profitable. It’s profitable for, here are various functions. Teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness that the man and or woman of God, that language is inclusive of both, may be competent, equipped for what? Every good work. That’s a major massive statement. The Bible here is saying that anything you face is addressed in the word of God. That there is no circumstance. There is no challenge. There is no crisis. There is no pain. There is no suffering. There is no question that cannot be answered by the word of God. That’s amazing. I don’t know if we still have bookstores. Back when we had bookstores and we would ride our dinosaurs to the bookstores to buy books, the bookstores had sections. Here’s the section for your finances. Here’s the section for your relationships. Here’s the section for your emotional health. Here’s the section for your marriage. Here’s the section for your parenting. This is the one book that says that it is good for everything, for everyone. That’s why it’s the most translated book in the history of the world. That’s why it is the best selling book in the history of the world. That it is why it is the most impactful, significant book in the history of the world because it is the book that God wrote and it helps everyone who comes to it with everything they are facing, amen, amen. Here’s what you need to know. I don’t just believe the Bible, I like it because it’s not just true, it’s also helpful and what I find is having now studied the Bible for almost 30 years of my life, preaching through dozens of books of the Bible, getting a master’s degree in Bible. I have a massive library, maybe 5,000 books in my home. I’ve got maybe 10 times that on my laptop, all trying to help me understand God’s word. What I can tell you is this, I get bored with everything. I don’t drive the same way home two days in a row, I prayed about it. I don’t eat leftovers. I get bored very, very easily. I find that this book is alive. I find that this book changes me. I find that this book speaks to me unlike anything I have ever read. and it gives me instruction, direction and correction that has saved me from myself many, many times, many, many times and I want you to be people who love the word of God and love the God of the word. I want us to be a church that at the bedrock we’re Bible people, amen. And I love you and I want that for you because just as your body needs food and just as your body needs air and just as your body needs water, your soul needs the word of God ’cause Jesus says, “Man does not live by bread alone but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And that is the word of God. That being said, who wrote the Bible? God did through people. Now, what I wanna hit next is how prophecy proves the Bible. What I wanna share with you is something that I first learned as a freshman in college from a pastor that I really love and have high regard for. What I have learned is that 25% of the Bible was prophetic in nature, predicting the future upon its writing. How many of you would love to know the future? Amen, wouldn’t that be awesome? How many of you would have sold your home in ’06? Amen. And then bought it in ’07 for $15, right? I mean, whether it’s real estate speculators, whether it’s economic investors, whether it’s prognosticators for politicians or it’s your fantasy sports team, we’re all trying to predict the future and we don’t know the future so we can’t predict the future but because God knows the future and rules the future, he reveals it in detail, in advance through his word. Prophecy is unique to Christianity. Other religions do not possess this because their book is not written by God. Ours is. I’ll give you some examples. Number one, 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Isaiah says, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign.” Who’s gonna have a baby? The virgin. Let me just say this narrows it down, amen. You know like it, God says, “Hey, I’m gonna send Jesus.” Well, how do we know it’s him? His mom will be a virgin. Wow, okay, that really narrowed this down. The virgin will be with child will give their birth to a son. So it’s a male is coming through a virgin female and we’ll call him Emmanuel which means what? God with us. So God is entering into human history. He’s coming as a male child through the womb of a virgin mother, What’s her name? Mary. 700 years, actually I think that’s probably 400 years that might be a typo from me. Micah 5:2, but you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, little town, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler, here comes the king, over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times. The original language it’s from eternity. So somebody who is eternal is going to enter into human history. He’s going to be a king. How will we know he’s coming? Well, his mom’s gonna be a virgin and is gonna be born where? Bethlehem. Was Jesus’ family from Bethlehem? No, they were from Nazareth. How did they get from Nazareth to Bethlehem? The government decided it was time to tax everybody. I hate taxes. I love Jesus. I hate taxes. Just so you know when Jesus comes back, no taxes. Yay, okay. The government wanted taxes so to register for the census to pay your taxes, you had to go to your hometown of your family of origins. Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph was a descendant of David and their family lineage traced back to their hometown of Bethlehem. So think about this ladies. Here’s Mary, she’s probably a teenager. She’s really pregnant. You know what you don’t wanna do when you’re pregnant, go for a road trip, walking or riding on a donkey, amen. She did it. She goes to Bethlehem to register for the census so they could pay their taxes and just so happens, they’re probably only there for a few days, she gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem because the God who knows the future reveals the future and rules the future. How about this one? Malachi 3:1, this is the end of the Old Testament. I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. That’s John, the baptizer. Then suddenly who’s coming? The Lord, God is coming into human history. You are seeking Him, He will come to where? A temple, which is in Jerusalem. The messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come says the Lord Almighty. I told you this before, the temple was destroyed in 70 AD I’ve been to Israel. It’s ruins, there’s no temple. So here’s what the Bible says, God is coming, as a man, born of a virgin woman, in Bethlehem, before 70 AD Now we know not only who is coming, where He’s coming, We also know when He’s coming. So my Jewish friends who say, “Well, we’re waiting for our Messiah.” You missed him. Your own book says he’s coming to the temple, there is no temple. He already came before 70 AD and then it says this in Psalm 22:16, dogs have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me. They have pierced my hands and my feet. What’s that referring to? The crucifixion of Jesus where he was nailed to a Roman cross in our place for our sins as our substitute and our savior to pay the debt of death. They nailed him through the most sensitive nerve centers on the human body, the hands and the feet. This is a thousand years in advance not only promising, prophesying, foreshadowing, the forthcoming of Jesus, it is predicting his crucifixion. Furthermore, it is predicting crucifixion. The best historical records indicate that crucifixion didn’t exist until it was invented hundreds of years after this prophecy, by the Persians. Not only here does this predict the crucifixion of Jesus, it predicts the invention of crucifixion. Here’s what I wanna say. Burden of proof. Here’s my big idea. If God didn’t write this book, who did? And how did they know this? And if God isn’t involved, how do we account for the specificity? Last few, Zachariah 11:12-13, Old Testament prophet written about 500 years before Jesus walked the earth. They paid me how many pieces of silver? 30, not 29, not 31, that’s specific. And the Lord said to me, throw it to the potter. That’s a portion of the temple, the handsome price. It’s a little tongue in cheek there, which they priced me. So it’s a bounty. So they took the 30 pieces of silver, threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter. That’s referring to Judas Iscariot. One of Jesus’ covert, counterfeit disciples who plotted for the murder of Jesus and as payment for his betrayal, received how many coins? 30, were they gold? No, they were silver. Why? Because God wrote the scriptures and they’re fulfilled even by his enemies. Last one, a thousand years before Jesus walked the earth. Psalm 16:10, you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. Who’s it talking about? One individual, one significant individual who alone is Holy without sin, perfect. It says that this Holy One is going to die and is going to be put into a grave but will not be abandoned or left there and the body will not be decayed. Why? Because he will rise from death. That Jesus conquered death. That Jesus rose from death. That Jesus alone is the Holy One. That he did die for our sins. That he was placed in the grave but he is not there today and his body is not experiencing decay because he physically, bodily, historically, truthfully, rose from dead. Okay, so here’s what I want you to know. This is the book that God wrote. It’s perfect. It’s the only perfect thing on earth from beginning to end when it says that there was a king or a ruler or a place, the archeologists now we’re confirming the word of God is true. Historically true, spiritually true, factually, actually true and it’s all about Jesus. Okay, that being said, there are then some misconceptions that come up and misconceptions require corrections. In the focus groups, I pulled forth, I think it was seven of them, let me address them in succession. You may not believe in the word of God but my goal is for you to believe in the word of God. The first misconception is quote, “The Bible has been edited by too many people.” Some of you may think these things, some of you may hear these things. I want you to be able to answer them for yourself and others. This is like the game, telephone, you know that tell someone something, they tell someone else, they tell someone else, they tell someone else. By the end, it’s a totally different story. Many people wrongly assume that that’s the way that we got the word of God. It says it this way. There was a male in one of our focus groups. “The people that are obeying it to the latter of the words, they may not be following what Jesus really said because it is passed down from so many different people, so many different scholars, it’s been edited by too many people. So we really don’t know what the word of God is in the Bible. We don’t, there’s no way to know.” So let me tell you the way that this would work. There would be the original copy, the first edition that was called the autographa. That’s what the academics will call it. Today if you buy sports memorabilia or a rock poster you’re gonna get it authenticated that the autograph is genuine. The autography is the original. So the autographa exists now to make copies of that. The printing press wasn’t invented until the 1500s, I think it is by Johannes Gutenberg, a Christian. So the way that any document would have copies made, would have to be something done by hand. So, the way it would work, particularly for those who are Jewish, let’s say with the Old Testament for example, I would be the chief scribe, you all would be the scribes. You would go to years of education. You would study language, punctuation, you would be trained like a court stenographer. You ever seen a court stenographer? They’re focused to get exactly what was said and to keep an actual factual record. You would be trained like that. I would read the original and then you would write out a copy. Then some of you would be the editors. You’d go round and check. You’d copy at it, punctuation, tense, you’d count from the front, count from the back, certain letters, certain numerical equivalents and if there was a misspelled word or a typo or a failure in punctuation, what would we do with your copy? We would destroy it because it’s the word of God and we need to get it perfect. Those who have studied the ancient manuscripts, they will tell you like Craig Blomberg, another man named F. F. Bruce, that we can reconstruct 97 to 99% of the New Testament from all of the manuscripts and there is no doubt there is between one and 3% that is open to discussion as to exactly how it should be worded. They will note however, that no doctrine of any significance rests on any of those texts and it almost all is in reference to punctuation or verb tense or spelling, not a big deal. So what I would submit to you is something called the bibliographical test and that is, let’s treat the word of God as we treat all other ancient manuscripts and documents. This requires two things. Considering the number of manuscripts that we have, the copies and also, the time frame between the original and those copies because the closer we get to the original, the more likely that we have an accurate copy. I have this in the book, you can get a free copy on the way out. It’s a very long list, I just pulled a few examples. So how many of you had to read Homer’s Iliad in school? I know you didn’t, you read the SparkNotes but you were supposed to but you’re like, “It’s a big book and I have a TV, you know, I have things to do.” So, what happens is it’s written in 800 BC, the earliest manuscript we have is from 400 BC, the time gap is 400 years and we have 1,757 manuscripts. How about Plato, did you study Plato in philosophy? He wrote 400 BC, earliest manuscript is almost 900 AD. The time gap from the original to the newest manuscript, excuse me, to the oldest manuscript is 1300 years. We only have 210 copies of ancient manuscripts. How about Caesar? Well, there’s a 950-year time gap. Almost a millennium between the original and the earliest manuscript copy that we have and there are 251 manuscripts. Compare that to the New Testament. We have 5,795 manuscripts. The time gap between the original and the earliest manuscripts is as low as 40 years. There are some academics like Daniel Wallace, there was a book, I think it was written by Carsten Peter Thiede and they’re saying that we have some ancient copies of manuscripts from something called the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 in Israel and that some of those ancient manuscripts, may be actually 35, 30, 25 years from the original. All of that to say, if we are going to reject the Bible, we need to shut down the philosophy department, the history department and anything that deals with ancient documents or antiquity because the Bible is in a category, particularly the New Testament is in a category of credibility unto itself. Do you see that? How many of you that encourages you? You’re like, well, if we believe Homer, Plato and Caesar, we should believe Peter, James and Paul. Amen.
– I get excited about this, I’m a nerd so thank you for hanging in there with me, okay. Because here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna go to our church or some other church and they’re gonna say open the Bible. You need to be able to know what is the Bible and why do we open it, okay. And what happens is there are many misperceptions and misconceptions. Number two, the Bible says, and people in the focus groups, they quoted things that weren’t in the Bible and they reject the Bible for things the Bible doesn’t say. I’ll give you some examples. One says, “You’re supposed to sell your daughter into slavery.” How many of you have daughters and you’re like, “I’m sure it’s not in there.” Amen. How about this one? Give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll be fed forever. Nope, that’s not in the Bible. But one guy says, “The Old Testament character Job had sex with his daughters and incest is allowed according to the Bible.” No he didn’t, Job was a righteous man. He’s in heaven right now going, “That was not me. I did not do that.” There’s a really naughty guy in the Old Testament named Lot. They named him lot ’cause he had a lot of problems and his two daughters had a lot of problems too. They got their dad drunk and slept with him and the Bible records it but the Bible doesn’t encourage it, the Bible condemns it. Just because something is in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s good. The Bible records lots of bad things, lots of bad things. Another one says, “The Bible teaches that Jesus was born on Christmas.” No it doesn’t, we don’t know when Jesus was born. It says that the shepherds are in the fields that may indicate it was not winner, the date we choose for Christmas was an ancient pagan Roman holiday called Saturnalia, Christians had the day off and thought, “We don’t know when Jesus was born, we’ll make a cake and celebrate his birthday.” But the Bible never tells us when he was born. Here’s one that says too, “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s not in the Bible. Let’s just do a little test, in the Bible or not. Less filling tastes great. In or out? Out, okay. Who let the dogs out? Judas did, we know that. You know, so no, it’s not in there. Okay, how about this one? You can save 10% on car insurance, okay. No, no, see, what happens is, little pithy statements, right? We hear them or we think, “Well, it’s probably in the Bible.” No, it’s not. No, it’s not. How about this one? Misperception number three, the Bible is full of contradictions. It’s full, full chock-full, totally full, full, full. The question is, give me one, even a half. I’ll take a half. If it’s full, give me one. This is always my question. I’ve been asking this question for a long time and I don’t get an answer. They’re like, “I don’t now, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I was reading first and second opinions and that’s what I thought.” So, you know, and if somebody has a real objection, we should study it and try and provide a reasonable answer. That’s fair. I’ve been teaching the Bible, like I said, I’ve taught entire books of the Bible. In every single verse, dozens of books of the Bible for more than two decades, I have yet to find a contradiction. I have found things that I need to study and figure out but some of the things, here’s one of my favorites, I was preaching one book of the Bible and oh, this big debate, controversy, the critic, “See it’s a contradiction because in one gospel it says there was two angels and in another says it was three.” And I’m like, “If there’s three, there’s two.” It wasn’t that hard, right. Like, I’m not, I’m no math guy, you know, but, And there are whole books written to help answer what some would consider contradictions. How about misconception number four? This is a quote. “The New Testament was largely written by people who didn’t even know Jesus.” Here’s a quote from a woman in Austin, “To me Jesus is this guy who lived and then they wanted to create a religion around him so they changed the end of what they call the Old Testament, the Torah and they built a new religion.” What they’re saying is Jesus was a nice guy and then way after they wrote books, saying stuff about Jesus that wasn’t true, they weren’t there, they don’t even know him. That’s not true. The Bible was written either by eyewitnesses or those who interviewed the eyewitnesses. I’ll read John in a moment. He was an eyewitness. James and Jude write two books of the New Testament, they’re Jesus’ brothers, okay. There are other people like Luke who weren’t eyewitnesses but they tell us that they went out and interviewed the eyewitnesses. So the New Testament is either written by eyewitnesses or those who interviewed the eye witnesses. I’ll give you one example here. This guy’s name is John. He was the one whom Jesus loved. We just spent 44 weeks looking at the gospel of John. So he wrote the gospel of John, first, second and third John, the book of revelation. He wrote five books of the New Testament. There’s 27 books in the New Testament. He writes five. Here’s what he says, “Right at the beginning,” In 1 John 1: 1-2, the question is, well, why should I trust him? He says, “Well, that which was from the beginning.” He’s talking about Jesus. “Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” Jesus, all right, he is the word of God. He was with God in the beginning. “The life was made manifest, we’ve seen it and testify to it and proclaim it to you.” Here’s what John says, “I’m writing you a letter about things that I saw with my own eyes with Jesus, stuff I heard with my own ears from Jesus and just so you know, I actually touched, hugged, this was my buddy, Jesus.” He’s there, amen. He’s there. The New Testament is given either by those who were with Jesus and or interviewed those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus. Furthermore, it is believed by most scholars that the oldest portion of the New Testament that is closest to the resurrection of Jesus is probably summarized as a creed in 1 Corinthians 15 and there it says that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried on the third day, rose again according to the scriptures and then he appeared to crowds numbering upwards of 500, many of whom are still alive. It says, “Hey, if you don’t believe us, the people who saw it, they’re still alive. Go talk to them.” So this is not long after the fact, this is when the eyewitnesses to the resurrection are still walking on the earth. Misconception number five, there are some stories that were kept in and some stories that were kicked out. A woman in Austin says this, “They put together the whole New Testament and so there’s some stories that are kept and some that are kicked out. I think some of the real history is in there but I just don’t think we have all of the story.” And then many went on to quote something called The Da Vinci Code. We all know if it’s in a movie with Tom Hanks, it must be true, right? Oh gosh, what was crazy too these people are like, “I don’t trust the Bible but those alien shows are amazing ’cause they use facts.” Do they? Oh gosh. Woman in San Francisco says. “I’ve heard the Vatican.” Vatican. Anytime you hear somebody say, “Christians are organized and have a conspiracy.” You know that’s not true. We’re not organized, right. I heard the Vatican hide sections of the Bible that portray Jesus in a more negative light. A woman in Austin says, “There’s 26 original gospels and only four of them got put in the Bible.” Okay, let’s just, this’ll be fun. Okay, first of all, there were not 26 gospels. Second of all, most of what are called gospels, originated hundreds of years after the Bible was written, long after the eyewitnesses were deceased and it came out of a cult called Gnosticism. There is a difference between world religions and a cult. A world religion never claims to be Christian. A cult says it’s Christian but the Christianity got corrupted and the truth was hidden and there was a grand conspiracy and we found the real story of the real Jesus. That’s how cults get formed. This would include the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This would include the Mormons, okay. And they’ll create books or writings, they’ll say we found this lost ancient secret and it gives us the real picture of the real Jesus. That’s what cults do. Now, the Gnostics were a cult. They pretended to have the real Christianity. Gnosis means knowledge, hidden secret and the essence of Gnosticism was this, we have secret revelation, we have knowledge, we have insight, we have new books, we have the real Jesus. You’ve all been lied to. It’s a big conspiracy and it was a cult and so what happens in the Gnostic “gospels”, number one, the people are not eyewitnesses but they are liars who pretend to be eyewitnesses. So one of’em is called for example, like the gospel of Thomas, was it written by Thomas? No, Thomas was a disciple. This is written hundreds of years later by a guy who’s pretending to be Thomas, why? For credibility, for sales. Let’s just say right now, let’s just hypothesize that I’m working on my rap album, okay. And I wanna “drop it”, okay. I wanna “drop” my rap album but I know if I call it pastor Mark’s rap album, sales will be awful at best. If I call it Tupac, some of you are gonna buy it ’cause he’s been gone for a long time but he’s still dropping albums, okay. Why would I put Tupac on my album instead of pastor Mark? For sales, for credibility. Now, when you listen to it, you would know he’s not a rapper. When you read the gospels, you realize they’re not writers. It’s the same thing. If you read what’s called the Gnostic gospels, like there’s one section where Peter comes to Jesus and he says, “How are women gonna get to heaven since only men can be saved?” And it’s reported that Jesus then said, “I’ll make all the women men.” Okay, right. You’re like, “What?” I will say, I won’t say what I’m thinking. It’s hilarious. Inappropriate, offensive and accurate. Okay, that being said, they go on to say that Jesus was a lightworker, a magician, a letch, a zombie or an alien. Okay, so here’s what I wanna say, that the New Testament was established by the Christians and it was concluded with the writing of revelation. There was not a big debate for a few hundred years until cults pretending to have lost books of the Bible started saying that books needed to be added to the Bible and so what happened in the 300s, the fourth century, three Christian councils convened, they did not decide the canon, they confirmed what was already decided long prior. I’ll give you an example, in the history of the Western world and the Christian Church, there is not been a historical debate on what marriage is. It’s not. It’s a man and a woman. In our day, this is being debated. When Christians get together and form a position on this, they’re not creating the Bible’s position on marriage, they are confirming the established position of the Bible on marriage. In the same way, when the councils got together, they did not create the New Testament, they confirmed the New Testament that God already created. The reason they hadn’t met for hundreds of years indicates to me that the matter was already settled and it wasn’t until it was called into question, that the councils were convened. I’ll give you a quote from a theologian named J. I. Packer. He says quote, “The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity.” You see don’t say, “That’s amazing. Newton invented gravity.” No, he didn’t, he discovered what God created. The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity by his work of creation and similarly, he gave us the New Testament Canon by inspiring the individual books that make it up. I’ll prove it to you. Here we go, 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter is the leader of the disciples. He is the highest spiritual human authority on the earth. In the list of disciples he’s always listed first because he is the head of the team. Here’s what he says, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother,” Who? Paul, we’re talking about a guy named Paul. “Also wrote you according to the wisdom given him as he does in all his letters.” Letters. So a guy named Paul writes letters, they’re called Galatians, first and second Corinthians, first and second Thessalonians, Romans, we have these letters in the New Testament. Peter says, “Okay, Paul just wrote some stuff. Those are letters.” We have those. When he speaks in them of these matters, there are some things in them that are hard to understand. How many of you have read Paul and you’re like, “Ah, brain freeze, brain freeze.” How many of you? How many of you the things you debate about are Paul’s writings? Gender, sexuality, marriage, predestination, speaking in tongues, women wearing head coverings, that’s all Paul. Paul, hard to understand. How many of you have read the Bible and been like, ” I don’t know what he’s talking about.” You’re in good company. Here’s what Peter’s saying, first of all, where did Peter go to school? He went to the university of Jesus Christ for three years, okay. He writes books of the Bible. He reads Paul and he’s like, “Ah man, I take a Advil. I don’t understand it. I take a nap. It’s hard to understand Paul.” How many of you, you find the Bible but particularly Paul hard to understand? Here’s what I’m saying, don’t feel bad. Peter’s like, “I feel you sister, I feel you.” The Bible is equally true but it’s not equally easy sometimes to understand. Some of it’s hard to understand. Some of it you gotta really study and pray about. Some of it you gotta take years to unpack. Some of it you gotta wait till you stand before Jesus and you’re like, “Is Paul here somewhere? I have so many questions.” Which ignorant and unstable people twist. Well, ’cause it’s hard to understand, we can treat it like origami and make it into something it’s not. To their own destruction as they do the, What’s it say? Other scriptures. Peter says Paul is writing letters that are scriptures from God. They knew. They knew. They knew the books that came from God they came with God’s authority. They came with God’s transforming power in the lives of people. Paul writes 13, maybe 14 books of the New Testament. You’ve got 27 books in the New Testament. 13 are written by Paul. There’s a debate as to who wrote Hebrews because the author is unnamed. He wrote 13 books. If he wrote Hebrews, it’s 14 books and what Peter is saying is everything that we have from these letters of Paul, they are in fact scripture. Amen. I’m excited, I’m glad both of you are as well. Okay, number six, Christianity borrowed from ancient religions. How many of you have heard this? Well, yeah, the virgin birth and the resurrection, Christians stole that stuff from old pagan myths. A Phoenix man says, and if you’re here, welcome, you’re wrong. “If you look at Egyptian cultures, there’s the of a virgin birth in there somewhere.” I’m like, “Well, where is it?” So, here’s the point. There was a man named N. T. Wright. He is a world-renowned scholar, academic. He has multiple doctorates, including degrees from Oxford. He has been a professor at places like Oxford and Cambridge. He wrote a massive tome called The Resurrection of the Son of God and what he did, he went back to look at all of the ancient mythology and pagan ideology and he wanted to see, did they say anything about the resurrection? And these would have predated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Looking at all of the original source material, he concludes and I quote, “Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and therefore or after and thereafter rather, actually claim that somebody had been truly dead and had come to be truly and bodily alive once more.” Here’s what he says, “I looked at all of the pagan mythology. There is no claim in the history of the world that a real person died and rose.” Furthermore, he goes on to say that in the Greek philosophical thinking, resurrection wasn’t even desired because the concept is that your body is bad, your soul is good. You wanna get rid of your body so that your soul can be liberated from the prison house of the body. So not only is it something that didn’t exist, it wasn’t even desirable. So there’s another man named Dr. Edwin Yamauchi he’s, he works in 22 languages. Most of them ancient and dead. I think he’s written at least 80 scholarly academic articles and three dozen journals. Has 18 fellowships. He looks at all of the religions and all of the pagan mythology and here’s what he concludes, the pagans don’t start talking about resurrection until the second century. After Jesus rose, they thought it was a cool idea so they stole it from us. The point is, that in the history of the world, the concept of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a living actual person, dying, being buried and coming back is nothing that we borrowed. It is something that God revealed. That’s what Peter says in 2 Peter 1: 20-21, no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. No prophecy was ever produced by the will of men. People didn’t make this up. Nobody came up with this. Nobody borrowed this. How did they get this information? That’s revelation. Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our place for our sins is not borrowed from anyone. It is revealed from heaven by the Holy Spirit through the human servants who proclaim the work of Jesus Christ. I want you to have full confidence in the word of God and I want you to know that we have taken nothing, that God has revealed everything and that others have taken from what God has revealed. Last one, the Bible is so old and outdated and I thought vintage was cool. I thought, I mean, people in Scottsdale if you say mid century modern, That’s cool ’cause it’s old. When did old not get to be cool? How many of you are old? You’re like, “Hey, it’s still cool.” Here’s what a male says in our focus group. “People still believe that everything was written in the Bible 2000 years ago is still relevant today. I mean, look around nothing else is the same as it was 2000 years ago. It’s so old and outdated.” Really? 2000 years ago, people didn’t have burden of failure that they needed to be forgiven of? 2000 years ago, people didn’t have a longing to know who God was? 2000 years ago, people didn’t ask questions like where do I come from? Why am I here? And where do I go when I die? People didn’t have marriage, parenting, relational problems, emotional strife or strain 2000 years ago? I’ll tell you what, things changed but the needs of people remain the same. Couple of things I’ll say about this. Number one, most people’s objection to the Bible is moral not mental. Romans 1 says that we suppress the truth because it’s not that we don’t know what God says, we don’t like what God says and most of the time it is moral. Most of the time, according to Romans 1, it’s sexual. It’s like, if I do what God says, I’ll have to change my behavior and God says, “That’s true.” So the point is, if I disagree with the word of God do I change the word of God or do I allow the word of God to change me? That’s the bottom line. Number two, what you’re experiencing here is something called chronological snobbery. C. S. Lewis, a Christian author talks about chronological snobbery and that is, we have these primitive people back in the olden days, they were very stupid. Not like us. Let me submit to you that even a long time ago, people knew that dead people were dead, right? And let me say this, we hand off people that are dying to hospitals and caregivers and funeral homes. In that day, people died in their own bed, surrounded by their family. They were perhaps more keenly aware of death and then they would be present to see their loved one put in a hole and gone forever and just because they lived a long time ago, doesn’t mean that they were stupid and it doesn’t mean that they didn’t understand death. In fact, I would submit to you perhaps they were more keenly familiar with it than we and Jesus rose from death. Number three, God isn’t old. We’re not to make pictures of God, the father, those are called graven images, it’s a violation of one the commandments. Sadly however, those who have tried to characterize God the father, what do they make Him look like? Feeble, weak, blind, incompetent, shaking, dying, decaying, old man He’s not. I’ll quote G. K. Chesterton. He’s a British thinker. I’ll never forget the first day I read this. I literally just stopped and thought about this for the whole day. “We have sinned and grown old and our father is younger than we.” See, we sin. God never sin. God’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Because of sin, we grow old. God is eternal. That means that God is perhaps not old. He’s young, He’s strong, He’s vibrant, He’s fresh, He’s relevant constantly and continually. God doesn’t enter into the sin cycle. God doesn’t enter into the death cycle. God doesn’t enter into the decay cycle. See you and I we’re old. We feel it. We’re getting older, we’re dying. God is eternal. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is vibrant. God is free. God is strong and if God is eternal that means that the word of God is eternal. That means that God is not apart from time that he is timeless, that he is timely. That means that this is not an old book, this is an eternal book. This means that it doesn’t matter what the time is. It is timely to have the word of God for that time. What this means is that ideas, philosophies, ideologies, nations, teachers, come and go but it’s the word of God that abides and endures forever. I have good news for you, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our needs are the same yesterday, today and forever and the word of God is the same yesterday, today and forever. That is such good news and I want you to know this, there is a God who made you. There is a God who made this world. You are not a cosmic accident. You are not here by happenstance, circumstance or chance. You’re here because God made this world. God made you, God named you. God knows every hair on your head. God knows every day of your life. God knows every longing of your heart and this is a God who loves you. This is a God who wants a relationship with you. This is a God who wants to change you. This is a God who wants to forgive you. This is a God who wants to free you. This is a God who wants to encourage you. This is a God who wants to bless you and this is a God who has a word for you. And I would say in a day that is filled with lies, praise God for the truth. In a world that is filled with lots of speculation, praise God for revelation. In a world that is filled with lots of people who are speaking and no one is listening, we want to be people who open our hearts, open our minds, open our ears, to hear and to heed the word of God. Man, it is amazing. You have a God who wants to talk to you. You have a God who wants to meet with you. You have a God who wants to listen to you. You have a God who wants to communicate and have a deepening relationship with you. Amen. We’re gonna meet with Him right now. I’ll bring the band up. We’re gonna sing. That’s how we talk to God. When we open the word of God, we get a word from God. That’s how God talks to us. If you’re a Christian or become a Christian, we partake of communion. This is something that is established in the word of God for the people of God. Remembering the broken body and shed blood of Jesus in our place for our sins because ultimately everything in the word of God, it is fulfilled in the son of God. Amen. Amen. Thanks for letting me teach you the word of God, I’m gonna pray and we’re gonna party. Father, thank you so much that we don’t have to guess, that we can hear. That in a world of lies, we can have the truth. In a world that rejects authority, we can live under the life-giving word of God. If you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. God, I ask that people would soften their hearts toward the word of God. That they would read the word of God. That they would receive the word of God. That they would heed the word of God. That they would obey the word of God. That they would study the word of God. That they would memorize the word of God. That they would enjoy the word of God and that their soul would be healthy and strong. Lord Jesus, thank you so much that you are the hero of scripture. You are the center of history and though things change, our need for you never changes and thank you, Lord God that you got the scriptures right the first time. You don’t need revisions. You don’t need edits. You got it right the first time and we say, thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.