2001-11-23 - The Bible
The Christian's Toolbox, Part 1
Because of a hectic schedule -- my volunteer and school responsibilities, etc., I have a Palmtop computer which helps me to maintain a semblance of organization. But last week, I missed a deadline for a church bulletin notice anyway. Why? Because I forgot to check the Palmtop. I have a very handy tool in front of me, but it does me no good if I forget to use it! God has given us some vital tools for our Christian life. Over the next couple weeks, we will look at some of these tools, beginning with the Bible.
There are many books in our libraries and bookstores that can teach us, uplift our spirits, make us think and entertain us. These authors' abilities to write are gifts from God, to be enjoyed. A gifted minister can even cull a Biblical sermon from a great work of literature. But only one Book is living:
Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Bible is not a black-and-white "answer book" that specifically treats every issue we will encounter. It doesn't tell us what career to pursue, which person to marry etc And in fact, as Paul points out, there are some "gray" areas to be decided between ourselves and the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:22-23; 1 Corinthians 10:23-30). The ability to discern gray areas accompanies spiritual maturity. But the Bible does provide general guidelines that can be applied to any decision:
Matthew 7:12 (NASB) In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
The Bible provides the stories and experiences of men and women of faith, and we can glean lessons from their obedience and devotion to God (think of Abraham, Job or Daniel), but also from their mistakes (think of Judas, Simon Peter and David). We are to look to them as our inspirations:
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB) Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
God's word equips us for our Christian walk. Books by such talented authors as Max Lucado can be helpful, but if the only book we ever read is the Bible, IF we do what it says (a huge proviso), we will still have everything we need, to prepare us for being a Christ-follower.
1 Timothy 3:15-17 (NASB) And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
The Scriptures are also a gold mine of relationship advice. Just one example: I have lost count of how many times I have seen this work, but it amazes me every time. So simple, yet so profound:
Proverbs 15:1 (NASB) A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
If you live in a country where God's word is readily available, I urge you to pause for a moment and thank God for this. And I challenge you to start really studying God's word. Don't just "surface-read." Go deep into the word. Ideally, get into a study with other local believers. But however you do it, take advantage of this valuable tool God has given us. In some countries, we would be arrested for reading the Bible. Those of us in the U.S. are so blessed. We have many versions of the Bible available, not to mention Study Bibles, Bibles with concordances, Bibles just for women, Bibles especially for youth. Yet sometimes we look at Bible-reading as a chore. We could learn a valuable lesson from those who don't have even one Bible. In some countries in Africa, people walk for miles in hopes of getting their own copy of the Bible. In spite of all our extensive knowledge and education, about this issue, they are wiser than we are.....