Bible

False teaching and counterfeit Christianity

Those who are trained in anti-counterfeiting measures don’t focus their training on studying fake bank notes. Instead they spend huge amounts of time studying the real thing: They become so familiar with every detail of the real article so that when they come across a fake or counterfeit bank note they can spot it easily, regardless of how clever the counterfeiters are! The more intimately aware you are of a genuine article the easier it is to recognise a fake. Similarly with us: If we will invest the time in God’s Word, so that we come to know it thoroughly, we will be able to spot false teaching and counterfeit Christianity easily.

Source: adapted from Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, p.151

Voltaire, the eighteenth-century critic of Christianity, wrote that within one hundred years the Bible would be obsolete and would have gone out of circulation all together. Within one hundred years of his death, his own Parisian residence had been converted into a Bible depot, publishing Bibles by the hour.

Source: Nicky Gumbel, 1997, The Heart of Revival, Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, p.27

(For congregational participation): I want to start with you a little quiz; a warm up exercise – a bit like Catchphrase on the TV – to get the grey-matter working: Complete the following sayings for me:

  1. Nothing but skin and… bones (Job 19:19-20)
  2. I escaped by the skin of my… teeth (Job 19:20)
  3. There’s a time and a place for… everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
  4. Going the extra… mile (Matthew 5:41)
  5. United we stand, “divided we… fall” (Matthew 12:25)
  6. Red sky at… night (Matthew 16:2-3)
  7. In the twinkling… of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52)
  8. A man after my own… heart (1 Samuel 13:14)
  9. A little bird… told me (Ecclesiastes 10:20)
  10. A leopard cannot change its… spots (Jeremiah 13:23)
  11. How the mighty have… fallen (2 Samuel 1:25)
  12. Pride comes… before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)
  13. By the sweat of your… brow (Genesis 3:19)
  14. Out of the mouths of… babes (Psalm 8:2)
  15. Eat drink and be… merry (Luke 12:19)
  16. The blind leading… the blind (Matthew 15:14)
  17. Along the straight… and narrow (Matthew 7:14)
  18. Tearing your hair… out (Ezra 9:3)
  19. At my wit’s… end (Psalm 107:27)
  20. The writing is on… the wall (Daniel 5:5-6)

Who can tell me what all of these everyday sayings have in common? (They all come from the Bible.) It may surprise you, but we all know a lot more of the Bible than we might think we do. Many of us, today, don’t realize that the Bible (the KJV in particular) has been enormously influential in the development of our own English language.

R. Ian Seymour

Let me share a piece of sentimentality, written by an unknown author and which was given to me on a card with the heading: ‘A Note From A Friend’. It reads a bit like a love letter – a little soppy, perhaps – but I’d like you to see through that and try to focus on the underlying message:

My Dear Friend

How are you? I just had to send a note to tell you how much I care about you. I saw you yesterday as you were talking to your friends; I waited all day hoping you would want to talk with me too. I gave you a beautiful sunset to close your day and a warm breeze to comfort you, and I waited, but you never came. It saddened me… but I still love you and I am still your friend.

I saw you sleeping last night and longed to be with you so I spilled moonlight on your face and, again I waited, wanting to rush down so we could talk. I have so many gifts for you! You woke up and rushed off to work. My heart was heavy again.

If you would only listen to me! I love you! I try to tell you in the blue skies, and in the green grass. I whisper it in the leaves on the trees, I breathe it in the colours of flowers; I shout it to you in the mountain streams and give the birds love songs to sing. My love for you is deeper than the ocean and bigger than the biggest need in your heart! Ask me! Talk with me! Please don’t ignore me or forget about me. I have so much to share with you! I won’t trouble you any further. I won’t force myself upon you. It is your decision. I have chosen you and I’ll wait… for a while longer yet, because I love you.

(Signed) Jesus.

Fake News; False Teaching

‘Fly fishing rests on pure deception. A replica of an insect is flicked over the surface of the river, luring an unsuspecting fish into rising to the surface for the next tasty insect morsel. The more convincing the fly, the better it will work. So it is with fake news or false teaching. If it didn’t resemble the real thing, people would never be taken in. What resembles good food is actually a trap.’

Explore Bible notes, 21/3/2019

Jesus was born of a virgin, fulfilling prophecy. Jesus was crucified on across, fulfilling prophecy. Jesus died for the sins of mankind, fulfilling prophecy. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb, fulfilling prophecy. Jesus was raised from the dead, fulfilling prophecy. Jesus ascended into the heavens, fulfilling prophecy. And this same Jesus will come again one day in fulfilment of prophecy. This is the hope and certainty of all those who believe in Him.

Billy Graham, The Reason For My Hope, p.78

Charles Spurgeon wrote, ‘We are blessed to have God’s Word always to guide us. Without a compass the mariner would be lost. So would Christians without the Bible. This is the unerring chart in which is described all the channels from the quick sands of destruction to the haven of salvation by one who knows all the way.’

Charles H. Spurgeon, 2000, Morning By Morning, Florida: Bridge-Logos Publishers, (Devotional for September 1st.)

Some Christians, it has to be said, are rather like the young boy who kept falling out of bed. Eventually, his dad sat him down and asked him what the problem was. The boy thought for a moment and said: “I guess I just remain too close to the place where I got in.” A lot of Christians are like that: they have a belief and they accept Jesus but they don’t really grow in their faith because they don’t get stuck-in; they remain on the side-lines and are reluctant or refuse to get more fully involved. They don’t grow because they don’t GO-deeper; their roots remain too close to the surface!

Critics often say the Bible is full of rules – thou shall not do this or that – which seek to confine and restrict our lives, but Jesus didn’t come to constrain us; he came to set us free. He said. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10v10). The Bible is like our guidebook that gives us boundaries so we can live as God intended – not rules to restrict us in the sense of oppressing us, but rules to protect us from ourselves and from danger.

There was a nursery school situated on the corner of a busy road, with traffic constantly driving past. The school had a lovely playground, surrounded by small dwarf-wall to stop the children running into the road. However, at break times all the children would stay very close to the school building because they were frightened by the passing traffic on the other side of the low wall.

Well, one day the school brought in the builders to erect a higher steel-mesh fence and from that day on, the children played in the whole playground. You see, the children were happier and felt more secure when the fences were put up to show clear boundaries.

Same with us: If we stay within the boundaries that God has set for us and we live by His rules, then there is freedom and joy. But if we cheat or break the rules people get hurt!

The Bible gives us clear boundaries for our wellbeing, happiness and safety. When the Bible says, ‘Do not commit adultery’, it’s not because God wants to restrict and oppress us, or be a killjoy, but because God knows the pain and misery and damage that sin causes. Because He loves us and wants to protect us: He wants us to be safe and happy and enjoy life the way He intended us to.

R. Ian Seymour

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.117

I remember an old Peanuts carton strip in the newspaper: On the first day of the new school year students were told to write an essay about returning to class. Lucy wrote, ‘Holidays are nice, but it’s good to get back to school. There is nothing more satisfying or challenging than education, and I look forward to a year of expanding knowledge.’ The teacher was pleased and complimented Lucy on her essay. In the final frame of the cartoon Lucy leans over and whispers to Charlie Brown, ‘After a while you learn what sells.’ Similarly, the temptation to preach ‘what sells’ (what itching ears want to hear) is always with us. But preachers/elders must be blameless in their doctrinal orthodoxy. God doesn’t change. The gospel doesn’t change.

A great many Christians are just too relaxed about not reading their Bible and so they don’t always know what God’s word says. They might say to themselves: “Oh, I’m happy enough in my faith and coming to church without reading the Bible!” Hey, an ostrich with its head in the sand may be happy. But is it safe? The Bible you don’t read can’t help you!

The Bible is also a strangely powerful book; it has the power to change lives forever. Funny, but sit on a train or in a café or restaurant and read any other book or magazine and people won’t give you a second glance. But read the Bible and people around you will go quiet, and they will keep glancing over and watching you, and when you get up to leave they will watch to see where you go, or what car you get into in and even read the number plate! Such is the allure and magnetism this holy book. Open it and people notice; they are intrigued and captivated but often they don’t know why!

Was Jesus betrayed and deserted by his friends? It was fulfilment of Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Was he was painfully oppressed and repudiated? It was in fulfilment of Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” Did he maintain a dignified silence before his judges? It was in fulfilment of Isaiah 53:7: “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Was he flogged, punched, slapped, and spat on? It was in fulfilment of Isaiah 50:6: “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”

Seven days without reading the Bible makes one weak (spiritually)!

Jill Price has an extraordinary memory that has stunned scientists. In 2006, her overdeveloped memory was described in a scientific article as, “A Case of Unusual Autobiographical Remembering.” Price has no special aptitude for memorising lists of words, numbers, facts or languages. But she does remember what happened to her on any given day over the last 30 years. Name any date and Price will tell you what day of the week it was, the weather, what she had for breakfast, the TV programmes she watched, and the people she spoke with.

Few of us have a memory like that. That’s why we need to remind ourselves (…) especially when it comes to spiritual truth (…) No matter what kind of memory we have we need to be reminded of biblical principles. Daily Bible reading, small group studies, and involvement in a local church can all help us to remember God’s vital truths.

Dennis Fisher

Source: Dennis Fisher, Our daily Bread devotional for 10/3/10.

I remember shortly after I became a Christian, asking an older Christian for some advice because I was concerned about spiritual dryness. As the truth of who Jesus is, and what he has done for us was revealed to me, the penny finally dropped. I was so full of gratitude and joy and love for God. But I remember also being concerned because I saw Christians of long-standing who appeared so dry and lacking, and that really bothered me. I didn’t want to ever lose my newfound faith or for my relationship with Christ to go stale. My friend gave me one of the best pieces of advice a mature Christian can give to a new believer, or to any believer for that matter. He told me, ‘Ian, every day read your Bible and pray.’ He compared our relationship to God to be like a marriage, saying that the more we communicate, share and spend time with our spouse the deeper and more meaningful our relationship and love for each other. And it’s the same with our relationship with God: The more time we spend in his presence, in prayer and in his Word, the stronger and deeper our relationship and faith will be.

Practical Tips for regular Bible reading

The truth is you can’t watch television for three hours then read your Bible for three minutes and expect God to bless you with spiritual growth!’ As Galatians 6v7 says ‘A man reaps what he sows.’

  • Form the habit of spending time each day reading the Bible, maybe just a chapter a day. But don’t rush. The aim isn’t to see how quickly we can through it but to see what we can get out of it! It’s the quality of time that matters not the quantity. It’s much better to reflect and mull over a single verse than to speed read and not absorb anything.
  • Chose a time that works for you. Many people (myself included) find that first thing in the morning is the best time, but maybe a mid-morning or an afternoon break or last thing at night suits you better. Whatever time works best for you stick with it, and guard this time jealously.
  • Use daily Bible reading notes or commentaries as an aid to help you understand the Word of God. There are lots of good ones available; try one or two and see how you get on. (I have used Explore Bible reading notes daily for several years.)
  • Find a place where can go and not be disturbed, and pray before you start, asking God to help you understand what you read, and to show you how to apply what you learn. I often use Psalm 119v18 as a prayer: ‘open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ If you come to the Bible hungry and expectant to learn, your Bible reading will become a place of nurture and growth, as well as a source of guidance, strength and encouragement each day.
  • As you read look for God on every page, then look for yourself on the same page: Ask how is this applicable to me today? What is God saying to me? Is there something in this passage that I should pray about?
  • For new Christians or those just starting out in reading the Bible, I always recommend a great place to start is Luke’s gospel (24 chapters, so read one a day over three and a bit weeks) then read the book of Acts (see how the early church started, grew and spread), then maybe read Philippians and the Psalms.

R. Ian Seymour

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.120-121

In ‘Life Essentials’, Dr Tony Evans writes: “I’ve had my car for several years now, but I went for about two years without ever reading the owner’s manual. That changed one day when my car broke down and I had to take it in for service. The store manager began showing me all the stuff my car was equipped to do. I didn’t even know half that stuff was available because I had never opened the book. He told me, for instance, that the car had a built-in speaker for telephone conversations, and showed me how to use the car phone without having an accident while trying to dial the numbers. I listened in amazement, and quickly decided that it would be in my best interests to read the owner’s manual that came with my car. But I am not reading that manual just to check off how many chapters I read, or memorise various passages. I am reading it so I can enjoy all the good gifts the manufacturer gave me when I purchased the car.” – Moral: If you want the benefits, read the book, the Bible!

Source: Quoted in The UCB Word For Today

Bible students are taught that a text taken out of context is a pretext for a proof-text (a pretence of proof). That’s another way of saying, if you isolate verses of Scripture from their context you can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.

Let me give you an example: Did you know that the Bible actually says there is no God. It’s absolutely true! Psalm 14v1 actually says: “There is no God.” However, when we look at the verse in context, it reads: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Here’s another example of taking a text out of context: A boy prays, ‘Lord, who should I go out with?’ Then he flips his Bible open at random to Isaiah 55:12 and reads, “You shall go out with joy.”

The Church has always been infiltrated by false teaching – often mingled with truth so it’s not that obvious to the untrained eye. Like when Satan tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit: there was falsehood mingled with truth. First the serpent caused doubt: “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Then the falsehood: ‘You won’t surely die’, he said, ‘God knows that if you eat it you will be just like God knowing good and evil.’ – It was a part-truth to disguise the lie: True, they did become like God in knowing good and evil, but a lie in saying they wouldn’t die.

The Bible is the inspired word of God, and the Bible’s prophetic teaching is ‘probably the most direct evidence for the special involvement of God in this book’. “For example, the exact manner of Jesus’ death was foretold in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53); the place of his burial and even the place of his birth (Micah 5:2). Suppose Jesus had been a con man wanting to fulfil all these prophecies. It would have been a bit late by the time he discovered the place in which he was supposed to have been born!”

Nicky Gumbel, Alpha: Questions of Life, 2007, Eastbourne: Kingsway, p.33

A mirror gives us a double message: it tells us both what we are and therefore what we should be. The mirror says, “You’ve got a dirty smudge on your right cheek, so you’d better go and wipe it off.” Whenever we look at ourselves in the mirror, we have to act on what we see. Just so, as we gaze intently into the mirror of God’s Word, it tells us what we are and what we should be.

John Stott

John Stott, Through The Bible Through The Year, 2006, Abingdon Oxford, Candle Books, p.394

What do we mean when we say that the Bible is God inspired? Let’s ponder that for a moment. Author, H.O. Mackey puts it like this: “Who built St Paul’s Cathedral? So many masons, carpenters, iron-workers, carvers, painters – and then was Wren. He was not a mason or a carpenter… and never laid a stone. What did he do? He did it all. He planned it; inspired it with his thought.” Mackay does not intend to dishonour the workmen who toiled hard and long, but simply to make the point that in the final analysis St Paul’s Cathedral is Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. Who wrote the Bible? Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John, Peter, Paul and many others. But whose book is it really? It is God’s.

Source: Selwyn Hughes, The Uniqueness of our Faith, p.31

The Bible is like a love letter to us from God and as Paul Little, professor of evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, once noted: ‘The people that God used to record His words in the Bible were themselves uncommonly moved by them.’ They said the Word of God is:

  • honey in my mouth (Ezekiel 3:3)
  • spiritual food for the hungry (Job 23:12)
  • a lamp for my feet (Psalm 119:105)
  • a joy and delight to my heart (Jeremiah 15:16)
  • more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10)
  • sharper than a two-edged sword penetrating my thoughts and attitudes (Hebrews 4:12)
  • perfect and trustworthy… a great reward (Psalm 19:7, 11)

Paul E. Little, 2003, Know What You Believe, Illinois IVP Books, p.16

Sometimes people say: ‘How do we know the words of the Bible haven’t been lost in translation; how do we know the Bible is accurate?’ The answer to that is simple: the accuracy of what has been written, copied, and passed down through the centuries is remarkable. The Bible is indeed a precise translation of the original texts. We know this because we can compare it to the original manuscripts. There are some 24,300 ancient manuscripts or fragments of scripture known to be in existence today. The oldest fragments of New Testament Scripture are a piece of papyrus containing part of John’s gospel dating back to between 117–138AD (which is exhibited in John Ryeland’s Library in Manchester), and three fragments of papyrus in Magdalen College, Oxford that have been dated to the third quarter of the first century (i.e. somewhere between 42–66 years after Christ’s death). Also in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. These contained fragments of every book in the Old Testament (except Esther), and included the complete book of Isaiah. The scrolls have been dated to around 100BC and the discovery of them has proved beyond any shadow of doubt that the Bible we have today is an authentic copy and translation of the original documents. So, the Bible is accurate, very accurate.

We should also remember that Jesus quoted scripture often. The only ‘Bible’ Jesus had at that time was the Old Testament, but Jesus is recorded as quoting verbatim from it nearly forty times (from thirteen different books), and he also referred to Scripture on many other occasions. But more than any of this, Jesus himself is the most compelling proof that the Bible is God inspired and true. Jesus fulfilled Scripture and, indeed, He will fulfil what few prophecies remain in the Scriptures when He returns. On the subject of the Bible being God inspired, or God-breathed, John Benton, author of Looking for the Answer, makes the valid point that the Bible’s prophetic teaching is ‘probably the most direct evidence for the special involvement of God with this book’.

Cited in Why Believe The Bible? by John Blanchard, 2004, Darlington: Evangelical Press, p.25, p.28

John Ortberg relates how his friend Danny went spelunking in the caves of Iowa. The man guiding took him deep underground, then said he would lead Danny through a passageway into a spectacular chamber. The passageway was small enough that Danny had to stoop at first. Then as it grew still smaller, he had to get on his hands and knees. Eventually the only way to go forward was to lie on his back and push his body forward with his feet. Then the ceiling was so low that when he inhaled he could not move at all! He had to stop, inhale, and exhale, and only then was his chest low enough to allow him to move. By this point it was physically impossible to back out. If the passageway had gotten any smaller they would have lain there and died in that cave.

Danny is a sky-diving, mountain-climbing, hang-gliding, thrill-seeker, but there in that cave he felt sheer panic. He was terrified. He tried fighting his fear, but he kept picturing his dead body mouldering in the cave. Finally, he told his guide he was about to lose it, and the guide said, “Danny, close your eyes and listen to my voice. I will keep talking, calmly, and guide you through this. We will be okay. I have been here before. I will get you to the other side. But you must listen to my voice. It will not work for you to let your thoughts run wild. Just focus on my voice.”

Danny did so. What freed him from panic and fear was not trying hard to quit thinking fearful thoughts. It was listening to another voice. What voice do you listen to when you’re in the cave and it’s dark, when the ceiling is low and you can’t back out? The Spirit longs to flow in our minds all the time. One reason why people have found memorising Scripture helpful is that it helps us to listen to the voice of our guide when we are in the cave.”

Source: John Ortberg, The Me I Want To Be, 2010, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.96-97

In his book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner applies the modern science of probability to just eight of these prophecies regarding Christ. He says, “The chance that any man might have …fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in 10 to the 17th. That’s 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000” (one hundred quadrillion).

Stoner suggests that if “we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas, they will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly… Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up that one marked silver dollar. What chance would he have of getting the right one?”

“Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing just eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man… if they’d wrote them in their own wisdom.”

D.L. Moody, the famous evangelist and forerunner to Billy Graham, said: “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.” God speaks to us through the Bible; it’s like a guidebook for life: It tells us how we should live our lives; it answers many of life’s questions; it feeds us and encourages us; it warns us; it’s like a spiritual antibiotic; it provides protection against the world, the flesh and the devil; it has the power to change us… making us more and more like Christ.

Adapted from Stephen Gaukroger, First Steps: The handbook to following Christ, p.58

Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm and indeed the shortest chapter in the whole of the Bible. There are only two verses. And not only is it the shortest chapter in the Bible, it is also the middle chapter of the Bible? There are 1189 chapters in the Bible and Psalm 117 is chapter number 595, slap-bang in the middle. Now when the Scriptures were originally written, and later compiled together, they didn’t have chapter and verse numbers – these were only added in the thirteenth century as a means of easy referencing (before the days of computers with paragraph and word counts). But in the Sovereignty of God there’s no such thing as chance and so it’s very interesting, is it not, that the central chapter of the Bible, being the inspired Word of God, should open and close with the instruction to “praise the LORD.” Psalm 117 serves as a permanent reminder that our praise of God should be at the very centre of our lives.

I heard a funny tale about a girl who goes to the pet shop and buys a parrot in a cage after the shopkeeper assures her the bird can talk. Well, the next day she is back at the shop again asking for advice because the bird hasn’t spoken. The shopkeeper suggests a toy ladder might help, but it doesn’t. The next day she is back at the shop again and is persuaded to try a swing for the bird. The next day, a mirror… then a plastic tree for scenery, then a bell and a toy bird for company. Nothing works! At the end of the week the girl returns to the pet shop with the parrot dead on the bottom of the cage. The pet shop owner can’t believe it: “Didn’t the bird say anything at all before it died?” he asked. “Yes, finally he did,” said the girl. “He said, ‘don’t they sell food at that pet shop?”’ – And the moral behind this little tale is this: We shouldn’t wander around looking for the next new thing or the next spiritual high. Instead we should focus and feed on God’s Word.

Someone said to me recently, ‘You don’t have to read the Bible or go to church to be a Christian.’ And I said, ‘no you don’t, that’s absolutely true! And similarly, you don’t have to talk to your spouse or go home for you to be married, but then what kind of a relationship is that? The fact is we can’t grow in our relationship with God if we don’t really spend any time with Him – in prayer and in the Scriptures.

R. Ian Seymour

An illustration using a candle or tea light and a glass jar

Light the candle and place it in on a saucer. Ask, the question: will the candle go out if I place a glass jar on top of it, yes or no? Place the jar on top of the candle and the flame will go out after a few seconds as the oxygen in the jar is depleted. Application: In order for our light to continue to shine we need to feed our faith through Bible study, prayer, fellowship and church.

One poet describes the Bible as ‘The Anvil of God’s Word’ and wrote this:

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.

“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”

And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
For ages sceptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

How well do you know the Bible? There is a story told about a young lad who brought his friend home from school, but he was embarrassed because his granny was sitting in the armchair reading her Bible. The boy, feeling uncomfortable, turned to his friend and whispered, ‘Don’t worry about Granny, she’s revising; she’s swotting for her finals!’

False teachers

“The gifts [of the Spirit] are without repentance – irrevocable (Romans 11:29). This explains why a person’s gift continues to flourish despite their personal morality. Never forget that King Saul prophesied on his way to kill David (1 Samuel 19:21-24). It is assumed by some sincere but gullible people that if a person is able to perform miracles, it can only be because God’s seal of approval is on them. Wrong. Very wrong. The gifts are irrevocable; God lets you keep them. This is why prophesying proves nothing. Speaking in tongues proves nothing. Performing a miracle proves nothing.”

R.T. Kendall

R.T. Kendall, Holy Fire, 2014, Florida: Charisma House, p.77

An unknown poet wrote:
‘Though the cover is worn and the pages are torn, and though places bear traces of tears.
Yet more precious than gold is this book worn and old, that can shatter and scatter my fears.
When I prayerfully look in this precious old book, as my eyes scan the pages I see;
Many tokens of love from the Father above, Who is nearest and dearest to me.
This old book is my guide, ‘tis a friend by my side, it will lighten and brighten my way.
And each promise I find soothes and gladdens my mind, as I read it and heed it today?’

NIV = Nearly Infallible Version!

The word BIBLE is also an acronym that stands for: Best Instruction Before Life Ends.

The Bible is a holy book: we call it the Holy Bible. But there is nothing holy, religious or spiritual about the word ‘Bible’ which is derived from the Latin word ‘biblia,’ and simply means books. The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament written by at least 40 different authors with diverse occupations such as kings, scholars, historians, prophets, poets, fishermen, a doctor and of course, the apostles of Christ. The genre of literature is also varied and includes history, story-narrative, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, letters, biographies (gospels) and apocalyptic literature.

The earliest books of the Bible are from around Moses’ time (15th century BC) and the latest from the end of the 1st century, around 95AD, so the material was published, collected and brought together over a period of around 1500 years. Although the books are not in chronological order there is a definite logic to the way they have been assembled, an amazing development of common themes and an overall unity. It truly is an amazing book – ‘out of this world’ some would say! Others might not agree. Sometimes people object and say: ‘Surely you can’t (or don’t have to) believe everything you read in the Bible.’ The first thing I want to say in response to that is that we do not need to believe or agree with everything that is written in the Bible before making a decision for Christ. Secondly, and let’s be clear here, Christians do not venerate or worship a book. We are not called to believe in a book, as such, we are called to believe in Jesus Christ as revealed to us in and through this holy book. The main point of the Bible is to show us how to enter into and remain in a relationship with God through Jesus.

It’s a bit like when someone brings a new baby into church. We don’t admire the buggy and say, ‘Oh what a lovely upholstered buggy: truly an outstanding design and manufactured with such skill.’ We don’t admire the buggy we admire the baby contained within the buggy. Similarly with the Bible, Christians don’t revere or worship a book, but God who is revealed to us in and through the book.

R. Ian Seymour

The Bible we have today is known as the complete or closed ‘canon’ of Scripture, that is, those books that are recognised as being the inspired Word of God. The New Testament canon first became established in 367A.D., when Athanasius – known as the father of orthodoxy – listed all of the books of the New Testament in his thirty-ninth Paschal Letter, and the canon was also later confirmed at a gathered church council in Carthage in 397A.D. The word ‘canon’ comes from the rule of law that was used to determine if a book measured up to a particular standard. Three criteria were used in recognising and acknowledging canonicity; these were:

  1. Was the book known to be apostolic in its origin – that is, did the book derive from the teaching of the apostles?
  2. Was the attitude towards such a book as inspired Scripture, accepted and recognized by the early churches?
  3. Did the book promote sound doctrine and truth?

Article by J.N. Birdwell, ‘Canon Of The New Testament’ published in The New Bible Dictionary, 1962, London: Inter- Varsity Press, p.194–197

Here are some more biblical facts: The Bible is the world’s all time out and out bestseller: it has far outsold any other book in history and remains on the best sellers list year after year. Currently there are 44 million copies of the Bible sold each year, and that figure continues to grow annually. Nothing comes anywhere near it. To date the Bible, or parts of it, have been translated into over 1,240 languages worldwide, and there are translation projects currently under way for more than 450 further languages.

Source: Bible Society (online: biblesociety.org.uk)

Often critics will say (usually because they have heard it somewhere else first), ‘the Bible contradicts itself and is full of errors’, but I have personally read the Bible through several times and I’ve never found any. And when, on occasions, I’ve challenged someone to go and find a mistake and show me, no one has ever been able to so! Other people say the Bible contradicts itself. It’s true that there are a number of (minor) differences in the way some of the authors report certain events – the Bible says ‘all Scripture is God-breathed’ [God-inspired]; it does not say it is God dictated – but the Bible never contradicts itself.

One typical example of a ‘supposed’ contradiction surrounds Jesus’ return: The Bible teaches that Jesus will one day return to earth. In Matthew’s Gospel (24v40-41) it says that at the precise moment Jesus returns: Two men will be in a field (…) and two women will be grinding with a hand mill, which seems to indicate that it will be during daylight hours, when people are at work. However Luke says (17v42): ‘on that night two people will be in one bed.’ Now, this looks like a glaring error or contradiction, until we remember that the middle of the day in one part of the world is the middle of the night in another. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself.

It is fair to say that many people have tried to disprove the Bible, or they have searched for flaws to try and discredit it, and in doing so many have also ended up being converted. Such is the power of God’s Word: it has stood the test of time. Sir Isaac Newton was an avid student of Scripture, after years of diligent study he came to the conclusion that the Bible was ‘a rock from which all hammers of criticism have never chipped a single fragment.’

Cited in Why Believe The Bible? by John Blanchard, 2004, Darlington: Evangelical Press, p.13

The Old Testament is full of predictions about the Messiah, or Christ. In fact, one Biblical scholar has worked out that there are 332 distinct prophecies in the Old Testament, which were literally fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. He further worked out that the mathematical probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled in just one man is 1 in 84, followed by 97 zeros (0’s).

1 in 84

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Now just how accurate that figure is, or how someone actually goes about calculating such mathematical probabilities – or even how to pronounce how many zillion, trillion, billion, million that figure represents – is beyond me, but I wanted to show this illustration to, at least, provide some perspective on how improbably it really is that Jesus isn’t the promised Saviour or Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke about.

R. Ian Seymour

Cited in Is Anyone There? by David Watson, 1979, London: Hodder and Stoughton, p.29

The thing that makes the Bible such an amazing book is the way it predicts events in the future, which then happen. I don’t mean the sort of thing you can read in your average horoscope – ‘Today you will meet a handsome stranger. Tomorrow it will be dry if it’s not raining.’ I mean specific predictions which are unmistakably fulfilled. There are hundreds of them in the Bible.

Ezekiel predicted in the sixth century BC that Tyre (a major city and thriving industrial centre) would be defeated and utterly destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar and then Alexander the Great brought about the fulfilment of this prophecy in 333 BC. It even says in Ezekiel 26:14, ‘I will leave only a bare rock where fishermen can dry their nets.’ Sure enough, after Tyre was taken over by the Arabs in AD 1291, it became a poor fishing village. Among many other fulfilled predictions, Amos foretold the downfall of Israel, Jeremiah the capture of Jerusalem, Isaiah the return of the Jews from exile, and Jesus the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus’ own coming to earth was predicted in a precise way. He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), be rejected and killed (Isaiah 53:3-5), while men gambled for his clothes (Psalm 22:18). All these predictions were made over 400 years before Jesus came. Each one happened. In fact, not a single prediction in the Bible can be shown to be false – a remarkable record.

Stephen Gaukroger

Source: Stephen Gaukroger, It Makes Sense, p.64-65

Someone has pictured the Old Testament as being like a darkened room filled with furniture and objects that its ancient readers could only guess at. They grope around in the darkness wondering what is in that picture on the wall, or precisely what purpose this object has. When Jesus comes, it is as if he flings open the curtains and the light floods in. For the New Testament writers, there are a whole series of “of course!” moments, as the true meaning of many puzzling texts becomes clear.

Explore Bible notes, 18/4/2017

There’s a story told of a little boy out flying his kite: It was a blustery day with thick, low clouds and the kite went up and up until it was entirely hidden by the clouds. “What are you up to then?” a man asked the boy. “I’m flying my kite”, he replied. “Flying your kite?” the man said. “How can you be sure? You can’t see the kite.” “No,” said the boy, “I can’t see it, but every now and again I feel a tug and I know for certain it’s there!” – If you want to know more of God’s presence in your life, in you want to feel Him tugging at you, directing you, blessing you, then get into God’s word.

J.I. Packer tells a story of how one morning in the 1620s, in a little village church, a preacher named John Rogers was preaching on the subject of the Bible in the Christian’s life. He allowed himself some pulpit dramatics. First, he acted the part of God telling the congregation: “Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible; you have slighted it; it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Then you shall have my Bible no longer.” And he took the pulpit Bible away. Then he knelt down and impersonated the people crying to God: “Lord, whatever thou dost to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses; destroy our goods but spare us thy Bible.” Then he acted God again: “Say you so? Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you” (replacing it); “I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more, observe it more, practice it more, live more according to it.” At this the whole congregation dissolved in tears. What had happened? Rogers, under the Spirit of God, had touched a nerve, reminding them of their need to pay close attention to the Bible because reverence for God meant reverence for Scripture and serving God meant obeying Scripture. Do we need to recapture some of the same attitude today? Surely disregarding the Bible is the greatest possible insult to its divine author.

Your Father Loves You, by James Packer. (Source: http://net.bible.org/illustration.php?topic=163)

The Bible is one of the main sources of nourishment for a Christian, which is why God gave it to us. If we want to know God more, if we want to love him and know his love for us more, then we really need to read and study our Bible, regularly and diligently. Not to read it as a tick box exercise – just going through the motions – because then the words will just flow through our mind like water gushing through a pipe and nothing sticks! We need to read it thoughtfully, prayerfully, expectantly and daily.

Maybe you find Bible reading difficult? Someone recently said to me: ‘I feel guilty for not reading it more but when I do I don’t really get anything out of it.’ I can understand that, but it’s like being on a diet and after the first day saying, I don’t feel any different so what’s the point? I recommend people start by creating a habit of spending 15 minutes a day in reading and studying God’s word, maybe just a chapter a day. Not to try and get through it but to try and get out of it! Look for God on every page, then look for yourself on the same page and ask, how is this applicable to me today, what is God saying to me? – It’s much better to reflect and mull over a single verse than to speed read and not absorb anything. Martin Luther said studying the Bible was like picking apples. First you shake the trunk, then you shake the limb, then you shake the branch, then you shake the twig, then you look under every leaf. There is no other book in the whole world like it. You can read the same Bible verse a dozen times, and get a dozen different insights. That’s because it’s God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). – R. Ian Seymour

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.94

What happens then if we pray and pick up our Bible for 15 minutes, to read and meditate on it, and then we put the Bible down and because we’re so busy we forget or don’t pick it up again for another week or so? What do you suppose happens? Well, nothing much, frankly… it’s just like a drop in the ocean! Oh, the actual time spent happened but because it didn’t keep on happening it had no real lasting effect.

But, friends, the opposite is also true: It’s like me adding a drop of blue dye into a bucket of water. After adding one drop nothing much happens: after two or three drops – it’s the same: but after three or four weeks of continually adding a drop, day after day, the water in the bucket starts to turn blue. Same happens with us: if we will cultivate a daily habit of praying and reading God’s Word, things may not change overnight, but very soon we will start to see a very marked and positive difference. – We will become more colourful… more Christ-like!

R. Ian Seymour

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.94-95

Rick Warren asks: What does it mean to meditate? Some people think it means to put your mind in neutral and contemplate the lint on your navel as you say, “Ommmmmm.” – But that’s not what meditation is! (…) ‘If we look up the word meditation in a dictionary, we find that a synonym is the word rumination. Rumination is what a cow does when she chews her cud. A cow eats grass, chews up all she can, then swallows it. It sits in one of her stomachs for a while, and then a little bit later she burps it up – with renewed flavour! The cow chews on it some more and swallows it again. This continues for all four stomachs. That’s rumination. The cow is straining every ounce of nourishment from the grass. Meditation is thought digestion. Meditation does not mean that you put your mind in neutral and think about nothing. Meditation is thinking seriously about what you are reading. You take one verse and ask, “What does this mean for my life?” Talk to yourself about it and talk to God about it.’

Rick Warren, God’s Power To Change Your Life, 2006, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.38-39

The Bible can be split into two parts: I don’t mean the Old Testament and the New Testament because, for Christians the New Testament is a continuation of the Old; there is no separation. No, the two parts I am referring to are this: Genesis chapters 1 to 11 (which describe Creation and man’s rebellion against God and the ‘Fall’ from grace culminating in building of the Tower of Babel, when men’s pride and sin reach towards heaven itself), and then Genesis 12 to the very end of Revelation where God’s salvation or rescue plan is promised and gradually unfolds; and God’s new creation; the New Jerusalem; the New Heaven and New Earth are brought to fulfilment. We know that we are now in ‘the last days’ as we await the final part of this rescue plan; the return of the Lord Jesus to bring about the final judgment and redemption, the rescue of his people.

In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back. (That’s why Jesus came.) The Bible’s last scene, like the parable of the lost son, ends in jubilation, the family united once again.

Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 2000, London: Marshall Pickering, p.266

The books and letters in the Bible were not written to us, but they were written for us… so that we can learn from them and so we can discover the truth about God and his plans for us. The Bible allows us to look backward so we can see the way forwards. It’s a bit like the rear view mirror in your car: You look backwards to check for approaching dangers, you look backwards to check your progress and make sure it is safe to proceed, you look backwards to move forwards, or, occasionally, to reverse so that you can move forwards again but in a new direction. The Bible allows us to look backwards and learn so that we are empowered and encouraged to move forwards again in the right direction.

The following words are printed inside Bibles distributed by The Gideons International:

This book contains

the mind of God, the state of man,

the way of salvation, the doom of sinners,

and the happiness of believers.

Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding,

its histories are true, and its decisions immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you,

food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveller’s map, the pilgrim’s staff,

the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword,

and the Christian’s charter.

Here too Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed.

Christ is its grand subject,

our good its design,

and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory,

rule the heart, and guide the feet.

Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.

It is a mine of wealth,

health to the soul, and a river of pleasure.

The renowned theologian and lecturer, J. I. Packer, states: ‘A [biblical] ministry which is wholly concerned with gospel truths can still go wrong by giving those truths an inaccurate application. Scripture is full of truth that will heal souls, just as a chemist shop is stocked with remedies for bodily disorders; but in both cases a misapplication of what, rightly used, will heal, will have a disastrous effect. If, instead of dabbing iodine on, you drink it, the effect will be the reverse of curative! – and the doctrines [in the Bible] can be misapplied too, with unhappy results.”

We need to read the Bible the Chinese way – reading it up and down (nod head as if in agreement) and not the Western way – reading it from left to right (shake head as if in disagreement).

It’s been said God’s word is like the ocean: shallow enough for a small child to paddle about in and experience much joy, yet so deep that we’ll never be able to completely fathom its depths.

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