From Old To New

I got a new Bible.

Yeah, I know, “stop the presses!”

What??

Giving my age away with that one.  There’re probably a lot of kids who’ve hardly ever seen a newspaper, let alone read it.  They know nothing about newpaper editors coming into the press room with a hot new news item and hollering, “Stop the presses!”  They’re all glued to the screen in their hands.  It amazes me, the people I see, even one driving the other day, who can’t seem to tear themselves away from their latest I-toy.  At least the guy driving had it up where he could watch the road and talk on the phone at the same time.  Yes, yes, I know.  It’s the 2010s, not the 1910s.  Electronics have been revolutionary in our culture, a lot of good, the iPhones, etc., but some not so much. 

Anyway….

I got a new Bible.

It’s not the first new one; it’s just when I opened this one this morning for my reading, the pages were empty.  Not empty of words, of course,  but of the notations, markings, underlinings, etc., which had filled the old one.  The other one was an old friend, even to the duct tape holding it all together.  Wonderful invention, duct tape.

It saddens me, the professing Christians who never open a Bible, never read it, who know very little of the treasures it contains.  Early in our marriage, Sharon and I visited the church I had attended as a child.  Aside from the fact that the auditorium seemed a lot smaller than I remembered, so far as I could see, we were the only ones among the 2 or 3 hundred people there who had Bibles.  Now, of course, churches have these ginormous screens up front so people don’t actually need their own Bible.  Or they’ve got these little things they can stick in their pocket.  It’s today.  Sad.  No book to actually hold and read.

This is the Word of God.  Yes, I know.  A whole lot of people, among them professing Christians, don’t really believe that.

This is the Word of that God who called everything into being and who keeps it going.  This is the God who has counted the innumerable stars in the heavens.
This is the God who has named every single one of them, Psalm 147:4.

And this is the God who moved a bunch of men to write down His Word, so that we may know Him and His works.  Know ourselves and our sinfulness.  Know the Lord Jesus Christ, how He came to this world to do for us what we could never do for ourselves:  live a sinless, righteous life and die an unspeakable death, all to pay our sin debt.  Thank you, Lord Jesus.

And God had it all written down so we could know it….
_______________

I got a new Bible.

Goodbye, old friend.

Hello, new friend.

 

 

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Hebrews 2:1-4, …Listen Up!

[1]Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away.  [2]For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, [3]how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, [4]God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (NKJV)

In chapter 1, the writer began by asserting that God has spoken, first by prophets and then by His own Son.  This post begins by linking 1:1 with 2:1, “God has spoken,…listen up!”

In this country, we live in a time of unprecedented rebellion against Christianity.  The unbeliever says that Christianity is foolish, not worthy of serious pursuit, and is a waste of time or worse.  It is for losers, for the ignorant and uninformed.  Indeed, it is even being labeled as “hate,”  and as such is to be rejected.  Even our President, in connection with the recent sociological flurry, has said that people need to “adjust their religious views” to take into account, and to agree with, the tremendous changes that have taken place recently, thanks to the Supreme Court.

Though perhaps to a lesser degree, even Christians are guilty of some of this.  Leaving aside those who more or less might agree with the above paragraph,  a great many believe that Christianity is simply to belong to a certain denomination, or maybe to disregard any “denomination” at all.  It is to be baptized, either as an adult or an infant, or to take communion.  It is to speak with tongues or to have some other type of “spiritual experience.”  It is, as one lady said, “a warm feeling in my heart.”  It is a particular dogma or set of beliefs.  It is to walk an aisle and/or pray a prayer.  It is to do our best – live by the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule.

In answer to all these, some of which do have their place, we say that Christianity is what God says it is, not man.  It is not, and never has been, about what society thinks. Indeed, it is more likely to contradict what society says.  God say that Christianity is life, found in a Person, the Lord Jesus, and revealed in particular in the New Testament.

As we come to our text, we see two thoughts.  In this post, we’ll look at the first one.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.
2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:2-4.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.

a.  We are to heed the Word, to give more earnest heed to it.

This means to pay attention.  Perhaps James can help us here when he says that we are to be doers of the Word, James 1:22.  The Word isn’t given to us simply as information or so that we can argue about its interpretation.  While it does tell us things we need to know, it also tells us things we need to do.  And, in Hebrews, this “attention” is to be “abundant.”  One of the words translated “more earnest” means “superabundant.”  Not casual.  Not fleeting.  Not if we have the time.  Abundant.  Lots of it.  I believe there is coming a time in this country, and soon, when the Bible will be illegal.  It already is as far as government and education are concerned, but I believe this will be a complete prohibition and Bibles will be confiscated and destroyed – and likely, those who hold to it with them.  So we need to pay attention to it while we can.

Our Lord had something to say about this.  In Matthew 13, He spoke of a man going out to sow seed in his field, and of the growth which came from it.  He then likened that to those who hear the Word.  There were four results of the sowing – and there are four results of the hearing of the Word.  We’ll not go into it a lot, but only one of the four brought forth abundant fruit.  In one case, the devil came right away and took the word away.  I think most of the time he just draws our attention to something else.  I wonder if a preacher standing in the door as the people leave and tell him what a wonderful sermon it was – I wonder if he were to ask them what it was about, how many of them could tell him.  In another case, there was an initial reception, but some form of persecution took it away.  You know, persecution doesn’t have to mean death, it can simply mean derision.  This world has never thought a lot of the Word, even less so now, but there have always been those who have been opposed to those who believe and live the Bible. Or it could simply be that the old life is too strong.  The desires of our human nature are very strong and, if we’re not careful, can become our masters.  The third case failed because the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches entangle the Word like weeds and choke its influence out.  Oh, there’s so much we could say about that one!

b.  We are to hear the Word, the things which we have heard. 

But make no mistake.  We are to hear the Word.  While the previous paragraph was against just hearing it, we do need to hear it.  We are to be students of it.  My wife worked with a gentleman who had been a church member all his life, and he was amazed that she had read the Bible through several times.  But he is not alone.

c.  We are to hold on to the Word, lest we drift away. 

There are two meanings to the word translated, “drift’:

1.  to drift.  “To go with the flow,” as it were.  One day, the pastor of the church in Florida where I was on staff, took us and his family to the beach.  I got onto an air mattress in the water and just floated there, enjoying the beautiful day.  After a few minutes, I looked up and, wow, I had drifted a long way away from where I started.  It’s a good thing the tide wasn’t going out, or I might still be out there!

The point is, if we don’t pay attention, if we just “float,” we are likely to wind up a long ways away from where we started.  We don’t mean to do it, we just do it.  The church has done that.  Things the world scorned in my youth are now accepted and promoted in the church.

2.  to leak.  This refers to a leaky vessel.  Aren’t we often like that?  How little of the Word we retain!

God has spoken…listen up!

“This Is A Faithful Saying”

Perhaps the best known “faithful saying” in Scripture is the one about Christ coming to save sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15, however, there are six such “sayings” in the New Testament.  We’ll start with 1 Timothy and look at all six, which span all our spiritual life, from sin to glory.

  • 1 Timothy 1:15, the saying of Salvation:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 

The Lord Jesus didn’t come just to be a good example or to give us a set of moral sayings.  He wasn’t just another prophet.  He didn’t just come to help us to save ourselves or to make it “possible” for us to be saved.  He came to save sinners; that’s the only kind of people He’s interested in.  Religious people, moral people, “good” people – these have no need of Him, or so they think.

There was a time when Paul was like that.  He thought he was doing God service.  He thought he was blameless as far as the Law was concerned.  I believe it was during the witnessing of Stephen in Acts 7 that the light began to dawn and Paul began to understand how far short he fell of the mark, cf. Romans 3:23.  That his “best” was bogus.  And on his way to Damascus, the Lord stopped him short and turned him around.

  • 1 Timothy 4:9, the saying of Realization:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 

We might ask, “a saying of what?”  I think it refers to all of vs. 1-11.

In this section, Paul prophesies a time in which “the faith” will be replaced by teachings from deceiving spirits, teachings which are the doctrines of demons, v. 1.  According to Paul, we need to realize that there is an active warfare – in a realm we can’t see, but which greatly impacts the one we can see.  The truth will suffer reproach, but God’s people are called on to both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God.

Verses 1-11 speak of a Christian’s perseverance in times of apostasy.

We certainly live in such a time, when a supposedly Christian college will invite a Muslim scholar to lecture about “the historical Jesus” – as opposed to the Christ of faith. This happened here locally just a few weeks ago.  The religious organization which sponsors this college prides itself that they’re the true one and that their teachings are the true faith, yet they host a man who denies everything they say they believe.  A man who says that the Gospels aren’t to be trusted as accurate history, but were written much later than the events they portray.

  • 2 Timothy 2:11-13, the saying of identification:

This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.  

Some look at these verses as teaching that a true believer can lose his or her salvation.  If that were the case, then they would contradict all the verses which teach that salvation once entered can never be lost.

I think there’s another thought in these verses.  Many people have just identified with a church or a denomination.  They were sprinkled into it, maybe “confirmed” a few years later, but the Bible may as well still be in the original languages.  They never read it, and have no idea what it says.

This goes for those who don’t accept infant baptism, as well.  My earlier years were spent in fundamentalism, where I was privileged to know and work among many wonderful Christian people.  At the same time, because of the tremendous emphasis on “soul-winning,” there were many who were manipulated into making a “profession of faith” who never seemed ever to be any different.  They never went to church or were baptized.  They seemed no different after than they did before.  I think Paul would say that there’s something wrong with that.

I believe in evangelism; it’s just not about working a particular “method.”

When persecution comes, and we believe it will, we’ll find out who’ve merely identified with some church and who’ve truly identified with Christ.

  • Titus 3:8, the saying of exhortation:

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.

There’s a big discussion going on about the relationship of faith and works.  Some vociferously maintain that we’re saved by faith alone.  No works at all.  “Just believe.”  There’s a certain amount of truth to that.  We are saved by faith alone.  The difficulty comes in when one asserts that “faith” is alone.

Paul put it like this in Galatians 5:6, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love(emphasis added.)  Make no mistake.  Paul isn’t talking about faith AND works, but faith WHICH works.  There’s an eternal difference.

  • Revelation 21:5, the saying of expectation:

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

While the saying is a little different, the thought is the same.  V. 4 speaks of tears, death, sorrow, crying, pain.  These are all common to this life, even for Christians.  I know Christians who suffer terribly physically, or mentally, or emotionally.  Some of the blogs I follow speak eloquently of this, as well.

John assures us these things will soon be over; there is coming a time when they all have passed away.

  • Revelation 22:6, the saying of confirmation:

Then he [one of the seven angels, 21:9] said to me, “These words are faithful and true.”  And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”

There’s a lot of discussion about Revelation:  how to understand and interpret it.  That’s not the point of this post.  The Book of Revelation isn’t just the hallucinations of a tired, overworked old man, as some blasphemously assert, but is the very word of God.  This applies not only to Revelation itself, but to every part of God’s Word; it has all been given to us by divine inspiration.  It is, therefore, to be handled with reverence and respect.  It is the Word of God.