I want to begin with just a couple of basic facts about the Bible.
Even though the Bible is written over a time period of over 1600 years, by 40 different authors, form 1500 BC to 100 AD.
Much of the Bible has been historically corroborated by historians and other writers from the time period. The Bible is historically consistent and actually looked to by secular historians as reliable information about different time periods and cultures.
But this basically just says that when it talks about history or culture, it’s accurate. It doesn’t speak to why we continue to read it, study it and spend time on it.
The Bible is the only Holy Book of the world’s big religions to claim to be the actual words of God. There are over 3,000 verses that begin with “Thus sayeth the Lord…”
But there is nothing that can prove this is the word of God. There is thousands of years of traditions and early manuscripts that can verify the authors. And other historical documents can say that the historical facts of the Bible are accurate. But there is an element of faith when coming to the Bible.
But I will tell you that I absolutely believe that Bible is the word of God. I cannot tell you how many times I have come to the Word of God and knew that it was the Holy Spirit talking to me.
Today, we are talking about the Bible. What can I say… I love the Bible. You may have noticed that the Bible has returned, front and center. It’s here intentionally. It’s here because it is the center of my preaching. It’s here because it is our primary source of learning about God. It’s here because it is alive and empowered by the Holy Spirit to teach, instruct, and inspire us. It is here because it is God’s revelation to the world. It’s here because I want it to be a constant reminder, the constant center of our teaching, learning and worship. It’s open because we use it. It’s open to the passage for today’s sermon. It’s open because it is both symbolic or our worship today and it is our connection to God’s story since the beginning. It is an intentional commitment to the teaching of the apostles and prophets. The Word of God has to be the center of our faith development.
Today’s scripture says that the word of God is sharper than any double edge sword. Just before this there is a discussion about Sabbath. We are in the middle of our sermon series, Church 101. It’s a series where we are looking at the common elements of worship and reminding ourselves, centering ourselves on both the theology and tradition of worship. Why do we worship the way we worship.
A couple weeks ago we talked about the idea of Sabbath. Why do we worship on Sundays. It’s interesting that today’s scripture about the word of God is connected to this larger conversation about Sabbath. In it, the author uses makes an example of Israel when they did not stop to worship God, they did not obey God and therefore an entire generation of Israel did not enter into the Promised Land. Because they did not obey God, they did not receive God’s rest in the Promised Land. They didn’t follow the Word.
This is where we have today’s scripture.
(Re-read Hebrews 4:8-13)
The word of God is alive and active. We know from other scriptures that the word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is said to be ‘God breathed.’ God breathed. The transformative power of God is in it. Every part of it is useful for teaching and instruction. It is meant to be the center of our faith formation and transformation. The Word of God has to be at the center.
But there is something else here, in this scripture. It’s not just about the power of scripture. It’s not just about the nature of scripture. It’s also about the purpose of scripture. It is sharper than any double edged sword. It separates, it divides, and it pierces to the very core of our soul. And there is not a situation, problem, life, lifestyle, heartache that it doesn’t speak to. The word of God gets the center of who we are.
Are you struggling with your finances? There are over 800 scriptures about money.
Are you struggling in your marriage? Do a study on 1 Corinthians 13 or the Song of Solomon.
Are you struggling with your children? Read Deuteronomy 6 or the Proverbs.
Are you suffering with illness or grief? Read the Psalms or the Book of Job.
Are you frustrated with your inlaws? Read the Book of Ruth.
Are you frustrated with your boss or your job? James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
God’s word is has a word for all of it. God’s word has to be at the center.
Today we gave our 3rd graders Bibles because we want them to read their Bibles. We don’t give it to them so they can put it on a shelf and say, remember when I was in third grade and got a Bible. We do it because we believe the word of God is at the center for knowing God. It speaks to our lives, it is able to teach us, guide us, and change us. When we read the word of God, we become transformed.
Recently I was talking with some clergy friends about the future of the Methodist church. And it’s not secret, all churches are struggling in today’s world. All denominations are struggling.
I am not worried about the Methodist Church. I am not worried about Christianity. Because as long as we are a people who reads the word of God, who studies the Word of God, who believes the Word of God, we will be transformed by the Word of God.
It’s not enough to come on Sundays. It’s not enough to baptize our kids. It’s not enough to give them Bibles or send them to Sunday school. It’s not even enough to confirm our youth. We all need to be reading, studying, and believing the Word of God. If we want to enter into God’s rest, it we want to know God, we need to put the Word of God at the center of it all.
I know that our lives are busy. It’s a question of priorities. And there is literally no excuse for not getting the word of God into your life. We have small groups, Bible studies, teaching opportunities here at church. Read your Bible at home, with your morning coffee or before bed. If you don’t have a Bible, I will give you one. If you don’t know where to start, I will help you. There are multiple apps where your phone will literally pop up a daily Bible verse. There is a phone call service where you can sign up for a daily call from God – you just answer or let it go to voicemail and they will read to you scripture. There are email Bible Studies. There are so many ways to get started with the Word of God, there is literally no excuse not to be reading the Word of God.
We give our kids Bibles and we ask them to bring their Bibles to church. Do you bring your Bible to church? This is not about a guilt trip or trying to make anyone feel bad… but do you realize that wars have been fought of the privilege to read the Bible. To have your own copy of the Bible is huge. There are still places in the world where it is illegal to own a Bible or read your Bible publically. Bring your Bible to church.
In fact, turn to your right and tell your neighbor… Bring your Bible to church. Turn to your left… Bring your Bible to church. It’s more than just a book… its alive, active and able to speak to your very soul.
The challenge is simple. Read your Bible. Study your Bible. Believe your Bible. If you want to know God, then the Word of God must be at the center of your faith.