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The Bible Directs

Bible study

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

The Living God is a God who reveals Himself to people who seek Him.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NIV)

God reveals Himself to us in nature. The beauty and complexity of the physical world is not just a cosmic accident. Creation reveals a creator. God reveals Himself in His interactions with people. The God who called Abraham into a covenant is the God who enters into relationship with people who trust Him. The God who brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt is the God who is both Liberator and Redeemer. The God who raised His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead is the God who is Life and who conquers death for all who trust Jesus.

How do we know all these things about the Living God? How can we have some sense that we're not just hoping He is good and just and full of grace and truth? There are two primary sources of God's revelation of Himself. One is the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. The other is the book that tells us about Abraham and Moses and Jesus and thousands of other truths about God: the Bible.

When the Apostle Paul told Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed," he was referring to the Scriptures he had available to him, the Hebrew Scriptures, or what we call the Old Testament. Later the church separated the writings of the Apostles and first followers of Jesus that had the clear ring of truth to them from other writings about Jesus and canonized them in what we call the New Testament. The English word canon comes from the Greek κανών (kanōn), meaning "rule" or "measuring stick". This canonization process was guided by the same Holy Spirit who worked in the lives of Moses and David and Isaiah and Mathew and Luke and Paul to produce the written record of God's revelation of Himself to His people.

The result is, I believe, what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is God-breathed..." The Bible is true truth. Everything we need to know to move into a relationship of faith in the one, true God is contained in Scripture. True things about God can be discovered by people who have never read the Bible. They can be discerned in nature and in life and in relationships. But the things human beings devise as truth must be measured by the canon - God's measuring stick of true truth.

It's not enough that I was taught as a child by well-intentioned parents things like, "God helps those who help themselves." That's not in the Bible, by the way. It was written by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanac. There is some truth to the principle that working produces blessings. But the Bible teaches a deeper truth. God helps those who cannot help themselves. That's called Grace. And Grace is at the center of the Redemption of the human race. We cannot earn our own salvation by our good works. God grants it by Grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. Every person who is saved from sin and death is saved by the work of Jesus on the Cross, not by being a good person.

Paul then tells Timothy this God-breathed Word " useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." When we read and study the Word of God with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, scripture comes alive with the power of God to teach, rebuke, correct and train us.

The Bible teaches us that we are image-bearers of the Living God. It teaches us that God is Holy and He is Love. It teaches us about spiritual realities that human eyes cannot see, like heaven and hell and angels and demons. Scripture teaches us of our fallen state and our need for redemption. Scripture is meant to be used as our guide for living rightly.

Scripture rebukes us when we sin. The world tells us to watch out for number one (ourselves). The Bible says to watch out for widows and orphans and the least, the last and the lost. Selfish independence is the heart of sin. Men often believe a little pornography is nothing to be concerned about. Jesus says "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28 NIV) And the Holy Spirit enlivens Scripture to reveal to a believer that God considers pornography to be sin that is poisoning the mind and heart of the man who is addicted to it. (The Bible also reveals that there is victory and freedom from our addictions by the power of God living in our hearts.)

The Word of God corrects us when we get off course. It points us away from the works of the flesh (our worldly, fallen sin nature) which reveal a heart that is far from God:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV)

The correction of God's revelation is to allow the Holy Spirit to move us toward Christlikeness by growing in our hearts the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

Scripture also trains us in righteousness - in right living. Right living begins with a heart that is right with God. In the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew, chapter five), Jesus says again and again, "You have heard it said...but I say to you..." What follows "You have heard it said" is the letter of the law. What follows "...but I say to you" is the fulfillment of the law from a Godly heart.

You have heard it said, "You shall not murder."

But I say, "Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."

You have heard it said, "You shall not commit adultery"

But I say, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

You have heard it said, "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth."

But I say to you, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

One final thought about the Word of God: it must be rightly understood, and that takes study along with others and along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand the truth of Scripture and study it together with others in small groups and Bible studies and corporate worship, it keeps us from simply reading into Scripture what we want it to say, or taking one verse of Scripture and using it to justify what we want to do, apart from God's revelation.

An example? In the early 1800's those who wanted to justify owning slaves cited Paul's out-of-context advise to slaves that they should obey their masters as evidence that God allows, and even blesses, slavery. They ignored all the other places in the Bible where God calls us to be in Christ where there is neither slave nor free, and where He delivers His own people from slavery in Egypt.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. An old Sunday School song says it well:

The B-I-B-L-E

Yes that's the book for me

I stand alone on the Word of God

The B-I-B-L-E


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