MIXEDconception #2: The Bible is What I Make It
If we pick and choose the parts of the Bible that are worth keeping, then we're misunderstanding the purpose of the Bible in the first place.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Couple things before we get started this morning….
If you haven’t heard yet, it’s just 2 and a half weeks to our Renovation Church baptism!
A whole bunch of people have already signed up.
If you accepted Christ this year at Renovation, or you’ve just never been baptized as a believer…make sure you sign-up in the hallway.
It’s an unbelievable experience.
Also, before we get started this morning, I wanted to share with you an important development in our path to create disciples of Jesus here at Renovation.
If you’ve been around here for even a little time, you know that our bread and butter of this church are our house groups.
Our groups of 20-30 people that meet every week during the school year.
70-80% of our people are engaged in these groups!
But as any church should, we are always asking the question, “How do we better create disciples of Jesus?”
That is after all, the mission of every church: To create and develop followers of Jesus.
And we believe that Sunday mornings, and house groups are a massive part of that.
See, I don’t believe you can really truly grow in your faith in isolation. You were meant to grow along w/ other believers.
And our house groups help so many of our people at Renovation be supported in their faith, encouraged, and challenged.
It also helps them to grow in the Bible, set goals for reading the Bible and connecting with God, and on and on…
But I believe that discipleship is really a matter of the head, AND the heart, and the hands, and the feet.
We must GO with our feet, SERVE with our hands, GROW in our hearts, and LEARN in our minds.
And our services allow people to serve…and house groups allow people to be supported and be challenged in their hearts, to work out the applications of the message in their lives.
But there’s one area I think we could really improve on as a church when it comes to Discipleship, and that is the area of mind…of growing in our knowledge of Theology – the study of God…of the Bible.
And we do that to a degree on Sunday mornings (today will be a great example of that)…and some at house groups, but even there, much of it is more in a discussion format than a theological teaching.
So, in order to help us create more holistic and well-rounded disciples, we are going to create a mini “Renovation School of Theology” if you will.
Our vision is that the people of Renovation would be consistent in coming to Sunday morning worship, would be a part of a house group (so they could have their own support community), and in the summers, would dive even deeper into learning the Bible and Theology
We want to create a 4-class system for everyone to go through
This summer, we will be offering the first two classes.
Then next summer, we will offer the first 3 classes, and in 2015, we will be able to offer all 4 for people to start going through.
(SHOW SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY DIAGRAM)
We want everyone to start with Alpha, which is a phenomenal introduction to getting started in the Christian faith.
Then, our second class, which I will be personally teaching this year, will be called, “Mining God’s Word.”
And it’s going to be on, “How to study the Bible.” How do you look at genre, at context, how do you actually study the Bible and interpret what it’s saying.
We’re expecting a BUNCH of people to sign up for our classes. In fact, we’ve rented a cool meeting room at the National Sports Center in Blaine for the “Mining God’s Word” class.
(Show Sports Center Mtg Room Pic)
If you haven’t taken Alpha yet though, we would like you to start there.
(Go back to School of Theology Diagram)
Unless you’ve been a Christian for 20some years, went to a Christian college, or feel super well versed in your faith already. Otherwise you should start with Alpha this summer.
And then, in the following years, we will be offering… Theology 101 (study things like Doctrine of God, of Man, of Jesus)
Then Theology 201, Doctrine of the Church, Of the End Times, etc.)
And here’s the vision: I believe that if we can have the hundreds of people at Renovation, worshipping here weekly, a part of a community of beliveers in house groups, studying the Bible on their own, sharing their faith, and now also learning the Bible and theology…
That we will be doing an amazing job of creating mature disciples who are passionate about living for the glory of God and changing the world!
So, there you have it…there’s our big news on our summer class system.
Let’s get started on today’s message.
We are continuing this morning in our MIXEDconceptions series
The idea behind this series is this: So many of our ideas about God are actually just misconceptions.
But more than that, they’re mixtures of different ideas: MIXEDconceptions if you will.
It’s like we take a little bit of Bible…a little bit of American culture…mix them together in a bowl, and wal-a, “Here’s our idea of who God is!”
THE LOCUS OF MEANING
And one of the overarching reasons we have a MIXEDconceptions problem in America to begin with is because we don’t know how to interpret the Bible.
Which is just another reason to take our class this summer on how to study the Bible…or start with Alpha so you can take it next year.
And it all starts in an interesting place: It starts with the question. Who gets to determine the meaning of the passage?
Think back to High School English…Let’s say you’re reading, “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “A Tale of Two Cities”
And for the 1 or 2 moments that you weren’t starting at the cute person halfway across the room, you might have heard your teacher point to a particular part of the book and say, “What is the author saying here?”
Except, over time, as modernism has blended into postmodernism, we’ve started to ask a new question, “What does this passage mean to YOU?”
And we’ve started to do the same with the Bible.
Where WE, the reader, 2,000 years later, get to determine what the passage means to us.
And I’m not just talking about applying it, I’m talking about changing and adpating the meaning.
In fact, you might even do this without even realizing it. Maybe even in small group, you ask, “So what does that passage in Romans mean to you?”
But it’s a MIXEDconception. The idea that WE get to decide the meaning of a Bible verse is merely just a little spirituality mixed with a little of American independence & postmodernism
Where we get to determine what God’s really like based on a few verses we particular like…and interpretations of them that WE particularly like.
But it doesn’t work like that…and let me see if I can explain why.
Okay…let’s say, I wrote you a letter. The old fashioned way. And sent it in the mail with a $4 stamp or whatever stamps cost nowadays. (Gas 4.39? Tracer)
And let’s say, in my letter to you, I outlined some instructions for you.
I said…on Thursday, I would like you to meet me at 12:00 noon at Culver’s. Please bring your Bible. And here’s a map to get to Culver’s. I’d like to talk to you about the following things while we chomp down ButterBurgers.
As you read my letter, you would, without even knowing it, be seeking to understand MY original intent as the author.
It wouldn’t even dawn on you that you should give your own meaning to my words.
You wouldn’t be thinking, “You know, To me, Culver’s means Wendy’s. And to me, when he says bring your Bible, the Bible is actually Charlotte’s Web. So I’ll meet him at Wendy’s and Bring Charlotte’s Web.
No, you just instinctively know that when you read something, you are to look for the author’s intent.
Here’s another way to put it, when you write your “WILL” detailing to whom you want all of your stuff (your house, your car, your signed Boyz II Men CD collection) to go to when you die…would you prefer that A) The readers of it seek to read your intent, or B) that they read their own meaning into it?
“When he said, my house goes to my niece Jenny, he actually meant me.”
But so often, in the 21st century, we don’t even take time to think about what the author of one of the Biblical books meant.
In our 21st century world of MIXEDconceptions, our treatment of the Bible is not only odd and unreasonable, it’s almost “New Agey:” “Well, I read this verse, and it means this to me”
And again..I’m not saying, “I read it, and was inspired to apply it this way.” SO often we say, “It MEANS this.” And we change the meaning.
And there’s actually even a broader problem here.
Because as soon as we think it’s okay to try and find meaning on our own, then we start thinking it’s okay to define God by our own standards and wishes.
And THEN we start picking and choosing what we like about the Bible…bending and twisting passages (and cutting some out), so it fits better with what we feel most comfortable with.
DEFINING AND PROVING INERRANCY
But that’s not what the Bible claims its purpose is.
In fact, the Bible is a completely inspired book. 66 books in fact, put together. All inspired by God.
You know, we believe in doing VERY practical and applicable teaching here, but we also believe in learning a lot about our faith. So we want to teach you a lot too
And that comes even with learning the doctrines of Christianity.
And one of the most important doctrines of Christianity is: The doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy
But what in the world does that mean???
Well, Biblical Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings.
That it was all written as true. Not just parts of it. All of it.
Sometimes people used to say, “We believe the Bible’s literal.”
It’s actually not the best wording. Because there are genres in the Bible.
Like John uses apocalyptic imagery in Revelation when he says Jesus is coming back with a sword in his mouth
Christians don’t LITERALLY believe he’s going to have a sword in his mouth. That would probably hurt.
But we do believe that the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings.
We believe that the Bible was fully inspired by God.
Not that God hypnotized the writers…but that He inspired them to write His words.
We believe that the Bible is without error in its original manuscripts.
And we believe due to the unbelievable system of copying by monks over the centuries and the thousands of early manuscripts we have, that it is the most historically accurate book of all time.
Now, there are people out there that just flat out don’t believe the Bible. Want nothing to do with it.
And then here are those who believe the opposite: That it’s the inspired, inerrant Word of God
But the majority of Americans actually sit somewhere in the middle.
They like the Bible…for the most part…maybe even quote it…maybe even have a painting on their wall with a Bible verse…but they don’t like all of it…or don’t agree with parts of it
But that’s a MIXEDconception.
And a misunderstanding of A) as we said earlier, HOW we interpret the Bible and B) what the Bible said it’s purpose was in the first place.
Because the Bible never claims to be a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” that’s good for heartwarming “Footprints” paintings and cool tattoos.
It claims that from cover to cover, God inspired all of it. All of it.
(2 Timothy 3:16) – NIV
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
(2 Peter 1:20-21) – NIV
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
(Proverbs 30:5) - NIV
“Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
When Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the other writers of the Bible spoke, they always regard the words of God, all of them, to be spoken as authoritative.
It’s not like Jesus or the Prophets in one chapter said, “The Lord says…” (which is about 1 of the most common phrases in the Bible)
But then in other places, said, “You know, this next part isn’t from God…I actually made this part up.”
And it’s interesting….because as I said…the majority of Americans are actually in the camp that parts of the Bible are valuable…inspirational even…but other parts are wrong, outdated, or even offensive.
But again, we want to be good thinkers…and when we think about it, it’s not a position that makes sense.
If God is truly all powerful, and one of his most important tasks in all of history was to accurately inspire humans to communicate His thoughts to us, it makes absolutely no sense that God could only inspire 85% of the Bible.
Like, he tried really hard to get that last 15%, but Paul just wouldn’t listen to what he was saying.
If God…was ever interested…in ANYTHING…and ever CAPABLE of anything, it would be to make sure that His ONE book to all of human history was accurate.
And we know that’s it’s the inspired Word of God, truthful in ALL of its teachings, not JUST because the Bible says so, but we can see by its fruit
The Bible has been proven over and over again by archaeologists to be historically accurate; The Bible, despite being a compilation of 66 books is internally consistent.
It contains literally hundreds of prophecies that were actually fulfilled in history.
And not just that…it has influenced the course of human history more than any other book as it continues to change the lives of now BILLIONS of people.
Furthermore, think of it this way: How could the Bible contain the undisputed greatest moral teaching of all time, and also be a book full of lies that aren’t actually true?
Here’s some more evidence of its truth and fruit: What started with a band of 120 followers of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago now has over a billion adherents worldwide.
And it was a message that spread by love, not by violence…contrary to other religious groups.
BUT MANY DON’T LIKE INERRANCY
But then why is this very basic and essential Christian doctrine of inerrancy, that the Bible is true in all of its teachings, becoming so unpopular in America? And in other places in the Western world?
Well, for one, as I said, we’ve firstly forgotten that the truth is in what the authors originally wrote…not in what we make it.
Because as soon as we believe that, we’ll bend it all over the place
But I think the other reason is: It’s a hard book. It has some challenging teachings
Jesus says so himself in John 6
I mean, everybody loves the stuff about God loving them (that’s why we have so many people in the middle on this issue…cuz they DO love the verses on love and faith, etc.)
But it has some hard teachings. :
A man tries to follow Jesus but his father just died, but Jesus stressing that He’s more important than anything, says, “let the dead bury the dead”
“Whoa…following Jesus is that serious??”
The Bible says some tough things about hell, about sin, about morality
And we don’t like it….
So we try and go all Thomas Jefferson on it, and cut it out of the Bible.
By the way, he literally cut parts out of his Bible that he didn’t like.
But you can’t take one, and not the other.
“I do think the athiests’ position is unreasonable…but I think it’s actually more reasonable to be an atheist than to believe parts of the Bible are inspired by God, and others aren’t.
It’s interesting… in our world of MIXEDconceptions where we don’t want to completely give up God and the Bible, but we don’t want to fully embrace it either, everyone still claims to know what God thinks. J
Everyone’s always like…”God wouldn’t do that or think that…He’s loving
But how do you know what God thinks? How do YOU know who God is? Or, even, turn it around…”How do I know?”
The only way we can really know is to look at his book He wrote.
But most Americans only want to look at parts of it…and throw out the rest…the hard parts.
And for most people the only filter for what stays and what goes in the Bible is what makes them comfortable…
But that’s a pretty bad filter for determining what was inspired or not.
And worse yet, it’s philosophically silly. It’s essentially saying, that we get to say: “Yep, that part’s God’s Word. That’s who God is…oh but see that part…that’s not God’s Word. That’s not God’s heart there.”
“I, through my limited lens of perspective in my short time in history, through one particular cultural lens out of thousands, know God well enough…
“In fact, I know WHO God actually is SO WELL and what He would REALLY say, that even though His supposedly inspired Bible says it’s ALL inspired, I can personally tell you the parts that are not from Him…Because I know His character so well.”
Am I the only person in the room that thinks that kind of reasoning is CRAZY?!??
But we’re so lost in the MIXEDconception, that somehow that’s become the “reasonable approach,” and faith that maybe God just, I don't know, inspired 100% of it, is somehow crazy.
And really, this sort of MIXEDconceptions, pick and choose thinking, snowballs more than we think…
Because if there are certain parts of the Bible that aren’t true, then how do you know which parts ARE true?
If a newspaper continually published errors every week, you’d stop reading it because it’s just not a reliable source.
If the Bible is wrong about hell for example, as so many people suppose, how do they know it’s right about heaven?
Again, this is the kind of poor thinking we end up with when everything gets determined by what makes us feel comfortable.
And I can actually show you, in history, that when people stop believing the Bible is true…the rest of the main tenets and beliefs of Christianity tumble shortly afterward.
Because people DO start thinking, “Well, if we’re going to say that part’s not true…how DO WE know if the other part is true?”
If the Bible isn’t completely true…how do we know the Jesus WAS God? How do we know the resurrection even happened? Maybe it was made up…maybe…and things just fall apart.
And this is why, I believe the doctrine of inerrancy, that the Bible is fully true, is THE most important Doctrine of our time.
It’s the foundation of everything else, and if Christians in the West lose their faith in this, it will be the rock in the dam that causes everything to come crumbling down.
And I’m not just theorizing this idea either.
In fact, I can prove it to you.
There was a poll done of 10,000 pastors in different denominations.
And they were each asked: “Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God in faith, history, and secular matters
And here’s what they said:
And I don’t want to publically demoralize certain denominations or have that be a distraction, so we’ll just call them denomination A, B, and C, etc.
Denomination A: 95% of pastors don’t believe the Bible is fully true
Denomination B: 87% of pastors don’t believe the Bible is fully true
Denomination C: 82% of pastors don’t believe the Bible is fully true
Crazy, huh? Why are you even giving your life to this if you don’t even believe in the book it’s based upon?
But here’s the thing, all 3 of those denominations, (and this is true of a lot of others unfortunately, I just picked out 3), all of those denominations USED to believe in the Bible.
They were all founded by incredible people who gave their lives to starting churches and having people meet Jesus because they believed the Bible was the Word of God…
But over time…in our sin…in our fear of man…in our doubt…we stop believing.
And here’s where it gets crazy…and here’s where the proof comes in.
In history, you can look to when denominations stopped believing in the Bible…and from then on out…it was over.
Because when you stop believing in the book that tells us to believe in Jesus in the first place…it’s over
So Denomination A, where 95% pastors now don’t believe, have lost 13% of all of their people (100,000 people) in just the last two decades
Denomination B, where 87% of pastors don’t believe, have lost 7% of all of their people (230,000) people in the last two decades.
Denomination C, where 82% of pastors don’t believe, have lost 20% of all of their people (250,000) people in just twenty years!
Now, full disclosure, these two studies are a little over a decade a part (the pastor pool was first), but if anything, it’s worse now because even less pastors in these groups believe today.
Whereas, in our group of churches in Converge, in many other evangelical groups, or even in the Pentecostal and charismatic circles, belief in the Bible is significantly higher. Only something like 20% of pastors don’t believe. Which is still shocking. But it’s not 95%
But here’s where it comes together:
While 94% of churches in the U.S. are shrinking, the churches that are growing are Bible believing churches.
Over the last 20 years, different evangelical and charismatic churches (in other words, churches that still hold to Biblical inerrancy) are growing on average by a rate of 1% to 5%
Our denomination, Converge, (in the last 20 years), has in fact doubled it’s amount of churches from 600 to 1200. And is growing by about 5.5% every single year.
Millard Erickson, who used to teach at Bethel Seminary way back in the day, says, “History is the laboratory in which society test its ideas.”
And not believing the Bible has led to virtually no fruit.
But belief in the Bible, even if it’s labeled as crazy, or radical, or outdated, or unwise…still is what is actually changing this world.
Jesus says it this way:
(Luke 7:35) – NIV
But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
And the good news is, the Bible IS the Word of God. It’s true. This is God’s Word to you. He wrote you a letter. A book.
An incredible story weaved over 1,000’s of years.
An incredible story of his sovereignty and his crazy love for you.
And you CAN trust it.
Isn’t that Good News?
Where would be with out that? We would be, as Paul says, “Pitied above all people.”
It feels good that we can trust it.
You can trust with YOUR LIFE…that He does has a plan for you, that He loves you, and that if you trust that His son died on the cross for you, you will be in eternity in heaven…with him…forever.
All because of an incredible book…inspired by God, fully true, and fully life-changing.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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