Start by reading three random passages from A Fisherman’s Tale.
You may have recognized those passages as random paragraphs from my new book, “A Fisherman’s Tale.” And from those three passages, you probably figured out that the book is about Jesus. It is a retelling of the Gospel from Simon Peter’s perspective.
But they were three disconnected passages selected randomly and not really connected to one another. For the most part, you probably aren’t even sure what part of the Jesus story they are from. I’m not even sure, and I wrote them.
And tomorrow, if you picked up your copy of the book again and read three more passages, you really wouldn’t be much further ahead. Eventually, if you did that every day, there’d be a pretty good chance you’d have read the entire book.
Especially if you marked the passages as you read them and maybe made notes about how the passage spoke to you. But while you would have all of the words up here, the story would be disjointed and probably wouldn’t make much sense.
And while we would never think of reading a novel or a textbook that way, that’s the way some people read their bibles. Piecemeal, a passage here and a passage there. Maybe using a devotional like Our Daily Bread, or by just randomly picking up their bible, opening it up and reading. And there’s nothing wrong with using a devotional guide, but it’s not studying the bible, or for that matter even reading the bible.
Some people treat their bibles almost like a sacred Ouija board or Magic Eight Ball. They ask a question and then reach in to pull out an answer.
This is week five of our Spiritual Disciplines Series at Cornerstone. And over the past five weeks, we’ve looked at What Spiritual Disciplines aren’t, we’ve looked at Sabbath Keeping and Worship as forms of spiritual disciplines, and last Sunday, Pastor Rob introduced you to the concept of Fasting.
This morning I’d like to talk about studying the scriptures. Not reading your bible devotionally or recreationally but studying it. Martin Luther wrote, “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures.”
You may have noticed that in my messages I use a lot of scriptures and that is because, through the years, I have come to the understanding that nothing that I or anyone else has to say has the potential eternal consequences of God’s word.
You don’t come to church on Sunday Morning to hear the collected wisdom of Denn Guptill. You come to hear from the Bible, the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, so I don’t want to take the time you have entrusted me with to let you know what I think.
And so, in the scripture read this morning, Paul is writing to a young pastor by the name of Timothy. And as we read this, we need to remember that 2 Timothy is a personal letter; it wasn’t addressed to the congregation in the Ephesian church. It was addressed to the pastor of the Ephesian church. We are reading someone else’s mail.
When the letter was written, Paul was in prison in Rome facing execution, and he was taking the time to write and encourage Timothy and to remind him of his calling.
And part of what Paul reminds Timothy of is his heritage, how he was brought up in a Godly home with a foundation established on the scriptures. And so, Paul tells Timothy 2 Timothy 1:5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
And that goes back to what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:6 Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Now, remember that this is a proverb, not a promise. If you do these things, then there is a strong probability that this will be the result.
In other words, parents do your best when your kids are little and hope for the best when they grow up. And Timothy had that heritage.
It would appear that his Mother, Eunice and his Grandmother, Lois were followers of Christ and that they had brought Timothy up in the faith.
Now understand that these ladies came to their faith through a Jewish background, so that is how Timothy would have been raised. The scriptures that he would have been taught would have been the Jewish scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament, because the New Testament was still a work in progress for Timothy.
After He turned 13, the Rabbis would have felt that He was responsible enough to observe all the mitzvahs, which were the divine commandments or meritorious acts. As He grew, He would have read the Talmud, which was the books of wisdom written by the Rabbis through the centuries. And in those books, He would have learnt things like “Never threaten a child, either punish him or forgive him.” or “A child’s tears move heaven itself,” or “Why was man created on the last day, so when pride takes a man it can be said, ‘God created the fly before you.’”
He would have learnt all these things at the Cheder or Hebrew school. Historians tell us that at a time when 90% of the world’s population was illiterate, every Jewish boy over the age of five was learning to read. And while most of us do our best to struggle with one language, Timothy was undoubtedly learning Hebrew, the language of his people, and Greek, which was the language of the marketplace.
On His first day of school, Eunice would have included a honey cake in His lunch to remind Him of how sweet learning was, and His teacher would have given him a taste of honey and told Him, “The study of God’s word is sweeter.” But Timothy’s education in the scripture would have begun long before that, in his own home.
But what are some of the things about the scriptures that Timothy, and we by default, are reminded of here in regards to God’s word? Paul begins by reminding Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God . . .
First of all, we are told that The Scriptures Were Given to Us by God This is the crux of the entire sermon. If you can’t believe that this book was inspired by God, then what good is it for you? It’s not just another self-help book, it’s not just another book on morality, it’s not just another “Good Book”. This is the word of God.
And it’s not enough to say, “Well I believe that parts of the Bible are inspired.” What parts? The parts that you agree with? The parts that make you feel good but don’t make you feel guilty? Do you get your pick of the Ten Commandments and if so you’ll pick do not murder and do not steal but skip lying and adultery?
This book is either the word of God or it’s not and if it’s not the word of God then why waste your time with it?
It was Augustine who remind us “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
We hear the word inspired tossed around a lot these days, artists are inspired, musicians are inspired, interior decorators are inspired and as an author, I will sometimes talk about being inspired to write.
But does that mean the same as the bible being inspired by God? The short answer is, No.
In most cases, when we speak about someone being inspired, it means they are very creative that they are able to draw some special inspiration from within themselves or from their Muse.
But the thought of the original language in saying the scriptures were inspired comes from the two Greek words which meant God and breathed, God, breathed the scriptures into being.
As a matter of fact, if you were to read 2 Timothy 3:16 in the New International Version, it begins by saying All Scripture is God breathed. In the English Standard Version, it says, All scripture is breathed out by God.
You have 40 different human authors who put pen to paper, so to speak, who contributed to this book, and we believe that God inspired them in what they wrote.
James Morrison is a jazz trumpet player from Australia; if you watched the opening of the 2000 Olympic games from Sydney, James played the fanfare in the opening ceremonies. A little-known fact, James’ Dad, is a Wesleyan Pastor, and James led worship at a Wesleyan Conference I attended in 1994.
I found this clip of James at some type of expo where they had various brass instruments. Here’s a sample of the video.
You understand that with each instrument that he was playing, James’s breath was creating the sound. And even though it was still James’ breath, each instrument he played sounded different.
In the same way, the breath of God is played through various human writers in the Bible. It is the same breath, but we hear it in different ways. So, Moses writes differently than David, who writes differently than Amos, who writes differently than Jonah, who writes differently than Matthew. But the initial inspiration or breath is from the same source.
So, it’s inspired, but why?
Do we have the Bible, the inspired word of God, just to have a good book to read? And it is great reading. There is mystery and intrigue and romance and betrayal, poetry and songs, inspiration, philosophy, and theology all wrapped up in this book we call the Bible. No, it’s not just a good read. There needs to be a purpose to our reading.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true . . .
We are Given the Scriptures to Guide Us
There has to come a time when we ask, What is truth? Is it something that politicians define? God help us if it is. Or do we leave it up to nine appointed judges in Ottawa to decide what truth is and, by default what morality is? Can truth change with the times?
According to the Supreme Court of Canada, it can, and yet they would have us believe that they are the ultimate authority for truth. At least the truth for today.
When the Supreme Court ruled to change the definition of marriage, I met with our MP at the time, Geoff Regan, and asked him what protection was in place for me as a clergy if I was asked to perform a same-sex marriage. Mr. Regan assured me that I was protected by the Supreme Court Ruling. And so, I asked if the Supreme Court ever changed its mind. And he said it did. Not much protection, but the point being is that truth is not supposed to change.
Jesus promised in John 8:31–32 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But how can the truth set you free if the truth is ever changing and if what is true today isn’t true tomorrow? Jesus said in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
And we are told in Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever and this is where you find it.
So, what else is the bible good for? 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
We are Given the Scriptures to Warn Us. It’s not enough that we get our creed from the bible. We also need to go to it for our conduct. It is the source of both our beliefs and our behaviour.
It should make a difference in how we live. And if it doesn’t, then there is something wrong. Christians are referred to as being born again, having a new beginning and being new creations. That would signify new behaviour, how we act, how we live, and what we do.
Throughout the Bible, our behaviour is not taught to be a way to our salvation. As a matter of fact, in Ephesians 2:8–9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
So, our salvation is not dependent on our behaviour, but our behaviour is dependent on our salvation. Does that make sense?
Ok, you don’t become a Christian because of what you do, but when you become a Christian, that determines what you do.
There are specific things Christians do and specific things Christians don’t do. And they are found in the book. We are not left without guidance.
True story. This is too good to make up.
Years ago, I was talking to a friend, and he was telling me about how he became a Christian. He had no church background; a friend introduced him to Jesus, and he had just started attending church. His friend gave him a bible, and he started to read it.
At the time, he was living with his girlfriend, and one night they were lying in bed; he was reading his bible and came to a word he didn’t understand. So, he turns to his girlfriend and says, “What’s fornication?” Now if’n you’re wondering the same thing, fornication is sexual activity outside marriage, sex is God’s wedding gift.
So, he asks his girlfriend, “what is fornication?” And she replies, “That’s what we do.”
The scriptures teach us what is wrong. But more than that, let’s keep reading 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong . . .
We are Given the Scriptures to Correct Us
So the following day my friend moved out. If they were fornicating and fornicating was wrong, then he knew that he should stop fornicating. Pretty simple right?
So, what’s the problem? Maybe the reason that many people don’t read the bible is that they don’t want to find out what we are doing wrong. It’s like people who are symptomatic for COVID but don’t take a test because they don’t want to know that they have COVID.
And so some people think that if they don’t know for sure that a certain behaviour is wrong, then it won’t be wrong. The old “ignorance is bliss” strategy.
But the scriptures not only warn us away from some behaviour, but they point us to the solution as well.
When people talk about being accepting of people and their behaviour, they talk about Christ’s love and forgiveness. They remind us of the woman caught in adultery, how Jesus told those who wanted to judge her to cast the first stone if they were without sin. And then people tell us how we should be like that, accepting and forgiving of people regardless of what they do or how they behave.
What they seem to forget is what Jesus told the woman when everyone had left. Do you remember his words? Sure you do, he told her in John 8:11 “Go and sin no more.”
In other words, stop doing what is wrong. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Not only is there a new life, but the old life is gone.
And finally, 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
We are Given the Scriptures to Teach Us
Sometimes people say that the Bible is full of don’ts, but there are actually more dos in the bible than there are don’ts. So if you spend all your time doing the dos, you won’t have time to do the don’ts.
If you want someplace to start, try Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. So I’ll tell you what, work on those nine, and when you get them down pat, let me know, and I’ll find you some more.
Here’s the secret if you want to know what’s in this book, then you have to read it. It can’t just sit there.
The Bible is more accessible today than it has been at any point in History. You can download virtually any translation on your phone using the YouVersion app. It has been downloaded over 500 million times. There is even a kid’s version of the app.
If you want an actual physical bible, you can buy one at Chapters or online at Amazon, or simply mention it on your connect card, and I will make sure you get one.
And then once you have a bible, you have it read it. There are some great reading plans on YouVersion or start in the Gospels and read the Jesus story, then read the story of the early church in the book of Acts.
Every once in a while, I read a quote and I think; man, I gotta use that. Charles Spurgeon was the pastor for 38 years of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England. During the time he was there, the church grew to over 5,000 in attendance, and he became known worldwide for his preaching, and that was before the internet or even television. And Spurgeon said once, “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers.” I hope that’s not true of you. Let’s pray.