Can We Really Know If The Bible Is God’s Word?

inspired-scriptureHave you ever been stumped by someone’s argument against Christianity or the Bible? Has anyone ever made fun of you because the Bible sounds like a fairy tale? Over 100 years ago Oswald Chambers described how our post-Christian world was beginning to treat Christianity and the Bible on which it’s based—

“We have made ambition and competition the very essence of civilized life. No wonder there is no room for Jesus Christ, and no room for the Bible. We are all so scientifically orthodox nowadays, so materialistic and certain that rationalism is the basis of things, that we make the Bible out to be the most revolutionary, unorthodox and heretical of books.”

It’s that “rationalism” that we need to address. We need to ask scoffers and seekers alike, “What makes you so sure of your beliefs? How did you come to that conclusion?”

Every human being exercises some sort of faith—that the chair will hold them when they sit down, that their spouse will honor their marriage vows, and that their worldview is correct. We need to explore what kind of faith they (and we) have:

  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence.
  • Blind faith—believing in something without any evidence.
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence.

I want to show evidence that makes it reasonable to believe in the Bible.

Empirical evidence—

  1. The bibliographical test: determining whether the text of the historical record has been transmitted accurately.

Josh McDowell states, “No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.” He can make this claim because the profession of “scribe” was one of the most professional and exacting of all professions. The rigorous standards employed to prove the accuracy of a copy of a biblical manuscript was higher than for any other literature.

Most of our modern-day Bibles are based on a 1000-year-old manuscript. But after the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, we found biblical manuscripts going back to 250 B.C. that confirmed the accuracy of the manuscripts we already had. This led Dr. Peter Flint to conclude: “The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.

manuscript-evidenceThen regarding the New Testament, Josh McDowell says, “I believe there is more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament than for any other ten pieces of classical literature put together.” Check out this chart reproduced from McDowell’s book God-Breathed to see by comparison to other literature, how close in dating the earliest biblical manuscripts are, and how many of those manuscripts have been discovered!

2.  The external evidence test: determining whether the historical record has been verified or affirmed by data outside of itself.

Over one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic, and two-thirds of its prophesies have already been fulfilled. For example, 700 years before His birth, the city in which Jesus was to be born was identified by a man named Micah.

Time and time again archeologists discover articles that verify the claims in the Bible. This led archeologist Nelson Glueck to conclude, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”

3.  The internal evidence test: determining how of the historical record stands up to the test of internal validity.

The Bible was written by 45 different authors, over a span of 1500 years, on 3 different continents, and in 3 different languages. Yet there are no contradictions!

Anecdotal evidence—

  1. Changed lives. My life is one that has been amazingly impacted by the God of the Bible, as was a man named Saul, who had a total about-face after encountering Jesus. As a result, Christianity was spread far and fast through his writings and world travels.

2.  Changed societies. Wherever the Christian faith of the Bible has been put into practice, societies improve. Leonard Sweet notes—

“Before Christianity, there were cults that practiced all sorts of human sacrifice as well as self-mutilation and self-castration. Before Christianity, the weak were despised, the poor maligned, the handicapped abandoned. Before Christianity, infanticide was rampant, slavery run-of-the-mill, and gladiatorial combat a form of entertainment. In Jesus’ day, Corinth was famous for its temple prostitutes, continuing a long-standing tradition symbolized by the Corinthian athlete Xenophon.… Aristotle…not only condoned institutionalized slavery but provided an elaborate argument in favor of it. As if that weren’t enough, Aristotle called man ‘begotten’ and woman ‘misbegotten,’ and because a woman’s reasoning was ‘without authority’ accepted no female students.

“Only Jesus and His followers known as the church insisted on the concept of human dignity and the value of every human soul. Only the church built hospitals and took care of the abandoned and disabled. Only the church celebrated charity and selflessness as the highest virtue and elevated the status of women.”

Is all of this “proof positive” that the Bible is God’s Word? No, it’s not. But I think the evidence is compelling enough that it is certainly reasonable to reach this conclusion.

Here are some great application questions from this lesson:

  1. Other than because it says so in the Bible, how do I know that it is God’s Word?
  2. How can I let the Bible “thoroughly equip” me (2 Timothy 3:14-17)?  
  3. Is my worldview pragmatic or biblical? Does it really make a difference?

Foundation Stones

foundation-stonesAny architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation.

This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise… [and] make no headway because they build without foundation.

We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but just recently it occurred to me that we haven’t really talked about these foundational beliefs.

Beginning this Sunday, and then the first Sunday of each month through the rest of the year, we will be exploring our strong doctrinal foundation. I promise you that this won’t be “dry” theology or doctrine, but it will be an exciting journey of discovery at the foundation upon which we stand.

Please join me this Sunday as we look at our first Foundation Stone.

What Child Is This Anyway?!

christ-the-kingA couple of years ago as we were setting up for our Living Nativity, I was wrapping a towel around the doll we were going to use for the infant Jesus. A young boy from the community was carefully watching me and he asked, “Is that baby Santa?”

“No, it’s not Santa,” I said. “See this manger? We’re getting things setup to tell the story about the very first Christmas, long before St. Nick came on the scene. Maybe you’ve heard about Mary and Joseph?”

The young lad’s eyes lit up as he seem to get the answer. “Oh! Is that baby Moses?!”

Clearly, people don’t know all the facts surrounding the first Advent of Jesus. Sometimes things in culture and church get jumbled—what belongs to which? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Where do Christmas trees come in? Was the birth of Jesus actually on December 25? What does it all matter anyway?

Instead of running from these questions, Christians should use them to point people in the right direction. 

Have you heard the tune called Greensleeves? It’s been around longer than anyone knows. William Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays and didn’t feel the need to explain it to his audience. The tune has been set to some pretty bawdy words about New Year’s Eve parties, and even as a mocking song to some folks about to go to the gallows. And then in the mid-1800s William Chatterton Dix used this tune to write words about Christ’s birth in What Child Is This?

What an excellent question! Who exactly is this Child? Is Jesus merely a line on the pages of history? Or is His birth something more? Oswald Chambers noted, “The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh.”

The first-century historian Luke simply records that Mary is pregnant with “a child.” That is, until Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem eight days later, and we see that a man named Simeon didn’t just see this Child as any baby, but as a fulfillment of prophesy (see Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6).

This Child is much more than just a historic person. He not only split history into BC and AD, but He has changed my life, and countless others’ lives as well! That’s why the chorus of this Christmas carol joyfully announces, “This, THIS is Christ the King!”

People may be confused about what tradition belongs to culture or Christendom. You may even be confused about what belongs to which. But none of that should stop us from knowing the Child we celebrate this Christmas. None of that should stop us from helping seekers to find Jesus as their own Savior. None of that should stop us from enthroning Jesus Christ as King and giving Him the highest praise He deserves!

Jesus used common, everyday things—farmers, fish, trees, weather, children’s songs—to tell people about a Heaven that was prepared for them. Paul used the cultural idols and poets to point his community to Jesus. Philip used the Scripture a governmental official was reading to point him to Jesus.

So we, too, can use whatever is around us to point people to Jesus this Christmas! What Child is this? This, THIS is Christ MY King! Merry Christmas!!

The First Noël

romans-3-22When I worked in the business field, I was invited to be a teacher for a program called GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), where I taught a class on marketing. Then later on, I served as a reviewer as the students turned in their marketing plans.

One of the main points I tried to drive home to my students is a basic Marketing 101 principle which says—you can’t be all things to all people. You have to pick a niche market and then try to dominate that market. There are two general ideas here: (1) Make your product or service pricey and therefore exclusive to a select group, or (2) Make your product or service affordable and accessible for the mass market.

The Incarnation of Jesus totally violates this Marketing 101 principle. (Which goes to show you that God knows more than all the world’s so-called “experts”!)

First, there was a marketing message to shepherds (see Luke 2:8-11). This would have been the “mass market” as shepherds represented the every-day, working-class man. The first two verses of The First Noël carol addresses these “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.”

But then there is this appearance of a very exclusive group of Magi (see Matthew 2:1-2, 11). These men were highly educated and had gained great influence and affluence. Verse 3 of The First Noël references these “wise men…from country far” who could present such lavish gifts to Jesus.

God did exactly what I told my GROW students they shouldn’t do if they wanted to be successful!

The Incarnation of Jesus is one of those rarest of rare things that actually can be all things to all people! Why? Because ALL people need what the Incarnation of Jesus brings. That’s why the final verse of The First Noël calls for ALL of us to join in singing our praise to God because of the salvation Jesus had purchased for ALL mankind.

Here’s the reason—

  • ALL we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)…
  •    …and the penalty for that straying from God is death for ALL sinners (Romans 6:23).
  • But Jesus came to ransom ALL from that penalty (Mark 10:45)…
  •    …so that ALL who believe in Him will be saved (Romans 3:22)!

“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’ So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. … ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). It’s the story of how the vertical Advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal Advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us.” —John Piper

You have been rescued, now go be a rescuer. Take this Noël message to ALL … young/old, rich/poor, Black/white, educated/illiterate, healthy/sick, friend/enemy…. the message in the First Noël and every Noël is for everyone! 

Living Nativity (2016)

I am so happy that our church gets the opportunity to present the First Advent story to the Cedar Springs community each year!

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Little Is Not Insignificant

gods-promise-to-youPastor Phillips Brooks visited Israel in the mid-1800s. While there he visited a small church just outside of Bethlehem. Listening to the worshipful songs being sung in that quiet countryside, he was inspired to pen the words to O Little Town Of Bethlehem.

Because of that quiet setting, notice how Rev. Brooks notices things we often miss—

  • little town on Bethlehem
  • in thy dark streets
  • while mortals sleep
  • no ear may hear His coming

But little does not mean insignificant. And just because we can’t see or hear something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or it isn’t important.

Sometimes we’ve looked and listened and waited and searched for so long that we have given up and we begin to drift off to sleep. We continue to live in our own “little town” surrounded by silence. And we are in danger of missing a miracle right in our midst!

We know today that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But did you know that this little town was still so obscure in Christ’s day that many people in Israel were unaware of what went on there? (See John 7:41-43). Even after King Herod had gruesomely killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem, scarcely anyone outside of that town knew about it or cared about it.

But God cared. And He knew exactly what He was doing.

But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son (Galatians 4:4)—the exact right moment—to be born in Bethlehem—the exact right place (Micah 5:2). Notice even Micah says of Bethlehem though you are small among the clans of Judah, giving birth to the title of Rev. Brooks’ poem.

How small was it? Look at the description of the territory for the tribe of Judah (in Joshua 15), and you can easily glossed over the names of all of the towns. But look more closely and you will see something you didn’t read in that list of towns. Take a close look at all 38 cities: it’s still missing.

There are a couple of very notable figures that dominate the Old and New Testaments, and they have something in common—King David and Jesus both come from the tribe of Judah. And both of them were born in Bethlehem. But in the list of towns in Judah’s territory, there is absolutely no mention of Bethlehem.

This town either didn’t exist, or it was so “insignificant” that Joshua didn’t even think to mention it. It would be almost another 500 years before David would be born in Bethlehem, and then another 900 years after that before Jesus would be born in this little town of Bethlehem.

God had in mind for the greatest earthly king in Israel’s history and the King of all kings to come from such humble origins… from a village that didn’t even make the list. Bethlehem was ready for these kings at just the right moment!

Jesus said heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away. What promise in His Word do you need to cling to? 

Just as those awaiting the Messiah clung to Micah’s promise until it came to pass, you must find God’s promise for you in His Word, cling to it, and don’t let go until it comes to pass in your little town.

The Carols Of Christmas

Carols Of ChristmasI heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas, until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent.

There are some amazing messages in many of our old familiar Christmas carols, because many of those messages are saturated with the old familiar story of Redemption that the Bible tells over and over again.

Please join me this Sunday as we take a new look at the old familiar messages in our Christmas carols. These messages will bring a new appreciation of God’s love that was sung at Christ’s Advent, and reawaken the sweetness of meaning for this Christmas Day.

To get a taste of what we will be covering, check out the messages I have already shared on…

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