What is the Bible?
This blog begins a series on the Statement of Faith of Orchard Hill Church.
The progress of navigational tools has come a long way. From sun dials thousands of years ago, to maps, to the compass.
If people wanted to know which way they were going, they'd use some system to help them navigate. Designed by the U.S. military decades ago, today, we use the navigational tool known as GPS (Global Positioning System). With GPS, we can tap into the latest device and nearest satellite and find your intended destination.
GPS gives direction, guides you turn by turn, tells you if you make a wrong turn, recalculates your route, won’t leave you stranded, (typically) takes you all the way to your destination.
For the Christ follower, the Bible is like a GPS. It provides direction, and if followed, can lead you to God’s intended destination. Unfortunately, many believers treat the Bible like:
An Hors D’oeuvres Tray - They pick and choose whatever suits their tastes.
Rental Car Insurance - Most people waive the extra insurance. You are glad you have it, but only in an emergency.
A Seat Belt - A nuisance that cramps your style.
High School Algebra - Technically accurate, but practically, it means little to most people in their daily lives.
A Hobby - A fun phase you eventually outgrow.
I’m not sure any of those are the best ways to approach God’s Word. Let’s look at a little background...
The Bible is the most widely translated, published, bought and read book in the world. It consists of 2 testaments, 66 books, written by over 40 writers, over a period of 1,500 years.
The most prolific writers were Moses who contributed 5 books in the Old Testament, Paul who contributed 13 in the New Testament, and Luke who, word wise, wrote much of the New Testament. Most scholars believe that Job is the oldest book written in the Old Testament, and James is the oldest book written in the New Testament. It was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
The first translation of the Bible was made into English by John Wycliffe in 1382. It was first printed in 1454 A.D. by Johannes Gutenberg. It was the first book ever printed. It has been translated into 2,018 languages, with countless more partial translations.
Among the best translations, which I would recommend are… The New International Version, The English Standard Version, and The New American Standard Version. At Orchard Hill, we use the NIV for our public messages.
Author C.S. Lewis has stated that we are players in a larger story. God’s story. And if we don’t understand the story, we think the story is about us. Instead, we must remember that the Bible is God’s self-disclosure to us, and it was never meant to be an end. It is a means to get us to Jesus.
Hebrews 1:1-2 - “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”
I love the Jesus in this book! He is direct, controversial, frustrating, gracious, patient, loving, and kind.
He tends to love people like us. May we not be people who know all the right answers but have not prayed for a long, long time. Let it not be said of us that we are like the Religious Elite of the New Testament, who studied, but there was no abiding in Christ. May we be people who are passionate about truth, have the word abiding in us richly and may we know Jesus—the truth that sets people free.
The end is never behavior change, while God desires to change lives from the inside out, the end is Jesus.
The story of The Bible starts with creation. The triune God overflowing on a blank canvas. So, God, in His perfectness, begins to display and unpack His glory, splendor, magnificence, love, and grace. He begins to create an overflow and out of nothing creates everything. Including people.
All is in harmony, spectacular, beautiful, awe inspiring. And that lasts for the two beginning chapters of the Bible.
Sin enters the world through disobedience and takes what was, a full soul, and fractures it and replaces harmony with brokenness and replaces rhythm with noise. As sin enters the world and with it, all that was good and right begins to go haywire.
Suddenly, what was good, we turn into what is now bad for us. Food and wine become gluttony and alcoholism. And where there were no tears, no pain, no sorrow, no angst, all suddenly is reversed. And so most of the Old Testament is the playing out of this smoldering remains of what was once so right and people grasping to get back there. A lot of the soul got emptied out at the Fall. That is why we are never satisfied, always frustrated, and can never get enough of anything.
Ecclesiastes says, the eye never gets tired of seeing; the ear never gets tired of hearing. And we can’t fill ourselves because our spirits remember.
So, we’re in this story, this beautiful moment, that is tragically followed by the Fall. Sin enters the world and what was once perfect is now ruined. And then, we have thousands of years of people trying to fix. Finally, in the fullness of time, because things had gone horribly wrong, Jesus, God in the flesh, is born to redeem men and women out of brokenness, out of the smoldering ruins.
Most of us stop right there—creation, fall, redemption—and the story is about us. It’s about me coming to faith in Christ, it’s about me reading my Bible, it’s about me doing this and not doing that. And then suddenly, that stands as central in the Christian message and in the gospel in even what is expected of us stops right here.
And that is where most Christ followers are. They think it’s all about coming to faith in Christ, salvation, but not necessarily about transformation. It does not stop with redemption, but it truly goes onto restoration. God is a God who saves and redeems what has gone horribly wrong. Now I believe that full restoration cannot totally occur until Jesus returns, but He works in us and through us to bring about harmony to what He has created.
We are called to grow and become more like what? No, it’s not what. Do this and don’t do that. But to become like WHOM? JESUS!
Unfortunately, many people sacrifice the relational Jesus and His invitation to know Him for a set of rules and regulations that make much about us by abiding them. So, we have taken the sacred Scriptures, these 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament, written over the course of at least a 1,000 years, by some 40 authors, on 3 different continents, and in 3 different languages, and boiled them down to a combination lock!
When we have real issues in our life, we try to unlock the Scriptures much as we turn the numbers on a combination lock. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, and that tends to bring about confusion and frustration.
Pastors and theologians have been trying to figure out for years why people are not reading the Bible anymore. We have even tried to make it user-friendlier. However, let me take you to places in the Bible that show you that you can read it and not be changed, perhaps even be hardened.
In Mark 12:19-24, the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection, are trying to trick Jesus with a question.
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves behind a wife, and leaves no child, his brother should take the wife, and raise up offspring to his brother. There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died, leaving no offspring. And the second one took her, and died, leaving behind no offspring; and the third likewise; and so all seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman dies also. In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.”
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God?” They try to prove an agenda by pulling out verses from the Scriptures.
There is an example of this in our history—it is a dark, horrific stain on Christianity—less than fifty years ago, in pulpits across the South, pastors used the Bible to teach that blacks were inferior and interracial marriage was sinful. These men were simply using the Bible to make a case for something that they personally hated.
John 5:37-39 “And the father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me, you have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.”
Instead of the Bible leading us to Jesus, we can use it for self-validation. We can lose our patience, kindness, and graciousness and bash people with our theology - OUR take on the truth.
People ask me all the time, where do I start to read the Bible? The answer is typically the same. The Gospel of John. It’s a wonderful picture of who Jesus is and the reason He came to earth. To seek, to restore and to save us. The Bible will direct us and lead us to God’s intended destination.
At Orchard Hill, we believe the Bible in its entirety. I would encourage you to take some time this week to open the Bible you have at home or look at your phone or device and begin an amazing adventure in this New Year. You’ll get to know yourself better, the world and the people around you better, and most importantly, Jesus better. How good is that?
Rick joined the Orchard Hill staff in 2015 and serves as The Life Stage Pastor and Director of Ministries, providing broad oversight to the ministries and operations of Orchard Hill.
Prior to becoming part of the staff team, Rick was the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, Minnesota. He served as an English Pastor at Grace Church in Wheeling, Illinois, directing the student and young adult ministries at this Korean-American Church. Previously, he was a College Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, Illinois. Rick has been very active in overseas mission work in Romania and England. He earned a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Rick was born in Cuba and loves to cook and eat! Rick, his wife Nancy, and his son Brennan live in Adams Township.