Allen Jackson - Tale of Two Books - Part 1
It's a privilege for me to have this time with you today. Our topic is "A Tale of Two Books". You know, most of us have a Bible, most of us have multiple copies of the Bible, and we imagine, you know, we compare translations, or we read commentaries, or we gain other people's opinions. At the end of the day, what you choose to believe about your Bible is what makes the difference. It becomes a very different book when you believe it as opposed to when you stand apart from it and watch it. I've had the privilege of studying in some very celebrated theological settings, and oftentimes we're trained not to believe the book, and that's a very unfortunate thing. It's important to know social setting, it's important to know context, but it's more important to choose to believe it. If you'll choose to believe it, it'll change your life, today and for all eternity. We're gonna look at that a little more closely. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most of all, open your heart. I believe God has an invitation for you today.
I've been working through this little series, and I want to do the next aeration of that. In this session, I want to talk about "A Tale of Two Books". We've looked at "A Tale of Two Cities," and "A Tale of Two People," and I'd like to look at "A Tale of Two Books". In all honesty, we're gonna talk about one book, one wook, I don't always talk real plain, but I'm persistent. We're gonna talk about one book, but two very different ways of approaching it, and two ways that are very prevalent amongst us. You don't have to search very far to find either of them, one is perhaps a bit more fashionable.
I wanna start in 2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 16. It says, "All scripture is God-breathed". "All scripture is God-breathed". You need to decide what you think about that. Not what I think, you don't need to Google a commentator, you'll need to decide if you believe what it says, that all scripture is God-breathed, because there's many, many, many, many voices that will give you alternative perspectives to that, and many of those voices will emanate with lots of theological training and support. "All scripture is God-breathed. It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work". The objective of engaging the Word of God is that you and I might be thoroughly equipped, completely equipped for everything we need in our journey through time. We only get to make that run one time, there's no do-overs. You won't get to come back and try this again, grasshopper.
So, it is not dress rehearsal, and there's no season of life that is easier than the one you're in. If you've bought into that lie, you think there's some season that's in front of you where it'll be easier to be God honoring, it'll be easier to choose the Lord, you're wrong. Godliness isn't easy at any life season. It's not more difficult for a 16 year old than it is a 60 year old. I know it's not popular to say that. We get to 60 and we like to pretend like it's just easy. Nah, we're just as wicked as we were when we were adolescents. I didn't call your name, but the purpose of engaging with the Word of God is that we can be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Now, we are crazy blessed in that we have access to the Word of God. I doubt we understand what a unique privilege that is. For century, upon century, upon century, that was not true of God's people. I'm talking about after the New Testament. There were a very limited number of copies. They were very protected. In fact, the religious leaders tried to keep the common people from having access to the Word of God. There was a lot of job security if you're the only ones that had the rule book. And the average person didn't have access, and the people that tried to do that were martyred. When they put the Bible into the English language, the person that took point on that was martyred. There's been a tremendous price paid. We take that so for granted. And now we have such an abundance of Bibles.
I just stopped for a minute in The Next Chapter and bought a sample. We got all these different translations. This is the New Inductive Study Bible. I started reading these titles and I thought, "I wonder what happened to the old inductive study Bible"? Did we get more inductive? But we've got the New Inductive, we've got the New King James. I mean, the King James didn't do bad, most influential book in Western literature, without question. No book's even come close to influencing. This is the ESV, the English Standard Version, there's the New International Version, there's the New American Standard Version. What's this one? I don't know, it's got big print and it has big margins so I can write a lot of stuff in it. I like that a lot, that helps me more these days. But I mean, we got a whole, you know, we argue, we divide and have fights about which one's the right one to read.
You know, that one's not a translation, it's a paraphrase. That one's too contemporary, and that one's too wooden, and we all know Paul wrote the King James, and if it was good enough for Paul, it ought to work for us. I mean, I still tend to think in King James, but that's Elizabethan English, and most of us aren't experts in 17th-century English, so there's a little gap when you're trying to process whether thee or thou, which one's plural. I mean, in the south it's just y'all, but I want to ask you how do you read your Bible? And I don't mean when, or what's your favorite chair, or do you use the WOC reading plan, or do you go download another one? But when you read your Bible, do you imagine it to be a book of suggestions? Do you think it's a collection of wise sayings that are worth reflecting upon and perhaps building into your life? Is it a semi-accurate history of Jesus and his followers?
I mean, certainly it's written from a unique perspective, and so you're gonna limit the credibility you give to it, because there were other perspectives, this is the one about Jesus. Maybe you think of it as a theological epistle which must be interpreted by each individual and nobody has a right to determine what it means. That every person can determine for themselves. How do you read your Bible? It's a very important question. In fact, if you'll answer that question for me in a sentence with clarity, I can tell you a great deal about your spiritual wellbeing, and I didn't come to give you the right answer, but it's worth thinking about because you'll have to answer that. Not at church, we all know the right answer at church, but if somebody were to evaluate your life, and you told them that you imagined that the Bible was the rule of faith and practice for any Christ follower, what would they say about how you read your Bible?
Let me give you a cautionary, couple of cautions, one is the notes in the margins of your Bibles. How many of you have a study Bible? Yeah, me too. I've read 'em all my life. The notes are not inspired, they're opinions, and you tend to read those as if they should be in red. Don't get mad yet, I'll make you madder before we're done. Bible commentaries, you know, I will look at a lot of different sources and a lot of different opinions, but I remember T.L. Osborne visited the church years ago, and I never forgot what he said. He said most Bible commentators are pretty common 'taters. If you're an urbanite, go ask a country person to interpret that sentence, they will help you with that.
What I can tell you about the Bible is that it is addressive literature. It's unique in that way. It has a message for the reader, if you're willing to accept it. I heard it said, and the line's stuck inside of me, that when you read your Bible, the Bible's reading you, and I have found that to be true consistently in my life, no matter how frequently I have read the scripture. In Joshua chapter 1 and verse 7, it says, "Be strong and very courageous". This is God preparing Joshua to lead his people. He's taken over Moses's task. That's a tough job assignment. "Be strong and very courageous". Did you know that strength and great courage were necessary to fulfill God's assignment for your life?
God didn't say, "Joshua, you need to improve your systematic theology". He didn't say, "Joshua, your pastoral care is a little lax". He said, "Joshua, you're gonna need to be strong and very courageous". It takes courage to honor Jesus. One of the reasons we're in such trouble in American Christiandom is we haven't had much courage attached to our faith. "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you. Don't turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go". I'd like to be in that line, successful wherever you go. "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night". "Don't let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night".
I've introduced an idea and you're gonna be tired of it before I'll turn loose of it. About let's talk, being willing to initiate a faith discussion. Not an argument over scripture, not a debate over when to be baptized, or what kind of grape juice to use in communion, but a willingness to let your faith and your God story be a part of the conversations you have every day. Let's talk, it's exactly what God was saying to Joshua. "Don't let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth".
You gotta talk to people about this, Joshua. It has to become a part of you. You have to care about it enough that it invades your conversation. It'll love to influence everywhere you go and what you say to anybody. We've been too compartmentalized, too segmented. We go to church and then we go live our lives. We can't continue to do that. We're goin' God's gonna use us, I believe, to ignite a change. Psalm chapter 1 verse 1, very similar. "Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of the sinners, or sit in the seat of the mockers". It's a downward progression. But the alternative is to have your "Delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law you meditate day and night".
Meditate, it's kind of a fancy word for thinking about it. You think about it day and night. You don't have just a 15-minute block of time where you read, it and check the box, and go, "Thank God I'm done with that, I'm caught up finally". You think about it. You let it invade your heart enough that it begins to occupy your mind. It says, "Then you'll be like a tree planted by streams of water which will yield fruit in season, whose leaf doesn't wither, and whatever you do prospers". You see, the blessings of God are not random. God responds to people who seek him.
Now, I want to take the balance of our time, and I've got a good a little bit of time, so hallelujah, and I really want to spend a little more thought on this notion of "A Tale of Two Books," and it has everything to do with how you approach your Bible. And I'm telling you, these two books, these two perspectives on the book flourish in our churches. I'm not talkin' about secular and faithful, these two perspectives are alive and well in the church. In fact, they've been given such permission and such license that we're offended if anybody suggests anything different. And I hope we can, with the Lord's help and the help of the Holy Spirit, look enough to understand we're not the first generation to be offended by God's Word. If God's Word hasn't offended you lately, you're not paying much attention to it.
Have you ever been on a diet and been offended by the scale? I expected to be lighter today, must be something wrong with it. I want a new one. Well, God's Word, I think what I would suggest before we start into the specific examples, is to recognize how vulnerable we are to be deceived. And I want to take just a moment with this, I don't want to go too far, but in Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the end of the age, and the one thing he warns us against more than anything else, it's not even close. There's multiple warnings against one specific problem, and that was deception. Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives, and the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us, when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age"?
So, the question on the table is what are the signs of your return, the parousia, the second coming of Jesus, and the end of this age? And Jesus's first response to them is, "Watch out that no one deceives you". If you think you can't be deceived, you already are. So, you know, what would deception look like? The New Testament gives us several categories, and again, I'm not going to do... we may come back and do this study in a little more detail, but one of the things it talks to us about his counterfeit signs and wonders. That as we get closer to the end of the age, there will be supernatural things that happen that are not reflective of God doing them. They will be a demonstration of spiritual power, but it won't be the power of God. Again, that's not a new thing, it will just become more prevalent.
In the Book of Acts, Paul is walking through a public market, and there's a young woman that has the ability to tell the fortunes of people, and she's good enough at it that she's accumulating a lot of money for her owners. And she keeps harassing Paul and Silas. She recognizes the Spirit in them, and she's announcing it to the point that it's annoying, and Paul turns and commands the spirit to leave her. So, there was an unclean, an unholy spirit manifesting in the life of a young woman that had some correct anticipation of the unfolding of events. So, that type of behavior, that type of demonic or unclean spiritual activity, counterfeit signs and wonders, will increase as we approach the end of the age, because deception is going to increase. So, everything that's spiritual isn't godly, and just because it isn't ungodly doesn't mean it's just a hoax. Spiritual forces are real.
People say, "You know, I don't believe in that," as if that protected you. You don't have to believe in something unclean. You don't have to intend to put yourself under the influence of some unholy spirit for it to happen, you just have to open the doorway for it to have access to you. We talked to you about things that are not to be involved in, and it's not to be punitive or to keep you from having a good time. In the same way, we spent two years talking about how to minimize our exposure to a virus from Wuhan. We better become world class at how to limit our exposure to unclean things. Don't toy with them. You don't toy with evil.
Another way that the Bible says that deception will increase is that scripture will be misused. That we'll use it to feed our carnal selves. We will try to turn God into kind of a heavenly vending machine. How to get what we want when we want. That's not what it means to honor Jesus as Lord. I believe Jesus wants to bring good things to your life, and I believe he will bless you. I have lived that out, I'm a testimony to that, but it would be grossly misleading to suggest that following the Lord doesn't involve sacrifice. If you're not sacrificing for the Lord, talk to me about why you think you're following him. One of the reasons we're in such trouble is we're laboring under a significant challenge of deception. We think we're protected because of the church we belong to, or the denomination we've joined, or because we have a series of behaviors that we engaged in at some point in the past that we think have an impact upon us that is just completely unassailable.
Sometimes we can be deceived just because we're uninformed, and therefore we're really vulnerable to wrong thoughts. We don't know the difference. And again, you know, that's true. It's not just true in the spiritual realm. I was watchin' an older movie not too long ago, and everybody in the movie was smoking. I mean, everybody. You know, kids were smoking, and the adults are smoking, and I thought, wow, you know, nobody knew. Nobody knew, but it didn't protect them. We have lost a whole generation of people because we didn't understand we were destroying ourselves.
Look at 1 Corinthians 6 and verse 9, this is written to a church, to a church, not to a group of unbelievers, to a church that was really brought into being through the discipleship, the shepherding, the ministry of the Apostle Paul. So, they didn't come into the kingdom of God in a sloppy way. Paul was pretty good at this church planting thing, and he writes them a letter in his absence. He's moved along, and he said, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived". Well, if he's saying to them, "Do not be deceived," you know the principles by now.
If he's telling 'em that, some of them already are. So then he gives them a rather elaborate list. It's not an inclusive list, but it's a rather elaborate list of ungodly behavior. And he said you can't do this and inherit the kingdom of God. And I don't know how much you know about the book of Corinthians, but they were doin' about everything in that list. He calls him out on it. They were drunkards, they were immoral, while they're goin' to church. He says don't be deceived, you can't do that. Again, deception is rampant amongst us. Galatians chapter 6, to another church, to another group of believers. "Do not be deceived".
I promise you, he's not writing to Christians and saying, "Do not be deceived," unless there's a very real possibility that we could be deceived. "Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked". Not that he will not, he cannot. "You will reap what you sow". So, deception, as much as it was prevalent in the first century, as we approach the end of the age, it's gonna grow exponentially. Jesus kept saying watch out. He comes to the point that he said even the elect are gonna be deceived, if that's possible.
So, this tale of two books is very important, and here's the broad categories. Maybe we can explain it better, but there's a way to pick up your Bible and decide that it's gonna be personal, it's about me and God. Or there's a way to pick up your Bible and say this is gonna be a theoretical exercise. I'm gonna stand apart from it, and I'll read it and decide what I believe about it and how I will interpret it, and I'll spend some time online, and I'll look at some commentaries and some opinions, and I'll collect how everybody thinks about it, and then I'll decide what my opinion about it is. You stand kind of apart from it. Those are two very, very, very different books. And it's not about the church you go to or how good or bad the pastor is, it's a decision that starts internally.
I'd like to ask you a question before we go. What's the filter that you look at the world through? It's a choice you make, it's not dictated for you. It's a choice we make, which filter we will adopt. Do you look at the world based on the nation you come from, the language you speak, the region of the country? Do you have a southern filter, do you imagine that your filter for the world is based upon your sex, whether you're male or female, your race? What's the filter you look at the world through? I would submit to you that what we would like to construct is a biblical worldview. That we look at the world from a biblical perspective, and that takes attention on a daily basis. It's not automatic, but that should be ahead of any other filter. If we will do that, it will prevent us from being deceived. I want to pray with you:
Father, I thank you. I pray that you will help us to see our world as you see it. That we might respond to it with your heart and no other way. Thank you, in Jesus's name, amen.