David Jeremiah - A Book That Will Change Your Life
Jack McDonald was born in San Mateo, California. He was a military brat who grew up all over the United States. Finished high school in New Jersey, attended college at Michigan State, where he eventually flunked out. Ultimately, he married and returned to California, where he became a buyer for Macy's department stores. The pressure of his job was incredible, and he responded to his on-the-job pressure by drinking heavily and making a series of very bad decisions, which eventually landed him in jail.
In fact, he spent time in jail in five different states. He became a fugitive, he changed his name and his life story with each new person that he met so that the warrants that were out for him couldn't be traced to him. In 1980, he went to the phone book and picked a name out of the phone book to make it his own. He decided to call himself Jeff Andrews because maybe A is the first letter in the alphabet. From that moment on, that eventually became his legal name. But he continued to run. And wherever he went, he was looking over his shoulders. And one day, he just got tired of the whole thing, and he turned himself in, believe it or not, and began serving his sentence in Danbury, Connecticut.
As he tells the story, some guy named Gideon gave him a New Testament. And one night at 3 o'clock in the morning, he took that little book to the back of his cell and, by the light of the full moon, he began to read it. As he read, something hit him like a thunderbolt, and he knew instantly that this little book was true. He received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. And to make a very long story short, he's now the vice president of a computer company, where he's worked for the last 17 years, and a part of the ministry of Charles Colson's prison fellowship for the last 13 years.
There are many stories like that that I could have told you. The Bible's always been a difference-maker, making bad people good, and good people better. The Bible's pages glow with the grace of God, provide hope and meaning for everyone who will look to it for help. The Bible's power to transform lives is best described in the last half of one of the most beautiful psalms in the Bible. More than any other psalm, Psalm 19 reflects the beauty and splendor of Hebrew poetry.
C.S. Lewis believed that this psalm was the greatest poem in the Psalms, and one of the greatest lyrics in all of the world. Now, the Hebrew poets were different than our poets today. They knew how to arrange their message so that it was set in exquisite color. And through the use of comparison and contrast, they brought truth forward so that the message was actually enhanced by the structure that was given to it. Let me show you what I mean. Here are the words of David's tribute to the Bible found in Psalm 19:7 through 11. But they're not written in prose, they're written in a chart. And I'd like to read them from the chart, they're exactly the way they are in the Bible.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. And the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous. Moreover by them your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward".
Now, the Hebrew poets would tell you read this psalm across and then read it down. Read it down the columns that are there. If you want to know what the psalmist thinks about the Bible, here are some synonyms he created for it. He said the Bible is the law of the Lord, it is the testimony of the Lord, it's the statutes of the Lord, it's the commandment of the Lord, it's the fear of the Lord, it's the judgments of the Lord. These are all synonyms for the Bible. And these six synonyms portray the Bible not just as a book to be read, but a book to be obeyed. Judgments and statutes and laws, these are things we obey.
In the second column, the psalmist adds adjectives for the Bible. He says, "This is what the Bible is like", and he gives us six words. It is perfect, it is sure, it is right, it is clean, and it is true and righteous. But it is not until you get to the final column that you understand what the psalmist really wanted us to take away from Psalm 19:7 through 11. He wants us to know what the Bible will do for us. And more than anything else, this is why I've been involved in this project over these years, because I so believe in the power of the Bible to change lives.
Here in this text, we are told a number of things about the Bible and what it will do. First of all, it will restore your soul. "Converting the soul", it says. The Bible is God's agent of salvation. Did you know that you cannot become a Christian without the Bible? You say, "Well, I know somebody that didn't even have a Bible, and they became a Christian".
Well, if they became a Christian, it was because of something that came out of the Bible because you cannot become a Christian without the Bible. We would not know how to know God without the Bible. We can know God exists through his creation, but we cannot know how to know God unless God reveals himself to us. And in the Bible, he has done just that. He has given to us everything that we need to know to become a Christian. This book is God's agent of salvation. And the message of Christianity can only be found in one place. It's not in a history book; it's in God's book.
Peter says it this way, "We are born again through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever". And the Bible also renews your mind. "The testimony of the Lord is sure", said the psalmist, "making wise the simple". The Bible will give you practical guidance that you need to know how to do life. So many times, I have read the Word of God and found myself thinking, "Oh man, I better not do that", or, "I better do this a different way". The Bible is God's wisdom to us, wisdom to help us to know how to do life. And the Bible is God's owner's manual.
I don't want to go too far down that road because I know how most of us treat those owner's manuals. But let me suggest to you that you should read the Bible because if you don't, you will wish you had. The Bible, the psalmist says, will rejoice your heart. That's right out of the text. "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart", Psalm 19. Did you know that the Bible is one of God's best ways to lift your spirit? When you're down, when you're troubled, where do you go? I always tell people you won't find a lot of help in Leviticus, but go to the Psalms. Go to the Psalms, and there you will find truth that will just lift your spirit.
One day, an Australian woman named Darlene Zschech was battling depression. It was back in 1993, to be exact, and her burdens were just overwhelming. There seemed no solution for her problems. But her family was a Christian family, and Darlene had begun to learn the power of the Bible; so that day, she reached for her Bible. And as she pored over Psalm 96, the Lord used his Word to meet her needs. Nearby her at the time was an old piano that her parents had given to her when she was five years old.
Going over to the piano, she began to improvise this song based on Psalm 96. And as she praised the Lord, her depression began to lift, and her faith and her joy in the Lord returned. Little did she know that the song she wrote would become one of the most popular praise and worship songs of all time. We sing it in all of our churches these days, it's called "Shout to the Lord". And when we sing that song, we need to remember that it was written by someone who was depressed until they read the Psalms.
When you read the Word of God, it will lift your spirit, that's what David says. And it will also refocus your vision. Notice verse 8, he says, "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening your eyes". God's Word gives us clarity of vision. Is there anything we need more in this life today than to be able to see things as they are? If you see things as they are, you can stay out of a lot of trouble.
I heard a sportscaster this week that I listen to sometimes on the radio talking about a guy, and he said about this guy that he was the president of the state of denial. And I know a lot of people that live in that state, who are citizens of the state of denial, don't you? But you can't live in the state of denial if you read the Bible. The Bible will bring you up short, it will help you to see yourself as you really are, and it will refocus your vision. And it will reinforce your life. Notice, "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever". Forever, something that lasts, what do you know about that? The Bible is forever, it doesn't change. It will never fail, it won't let you down. It is never out of date. You can count on it to be there when you need it. It endures forever. The psalmist says in Psalm 119, "Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven".
I was watching CNN one night, and some personalities were interviewing a preacher. I always thought that was a really risky thing to do to let CNN interview you if you're a preacher, but this guy was brave and he decided to do it. And during the interview, the interviewer said to the preacher, and I quote, "When are you Christians going to drag your Bible into the 21st century"? end of quote.
Now, I knew immediately that the interviewer had never read the Bible. I knew that immediately. The Bible speaks to the issues of our day, and the fact that we don't like what it has to say does not render it irrelevant. There is certainly a need for change. You know, there's a tremendous need for change, but it is not the Bible that needs to change. We need to drag our culture back in line with the Bible, don't you know, yeah. And then the psalmist said that the Bible will replace your doubts. "The judgment of the Lord is true and righteous altogether".
In this life, there are not many things you can know for sure that are true. You think you do. Sometimes, you think you know something's true, and you find out it's not. Every part of God's Word, all of it, from the beginning to the end, is true. And I make that statement as a man who has watched in history as minds far more brilliant than mine would ever be who have tried to destroy the Bible, saying it is full of contradictions and it doesn't have any integrity, it seems like every time they set out to destroy the Bible, they end up becoming followers of Christ. Because they examine the evidence and they find out the evidence is worthy.
When you read the Bible, you can have the confidence that it has withstood centuries of attempts to discredit it. People still read it. If a book is no longer relevant, why would you read it? But it is relevant, and we know it's relevant. And you know, I've often said that the Bible is a self-authenticating book. That means you don't have to have anything else to tell you that it's true. Just in the reading of it, something witnesses in your heart that says, "Wow, this is different. This is true. This must be a God book". And the Bible will reorder your values.
Notice verse 10, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb". What does that mean? It means the Bible's far more value than we give it credit to be.
One of my friends and a pastor who's retired from the church now but continues to write, is a man by the name of John Piper. And he made the following comments about this particular verse. He said, "If you have a choice between the Word of God and gold, choose the Word of God. If you have a choice between the Word of God and much gold, choose the Word of God. And if you have a choice between the Word of God and much fine gold, choose the Word of God. The point is plain. The benefits of knowing and doing the Word of God are greater than all that money can buy. If you're tempted"...
He went on to say this, and this is a pretty bold thing for him to say, he said, "If you're tempted to read the stock page before you read the Bible in the morning, remind yourself that this is not very shrewd behavior. It's like the child who chooses the penny over the dime because it's bigger. Adults look on and shake their heads, and try to teach children how to see what is really more valuable. There is no doubt the way the angels in heaven look down at childish businessmen who study the stock page before they study the Bible. There's a difference, however, in that the benefits of the Word of God over the benefits of gold are greater than ten to one".
And that doesn't mean you shouldn't study the stock page and learn all you can about the financial world. But when you mix in the truth of God's Word, it takes it to an entirely different level. And I know so many people have told me that from their own experience. And then the Bible will redirect your path. "Moreover by them your servant is warned". Did you know the Bible is full of warnings? That's why some people don't like to read it, because it tells them not to do something that they want to do. But you know, if you really think this through, warnings are great value to us.
Warnings keep us out of trouble. Warnings protect us from danger. We used to have a discussion among our pastors some years back about what we do in preaching, as opposed to what we do in counseling. And we came up with this little image that maybe helps us. The preacher of the Word of God in today's world takes the Scripture and opens it up, and he puts signs of warning down in the sand to tell people, "Don't go this way, you're going over the cliff".
So often, our counseling ministries run ambulance services at the bottom of the cliff. Now, there's nothing wrong with either one. But isn't it much better not to have to use the ambulance service by just taking note of the Word of God? And one of the reasons why our culture is where it is today is because so many people refuse, absolutely refuse to stand up in their pulpit and say, "This is wrong, don't do this. This is what God says". And you don't have to be mean-spirited about it or angry. All you've got to do is just reflect what the Word of God says.
The Bible will tell you when something's going to get you in trouble. And if you want to get in trouble, go for it, but get ready to ride in the ambulance, right? And the Bible will reward your obedience. It says here, "And in keeping the things of the Bible, there is great reward". I stand here today after 40 years of studying this book and doing my very best to follow its truth to tell you it's the most rewarding thing you can ever do to know that you're in the will of God, to know that you're doing what you believe God wants you to do.
I remember when I first started to travel years ago, and we started our television and radio ministry, and I was traveling. I went through a little period of fear because I would get on an airplane, and I wasn't worried so much about me, but I had a young family, and I would just go through a little fear that something might happen and I'd leave my children without a father, my wife without a husband. One day, a friend of mine, who was a real student of the Word of God, gave me a little saying, and I put it in my Bible, and this is what it says. "God's man in the center of God's will is immortal until God is done with him". Did you ever think about that? God's man in the center of God's will is immortal until God is done with him. One of these days, God'll be done with me. And when he is, I'm gone. But as long as I stay in his will, I can live and be useful, and have the joy of the Lord in my heart.
You know, I'm going to end my little talk with you tonight with a story. You all know I love stories because I fill my radio program and television program up with them. Stories are windows to the soul, don't you know? There is a man who decided along the way in his life that God wanted him to be a missionary. He was a doctor, and a very, very good one to be exact. He decided to go to a foreign field where doctors were not really ever used and known. As he went there and gave himself to the ministry trying to help people, he stayed there for two whole years, and he didn't have one single person he could look to and say, "That person's life was changed because I went there". There just wasn't any evidence; doesn't mean they weren't, but he didn't know of anybody who was.
If you want to write a tragedy, you might want to write about his life because his life actually ended when he was killed in a plane crash attempting to take supplies to a remote village. And you might be tempted to say, "What in the world is that all about? What a waste. He should never have done that". But in the wreckage of the plane, this a true story, the natives discovered a well-marked Bible in their language, and they began to read it. And they told others what they had read. And before long, they were reading it together in what we would call churches because they began to sprout up all over the place. From one well-marked copy of the Scripture, men and women became Christians.
Now, the Southern Baptists who had sent missionaries there did not know any of this, so they put together a plan to send some new missionaries to take the place of the missionary who was killed in the plane crash. Took them a while to pull it together, but they finally got the people together and sent them. And when they sent their first missionary team back into the area, they discovered that he wasn't needed. The place had already been fully evangelized, the people already knew God. They knew God from one little fragment of Scripture that had been left in a wreckage of a plane.
When the missionaries asked the people, "How did this happen? How has it happened that you all have become Christians"? the Colombians went and pulled out the Bible that they had found in the wreckage of the plane and said, "This is what we've been reading, and this has changed our life". We had a wonderful privilege as a church to help commission a new Bible in a tribe that, before our missionaries went had no Bible, did not even have a written language, can you believe that? They didn't have any written language.
The missionary went there and he took their oral words and he put them down in a way so that he basically put the language together. Then he taught them to read by teaching them to read the New Testament. We dedicated the first full Bible for, listen to this, the YembiYembi tribe in Papua New Guinea. They have their own Bible. And in the years that that missionary has been there, over 60% of the people in that culture have come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.
I'm telling you, what we have done to produce the Jeremiah Study Bible is the greatest work we could ever do. Long after I'm gone, people will be reading this Bible and studying the notes, and God will be using it to help them come to know the One he sent the Bible for us to read about, and that's the person of Jesus Christ. Thank you very much.