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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - When the Bible Contradicts Itself

James Meehan - When the Bible Contradicts Itself

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    James Meehan - When the Bible Contradicts Itself
TOPICS: Bible Study

Okay, so I'm a Christian, right? But what do you do when it seems like the Bible contradicts itself? Like when it says one thing in one place and something totally different in another place. Do you just pretend like you didn't see that other thing and believe the thing that you wanna believe? Or do you give up on God, because if one part of the Bible is flawed then it must mean the whole thing is corrupt, right? Or do you look closer? Today we're choosing to look closer at a contradiction that reveals a lot about how we see Jesus. Stick around. Hello, I'm Jesse, and we're in a series called "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" where we're exploring the weird, wild parts about the Bible and discover how God uses all of it to tell a beautiful story of His grace and our redemption.

In this week's message, we looked at a story of Gideon being called by God to lead the people of Israel to overflow their oppressors. If you haven't watched it, then make sure you check it out. It's probably in the description or an eye bubble or whatever. But in that story, we read these verses from Judges 6. "When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord he cried out, 'Oh, sovereign Lord, I'm doomed. I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.' And God says, 'It's all right.' The Lord replied, 'Don't be afraid. You will not die.'" To recap, an angel appears to Gideon. He's terrified. God tells him, "Don't be afraid". Okay, cool. So that's pretty clear. We shouldn't be afraid, got it. Pause, 'cause here's the tension. Then you come across this verse in Proverbs where it says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy one is understanding".

So wait, is fear good or bad? Well, if you read all of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is spoken about as a good thing about 10 times. But if you read the entire Bible, the command to "fear not" shows up 365 times, one for every day. So the basic math just adds up and tells you that it's wrong to be afraid, right? Then if we jump forward to the New Testament, the Apostle John, one of Jesus' friends and closest followers, and one of the authors of the biographies of Jesus in the Bible, he wrote this in the book of 1 John. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love". Oh, okay, okay. Well then, fear is clearly a bad thing and love is a good thing, and we've got an obvious like good guy bad guy thing and... Okay, truth. You ready for this? You ready for the answer, here it is. It depends. Hmm. Sometimes fear is a good thing and sometimes it's not. Satisfying, right? Clear as mud. I love a nice black and white answer, just makes you feel warm inside.

But here's a subtext that you can take from that answer. The Bible wasn't written to give us easy answers. It was written to help us wrestle with hard truths. Not easy answers, hard truths, which is why when the context, the people, places and things, when the context involved changes, so does the wisdom offered by the Bible. To be clear, the truth doesn't change. God doesn't change. But the way we apply that truth has to change based on the context, the people, places and things. So, okay, Jesse, so apply the idea of contextual interpretation to fear. Fine, here it goes. Fear can be a good place to start but it's a bad place to stop. Let me say that again. Fear is a good place to start but it's a terrible place to stop. Don't stop at fear. Here's an example you might be familiar with. Well, my parents have been Jesus followers for my entire life, right? I don't remember a time when I didn't know about Jesus. But you know what the tipping point for asking Jesus to forgive my sins was? It was when a Sunday school teacher taught us about hell. I was scared to death of hell, scared spitless.

So I asked my dad to help me say the words that would invite Jesus to be the king of my life and to save me from hell. That was my focus. From here, you'd think that following Jesus would be more about paying attention to Jesus than running away from hell. But literally, for years, my faith was almost exclusively motivated by the fear of hell, rather than the love of Jesus and his people. Is hell unbiblical? No, Jesus taught us all about it. Hell is real. But for far too long, I was a good little boy because I was afraid of punishment, not because I was inspired by Jesus' love and wanted my whole life to be all about it. So I'll say it again. Fear can be a good place to start but it's a bad place to stop. It's the beginning of wisdom, but it shouldn't be the end. Jesus' love is perfect, and like 1 John says, "Perfect love drives out fear".

The longer we follow Jesus, the more our love for him grows, and as our love for him grows, there will be less and less room for fear, until eventually love will have pushed it out completely. It's not a bad thing for our obedience to God to start because we're afraid to not obey. That's actually wisdom. When we understand that he is God and we aren't, it's common sense to do what he asks. It's like it's common sense to do what your parents tell you, or your principal, or a police officer tells you to do. They have the position and the authority, but the more you get to know God, and who he is, and what he's like, and how unbelievably beautiful he is, that he is love, the more you'll be motivated to obey because you love him too, and then the less you'll be motivated by fear.

So, what are we gonna do about it? I've got two things for you. First thing, take some time. Think about your relationship with God right now and ask yourself, how much of what I do is because I'm afraid of him? Or the consequences of sin. And how much is motivated by love? My love for him, his love for me. Second, when you find something in the Bible that seems to contradict itself, don't give up, or walk away, or just choose the answer that you think is most convenient. Instead, dig in, ask more questions and see what you can learn from it. That's it. That's what I gotta say. So to wrap it up, tying it together, when we first bump into things in the Bible that seem like contradictions, it can be unsettling. But if we keep digging and keep seeking God, keep asking questions, he will use what we learn from that wrestling to grow our love for him, our love for his people, and our love for his word.
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