105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Dear Friends in Christ,
During my current sermon series which I am calling “The Foundation of Our Faith,” I’ve been sharing a few stories with you from this book that I read some time ago called Extreme Devotion. This morning I want to invite you to listen to another one of these stories entitled “Extreme Hostage.” (p. 209)
A story like that is so foreign to us because we have such easy access to the Bible. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be without a Bible, much less to have to hold a person hostage in order to get a copy of the Bible. And yet oddly enough, we who have so many Bibles available to us are the ones who so frequently fail to use them or appreciate them as the people in that story did.
But we’re working to change that through this sermon series. So far we’ve examined a number of reasons why people don’t read the Bible and some excellent reasons why we should read the Bible. Today I want to begin to look at some problems that biblical illiteracy can lead to in the hopes that this will stimulate and motivate us more than ever to make spending time in God’s Word not just something that we do on a Sunday morning or when we can squeeze it into our busy schedules, but something that we place a high priority upon and thus strive to do on a regular, preferably even a daily, basis.
The first problem that biblical illiteracy leads to is that it leaves life’s key questions unanswered. Many people today are searching for answers to the great questions of life, which is a good thing. The only problem is that they are searching in all the wrong places. They are looking to the so-called experts of today to answer their questions – the Hollywood elite, professional athletes, liberal college professors, and so on. And that’s not always the wisest thing to do.
While I was working on this sermon, I made it a point to watch some of those “experts” in action on TV. One day it was Oprah Winfrey talking with this panel of female experts who were giving their advice on how you need to look within yourself to find the answers to life’s big questions and to draw on the energy from the universe outside of yourself. It was a lot of New Age mish-mash that had Oprah and many of the gullible people in the audience nodding their heads as if they finally understood how to find answers to life’s big questions.
Further channel surfing led me to a psychic medium who supposedly links people with their deceased loved ones and lets them know what those loved ones are doing on the other side of the grave. As I listened to him asking the most basic questions about these people, questions that I would think he would know if he was in fact a psychic, I had to wonder how people could actually fall for stuff like that.
But the answer is really pretty simple. It’s because people are hungry for answers today. And the good news is that the answers can be found, not from within yourself or from the energy of the universe or from a charlatan like that psychic, but from this holy book that we call the Bible. But because people aren’t reading the Bible, because they’re not taking it seriously, because they are not searching the Scriptures as Jesus encouraged us to do, they are absolutely clueless when it comes to the big questions of life.
So just for the fun of it, let’s consider some of those questions this morning and see what God’s Word has to say about them. We’ll start with this one: How can I know the truth? This question is really at the heart and foundation of all other questions because if we don’t have a reliable source of truth, then we’ll never be able to know whether any answer to any question is the right and true answer.
Well, the Bible hits this question head on. Remember when Jesus found himself standing before Pontius Pilate and Pilate asked him if he was a king, as the Jewish leaders were claiming he was saying? Jesus’ response in John 18:37 was: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” So if you want to know the truth, what do you need to do? You need to listen to Jesus. But why Jesus? Why not Mohammed? Why not Buddha or Confucius or Hare Krishna or Joseph Smith or some other founder of a world religion? Why Jesus? Well, the answer to that question is pretty simple but also deeply profound. It’s because Jesus was God in human flesh, something that he proved over and over again when he walked this earth. And since it stands to reason that all truth naturally proceeds from God who is holy and sinless and perfect, then all truth naturally proceeds from Jesus. That’s why on another occasion Jesus proclaimed himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” Now I realize that anyone could make that claim about himself or herself. In fact, I could make it about myself. “I am the truth.” There, I said it. Do you believe it? I hope not because the question is, am I able to back it up? And the answer of course is, absolutely not. Jesus, on the other hand, not only could back it up but did back it up. Through his countless miracles of healing, his feeding of the multitudes with hardly any food at all, his stilling of the storm at sea, his walking on water, his raising of the dead, and especially his own resurrection from the dead, Jesus proved that he was true God and therefore the source of all truth who is deserving of our trust.
I remember seeing an author on television one time by the name of Steven Covey who did an interesting experiment with the studio audience. He asked them to close their eyes and point north. When he told them to open their eyes again, they were all pointing in wildly different directions. Then he pulled out a compass and basically said that the only way they could know which way was true north was by letting the compass tell them. You can’t know it from within yourself.
And in a very similar way, you can’t know truth from within yourself. You can only know it from the One who is the source of all truth and that is Jesus. But if you fail to read his Word, if you fail to use it as your compass, or what our text for today calls it, a lamp to your feet and a light for your path, you’re going to find yourself asking the same question Pilate asked of Jesus. And that question was, “What is truth?”
Let’s move on to another one of life’s big questions: Does God really exist? And if he does, what is he like? Again, the Bible wastes no time in answering that question when it says in the very first verse of Scripture, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Notice, it doesn’t argue for the existence of God. It doesn’t try to prove the existence of God. It simply assumes the existence of God. “In the beginning, God.” Period. End of sentence. End of argument.
And then it proceeds to reveal this great God to us, telling us what he’s like, what his plans and purposes are for us. For example, from the Bible we learn that God is a personal Being. He’s not merely an energy or force or influence floating around out there in the universe, but rather he’s a living personal Being. In fact, he’s so personal that he even compares himself to a mother in Isaiah 49:15-16 he says: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” And this personal God has a personal interest in each and every one of us. In Matt. 10:29-30 Jesus says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Imagine that! God has such a personal interest in you that if you pinned him down he could tell you right now how many hairs you have on your head.
But there’s more. He is a holy God, which means that he is set apart, separate, distinct from the rest of his creation. He is in a class all by himself and nothing and no one can compare to him or compete with him. In Isaiah 46:9 he says: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”
He is a sovereign God, which means he is Lord over all. He’s the sole and supreme ruler of the universe and nothing is outside of his control. Psalm 135:6 says: “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” Thankfully, he is a gracious and forgiving God. Psalm 103:8-13 says: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”
I could go on and on because the Bible goes on and on describing God, but I think you get my point. Get to know the Bible better and you’re going to get to know God better.
Here’s another question that especially haunts people these days: Why is there so much evil in this world? That’s a good question for if God is good and kind and loving, then why do all these bad things happen that we read about in the newspapers every day: natural disasters, school shootings, terrorist attacks, war, crime, violence, sickness, death, and other tragedies? I mean, let’s face it. Life on this planet is tough and life is unfair in so many ways from our limited human perspective. So what gives?
Well, again, God’s Word provides the answer to those questions. In fact, you don’t have to delve very far into it to find that answer. In the first two chapters of Genesis we discover that the world we see around us today with all of its imperfections is not the world God originally created. Rather, when God was finished with his creative work, he took a step back to observe it in all of its pristine beauty and glory and according to Gen. 1:31 he declared it to be “very good.” Then in the 2nd chapter of Genesis we find Adam working in a perfect environment and enjoying a perfect marriage with the perfect woman. But then something happened. And you know what it was. Sin happened. Adam and Eve disobeyed the only forbidding command God gave them and the effects of their sin spread like wildfire. The perfect harmony they had once enjoyed with God and with one another and with all of creation and nature was spoiled, corrupted, ruined, and all of a sudden they found themselves doing things they’d never done before…running from God, hiding from him, blaming one another for what went wrong, and then dealing with a creation that was now their enemy rather than their friend. And the whole sordid mess continues today and according to the Bible it will continue till the end of time when God brings this world to a merciful end.
Now you might be wondering, but if God is so loving and so powerful, why doesn’t he just put a stop to all this evil and suffering right now? I thought about that, and it dawned on me that if he were to do that, then he would have to do something else to us. He would have to remove our free will, something I don’t think we would appreciate very much, nor would God, because then any praise and worship and obedience that we offered him would not come from the heart. It would not be genuine and sincere because it would be automatically programmed into us. And if God were to remove all suffering from this world, I don’t think it would take us long to figure out that sin has no consequences. And if you think our world is in a mess right now, can you imagine what it would be like without the curbing effects and the restraining influence of God’s justice? But having said that, let me be quick to add that the Bible also makes it very clear to us that the day is coming when God will put a stop to all sin and its consequences. Revelation 21:4 says: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” And in the very next chapter of Revelation we read these wonderful and encouraging words about what life will be like in the new heavens and the new earth when it says: “There will be no more curse.” So as long as we live on this earth, we will have to endure the effects of sin’s curse. But once we step from this life into the next one, the curse will be lifted and we who know and love and trust Jesus the Savior will be free of it finally and forever.
Well, in my next sermon 2 weeks from today we’re going to take a look at some more of life’s great questions that the Bible answers. Until then, I want to encourage you to keep reading the Bible on your own because remember, the more you get into God’s Word, the more that Word is going to get into you. And the more answers you’re going to find to life’s biggest questions. Amen.