9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
Dear Friends in Christ,
How hungry are you for the Word of God? Hungry enough to know it better than the ingredients that are found in a McDonald’s Big Mac? Sounds like a strange question, doesn’t it? And yet a form of that question was asked of people when the animated movie, The Ten Commandments, was released some years ago. After polling 1000 Americans regarding their knowledge of these top 10 laws handed down by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai, the Kelton Research organization found that more people could name the 7 ingredients of a Big Mac than could recall 7 of the 10 Commandments. And just for the fun of it, what are the 7 ingredients of a Big Mac? Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. Now how many of you can name 7 of the 10 Commandments? Hmmm…I’m sure some of you can thanks to all the memory work you did in Confirmation years ago, but I suspect most people would be hard pressed to recite just a couple of the 10 Commandments.
That’s one reason why I am currently preaching a series of messages that I have entitled “The Foundation of Our Faith.” I’m trying to get more of us interested in and excited about reading the Bible on our own. And I am happy to say that a number of you have told me that you have been doing just that. I commend you for that and encourage you to keep at it. And I would encourage those of you who haven’t done so to climb on board.
Well, the last time I preached we began to look at some very good reasons why we should read the Bible, which included the following: 1. It gives you confidence to share its teachings and truths with others. 2. It insulates you against Satan’s attacks. 3. It helps you think Christianly. 4. It helps you define morality. If you want to see or review what I said about each of those reasons, you can find that sermon on our church’s web site at salemlc.org in both printed and audio form.
Today we want to continue looking at some more great reasons as to why we should read the Bible, beginning with this one: It gives you hope. And oh how we need hope in our world today. Most of you know who Woody Allen is. He is a comedian and actor known more for his humorous side than his serious side. But I believe he was speaking for a lot of people these days when he said, “More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray that we shall have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Not very good choices, right? But it gets even worse when he says a bit later, “I speak, by the way, not with any sense of futility, but with a panicky conviction of the absolute meaninglessness of existence.”
How sad that we have arrived at this point where so many people today in our very affluent and advantaged culture just can’t seem to find any meaning or purpose in life. At the same time though I really don’t think that should surprise us because for decades now we’ve been taught and told that we are nothing more than the products of pure random evolutionary chance. We’re cosmic accidents. We’re just a higher form of animal, no different in value than an amoeba or a jellyfish.
Many years ago I came across a little poem that I keep in the front of my Adult Information Class book. It’s entitled “Once Upon a Time.” And it offers a good description and summary of the theory of evolution and what that theory ultimately leads to. It goes like this:
Once upon a time, no one knows WHEN,
At some given place, no one knows WHERE,
A speck of protoplasmic substance, no one knows WHAT,
Came into existence, no one knows HOW.
Over a period of time, no one knows HOW LONG,
From that tiny speck of protoplasm, no one knows HOW,
All forms of life in the animal world were developed, but no one knows WHY.
There is so much truth to that last statement. For if we are nothing more than the products of blind random chance, then we really have no reason for being here. We have no purpose for living. And that’s why I believe we see so many young people these days committing suicide. Did you know that suicide is now the leading cause of death among teenagers in our country? But they’ve been taught and force fed this stuff for so long that life, including their own life, has not only become meaningless but also very cheap. So they figure what’s the big deal if I end it now and get out of this rat’s nest of a planet that we call Earth, or if I wait for nature to takes its course? What a hopeless outlook on life!
But my friends, when we read the Bible we find hope. In the very first verse of Scripture we are introduced to the One who is the grand maker and designer behind all that we see around us. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And after he speaks into existence the light, the sky, the dry land and the seas, the sun and moon and stars, birds and fish, the plants and animals, he then takes a lump of clay, or what the Bible calls the dust of the earth, and fashions and forms it into the crown of his creation. Then he leans over that lifeless mass and breathes his own breath into it so that it awakens and becomes a living being, molded into the very image of God himself. And then he places this first of his human creations into a garden and instructs him to take care of it. In other words, the Creator gives meaning and purpose to his creature. Then when he senses the loneliness of the man he creates a counterpart to complement him and complete him. And he tells the two of them: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” More meaning and more purpose. Then as we continue to read the Bible, we discover that God is the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139); he indwells us with his Holy Spirit and makes our bodies his temple (I Cor. 6); he bestows upon us spiritual gifts which we can use to serve him and our fellow man (Eph. 4 and many other passages) and thereby gives fullness and richness and meaning to our lives; he redeems our souls from hell and gives us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us (I Peter 1).
So read the Bible because it gives you hope. Then also read it because it gives you a “center” to your life. If you’ve ever hung pictures in your home and tried to do it without a yardstick or some other measuring device, you can easily find yourself getting off center, right? This is something that I’ve become kind of notorious for that around our household and Marilyn loves to remind me of the time when we were in our first parsonage and we got a smoke detector which we were going to put over one of the doorways in our kitchen. I told her I didn’t need any old yardstick to do the job and when I finished, well, I guess I proved that I did because it was a good inch or more off center.
Well, the Bible is designed and intended by God to be our yardstick. But in this day and age of increasing biblical illiteracy, many people, especially in our own country, have failed to use it as such and have therefore lost their center in life, which in turn has caused our nation to get off center. Consequently historian David Wells writes in one of his books: “The United States is no longer evidently a Christian country, no matter how loosely the word Christian is used.” We’ve lost our spiritual moorings. And in the process we’ve lost many of the things that initially made America great. A French philosopher by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw such a thing happening years ago when he wrote these words:
“I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Those are haunting words, aren’t they? They are words that remind us that getting our nation back on center again can only occur when God’s people get back on center by getting back into his Word so that his Word can get into them and bring about the change in them that I believe every one of us here today wants to see and that our founding fathers foresaw for this great land of ours.
Well, there are many other reasons why we should read the Bible, but I want to wrap things up this morning by sharing just one more with you. And here it is: It helps you discover who you are. Many people today define themselves by what they do. For example, I came across the following article about Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots who failed to win the Super Bowl last January and cap off an otherwise very good season. This was written in 2006 and appeared in Leadership Magazine:
By the age of 28, Tom Brady won three Super Bowls…Brady shared some telling words in a 60 Minutes interview. He mused, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” Steve Kroft, the interviewer, then asked, “What’s the answer?” Brady replied, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”
My friends, until we find our purpose and identity in God, until we discover who we really are and whose we are from his divine perspective, life will remain elusively meaningless and we will continue to struggle with who we are and why we are here. But when we open his Holy Word, we find a God who loves us so much that he was willing to move heaven and earth, or maybe I should say he was willing to move from heaven to earth, in order to win us sinful, stubborn, and rebellious human beings back to himself again. And that God has given us a visible sign that identifies who we are and that we can always go back to if we ever have doubts about ourselves or about his love for us. And that is the sign of our baptism. On the day that we were baptized, God set his seal of ownership upon us. He adopted us into his family. He made us his precious sons and daughters, heirs of everlasting life. While this fellow, Barron Trump, can say, “My dad is the President of the United States,” each one of us can say, “That’s pretty impressive, but you know what? My dad is the king of the universe.” I John 3:1 puts it this way: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Listen, my friends, there is no higher title that we could possibly be given than that one right there: children of God.
So in a day and age where so many people, especially young people, have lost their identity because they’re told they have to dress a certain way and look a certain way and wear their hair a certain way and talk a certain way and listen to a certain type of music and so on, it’s a great time to screen out all that our culture is telling us to do and instead spend time reading the love letter that your Heavenly Father has given to you, a love letter that will give you a real sense of worth and will help you discover who you really are from his perspective.
And to get us even more motivated to do that, next week when we get together we’re going to be taking a look at problems that can occur and that have occurred when people don’t read their Bibles and abide by its principles. Until then, may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds firmly anchored to the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ, at all times. Amen.