The Greatest Book Ever Written

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

Dear Friends in Christ,

The crew of the HMS Bounty had had enough.  Goaded on by the cruelty of Captain Bligh, they took over the ship and they put him and his followers in a small boat and gave them a push out to sea.  Then the mutineers set sail for the South Pacific, landing on a small dot of real estate called Pitcairn Island.  They burned the ship, took Tahitian wives unto themselves, and recruited Tahitian workers.  It had all the makings of a tropical paradise, but they turned it into a living hell as they tried to establish a society where there were no laws, no morals, no standards.  And by the end of 10 years that island had become a virtual cesspool of immorality, animosity, and drunkenness.  Finally the local natives had all they could stand of their uninvited guests and they turned on the sailors and killed every one of them except one.  His name?  Alexander Smith.

Surrounded by half-breed children and hostile natives on this 2 square mile island in the middle of the South Pacific, he did an unusual thing.  He began to read the Bible.  One had been salvaged from the ship before it was destroyed.  Later in his life he would give this testimony as it’s recorded in a book by Dr. D. James Kennedy entitled If the Bible Had Never Been Written:

When I came to the life of Jesus my heart began to swing open like doors swinging apart.  Once I was sure that God was a loving and merciful Father to them that repent, it seemed to me that I could feel his very presence and I grew more sure every day of his guiding hand.

Not only was the life of Alexander Smith transformed through his reading of the Bible, the entire island was as well, as he shared the truths and principles of God’s Word with the natives.  And in 1808, when the British navy discovered Pitcairn Island, they were so astonished and impressed by the faith of Alexander Smith and the decency and order that they found on the island that they chose not to prosecute him for being part of the original mutiny.

Isn’t that something?  From immorality to piety.  From chaos to order.  From decadence to decency.  And what made the difference?  One thing.  The reading and the taking to heart of the message of one book, the Bible.

And you know as well as I do that what happened there on that South Pacific island is really just a microcosm, a small example of what has happened in the lives of countless people over the course of time.  Let’s face it, my friends.  The message of the Bible changes lives.  Consider the following quotes about the Bible that I came across while working on this sermon.

General Robert E. Lee stated:  “In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light.”  Sir William Gladstone, one of the finest prime ministers England ever knew, once wrote:  “I have known 95 great men in my time and of these 87 were followers of the Bible.”  Our nation’s 6th President, John Quincy Adams, said:  “The Bible is the book of all others to be read at all ages in all conditions of human life.”  Immanuel Kant, a philosopher who was about as far from being a Christian as one could get, once confessed:  “The existence of the Bible as a book for the people is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever received.”

The testimonies go on and on, each one of which reminds us that the Bible is an incredible book – in fact, dare I say as I have in my sermon title that it is the most incredible book ever written.  And this morning I want to examine with you 3 reasons why we can say that about this Book that serves as the very bedrock foundation of our faith.

First of all, the Bible is incredible in its composition.  Suppose 40 different artists from all around the world were attempting to paint one painting, but not one of them knew what the others were doing.  In fact, some of them didn’t even know that anyone else was painting.  And yet when their individual pieces were brought together and placed on a great canvass, the result was a masterpiece, a perfect painting.  What are the odds of that happening?

Or suppose 40 different architects from all over the world, most of whom had never met before, began to draw up blueprints for one single building, each one designing a different part, yet none of them knowing what the others were doing.  What are the odds that when their different designs and drawings were put together, the result would be the perfect blueprint for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center that was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 2001?

Impossible, right?  And yet those are good illustrations of what happened with the Bible.  Forty different human authors writing from the desert of Arabia to the windswept island of Patmos over a period of 16 centuries, from Moses to John, 66 books, 3 different languages, a wide variety of cultures and condition.  And yet when those 66 books were compiled together into the one book that we call the Bible, they made a perfect and complete whole that proclaimed the most important message this world ever could or ever would hear, namely, God’s plan of salvation carried out by his Son Jesus Christ.

So the Bible is incredible in its composition.  But it’s also incredible in its durability.  The French philosopher Voltaire once sat in his Paris office and wrote these words:  “I will go to the forest of Scripture and girdle all the trees so that in 100 years Christianity will be but a vanishing memory.” It’s pretty obvious he didn’t like the Bible or the Christian faith it proclaimed, did he?  And I think God took that as a challenge because not only did Voltaire fail in his efforts to eradicate the world of the Bible, the very room from which he wrote those words was later purchased by the British and Foreign Bible Society and packed floor to ceiling with Bibles.  Time and time again Peter’s prophecy has been fulfilled when he wrote:   “The word of the Lord endures forever.”

No other book in history comes close to comparing to the durability of the Bible.  It is the most published and widely read book ever written.  I mean, just think about it.  If a book is a #1 best seller, we applaud it.  If it’s a #1 best seller for several weeks or months we award it.  But what if a book is the #1 bestseller for 300 years?  That’s what the Bible has been.  It’s been translated at least in part into 2454 different languages and dialects now and that number increases every year.  It’s the most widely purchased, the most widely translated, and I would suggest to you the most widely read book in history.  Oh, I know we could read it more, each one of us could.  But in our nation alone, 9 out of 10 people say they own a Bible and 57% of those people say they pick it up and read it at least 4 times a year according to a Barna poll conducted in 2013.  So when we break that down what that means is that at least 150 million people in our country alone are occasional readers of the Bible.  Do you think that can be said about the writings of Lenin or Marx or even Shakespeare?  Not even close.

So the Bible is incredible in its composition.  It’s incredible in its durability.  And then lastly,it’s incredible in its power.  In my Adult Information Class a couple weeks ago I shared the following story out of Our Daily Bread that illustrates the incredible power of the Bible:

   Peter V. Deison, in his book “The Priority of Knowing God,” tells about Ramad, a man in India who was a member of a gang of robbers.  On one occasion, while burglarizing a house, Ramad noticed a small black book containing very thin pages just right for making cigarettes.  So he took it.  Each evening he tore out a page, rolled it around some tobacco, and had a smoke.  Noticing that the small words on the pages were in his language, he began to read them before rolling his cigarettes.

   One evening after reading a page, he knelt on the ground and asked the Lord Jesus to forgive his sins and save him.  He then turned himself over to the police, much to their amazement.  Ramad the bandit became a prisoner of Jesus Christ.  And in the prison where he served his sentence, he led many others to the Savior.

That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote in Rom. 1:16:  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

And as we consider the power of the Bible, I’d like to throw out a suggestion to you this morning – no, let’s call it a challenge.  Why don’t you find out for yourself just how powerful the Bible is by putting it to the test?  For example, why don’t you test what the Bible has to say about money, a topic that is very near and dear to us in the light of today’s faltering economy and rising prices?  In fact, that is one area where God actually invites us to put him to the test.  In Malachi 3:10 it says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”  I know of no other area in life where God challenges us to put him to the test like that, and yet I’ve known plenty of people in my ministry who have done just that and found God to be faithful to his Word.  So test what the Bible has to say about your finances.

Then you might want to test what it has to say about your work.  The Bible says you should be responsible, dependable, honest, respectful.  Try that for a few months on your job and I can pretty well guarantee you that some of your higher ups are going to notice.  And who knows, you just might end up with a promotion or a raise.

Then test what the Bible has to say about marriage, especially in Eph. 5 where it says that husbands and wives are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Husbands, try doing what Paul says there and loving your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her and you might be amazed at what it does for your marriage.  Or put a passage like Eph. 4:32 to the test in your marriage where it says:  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Or how about I Cor. 13:5 where it says that love keeps no record of wrongs.  Can you imagine how it just might revolutionize your marriage if you really applied those passages to your relationship?

But most importantly, test what the Bible has to say about your eternal salvation.  After all, that’s the primary reason why God gave us the Bible.  Yes, it shows us how to live and how to be good workers and good spouses and good parents and so on, but by far the overarching purpose of the Bible is to show how sinful human beings like you and me can be made right with God through his Son Jesus Christ and enjoy eternal life and fellowship with him in his glorious and heavenly presence.

The Bible is incredible, then, because the Savior that it proclaims and reveals is incredible.  The Bible is incredible because it is the story of the God who won’t leave us alone.  He won’t leave us alone with our fears.  He won’t leave us alone with our doubts.  He won’t leave us alone with our sins.  The Bible is incredible because it is the story of the God who took on our flesh, but who also took on our sin.  He took our place so that one day we could be taken to his place.  The Bible is incredible because it is the story of the God who would rather die for us than spend eternity without us.

All of which leads us to a very important question:  Will the Bible make a difference in your life as it has in the lives of countless others throughout the centuries?  I suppose that’s really up to you, isn’t it?  Kind of like the little boy who received a watch for Christmas.  His dad said, “Well, son, does your watch tell time?”  And the boy looked at him strangely and said, “Dad, the watch doesn’t tell me anything.  You have to look at it.”  The same can be said about the Bible.  It doesn’t tell you anything unless and until you look at it.  And we’re going to continue to do just that over the next several weeks.  So I hope you’ll return next week as we continue our Faith Odyssey sermon series by looking at what I’m going to call “The 7 Wonders of the Word” which will help us to see and understand why we can believe the Bible and accept it as absolute truth from an absolutely true and faithful God.