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Discipleship - Bible Reading

Sunday, 11th November, 2007

How often do you watch or hear the news last week?


How much of the TV culture did you watch or listen to? I include soaps, films, and documentaries in this ?


How long did you spend listening to Jesus ?


Part of being a disciple of Jesus is reading God's Word. The challenge of discipleship we will see is keeping in touch, remembering and acting on what the Holy Spirit says to you through the Bible.

 We start our reading today with 2Timothy 3:14-17 page

READ 2Timothy 3:14-17

We are going to look at this backwards . First we look at the purpose. We don't read the Bible just to be religious or to be knowledgeable, we read it to be equipped for every good work.

 Second we have a valuation. “It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That might at first sound like an excuse to use it as a weapon to beat fellow Christians over the head with and some Christians use the Bible that way. But it is not. It is valuable because it equipped the man or woman of God by guiding you into what is the truth, challenging your prejudices, correcting erroneous thinking and telling how you get right with God. It is a manual for life. It does not tell you what socks to wear or who to marry or what career choices to make but it gives the framework in which you can make those decisions wisely.


Thirdly, the Bible is authoritative. All Scripture is God-breathed. It is not just a book of wise information. It is not just a superior wikipedia. It is God-breathed. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit its words become words of life and salvation.


 Now lets turn to John 5: 36-40. Jesus is in hot debate with the Jewish leaders about his authority and therefore right to be a rabbi.

READ John 5: 36-40

In these words we have more about the purpose of the Bible. “These are the scriptures that testify about me.” The Bible is a book about Jesus. Its purpose is to reveal Jesus to us. Jesus’ challenge is to hardened cynical theologians to read it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and discover that it is from end to and about Jesus. You may remember I produced a book mark which tries to demonstrate this by giving a one line view of how each book displays the glory of Jesus. I have some you can pick up if you want one.


 We look again at the authority of scripture. Jesus is clear here that the words in the Bible come from the Father. His authority comes directly from God. The Bible speaks the truth about Jesus.


 Turn on to the letter we were studying in the last few weeks. 2Peter 1:20

READ  2Peter 1:20

We have already seen that this book is God breathed. Here is a little more detail. Other holy books are the result of one person claiming that God dictated the words to them. That applies to the Qur’an, The book of Mormon, and the 10 different Gurus of Sikhism. Hindu Holy books are written by a number of people. Buddhist Writings are an attempt to recognise the true sayings of Buddha. The Bible is a book written by a large number of people over thousands of years. In each case, God inspired them. Their own personalities are expressed but they also express the truth that God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This underlines the need for us to ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us in interpreting the Bible.

 Turn the page to 2 Peter 3:15-16 and we see that Peter rated Paul’s writings as Scripture. He recognised that they were God-breathed.

 Now look back at 2Peter 3:2 and we see the purpose of reading the Bible. Peter is telling us he wrote this letter to remind us of what was written by the Prophets and what was said by Jesus. We read the Bible to be reminded of the truth.

 Returning to verse 16, we see the extent of our Bible reading Paul’s writing’s were included. So How do we end up with our Bible?

The Old Testament is the Hebrew Bible and is largely unchanged since before Jesus’ time. There are some books which are in or out depending on your tradition but the books in the Bible in front of you are all accepted by all the Christian churches and the Jews.


 What is amazing is to discover how quickly there was agreement about the New Testament books.  A Latin manuscript of about AD170 refers to Luke being the third Gospel and John the Fourth. And most of the present New Testament  writings are listed. In other words, by then, only 100 years after the death of the apostles, the four gospels in order, Acts, Paul’s letters, John’s writing, Peters letters, etc were already more or less universally accepted as Scripture. We use the word Canon to descried the collection of texts that make up the Bible.  In AD 369 and 397 they were formally agreed by the church.


But are they accurate?

FF Bruce was a Biblical scholar who looked into this as he was John Rylands Professor and as such actually had access to the manuscripts that were available.

 Here is his survey of books of that period. For example Heroditus was written 500 years before Christ but the earliest copy we have is dated 1300 years after they were written, and we have only 8 copies of that period. We all know about Caesar’s Gallic wars by reading Asterix books. We accept the book as historic and accurate.  But they were written 60 years before Christ and the earliest copy we have is dated 900 years after Christ, so there is a 950 year gap between to originals and the 9-10 copies we have.

When it comes to the New Testament, it was written between AD40-AD100 and we have fragments or parts of texts as early as AD130. A full manuscript exists which dates back to AD 350. Most of it  is in the British library in London and I have seen it. It is a copy only 300 years after the originals. There are 5 000 odd Greek copies,

10 000 Latin translations and 9 300 other copies known. So reliable was the copying of the scribes of those days that the significant variations can be noted at the bottom of the page in your Bible. You will see just two notes on this page in your Bible. In simple terms, this book is remarkably authentic to what was originally written.


 So the extent of the Bible we should read is all of it, with confidence that it is what God wants you to read.


 Lets pause and review where we have got to. Its about Jesus

It is written to remind you of the truth

It is here to equip you for life.


 The Bible is like food.

So you need to feed on it regularly. At least daily.

You need to read it in small amounts to absorb and understand it. There is no problem with reading a whole book or even reading through, it will take you some days but it is better to read a bit at a time and digest what it says.


 But most of all we need to understand this is a practical manual. We need to do what it says!


There is no one way of reading the Bible. You need to find a way that suits your lifestyle. Some read using notes like Scripture Union notes which help you to work your way around the Bible and explain some of the meaning. As a family we use Lucas in Life every day, which has two readings and a challenging though to go with it. Others use a book with questions to provoke you into thinking through the implications of the passage, like Search the Scriptures. In Maranatha you will find a scheme of reading through the Bible chronologically. You need to try them out and find one that suits you. If you are stuck in a rut, you need to change the way you do it. Sometimes it is good just to read a passage and ask what it says about Jesus and what it says about what you should think and do.

            We are blessed with a number of translations./ Here at church we use the NIV but there are some good alternatives. The Contemporary English Version, The Message to name but two. Again find one that you can read comfortably. If you don’t read much, the Good News Bible is specifically designed for easy reading. Lots of Bibles have notes to help you understand the text and maps, diagrams and so on. But in the end it is getting to know the Jesus the book talks about that is most important. And older Christians have to guard against reading it to dissect it rather than live by it.


 Remember the key point it that the Bible is there to equip you. Equip you to worship God, equip you to receive salvation. Equip you to be holy. Equip you to make sense of the world around you. Equip you to pray, Equip you to serve. Equip you to live. It is a special book and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it can be a means of transforming you life. Value it. Trust it. Read it.

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