One of the questions I am most frequently asked by inquirers regarding the churches where I have served is “What kind of preacher are you?” My answer is a standard one: “I simply explain the Bible and how it applies to our lives today!”
And more often than not, people are surprised by that answer.
If the conversation continues, one of the follow-up questions is usually “Why the Bible?” People these days seem to consider the Bible a great book of stories. You know the ones I mean – Joseph and his coat of many colors, David and Goliath, Daniel and the lion’s den, Jesus feeding the 5,000, and a plethora of others.
But to think that the Bible has any value for us today is almost more than people can swallow. The very idea that there may be principles in that ancient book that we can and should follow in the 21st Century seems preposterous.
Years ago, I worked for one of the major tire companies in Akron. While I was employed by that company, I regularly attended a Bible study conducted and led by one of the top officers of that corporation.
On the days when that Bible study would meet, I would carry my Bible under my arm into my office. Invariably, I would encounter one of my co-workers in the hallway outside my office, and he would snicker at me, asking me why I was carrying that old and out-of-date book. I would reply simply, “So I know how to live when I die, but also so I know how to live today!” He would snort and guffaw at my response, and would raise up the local daily newspaper, which HE carried under HIS arm, and say, “This is the only Bible I need!”
Many people believe that. They look at the Bible as an ancient book that really does not matter.
But is that so? Do the words of the Old and New Testaments of what is known as Holy Scripture really not make any difference in our lives? Tragically, many people who claim the name of Christ, who say they are dedicated followers of Christ would perhaps give evidence to that claim – that the Bible really makes no difference in how we should live.
The same could be said for many ministers as well. They preach and teach the Bible stories, yes, but they do not really teach the life-transforming principles by which the Bible regularly challenges us to live.
The Bible says of itself: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is the very breath of God. It is his essence, his character. And it is profitable. Did you get that? Oh, and by the way, it is ALL profitable! Even the Old Testament! Yes, even Leviticus! Yes, even The Song of Solomon!
We read here that the Bible is good for four things. It is profitable for (1) Teaching, (2) Reproof, (3) Correction and (4) Training in Righteousness.
By “Teaching”, the Bible means the great wisdom and doctrines of the Bible, such as who God is, who we are, what our condition here on earth is all about, who is Jesus Christ and why did he come, and what about the Holy Spirit. In that category we could also include the whole realm of what is the future going to be like as well. By “Reproof”, the Bible means that in its pages, we discover how we should live and where we often go awry of living in a way that pleases God.
My bride and I have recently moved, and in our moving, we found a lot of things that we had stored, which we “treasured” but did not really need to keep. We hung onto a lot of things that did not help us live our lives any better at all. So it is with “reproof” — God is showing us not only what does not help us live our lives, but these things actually hinder our living a life honoring to Him.
When the Bible speaks of “Correction”, it is a beautiful statement of the grace of God. God knows you and I cannot live perfect lives, and he reproves us for not doing so – that is “reproof”. But God is too loving and gracious to leave us in that predicament without any way to get back in his good graces.
In the Bible, he teaches us how to correct our erroneous lives and to get back on the right path. And by “Training in Righteousness”, the Bible contains instructions on how we should STAY on the right path!
A young fellow asked an old man who had been training him in carpentry about his faith. His question was simple: “Why do you trust the Bible?” The old man opened his tool box, pulled out a ruler, handed it to the young fellow, and asked the lad to draw a straight line with the ruler he had just handed him.
The boy put the ruler down on a piece of paper and said, “I can’t draw a straight line with this ruler! It is warped! And line I draw with this ruler will be crooked!” The old man said, “That is exactly why I trust the Bible. It is the straightest edge I know. If I try to live my life by any other book, it will be crooked.”
And so it is for you and me. More on this later…
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.