Editorial: March 2008
John was invited to attend an adult Bible study class. He responded by saying, "Oh, I don't need that. I've already read the Bible." He did not know what he was missing. To have read the Bible once, or even several times, from cover to cover, is hardly enough. In saying what he said, he put himself in that unfortunate category of people who do not know that they don't know.
God's Word is always fresh and timely. It is uniquely applicable to every situation we face. It is always sure and absolute. It does not change with the shifting of cultural norms or as the society changes. The Bible does not contradict itself. It is true for every moment of our lives, spanning every generation, every culture, every relationship, and every condition of the human heart.
The things we like most in God's Word are those that are interpreted as meeting our desire for self-gratification, or satisfying our emotional and physical appetites. If we only read the parts that we like, we will miss out on the very aspects of God's Word that we need. For a balanced Christian life, it is essential that we study the whole of God's Word. If you do not read all of God's Word, you may begin to emphasise one aspect of God's promises or commandments, and lose your balance in doctrine. Heresies and false doctrines begin that way. And there are many "ungodly men" who creep into the churches unnoticed, to distort the truth (Jude 4).
The Bible is a manual for how God desires that we live our lives. It is God's message to us of what He considers to be right and wrong. This unique book is the divine vehicle of supernatural results in human souls. It will be interesting and helpful to quote the comments of John Wesley on the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures: "The Bible must be the invention of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God. It could not be the invention of good men or angels, for they neither would or could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying 'Thus saith the Lord,' when it was their own invention. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils, for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell for all eternity. Therefore I draw this conclusion that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration." While the Bible is verbally inspired and inerrant, the writers of Scripture wrote according to their distinctive style.
Many people believe that the Old Testament has no application for their lives. The fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament showed how they were related to the truths of Christianity, for they spoke everywhere of the Christ who was to come. "The Old Testament is a book of salvation, narrating the mighty deeds of God, in delivering His people in old time, and also pointing forward to His final saving act in Christ," who declared the Scriptures "bear witness" of Him (Jn.5:39). Jesus said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:17-20 NKJV). In fact, Jesus went beyond the Old Testament commandments to call His disciples to also desire to keep the commandments. They were called to fulfil the spirit of the Law. As His disciples, we should take seriously the teachings of the Old Testament as well as the teachings of the New Testament. God has added a "want to" to the "have to" regarding the commandments.
The Holy Scriptures came from God, by divine authority, through divinely designed channels, to serve a divine purpose. "Written by holy men of old, borne on by the Holy Spirit, every Scripture has the presence and operation of God indissolubly associated with it; this gracious influence of the Spirit as the direct agent at work will be felt by everyone that reads them with a humble and teachable heart." As you study God's Word, the Holy Spirit uses what you read to change the thought patterns of your mind. Ask searching questions to the passages you read so as to know exactly what the author is trying to convey. You then begin to respond to life as Jesus Christ responded. The Scripture becomes the foundation of your attitudes and beliefs, which will govern your behaviour. God brings His Word to your memory in a timely manner, right at the moment when you need to make a decision, or solve a problem. Unless you have planted God's Word in your mind, God cannot bring it to your remembrance. The more you study God's Word, the more it cleanses your mind of sinful thoughts and desires. When you are established in God's Word, reverence for God will be the result. You will then adore and worship Him, not merely in words, but in real life.
A worldview is the way you look at and analyse the culture. It is the lens through which you view the world. People with a biblical worldview see things the way God sees them, think the way He thinks and then adjust their lives accordingly. This is possible only if we know the Bible! You then begin to desire what God desires for you. You will no longer think as the world thinks; you will no longer talk or act as the world talks or acts. You will have a biblical worldview and will embark on a new way of living. You will view the events taking place around you biblically; your reactions to them will also be biblical.
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us convicts, prompts, leads and inspires us to want to follow God with all our heart, mind and soul. We want to do what is pleasing to God. We want to live in a daily relationship with Him. Our desire is to do always what is right. Paul emphasised: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom.12:2 NKJV). The Holy Spirit enables us to make right choices and good decisions, to resist temptation and to stand against evil. The Holy Spirit is like an antenna that helps us to receive and be in tune with God's will in our lives. He provides constant feedback to correct our behaviour, as in an electronic circuitry. He serves the function of the Global Positioning System in our Christian walk.
The very purpose of the Holy Spirit is to reveal God's wisdom and to help us to manifest God's character. He will work through our conscience to reveal to us what is right and wrong. His work is to "direct your heart into the love of God and into the patience of Christ" (2 Thess. 3:5 NKJV). He will lead you to what is absolutely right. You will then be able to serve the Church faithfully, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we are led by the Holy Spirit, we will realise that it is not our business to seek vengeance. "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom.1:19-21).
Those who continuously ignore the whispering of the Holy Spirit will develop a hard heart, including a deadened conscience. So, be sensitive to His leading and act as He instructs to act-do not act when He calls upon you to be silent. As you grow spiritually, you will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit-the hallmark of the Spirit's presence. You will then be able to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Our neighbours will then be able to read our behaviour and know what God considers to be right and wrong. "Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart"(2 Cor. 3:3 NKJV). They will be able to look at us and see the Gospel being applied continuously to real life situations. Our lives will be of such high standard and consistency that others should have no difficulty to determine what we believe and whom we follow.
Paul has described this situation vividly: "We give no offence in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6:3-10). This is indeed a paradox.
He gives a detailed portrayal of his difficulties. He has much patience in afflictions, necessities and distresses. He had longsuffering by the Holy Spirit in stripes, imprisonments and tumults. He was always rejoicing in the midst of labours, sleeplessness and fastings. As unknown and unrecognised by the world, he was well known to the Church. He enjoyed a high spiritual life in the midst of such death-dealing circumstances. The inner man was being renewed, even as the outward man was perishing. He rejoiced, though he was sorrowful. Though poor, he was making many rich. Though he had nothing, he possessed all things. At the end of it all, he left a heritage greater than money. His epistles are invaluable and the impact of his life is greater than that of any other.
We are living in a time very similar to that of Hosea. "There is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, adultery, violence and bloodshed. …People are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos.4:1-2,6 NASB).
In contrast to the moral deterioration of the time, Paul challenged Timothy to abide by the truths he had learned. Timothy's moral strength lay in the fact that he had been grasped by the certainty of the great fundamental truths of the Gospel: God, Christ, sin, salvation, repentance, faith and the blessed hope of the Lord's return. He had learned these from his mother and grandmother, as well as from Paul and others. He had a life-time of acquaintance with the Scriptures to teach him their power. Timothy had witnessed the power of the Gospel in the life of Paul. There was no deception in the character and teachings of Paul. This is a great challenge for us living in the midst of moral decay all around us.
Paul stresses that every Scripture is profitable in the field of doctrine and ethics, and serves as the moral equipment of the man of God. Paul emphasised: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for good work" (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV). It is profitable for teaching, giving instruction in the things of God. "Holy Spirit teaches the ignorant, convicts the evil and prejudiced, corrects the fallen and erring, and trains in righteousness all men, especially those that need bringing to fuller measures of perfection." The aim and purpose of this is that the man of God, being devoted to the Scriptures, will be made adequate, complete in character and life, equipped for every God-appointed task.
Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and behaviour, conviction and conduct. God's Word is to be applied meticulously and lovingly to every aspect of life. So, study the Bible daily to fight truth decay and to view the world biblically.