Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Some Bible trivia for you.
Your Bible is made up of sixty-six books written by about 40 men over a period of about 1600 years dating from 1500 BC to about 100 years after Christ
There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
The Bible devotes some 500 verses to prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but over 2,000 verses on money and possessions (we’ll be speaking about money later in this Sermon series).
Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer are the three angels mentioned by name in the Bible.
The Seven Deadly Sins are lust, pride, anger, envy, sloth, avarice and gluttony. The seven virtues are prudence, courage, temperance, justice, faith, hope and charity.
There are 1189 chapters in the Bible:
929 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 chapters in the New Testament. The shortest verse in the Bible consists of two words: “Jesus wept”.
But to accumulate interesting pieces of trivia and knowledge is not the reason for reading the bible. You see we live in a time when the courage and inner strength that daily Bible reading provides is vital. In life today we are tempted in many ways that our predecessors simply did not know about and could not comprehend.
There is more access to knowledge and information in our world than ever before, but less wisdom in how to use it. In the time of Martin Luther, around the middle ages, the amount of information that an average person had available to them in their entire lifetime, was about the amount that we now receive from a single daily newspaper. So our lives have become more complex, more multifaceted.
It is only a firm grounding in the Bible that provides a place to stand when confronting temptation and when struggling with the complex moral challenges of our time.
Daily Bible reading is the antidote for a simplistic faith based on rigid dogma, religious fundamentalism and judgemental attitudes that give a false security in the face of a complex and often dangerous world. Faith that is based on the ‘authority’ of someone else and not one’s own personal engagement with a God who has known them from eternity and has a special and unique plan for them is not a saving faith at all.
When we meet the living Word, Jesus Christ, through the written Word this is the only safe path for us to follow through the complex times we face today. Your Church wants you to read your Bible and to pose your questions. When you open the pages of Scripture the Holy Spirit comes and will guide you in all truth. When we trust these words of Scripture and take them seriously then the Bible becomes the gateway to true wisdom.
You see that something wondrous happens when we read the Bible regularly – it’s called joy! Regular Bible reading leads to intimacy with God and there is no greater joy than a deep relationship with God. For many people, beginning a regular reading of the Bible can be an awakening to a God who desires to speak directly to them.
And this is what it is all about. It is about our relationship with God our Father through his Son Jesus Christ. There is a troubling element creeping into our Lutheran Church of Australia in the last few decades that sees the bible itself as almost more important than the Christ who is to be found in it. But WHY is the bible so important? Luther said that it is the cradle that contains Christ. There were other books that were not included in what we call the Canon of Scripture, and do you know why this is? Because they did not point to Jesus.
The bible is the infallible, inspired word of God, given through men. Jesus is the living word of God, the word made flesh. Reading our bible is about deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ, living the deep longing for a saviour, a messiah, so long awaited through the Old Testament, celebrating his coming and his work and ministry in the Gospels, and then learning from the New Testament writings how to live as his church in a way that is faithful to him and proclaims salvation through him alone, by Grace, through Faith.
For those who have encountered God through the Scriptures, regular Bible reading deepens their relationship with God and opens them up more to what God has planned for their lives so that they can live life to the fullest.
A warning: When you begin to read your Bible you are going to face something that you may have never faced before in your life in such an overt way. You are going to come into ‘spiritual conflict’. The evil one would prefer that you continue with your current state of living which could mean that you are not reading your Bible regularly (statistics would suggest this is the case).
He doesn’t want you to have a closer relationship with your Father. So when you begin to read from God’s Word, you are going to face all sorts of subtle (and not so subtle) temptations to leave it alone, to just forget it, to rationalise that you’ve got to this stage in life without it and so you can continue on as you have been doing.
Resist this! Growing wisdom, faith, inner strength, courage, hope and joy are among the many fruits of opening and reading your Bible on a daily basis. Daily Bible reading has the power to break down the walls we build between the secular and the sacred.
A Tip for you: This is important: You need a good translation of the Bible with study notes and references to help you deal with the difficult passages. I recommend the NIV study bible, or the NRSV. These have helped me a lot. But there are many others. Then we need to find a reading program, to help us to read through the bible methodically. Don’t just start with Genesis, you will give up in numbers, come and ask me where to Start, or as a good starting point, Mark, Ephesians, and Psalms. That will keep you going for a while.
You don’t get to know your spouse or children without spending time with them. You will never be able to explore the depths of God’s love and plans for your life without spending time in His Word.
You don’t have to do this to be Christian, as I have said, and many don’t. We can get by without it. But are we willing to settle for just getting by? Is that what our Father wants for us? Is that what we want for ourselves?
Next week we look at the Christian life as a life of service. We begin, strengthened by these personal practices, to be able to live out our faith in outward ways. God bless you this week, as you pick up your bible and just give it even 10 minutes a day. Have a go. Don’t settle for less.