Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Bible: The most precious thing this world affords

'The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.' (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953. She would spend her life living in castles and palaces. She would sit on thrones, ride in gold carriages, and leading designers would line up to make her the best clothes, She would wear the finest jewellery, eat the finest meals, and travel first class.

At her coronation in Westminster Abbey, amidst all the pomp and ceremony, lords and ladies, dignitaries both spiritual and secular, she was handed a Bible with these words:

Our gracious Queen:
to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.

What is true for princes is surely true for everyone. This is the rule for the best life, the life we were made to have. It is to the Bible we go to understand something of what that life looks like and of God's purposes for me and for you. I wonder what the Bible is to you?

In Psalm 119 we read, 'Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.' (v.105)

When you are struggling to find your way do you look to the Bible to be a lamp to your feet, a light to your path? When you are trying to negotiate the challenges of this world do you go to the Bible for illumination?

For some, the Bible is like the convenience store, the corner shop. We're glad it's there, we go to it for our bits and pieces, we run to it in an emergency, but we do our main shop in the supermarket.

So with the Bible. We go to it for our bits and pieces, for those things that encourage us (23rd Psalm, John 3:16), at those times when we want comfort and reassurance, but when it comes to how we think about the big issues, the knotty issues of life - science and faith, moral and lifestyle choices, the ideas the world presses on us and urgently insists we embrace - we too often go to the supermarket of the world. We allow the world to shape and influence our thinking, shape our world-view.

We say, 'that's what people do today, that's how the thinking goes today.' The problem is, not so long ago people thought and acted quite differently, and in the not too distant future people will think and act differently again.

In the TV documentary Back in Time for School, fifteen pupils and their teachers time-travel as they fast-forward through more than 100 years of school life. As they move forward in time attitudes and philosophies change, from celebrating empire, to preparing for war.

Girls start in classes with the boys doing science, then they are separated as the boys do science and the girls do domestic science because this was thought to be the best way to prepare them for the brave new post-war world of the twenties and thirties. It is well said, who marries the spirit of the age will end up widowed in the next.

How will young people deal with the changes that are bound to come, when they increasingly find they don't understand the world any more? When the issues they thought were settled are churned up again and a younger generation, with different attitudes comes to very different conclusions?

The speech to the queen ends with these words:

Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.

The Bible gives an eyewitness account of Jesus. John writes so that we, his readers, should have fellowship in knowing what they saw, looked upon, heard, and touched, 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us...' (1 John 1:1-4)

The Bible brings us hope. Paul reminds us, 'Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.' (Romans 15:4)

The Bible teaches, reproves, corrects and equips. In a letter to Timothy Paul writes, 'All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.' (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Bible calls us to action. James writes, urging us, 'Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.' (James 1:22)

The Bible calls us to defend the truth. In their book The Identity of the Church Anthony and Richard Hanson observe: 'God's word is not anybody's word. The church has a right to be protected from heretics, cranks, and fanatics...'

Jude reminds us, 'beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed...ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.' (Jude 3-4)

We cannot have that fellowship John writes about, we cannot know hope, be instructed in the things of God, identify to what actions we are called, or understand clearly the faith we are called to defend unless and until we have and apply ourselves to the word of God in the Bible. In the earliest account of Christian fellowship we have the example from those who, 'devoted them selves to the apostle's teaching...' (Acts 2:42-47)

The most precious thing this world affords.

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