Everyone has a beginning point for what they believe. You may call it a foundation or an ultimate authority. It is the source for how one behaves and what a person really believes is true.
For some that authority is oneself. This person makes up the rules of life as they go along, with pleasure, desire and personal preference at the center of their world. It’s all about “me.” Self is the ultimate authority. Human intellect and personal experience are held high. They worship the god of reason. The problem with this authority is so obvious and problematic that it does not need an explanation.
For others it is tradition. The traditions of religion, culture or family habits are the final authority for every question. This life is all about “the way it’s always been done.” Their authority may be the traditions of the Catholic church, the traditions of a Baptist church or family traditions that have no connection to any church or religion. This flawed source of authority shifts like the sands on a beach. It is man-centered. It is a moving target, impossible for anyone to hit accurately. Endless futility is its only reward.
For the follower of Jesus Christ the authority is divine inspiration, the Bible. There should be no argument. It is the sole authority for our faith and practice, says the Baptist Faith and Message. It is God’s revelation of Himself to us. In the Bible He describes Himself so clearly that the individual has no opportunity to invent Him or customize Him according to our wishes.
Jesus Himself loved the scriptures. Soon after His resurrection from the grave He walked with some followers along a road toward the village of Emmaus.
In the conversation He chided them for their failure to believe the scripture: “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!’” (Luke 24:25, NKJ). The word “all” is significant here.
They did not understand the events of the day because they did not fully embrace the truth of scripture. Perhaps they believed portions of the scripture, but they did not believe all of it. The scripture did not fail them. They failed the scripture.
The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. This powerful psalm overflows with the significance and the power of God’s Word. Verse after verse, for 176 verses God describes both the importance and the practical application of the Bible.
The headline story on the front page of this issue is a stark reminder that we live in a time when most do not believe that scripture is God’s Word. This biblically illiterate culture is a scandalous indictment on our failure to believe and live the Bible.
Those who believe the Bible have promoted education more than any religion in the world.
Christians were the first to establish schools in America. The Bible was the primary textbook. Later the schools were overtaken by the government. Eventually the Bible was deviously excluded from use, then from possession, and now from mention. Education has prospered greater in societies where the Bible is revered.
According to a recent Barna Group survey 82 percent of Americans believe, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse.
At least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. A survey of graduating high school seniors showed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.
Popular opinion concludes that everybody goes to heaven – if they believe in heaven at all – except of course the worst criminals and a few “Hitlers” of the world.
The public does not know that heaven has limited access. Furthermore, most believe access into heaven is completely by one’s good behavior and accomplishments on earth.
I often wonder if pastors understand what the Bible says about heaven. Most funerals seem to “preach” everyone into heaven. By contrast, the Bible says, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).
The scripture also says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Is the scripture-less America of 2014 a commentary on our ineffectiveness or is it a fulfillment of the prophetic Word?
Paul gave Timothy a warning in the third chapter of 2 Timothy that holds true for us. He talked about the last days being “perilous times.” People will be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. … always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
He concluded, “But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Then the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write that great text on the authority of scripture, “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 every good work.”