Imagine a World…

Chatswood Baptist Church

Last week Matt helped us understand that the Bible is God’s Word. So if you want to hear the Words of God—if you want to hear God speak, all you have to do is read the Bible. But how do we read the Bible as God’s word? That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Well to answer that question—and have the answer really mean something—I think we’ve got to consider, what if God never spoke to us?

Imagine with me a world where God exists, he created the world, but he never spoke— never personally revealed himself to us.

What could you possibly say that you knew about God? If you just relied upon your mind, thinking about what God must be like.

Along with the Apostle Paul, I think we could say that God must be powerful—after all, look at the Sun, the moon the stars! Admire the earth we live in, teaming with wildlife, fish — even the myriad of microscopic organisms we can’t even see! The God who created such life and sustains it, He must be powerful.

But if God exists, and he had never spoken, we’d also be left with a significant problem wouldn’t we—Considering the world we live in.

Because this is a world with tsunamis; with bacterial infections; with financial debt; with mental illness; with neighbours who block access to our land; people who rob us, who cheat us, who take advantage of children; and this is a world with droughts, and hurricanes and mosquitos!

Now imagine living in this world full of evil, where God exists, but he never spoke.

If God had never spoken, what could we say about what God is like—if he created this world—with all of its beauty—and yet exhibiting within it so much evil?

Some people have said, “If God exists, I don’t think I so much like him” and you ask why, and they say, “Because life is just so hard.”

Imagine if God made the world we live in then walked away and never spoke—where would you and I be left? How would we understand who we are and where we are going? How would we understand what our purpose in life was meant to be, especially through the really hard times in life?

So you can imagine how thankful that I am, that God did not stay silent. how thankful that I am, that God did speak, and his Word has been given to us—it’s in our hands—the Bible.

That means we don’t need to guess about what God is like, but we can praise him for who he has revealed himself to be. Neither do we need to guess about who we are, or what our purpose is in the world. And we can also come to an understanding about why our world is the way it is—and where it’s going.

Be Thankful

So the first thing I want to say, is that if you’re convinced as I am, that the Bible is God’s word — then the first thing we can do when we come to read the Bible, is position ourselves in a posture of thankfulness and Praise.

Think about these words penned in Psalm 119:12-16 :

12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

These are the words of someone who has realised the incredible value and worth of having God’s word. Look at verse 14 again:
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.” How do you come to find yourself rejoicing in statutes? in God’s decrees? Sounds a bit like the joy accountants feel when they’ve finally tidied up the books right? Something I’ll never understand.

But I think there’s a great clue in this great psalm—the longest psalm in the Bible—in verse 143-44

143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
144 Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live

The person who wrote this psalm understood that God’s Word is the way to Life.

God explains the world we live in. God explains our place in the world. God explains who God himself is and God explains to us how we can be made right with God.

Here is what God says in his Word, in just the first few chapters of his Word. He says there was a good beginning to this world. God says he created us male and female—in his own image. He says he created us to know him and to be in good relationship with him, with our world and with each other.

But he also says that the world is the way it is today—with so much beauty but so much pain—because we reject our God and we want to live life our own way, without him. So if you want to know that’s why the world is the way it is. Not because God walked away from us, but because we all walk away from Him.

Imagine if that was the end of God’s word… What’s to be done? What do we do now? But that’s not the end, God has told us more This is what God has said, in Isaiah 46:10-13

10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’
11 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfil my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.
12 Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are now far from my righteousness.
13 I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.

God just told us, if we were listening, that there is a beginning, middle and end to this story called history that we live in—and God is in charge, and God has written the ending to the story.

So do you want to know how the story ends? Apparently it ends in salvation. An end to the pain and suffering in the world—being made right with God and each other.

And it’s all in this book: God’s word. Now do you understand why the psalmist could say, “Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees,” and “I rejoice in following your statutes, as one rejoices in great riches.”

It’s because the value of this book, God’s word, we hold in our hands, is eternal life itself, with God himself. Just set your mind on that for a moment – try to visualise it
What do you think that’s worth?
Or what would you pay for that?
God has spoken, and we have the words of eternal life. Incredible.

Let’s just pause to give God thanks right now.

So Receive it!

…as authoritative
So God has spoken, he knows the end from the beginning and he’s declared it to us in his Word—the bible.

You know, that means we really ought to receive his word as the highest authority here, in matters of what we should believe about God and each other, and what we should do. We call this concept Sola Scriptura. That just means, if you want to know how to bake a cake, don’t read God’s Word—although I believe God’s baking skills to be excellent, he hasn’t revealed the perfect recipe in his Word.

But if you want to know about who God is, and how to be made right with him… don’t read Vogue Magazine! Or Vice, or the latest guru or philosopher…

As if anyone would know better about God, than God himself! In fact, Here is what God says, in 1 Corinthians 2:11

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

As final and unchanging.
Some people will say to me, “well Daniel, that’s all well and good, but wasn’t the Bible written thousands of years ago? What relevance could it have today? After all, the world and society has just changed so much since then… things have changed.”

But remember what we read earlier, about how God knows the end from the beginning… and that God has made it known?

And how God said, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please,” and “What I have said, that I will bring about” …?

The same God who spoke those words, thousands of years ago, He’s not stuck back there— He is with us today—He’s listening to me speak right now—he knows what you think about what he has said, but do you really think that God—who knows the end from the beginning, from ancient times and is still to come, who has made it known to us, who directs the very course of history to his desired end saying, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please…”

Do you really think he was unaware of where Western society and culture would come? Or do you think he would say to us,

“12 Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are now far from my righteousness.
13 I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.”

God’s Word is unchanging. It doesn’t change. How could it? He has declared the end from the beginning.

So when we read the Bible, we need to read it as authoritative and final—unchanging.

as life giving.

You know it’s a good thing God’s Word is unchanging. Because if there is anything I can’t stand, it’s when people keep moving the goal posts. Do you know what I mean?

I can remember giving a mate a hand, “I just need help moving a couple of things—nothing too serious…” Yeah right. “Oh just a little bit more—yeah just one more thing…” Eventually I just had to say, “hey I’m really sorry, I need to go.”

But the great thing about God’s Word, is that in it, God has told us the end from the beginning, and he doesn’t move the goal posts, because his word never changes. You know how he said, “I am bringing my salvation near, it is not far away; my salvation will not be delayed”?

Well that salvation came—In the person of Jesus, and this book God’s Word points us to him and teaches us about him, and teaches us how to receive life through him. Listen to what God says in Luke 24:44-47

A bit of context: Jesus has died on the cross, and his disciples are a bit down, as you can imagine. Here is what Jesus says,

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Did you get that? Jesus just said that the whole Bible, from beginning to end, the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms—they’re all about Jesus.

Jesus is the life giving Way, Truth and Life that this book is all about. So when we come to read the Bible as God’s Word, we’ve got to read it as life giving, and ask ourselves, what does this bit I’m reading tell me about Jesus?

And I think this is profound, because the whole bible tells the same story from beginning to end—that starts with a good world, but that gets ruined by our sin… and it gets worse, and worse, and our sin tears us apart from our good God, but then it points us to and promises the coming of a great king who would make all things new—that great King is Jesus.

To Finish…

So let’s give thanks for God’s word, let’s savour it, treasure it, share it around. And let’s receive it for what it is—the authority in all things regarding who God is, and who we are in relation to him, and as the authority in how we ought to live in light of that reality. And let’s receive God’s Word as final, and unchanging. And let’s receive God’s Word as Life Giving.