2 Timothy 3:10-17

Why read the Bible?

Why read the Bible? Well, there are lots of levels of reasons for all kinds of things that we do, and it’s just the same for reading the Bible, and I think that the part of Paul’s letter to Timothy we’ve heard read this afternoon can help us to think about some of these levels. First of all, we read the Bible because it is able to instruct us for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Desert Island Discs / LOST / Robinson Crusoe – all could have done with an instruction book as to how to get out of the mess that they were in. I don’t know about you, but my experience is that my life has been a mess at different times in my life, and when it’s in a mess I very often need someone to rescue me from the mess.

Last Christmas I was driving with the family over to Hereford to see Liz’s mum and dad when it started to snow. And snow. And snow. It was getting slippier and slidier. And on one particular hill we came to a stop, and could not get going again. We were stuck, and in a bit of a mess, wheels spinning, going nowhere. The this very nice bloke in a 4 wheel drive pulled in in front of us, got a tow strap out and pulled us to the top of the hill. The way down was a bit hair raising, but we got through and got where we were going. I needed rescuing, and I was very grateful to the bloke who rescued us.

Of course, if I’d been really wise, I would have followed the advice for setting out on snowy days – I would have had some snow chains in the boot. I would still have needed to rescuing, but I would have had the means of rescue to hand.

The Bible is full of stories of people getting in a mess and of rescue. To the people of God in Eygpt, oppressed by Pharaoh, God sent Moses with the instruction, “Let my people go” and God rescued them and brought them to the promised land. When they got there, the people lived as seemed best to them, not really taking much account of God, and kept getting invaded by enemies, and God sent the Judges – people like Samson and Gideon and Deborah to rescue them. Still the people get digging themselves into holes by ignoring God’s way for them to live, and God gave them good kings like King David to lead them. God sent prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn them about the mess they were getting into.

Finally, of course, the Bible tells us about God’s ultimate rescue, sending Jesus, God’s Son, to live on earth, to teach us, to be the way back to the Father, to die on the cross and be raised to life so that everyone who’s life is a mess, who feels lost, who knows they need rescuing, can be safe forever.

In John’s account of Jesus’ life we read this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Why do we read the Bible? Because it makes us wise to salvation. It shows us how to avoid getting into trouble, when we are in trouble it shows us the way out, and it reassures us that however bad it gets, in the end we can be safe with our Father for ever.

Now it may be that this is news for you, that you do feel lost, or in a mess, and you want to ask Jesus to come and rescue you, and you want to tell him that you have faith in him, you believe that he can do it. If that is how you’re feeling, then please don’t leave today without having that conversation with him, maybe as you come to take bread and wine later, or maybe finding someone a bit later to pray with you.

But for now, let’s move on to a different level of why we read the Bible. If we’ve been rescued by Jesus, is that it? Can we just sit back and rest up? Not really – my experience is that if we’re not careful we keep on getting in a mess. We get angry with someone, we lie about something, we struggle to be generous, we get confused about what’s true and what’s right and wrong. And the Bible can help us with this, it is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Earlier on in the passage Paul talked about the danger of bad teaching – of wicked people deceiving others and being deceived. One of the most dangerous temptations we can face starts, “Did God really say that…” in Genesis we read that Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say that you couldn’t eat that fruit”.

Reading the Bible defends us from this temptation in two ways. Firstly in a positive way, it is useful for teaching – it teaches us what God is like, it shows us who God is, it reveals the way things really are. Secondly it is useful for reproof. When we’ve got something wrong, or our understanding is incomplete the Bible is useful for discovering that and changing our minds and our thinking. For instance, some people have the idea that God made the world and then left it running like a clockwork motor and doesn’t really get involved any more. The whole story of the people of God recorded in the Bible shows us that this isn’t true, God is so involved that in Jesus, God came to live among us. You can’t get much more involved than that.

Paul also talks about the importance not just of getting our understanding right, but the way we live as well, the desire to live a Godly life. And the Bible helps us with this as well. It is useful for correction and for training in righteousness.

Again we get two sides to this. Firstly, we get the correction when we are getting things wrong. I was reading a passage from the letter of James a few weeks ago and I read this, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” And the words “willing to yield” hit me between the eyes, grabbed on to my hair, and drilled themselves through my forehead. It was a correction to me and my normal behaviour which finds it very difficult to be willing to yield, especially when I know I’m right, which is most of the time.

Secondly we get the positive training in righteousness, the positive things that like the framework for a fruit tree, designed to enable the tree to be as fruitful as possible, trains us, shapes us to live in a way that is as fruitful as possible with the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.

This is important because this is all about equipping everyone who belongs to God to be equipped for every good work. Having been rescued ourselves, we are equipped and sent out to bring that rescue others from the mess that they find themselves in.

Why do we read the Bible? So that we can live well and help to bring rescue to others, having been rescued ourselves.

But why the Bible, why is the Bible able to do this for us? We talked last time about the Bible being a collection of books written by a load of different people, in different places and languages. So, how is it able to do these things? Why do we read the Bible?

Because it is inspired by God. The Bible is God-breathed. It is the word of God to us. In the very earliest times God breathed into creation and gave it life. Whenever God speaks, things change. God’s Holy Spirit breath changes lives. God’s breath is the source of all life and carries God’s power, and the Bible is God breathed. So, it carries God’s life, God’s spirit, and God’s power.

To be honest I don’t fully understand how that works, but I have experienced it again and again in my life. The words of this book have rescued me from more messes, more times of lostness than I can recount, they have shaped my life in a way that enables me to love more fully and deeply, they continue to shape me, and they have given me new life and strength time after time by communicating God’s love to me. That is why I read the Bible.

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