Friday, September 21, 2012

Christian Encouragement: The authority and validity of the Bible

Our church's Women's Bible Study started up again this week, and it was GOOOOD!  I love our women's ministry director.  She is one of the brainiest people around, but she is full of compassion and grace.  She talked about God's Word and the validity of the Bible and what it says.

I don't know about you, but I am flabbergasted when my non-Christian friends dismiss the Bible as mumbo jumbo for the unintelligent.  If one spends any small amount of time studying the validity of scripture, one realizes that intellect can only lead you to believe in God and the absolute truth of His Word.

People say we are arrogant for believing OUR way is the only way.  Unfortunately, it isn't OUR way.  It is God's way.  He wrote it down in scripture and decided it and our belief is a humble, dependent belief in Him.  Then, people dismiss the Bible as just "another religious book."  If you really take the time to study the historical validity and prophetic truths that have come from scripture, people can't really find a solid argument against scripture.  What it boils down to, ultimately, is that they don't want God as their Creator and authority telling them what is right and wrong.  That is humbling and makes our sinful flesh bristle.  That, however, is where God can step in and soften our hearts, which are hard as stone and slaves to sin without Him. 

Stephanie, our women's director, used Greg Koukl's 5 point finger illustration to help us remember simple arguments for the Bible's accuracy and validity.  It was powerful, and I wanted to share it with you here.  Next time someone dismisses the Bible as just another "religious" book, have these 5 "finger arguments" ready for discussion.

1.  Ring Finger--You wear a marriage ring on your ring finger, which stands for the unity of 2 people--husband and wife.  Use this finger to remind you of the unity of scripture.  Scripture was written over 1,500 years, by 40 authors inspired by the Holy Spirit, on about 3 continents.  Despite this span of time, scripture doesn't disagree.  Though there are obvious points of view and personalities, the difference in authors almost strengthens the fact that the points, laws, prophesies, all agree and fit together like a perfect puzzle.  When people take scripture out of context, they can twist scripture to sound any way they want, but if you read verses in context and entirety, it all is united and in perfect harmony.
Other religious books change over time, have things added or subtracted, or they have parts that contradict.  These are often only written by ONE person and yet it still isn't unified.  The Bible is completely unified despite so many authors and such a long span of time between start to completion.

2. Pinky Finger--P in pinky stands for Prophecy.  The Bible is FULL of prophecy, and this is what God uses to fingerprint scripture as FROM HIM.  He doesn't give VAGUE, mystical prophecies, but he gets EXACT.  He names names and gives dates and lists places that haven't happened yet.  Guess what?  They happen.  People don't study this because it is so irrefutable.  In the Old Testament alone, there are 300 messianic prophesies about Jesus that came to pass.  In Isaiah 44:28 (written about 700 BC), the Bible names the ruler Cyrus by NAME a couple hundred years before he ever ruled (550 BC).  The Bible talks of Cyrus as allowing Jerusalem to be saved and delivered.  In fact, Cyrus was a Persian King who took over Babylon when Babylon held the Jews.  He allowed religious tolerance (unheard of for conquering kingdoms at the time) and even sent the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and temple.  You can go today and view the Cyrus Clay which proclaimed all this in Great Britian. 
People might say that Jesus just knew the prophesies about the Messiah from studying the Old Testament and he tried to fulfill them.  Well, here are 3 prophesies he had no control over that came to pass.  Memorize these. 

Zachariah 9:9  This verse talks about Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey and how the people would receive him well.  This foresaw the triumphal entry.  Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  People laid down palm branches yelling "Hosanna!"  God, save us!  Though Jesus could have purposely found a donkey, he couldn't have controlled how hundreds of people would receive him entering into the city.

Micah 5:2--Jesus is born in Bethlehem.  Bethlehem is a tiny city.  The likelihood of being born there is small, even back then.  We know the story.  The census happens and brings Joseph and Mary back to Joseph's hometown.  She has the baby in a manger.  Christ could have no control over where or how he was born.  This was prophecy fulfilled.

Isaiah 53:9--Isaiah 53 is all about Christ's crucifixion.  This specific verse talks about how Christ would be in the grave of the wicked.  He was killed on a cross between two thieves.  Then the verse says he would be put in the grave of a rich man.  A rich man, Joseph of Aramathea, buys Christ's body from Pilot and buries him in his private tomb.  Again, these are circumstances Christ couldn't control.  They were spelled out way ahead of time.  Isaiah 53 has tons of specifics--his bones wouldn't be broken (the legs were broken of the still alive thieves on the side of him), he wouldn't speak out against those hurting him like a lamb to slaughter, he would be pierced in his side (a sword was thrust into him).

These are great prophesies to know and memorize because they are revealed as historical fact with many witnesses and accounts and they are things Jesus couldn't formulate himself.

Many scholars studied these prophesies and said, "Well, these parts of Isaiah must have been written after Christ.  They couldn't come to terms with the exactness of the prophesies and the historical data that pointed to the facts that they happened!"  That idea lasted until the 1940's when we discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The first book pulled out of the cave?  Isaiah in entirety.  It is dated to 200 B.C. by archeologists.

3.  Middle/Big Finger--This finger should remind us that the Bible talks about BIG topics like life and death.  Many religions talk about  philosophical stuff.  Karma.  Be kind.  Love nature.  The Bible gets down and dirty with specific topics--death, life, love, murder, hate, hell, Heaven, God, creation, judgment, sin. . . It doesn't use vague cookie fortune type quips to fill its pages.

4.  Pointer Finger/Index Finger--The Bible is a historical index.  It is reliable.  Archeologists can only agree that the Bible is historically accurate.  People and places are authenticated.  It doesn't have any error.  Historians and archeologists actually find information IN the Bible that helps them understand discoveries. 

5.  Thumb.  The emperors in Rome would decide a gladiator's fate with a thumb up (life) or thumb down (death).  The gladiator's life was affected and changed by one finger.  The thumb should remind us that the Bible changes and affects lives.  It is active and sharper than a two edged sword.  It is a fragrance of life to Christians or a stench of death to those who reject God.

I hope this helps you remember a visual to have apologetic discussions with others when discussing the Bible.  I recommend The Case for Christ for further reading.  A great book discussing the huge gaps and scientific lies in evolution is Bones of Contention

Thanks for reading through a deeper post today.  I pray this truly will be a helpful tool when evangelizing.

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