Friday, January 6, 2017

“The Spirit and the Word”

“The Spirit and the Word”
Sabbath School Bible Study

January 7, 2017

Larry R Evans

 Today’s study, “The Spirit and the Word,” is such an important one. It lays the foundation for God’s communication with us.  Ultimately the question is, “Can we trust the Bible? Can we trust God? Can the ancient Book still be an accurate Guidebook thousands of years later?”

The answer to these questions begins with the very first verses of the Bible.  Let’s read a sample of the Creation account from Genesis 1.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (vss 1-3)
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”  (v 6)
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; (v 26) NIV
These samples make it clear that the spoken word of God has power; it brings forth change.  It speaks of the intentionality of God. This was not simply a conversation that God had.

With the Genesis creation in mind, let’s go to the Gospel of John chapter 1 verses 1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (Jn 1:1-5)

In Genesis we learn that God speaks and His word brings forth life. The earth which was without form became formed and in the place of darkness there was light. In the Gospel of John we see that Communicator-God is described as being the Word and communicating with His person.  As we saw in Genesis, this Word brings forth life – man who was created in the image of God is now reminded that in this Word (Jesus) is to be found to be the source of life. Later we discover that as disciples we are to also be communicators through our witness to this Word, this Life.  We do this by the way we live and by teaching what has been revealed to us.

What we have just seen is the foundation for this week’s study which is about “Revelation and Inspiration --  or in other words,  how God’s “word” is revealed to you and me with the intention that it might become His word “in” us.

Three Questions for Today’s Study

1.    What is the difference between the terms revelation and inspiration, or is there any difference?
2.    How can we be certain that the Bible is reliable since human agents are God’s spokesman? 
3.    How do we guard against popular opinions becoming a substitute for what the Bible says?

Revelation and Inspiration

Is there a difference between revelation and inspiration?  One definition that is used is this: 

Revelation has to do with the unfolding, the unveiling, or revealing of God’s unchangeable truth.
Inspiration is God’s working by His Holy Spirit through human agents to communicate His truth.  “They are His penmen, not His pen.”  God directed His spokespersons’ thoughts, inspired their minds and guided their pens rather than dictating word by word.  Only in a few situations are specific words given most of the time thoughts are presented from the unique background and personality of the writer.

This raises the question:

Is the Bible more than a collection of inspirational writings?  How authoritative is Scripture intended to be?  See 2 Timothy 3:16.

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. (NKJV)
Some versions of 2 Tim. 3:16 have the translation “inspiration of God” while others have “God-breathed.”  For our purposes today, the point we need to recognize is that Scripture originates with God. However, it seems that Timothy is not just being informed of the inspiration of Scripture.  This was a teaching commonly admitted by Jews.   Rather, Timothy is being reminded that the basis of its profitableness lies in its inspired character.

Consider 2 Peter 1:19-21,
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Is this a “revelation”, an “inspiration”, or both?

Question:  Let’s suppose you meet someone who says that she has been studying the Bible and has concluded that in March of 2017 there will be a financial crash and our money will not be worth anything.   She feels strongly, therefore, that we should all stock up now on food, clothing,  or she might say we should empty our bank accounts and give the money to missions.   

·      Does the fact that she says that she has been inspired by Bible reading mean that we should respond the same way and stock up on food, or give our money to a worthy cause?  Maybe, but if not, why not? How should we respond?

Does John 16:13 shed any light?
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
Context of any Bible verse is important.  The reference here is that the Holy Spirit will guide or show the way.  He does not coerce anyone into knowing the truth about God.  How does He do that?

The Western mind wants answers now.  Do I buy this car or that one?  Should I change jobs or not?  No doubt, these can be critical questions depending on the circumstance. How does the Spirit guide?  We have a hint in John 15 where we discover that the most critical question of all is – Are we abiding or remaining in God?  Is our daily life being built on the Word of God?  So, while we may desire an answer now the best way of finding guidance is through a persistent, daily relationship with God.  We are more likely then, to be in tune with God’s will and make right decisions.

2.    How can we be certain that the Bible is reliable since human agents are God’s spokesman?  

In some ways, this question is like the question John the Baptist asked from his prison cell.  He had professed, he had taught, he had preached about Jesus being the Messiah but now he found himself in prison.  Was he wrong? Could the reassuring words he had been preaching about the coming Christ been a delusion?

John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him for the truth.  So Jesus answered John’s disciples,

“Go and tell John what you see and hear—that blind men are recovering their sight, cripples are walking, lepers being healed, the deaf hearing, the dead being brought to life and the good news is being given to those in need.”
Then Jesus says, “And happy is the man who never loses his faith in Me.” (Matt. 11:4-6.)
The greatest argument in favor of the reliability of the Bible is its impact on the lives of men and women who not only read it but allow its truths to penetrate their lives.  Despite John’s imprisonment, the answer of Jesus was enough.  His immediate circumstance did not cause him to deny the belief and life he had lived prior to his imprisonment.
3.    How do we guard against popular opinions becoming a substitute for what the Bible says?

I hope that you all get to see the film that will be released later this month called, “Beware of Angels.”  The name comes from the book with the same title and was written by Rober J Morneau, (See Amazon). 

Sharon Halstead was a devoted, fourth-generation Adventist.  She says she “told God I would do anything for Him. But I never thought He would send an angel to tell me to destroy people.  Firing those shots was the most difficult thing I had done to please Him.” Sharon did shoot and killed the mother, shot and wounded the father and the baby.  I know the story well because I was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing.  She is not alone in doing horrible things despite an earlier life of faithful obedience. Others have done very strange things all in the name of God.  There will be deceptions in the last days and we must not forget that.

Galatians 1:6-9
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
In the case of Sharon Halsted, she believed she was talking with her angel.  Spiritualism is a deception.  As a church, we’ve taught about this danger often, yet there seems to be a yearning to have the inside track with God the Super Natural!  Yet, when we are suffering we forget what God has said in the past.

Concluding Thoughts

Philip Yancey recounts the following experience:

“I spoke recently to a man in Thailand who’s spent his entire adult life translating the Bible into the languages of small tribes in remote islands of the Philippines.  He told me of his deepest winter season: he had just been elected to a prominent directorship of his organization when an accident left him paraplegic.  During his hospitalization, he suffered another accident that tore his nose off his face and left him temporarily blind.  While he lay in his bed, unseeing, unmoving, in pain, angry at God, a woman he’d discipled leaned into his pillow, put her mouth to his ear, and whispered, ‘Do not forget in the night what God has shown you in the day.’” (Philip Yancey in For Everything, a Season, p.17)
Most mornings I go for a walk.  It’s not a long walk—just over a couple miles but it does give me a chance to do some spiritual reflection before I head off to work or to church or to wherever I’ll be going that day.  One of the highlights of the walk is seeing Ted—a retired Army dentist.  We talk about many things but one theme emerges time and time again and that is the goodness of God and specifically the Holy Spirit. It’s a really great way to begin the day.  He often asks what I’m doing and where I’ll be going next.  I’m convinced this is no chance friendship any more than it was a chance friendship than the lady who told her pastor, “Do not forget in the night what God has shown you in the day.’”

Repeatedly, God finds ways of reminding us in His Word, in His providential care and through His presence in the lives of others, that He cares. 

Revelation and inspiration are there.  Despite what lies ahead, don’t forget the counsel given by the convert of the pastor: 

Do not forget in the night what God has shown you in the day.’”

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Studies in Job: Part I, "The End"

“The End”

Sabbath School Study
October 1, 2016


Every history class I have ever taken starts at the beginning—the beginning of some period of time—never the end.  Wouldn’t it make much more sense, however, if history classes began first with the end in sight?  We could then better see how historical events led to the concluding events of that epoch or even the world itself.  Even the Bible begins with the end in sight:

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)

The historical event then makes it clear how that end is being played out now.  But when we are in the middle of a crisis, logical questions arise. We cannot see far.  Our frustrations mount. We often blame one another and eventually even God is blamed. 

We see this happening when God led His people out of the Egyptian slavery.  With the scent of freedom in the air, they meet their first crisis.  They cannot see any solution.  The dust clouds of Pharaoh’s approaching army is seen in the horizon barreling down upon them. The Red Sea blocks them from moving forward or so they think.  Faith in God wanes and they turn on the one whom they can see.  It was Moses who brought them to this point.. They are in the middle of a redemptive event but they cannot see it. They see only what is threatening them.  Fear dominates. Blame permeates the crowd. What they cannot understand becomes the fuel for accusations. Like the Pharaoh they are fleeing from, they in essence cry out, “Who is the Lord . . . I do not know him (Ex. 5:2)  Faith and trust in God is being tested.

Later, much later, a prophet of God by the name of Habakkuk looks around at the political scene and becomes overwhelmed.  He too raises questions.  He doesn’t understand why God doesn’t do something NOW!   Habakkuk says,

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?

What Habakkuk concludes after raising these important observations has become an reassurance to me.  I find it a helpful backdrop, for my study of Job.  There is a reoccurring pattern in the Bible. After all of the questions, sincere questions, Habakkuk come to a conclusion:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
Hab. 3:17-19

“Blameless” Job Has Questions

1.     Job also had questions in the midst of his suffering.  Were they legitimate questions?    

Catastrophe not only hit Job but also his family and even some who were associated with him as well.  With sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (1:7) Job cries out,

“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb? (3:11)
Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day? (3:16)
“If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous. (6:2,3)

Have you ever wished you had not been born?  Ever feel like life is just too heavy to bear?

Clearly Job did not understand what was happening to him or why?

As paradoxical as it is, “Suffering is not only the way Christ became like us and redeemed us, but it is one of the main ways we become like him and experience his redemption." 

CS Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 Do you agree with Lewis?  Why?  Does it work? Has pain gotten your attention and broadened your understanding of God?

Have you ever been through a trying or difficult situation that you could not understand why it was happening and felt unfairly treated either by people or by God?   Then you have a friend in Job!

2.    What key principle did God raise with Job? (Job 38:1-4)

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand. (Job 1:1-4)

Job’s trouble began when a storm (“mighty wind”) struck (1:19) and now God speaks to him “out of a storm.” (38:1).  In the midst of storms we face God often asks us what He asked Job.  Will you doubt Me because you don’t understand what is happening to you and to those around you!  Think again.  You have a limited understanding yet one thing is clear, I do have a plan and it is at work now.  Bear with me. Trust me.  You will understand more later.

3.    What was Job’s confession about God in 42:3?  About himself in 42:4,5?
a.     About God: “You (God) asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand.” (42:3)
b.     About himself: Recognizing that he had complained about things he really did not understand, how did he feel then” (42:6)  “Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.””
c.      What has happened to Job through ordeal he had been through:  He had grown in wisdom and understanding of both God and himself.—2 sides of the same coin.

4.    What is the greatest complaint God had with the three friends of Job? (See 42:7,8)
a.     Speaking to the three friends God said, ““I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (v.7)
b.     “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (v.8)
c.      “Cynicism is the essence of the satanic. The Satan believes nothing to be genuinely good – neither Job in his disinterested piety nor God in his disinterested generosity. Faith in God’s goodness is the heart of love and hope and joy and all other radiant things: cynicism is studied disbelief; and a mind turned in upon its own malice is the final horror of the diabolical.  (Tyndale Com)  [ Definition of cynicism: an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest]
                                              i.     Does Satan have a valid point, that people serve God only for what they get from Him? (1:9,10)

d.    Why do you think this truth is so important? What insights does Job 1:7-11 present about why this truth might be so important?
“The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:7-11)

5.    What did Job learn from his ordeal?  Were his questions answered?  What happened that caused this change?
Ironically, as the book ends, Job never fully understood the big picture.  He admits that. (42:3) We have no indication that he ever knew of the conversation that God and Satan had nor how he, himself, fit into the evil scheme of Satan.  But what Job learned through his ordeal was enough. 

While still sitting on the ash heap, his bitterness fades.  He repents of the abusive words he had directed towards God.  No longer is God someone in the “history books”, “My ears had heard of you.”  But now His personal encounter with God changed everything! –“but now I my eyes have seen you.” (v.5)

6.    Was it Job’s “repentance” (v.6) that brought his restoration or was it something else? See verse 10)

What do we learn from this? Which of the following are lessons that come from the book of Job?

a.     Hurry up and repent?
b.     Treat others with kindness, including those who hurt you?
c.      Know God – allow each experience to lead you to a deeper understanding of God while allowing God to be God.?

Illustration of a little girl and her mother trapped at a WalMart by the rain.  “We won’t get wet. That’s what you told Daddy . . .

Job: “I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)