To a high percentage of those assembled here tonight, the Bible is extremely important. One of the significant reasons for your being here this evening is directly related to the scripture's importance to you as a person. If I were not concerned about the specifics of what the Bible says, many of you would not be here.

I want to ask what may seem to you to be a ridiculous question. However, I am quite serious in asking the question. I definitely want you to answer it in your own minds. I definitely want each of us to think about the answer we give ourselves.

The ridiculous question: Why is knowing what the Bible or scripture says so important to you? Or, why do you give such a high priority to the knowledge that comes from knowing what the Bible [scripture] says?
"It is the word of God!"

"It is a good habit."

"We should give a
'Thus says the Lord.'"

"Scripture makes a
sermon a sermon."

Consider some answers. (1) "It is the word of God, and you should know what God says."
(2) "It's a good habit for anyone to have."
(3) "Every person should be able to give a 'Thus says the Lord' to everything that happens."
(4) "What makes a sermon a sermon is its use of scripture. Any preacher worth anything uses lots of scripture."

When I was a boy, there was lots of emphasis given by audiences on preachers using lots of scripture in a sermon. The emphasis was not on, "Did we learn something from this lesson?" The emphasis was not on, "Did this lesson challenge me to think and in that thinking better understand God?" Much of the time, the emphasis was not on God's concept of godly existence. "Good sermons" used lots of scripture. If it had lots of scripture, it was good. It made no difference if the scriptures were used out of context. It made no difference if the scriptures were not directly related to the subject. It was the fact that the preacher used scripture that made a sermon good.

When I was a boy, my family attended a gospel meeting in which a nationally known preacher spoke. He typically spoke a couple of hours when he preached, and he used a lot of quotations. [This was not at my home congregation.] One Christian lady in the congregation was known for two things. (1) She never missed an assembly. (2) She took down and looked up every quotation. After a few nights, she respectfully told the preacher, "I cannot find the scriptures you use by the references you give." He replied, "Sister, that is okay. It will do people good to search for them."

I have for years challenged people to think when I spoke. Decades ago there were two basic rules for "good preaching." Rule one: use lots of scripture. Rule two: say those things that the congregation expects to hear.

I was speaking in a gospel meeting years ago that had an "amen" bench and on that bench was an elderly man who said "Amen!" frequently. I started speaking, and I received two or three quick amens. But soon the man who said the "amens" did not know where I was going, and everything got very quiet for most of the sermon. When I concluded and reached a conclusion he agreed with, he said a very loud, very relieved, "Amen!"

Why do we listen to sermons? What is the objective of understanding scripture? As you think about your answer to "why," allow me to challenge your thinking.

  1. Why do we seek knowledge of the scriptures?
    1. May I first suggest that a person should seek knowledge from scripture to better understand God.
      1. Let me challenge our thinking by reading from John 5.
        [The audience] John 5:18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
        [The response] John 5:39-47 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
        Moses, author of early scripture

        "Scripture contains eternal life."

        "It talks about Me."

        "But you don't see Me in it."
        1. Consider a fascinating but frightening situation.
          1. These people were experts in knowledge of scripture.
          2. These people totally were convinced that scripture was the key to eternal life.
          3. Yet, they did not understand what scripture was about.
          4. They regarded the person scripture was about as being false and anti-scripture.
          5. They were experts in scriptural knowledge, but they missed the basic point in scripture--they knew a lot, but what they knew did not direct them to God.
        2. God does not do things the way we sinful people do them. (Isaiah 55:8,9)
          1. I seek to understand scripture so I can be aware of the way God does things.
          2. I seek to understand scripture so I can increase accurate knowledge of God's nature.
          3. I seek to understand scripture so I can properly identify God's character.
        3. I cannot and will not intuitively know God's ways and thoughts.
    2. May I suggest secondly that I seek knowledge of scripture so I can make application to my life.
      1. The more I understand God's ways, the more I change the way I live.
      2. I will not devote my life to things or attitudes that oppose the nature, the character, the ways, and the thoughts of God!
      3. Just because I acquired some knowledge does not mean I understand what I know.
        1. It is not a simple question of authority--it runs much, much deeper than that.
        2. Let me use an old, old illustration I heard years and years ago.
          1. An older gentleman who spent his life reading scripture decided one day he was going to allow God to decide how he would use the day.
          2. He decided he would just take his Bible, close his eyes, let it fall open, with eyes closed he would place his finger on a statement, and that would be God speaking to him, telling him what to do that day.
          3. He did that, and his Bible fell open to Matthew 27 and he placed his finger on verse 5: "Judas went out and hanged himself."
          4. He said, "That cannot be God's instruction to me!"
          5. So he did the same thing again, and this time the Bible fell open to Luke 10 and his finger on verse 37: "Go and do the same."
          6. Now he begins to break out in a sweat as he decides that cannot possibly be what God is telling him.
          7. So he decides to follow the same procedure one last time.
          8. This time his Bible falls open to John 13 and his finger lands on verse 27: "What you do, do quickly."
        3. Does the Bible say all those things? Yes!
          1. Are they related? No!
          2. The first talks about Judas' reaction to his guilt in betraying Jesus; the second is a statement made after Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan as Jesus explained who is our neighbor; and the third is Jesus' dismissal of Judas at the last supper.
          3. That approach to scripture does not focus on God's nature nor determine God's will.

  2. We just completed several weeks of focusing on Christian transformation.
    1. In that emphasis:
      1. We noted humanity suffered an enormous loss when we allowed evil to become a part of the human condition--we are nothing like what God intended us to be.
      2. We noted transformation is the process in which a person chooses to move his/her life in the direction of God.
      3. We looked at several examples of transformation in the New Testament.
    2. My question now is this: why did we do that?
      Unacceptable answer:
      "That is what good
      Christians do!"
      Acceptable answer:
      Conversion results in
      personal transformation.
      1. Unacceptable answer: (1) good Christians go to church on Sunday nights; (2) they are supposed to listen to sermons given on Sunday nights; (3) that just happened to be what the preacher chose to speak about.
      2. Acceptable answer:
        1. God acted in our conversion giving us forgiveness and redemption when we allowed faith in Jesus to produce repentance and baptism.
        2. As those who are in Jesus Christ through God's act, we commit to our conversion in Christ by committing ourselves to transformation.
    3. Is that a legitimate response to our conversion?
      1. It is not only a legitimate response to our conversion, it is a necessary response to our conversion.
      2. I call your attention to two situations.
        1. The first is found in Matthew 3:7-9
          But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."
          1. John the baptizer was baptizing in the Jordan valley, and people were coming to him from Jerusalem.
          2. John and his work were such a phenomena that some of the Jewish leaders [Pharisees and Sadducees] came.
          3. John immediately reacted to their coming--he questioned their motives.
          4. "You poisonous snakes, why are you trying to escape God's wrath?"
          5. "If you have come for the right reason, let your lives show the fruit of repentance."
          6. "Do not try to evade your need to redirect your lives by trusting your heritage--God can make descendants of Abraham from these rocks."
        2. Dare we make an application?
          1. "You are here for the wrong reason, and it has nothing to do with God's way or will."
          2. "If you are here for the right reason, demonstrate that fact in the way you turn your life around."
          3. "Do not try to evade your responsibility to turn your life around by saying you are good church members--God could make church members out of rocks."
          4. Or, God wants conversion to result in redirected lives, not just membership.
        3. The second statement was made by Peter in Acts 3 after he performed a miracle in healing a crippled man.
          1. He, speaking to Jewish people in the temple who devoutly believe in God but not Jesus, said this in Acts 3:18-21:
            But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
          2. I think an appropriate paraphrase of what Peter said can be stated like this: "If you do not express your faith in God by redirecting your lives in Jesus Christ, God cannot give you the seasons of refreshing He wants to give you."

Let me close by noting a statement made about Peter and John in Acts 4:13. Peter and John were arrested because of what they did and said in Acts 3. The Jewish court [Jerusalem Sanhedrin] was tremendously upset with these two men. The court was accustomed to men humbling themselves before them as the men sought mercy. But these two men were not in the least bit intimidated by them. They were bold as they defended what they said and did. As the court observed the reaction of these two men, Acts 4:13 records:
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

May we be bold enough to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) in our lives.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 5 September 2004

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