Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Source of Authority (Part 3 of 3)

Over the past two weeks, I have laid out a baseline for the Bible to serve as the authority for mankind – over and above self, science, or any other possibility (Part 1 and Part 2). This week, I conclude this brief series by providing one more reason I trust the Bible as my source, and why I believe others should as well.

Western culture, and especially Americans have an attitude towards learning that is reflected by two words, “So what?” In other words, we want to know “Why” the topic is important for us to learn. We are not the first culture to have this mindset (ancient Rome seems to have been the same, for instance), but we have taken the idea to another level. What we are wanting is a purpose for our learning. For instance, why do most teenagers struggle to understand algebra? Because “I am never going to need to know this, so what’s the point?” That is, “What’s the purpose?”

While we ask the question of purpose about many matters, most people rarely truly consider their individual purpose. We tend to allow ourselves to be used in any number of ways by any number of people. An analogy would be a tv stand my son once purchased at a garage sale. The stand is large – about 5.5 foot wide and 5.5 foot tall, and has many doors and cabinets with room for an old 32 inch tv. I am sure the stand was well used as a tv/component stand by the original owner, but my son wanted it as (primarily) a clothes dresser. And frankly, it worked well for that. Now, it is a place for storing various items while serving to separate one part of our basement from another. Three different owners, three different purposes. But the unit was created to serve as a tv stand. Our family has adapted its use for our purposes, but the original box and instruction manual were prepared by the company who manufactured the item and likely shows various electronic equipment set up within it (I presume, because I have not seen either the box or the manual).

Thus, the authority directs the original purpose. If this premise is true, then how do we define the purpose of humanity from the Big Bang? If humans appeared as, essentially, a random act, then what purpose can we really have? I suppose we are placeholders until evolution casts us aside because we become unwilling to adapt further (i.e. natural selection).

But what if humans were created? What if a Supreme Being intentionally created life, and within that life, a species known as humans? If this is true, then how might we know what intention that Being had for humanity? The answer: the Bible. The Supreme Being, according to the Bible, is God, who created humans in His image (Genesis 1.26-27) for the purpose of caring for the rest of Creation (Genesis 1.28-30). Thus, the Bible answers the question of “So what?” for humans and, therefore, can, and should, serve as the authority for how to live our lives.

However, just as humans have devised various ways to use different products for different reasons (e.g. the tv stand), we schemed to find different purposes and understandings for ourselves. Had we (beginning the Adam and Eve) not done this, the Bible would likely be about three pages long (effectively, the story of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2). However, because we looked elsewhere for authority, God had to paint a complete picture of how we violated our purpose, the effects of having violated it, how He fixed the violation, and what we are to do about it. Thus, the Bible is filled with over a thousand pages to help us know how to find and reclaim our true purpose – which is ultimately to give glory to God – both now and for all of eternity.

So, again, authority directs purpose. If humans evolved randomly, then no authority exists for our lives, and we have no reason to ask, “So what?” because purpose has no meaning. But, if we were created, then the Creator is the authority for our purpose. As such, any instructions the Creator left for us can be considered authoritative. Those instructions are found in the Bible which means the Bible can be trusted as the true source of authority for all of mankind. Our challenge, then, is to determine what the detailed instructions mean. While interpreting parts of the Bible is not always easy, the process is important if we are to truly discover how each of our individual purposes fit into the overall collective purpose God has for mankind.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Source of Authority (Part 2 of 3)

In last week’s post, I began this three part series by asking to what will we give our allegiance? To what should we submit? To whom should we obey? I began to make a case for the Bible being that authority, but this week, let me go a bit further by explaining why the Bible should be considered over a couple of other options.

Many people hold that authority comes from within – that is, they are their own master. But many who hold this approach do not limit their own authority to themselves, but project it to others as well. Such an approach makes sense only as their life continues because once they are no longer living, then all others who were under their authority are now “free” from that authority and must find a new authority for their lives. Of course, this scenario is constantly occurring as parents of young children (particularly) die, but in a grander scheme, true authority should remain in effect over an extended time – not just duration of a life.

Therefore, we need to look for truths that go beyond our lives to find authority. Some turn to science as providing some sense of authority. But science cannot be fully reliant as an authority because science, by definition, is based upon research and discovery. Science, then can uncover truth, but it cannot be truth itself. For instance, the Big Bang Theory is just that – a theory. If true, then somehow, the high-density, high-temperature “state” had to have a cause (i.e a force) in order to react. Currently, scientist are uncertain what this cause may be. Again, science can discover truth, but it cannot be truth – and thus, it should not be the authority for our lives. (Consider, too, that even on “known” issues, the truth changes often. Consider, for instance, how many different statements have been made about the cause for various types of disease only to be changed at a later time.)

So, I turn again to the Bible. Now, based upon the previous argument, many will declare that many aspects of the Bible are unknown, or misunderstood, as well. I agree. But, for instance, science always eventually confirms the Bible, and thus, the Bible should be held higher. (Archeologists continue to uncover “lost” cities and artifacts confirming information within the Bible that some previously contended showed the Bible to be in error.)

So, why trust the Bible? For me, I believe it is God’s Word. Specifically, it is God’s written Word, but it will never contradict God’s spoken Word. We know this because the Bible contains a good deal of God’s spoken Word, and Genesis 1, for instance, reveals that what we call nature obeyed God when He said, “Let there be....”

Now, I realize that what I am writing here requires an element of faith, but so does the theory of a big bang. Again, that is my point. We all choose something to be our authority. Our personal understanding and limitations (including our life span) should be proof enough that we cannot be the ultimate authority. Important aspects like science are insufficient to be our authority, although it can point towards authority. And while other matters may find the allegiance of some, I choose the Bible.

Before I close this post, I must share that my ultimate allegiance must be to God, not the Bible itself. To put the Bible above God would be idolatry, similar to my posts a few weeks ago of putting heaven above Jesus. However, the Bible is our source for authority because we can confirm our direction through God’s written Word. Many people claim to hear a “word from God” which completely contradicts the guidance God has left us in the Bible. Of course, God is not bound to the pages of Scripture; He is an infinite God who is still very much at work today. But I truly believe one reason He provided, and preserved, the writings contained in the Bible, is as a guide to understand Him now (throughout the ages) by knowing what He did then.

Certainly, we must be discerning, and as acknowledged above, the Bible can be misunderstood, and is often misapplied. But that is our issue, not God’s. That is our lack of understanding, not God’s lack of providing what is needed. Thus, we can trust the Bible as our authority. We can, and should, compare the teachings of man (especially) against the words God has left for us (sola Scriptura). As we do, we will see that our source of authority does not merely serve as an authority, but is truly a guide, which provides a sense of purpose to all who heed its words.

Next week, in part 3, I will take one last step in this series to show how the Bible is our guide to purpose, not just an authoritative tool of God as many people consider it to be.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Source of Authority (Part 1 of 3)

In the two prior posts I have attempted to briefly show why “Will I go to heaven?” is the wrong question; however, the intent of that question casts a shadow on this week’s post. Ultimately that question boils down to “Have I done right?” and or “Have I done enough?” The answer however is not about what we have done, it is about what Christ did for us. We could never be right before God without Jesus, which means we can never do enough either. However, just because we cannot do enough to earn salvation, we are not excused from serving because of our salvation. The question then becomes “How do I know what to do?” The answer is clear – we are do what the Bible says.

The previous sentence is easy enough to type (and easier to say), but it is not so easy to do. However, just because something is challenging does not mean it is not right. In this case, the essence of the question might be asked in a variety of ways, such as:
  • “As a follower of Christ, who or what do I obey?”
  • “To whom or what should I submit?”
  • “Where does my allegiance lie?”
These questions are a part of our daily routine, especially apart from religion.
  • “Do I obey the speed limit or drive faster (for whatever the reason)?”
  • “Do I stick to my diet or give into the temptation to eat __________?”
  • “Do I go to work or call in sick because it is such a nice day?”
  • “Do I listen to the advice of ________, or do I just do it as I intended?”

Certainly, many other questions could be added and not all of them would directly put our desires on trial. But oftentimes our desires are the issue! Therefore, we must choose where our allegiance lies, if/how we will submit, and/or who or what to obey. And thus, we are squarely faced with the bigger picture of how our current decisions impact not just the moment, but the future as well. And for the Christian, that means not only on earth, but eternity.

Again, nothing we do, or can do, punches our ticket into eternity apart from our response to what Jesus did for us on the cross. This post is not about earning our salvation, it is about responding to it. Specifically, the idea is about working out our salvation (Philippians 2.12), instead of working for it. The Bible is clear that those who claim faith in Jesus will find themselves serving others (e.g. James 1.22). Although the exact manner of serving, loving, and living a life for Christ may be different for each person, the basic characteristics of that service, love, and life are provided in the Bible. Consequently, for those who are asking questions about God, or how they should live, or if they should serve, etc., the source for the answer is the Bible, not because it is an important book, but because it is the written Word of God.

Next week, in part two, I will further elaborate on why the Bible deserves our obedience, and why it must be our source of authority.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Wrong Question (Part 2 of 2)

Last week, I began by sharing why I believe the question, “Will I go to heaven when I die?” is the wrong question for us to ask. The question primarily conveys an attitude of works – have I done enough to warrant a place in heaven. As I wrote last week, that question does not reflect the Bible’s teachings. We should serve because we are saved, but we cannot work to be saved (Ephesians 2.8-10). This week, I will continue that thought by focusing on three words most Christians, and a large number of people have said – “Thy Kingdom come.”

The real reason that the question above is wrong is that it puts the focus on a place rather than God. A similar understanding is found among most Christians with relation to the church. When the word church is spoken a place comes to mind. For instance, churchgoers often say, “I am going to church.” That expression is meant that I am going to a place, but the church is not a place, it is a people. The same words could be spoken and have a meaning of, “I am going to be with the fellowship of believers,” but it doesn’t. The word “churchgoers” used just above, could likewise mean that the church (the people) are going out on mission, rather than going to a building. But again, the word has come to mean a group of people who go to a place.

Most everyone uses the word “church” to denote a place. Don’t we do the same with a phrase such as “God’s Kingdom?” But God’s Kingdom is not a physical space, or at least not a confined (nor contiguous) space. God’s Kingdom is where God is king; that is, wherever God rules. If we are serious about being with God in a place, then why should we wait until we die? We can be with Him in our current space just as easily as we can be in a future space.

If we tie this thought back to the original question, we may rightly consider that heaven is a place where God rules, so we want to go to heaven. But Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1.15). Jesus came, in part, to bring God’s Kingdom to earth which is evident in the three words from His prayer, “Thy Kingdom come.” The idea is about God’s dominion spreading throughout the earth “as it is in heaven.” In one sense, God is fully in control of all that happens on the earth, but we certainly do not follow His will as perfectly as the celestial beings serving Him in heaven. Thus, our praying the prayer is a statement of our willingness to submit to God’s will here just as we will do in eternity.

Ultimately, “Thy Kingdom come” is not about a spatial relationship, it is about a personal one. Christians often talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus” but sometimes act as if they are more interested in having a spatial relationship with heaven. Remember, heaven was a part of creation, so God is obviously greater. Thus, a better question might be: If Jesus was not in heaven, would you rather be in heaven or with Jesus? Personally, I will choose Jesus! If He made heaven, and doesn’t want to be there, imagine how much better wherever He might chose must be! (This scenario is hypothetical as Revelation 21 and 22 indicate that Jesus will be present in the new heaven and new earth.)

But while that question may be better, a simplified version of that question is what counts: Do I want to be with Jesus when I die?

If the answer is yes, why wait until you die? Start your life with Him today!

If you need more information on becoming a Christian, you can find many great websites on the web including this one.