Sermon for October 27th 2019. Bible Sunday. - Llanos
Isaiah 45.22-end, Romans 15.1-6, Luke 4.16-24
May I speak in the Name of the Father and the Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is Bible Sunday, when Christians all over the world celebrate God’s Word as the centre of our faith. The Bible Society has a global mission to offer the Bible to every man, woman and child, in the belief that, when people engage with God’s Word, lives can be changed for good.
As we believe the Bible is God’s living word, it speaks to us all, personally and as a church, local and worldwide, whatever our situations. I have asked 4 members of the church to share a scripture which has meant a lot to them at a time when they really needed God’s comfort or encouragement. If we say God’s word is living, it must be relevant to us and speak to us throughout our lives.
Testimonies of John, Pauline, David and Jackie.
These are wonderful testimonies and I am sure we all have a special scripture or can remember times when God spoke to us through His word in a very special way. When I was praying about becoming a Reader, the scripture which God gave to me was, Psalm32.verse 8.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” And I felt greatly encouraged to think that Our Lord was my teacher and counsellor in the difficult months ahead. His word has been truly living and inspiring and life changing.
So the Bible gives us instruction, it tells us how to live to please God and walk in His ways. And that is as important to us as it was to God’s first chosen nation, the Israelites. He gave them Laws and guidance, which they promised to follow.
One of the things I love most about the Old Testament is the honesty with which the Jewish writers record their history. Showing themselves as God’s chosen people, you would think they would highlight their best parts, their obedience and love for God, their prosperity as they flourished in peace. But no! We get their failings, their unfaithfulness, their forgetfulness of God’s goodness and we see them rise and fall as a Nation as they choose to follow God or the pagan gods of their neighbours. We see the struggles of the prophets to keep them on track.
In Isaiah this morning, God is expressing His amazement at those who worship idols who cannot save them and says, “There is no other God but me, a just God and a Saviour, no not one!” God tells of a time when all the nations of the world will worship Him and His humour in this and following passages show us that our God understands the human heart and understands our need of Him, even if we don’t. His assurance that all the world will bow the knee and Israel will be justified is something we can hold as an encouragement and rock on which to base our lives. It doesn’t matter that Israel failed to keep their covenant with God because He will not give up on them, nor will He give up on an apostate world which rejects Him, mocks Him and puts up other secular gods to replace Him. At the end of the day, only love for, obedience to and faith in Him brings salvation. His word tells us this clearly, there is no room for doubt. Our God is Sovereign and that brings us such security and safety in a very unsafe and unstable world. Isaiah pulls no punches in His messages from God and they stand true throughout time. They are well worth reading for their humour and their certainty. God has told us what will happen in the future, there really aren’t any excuses.
The lesson in Romans gives us another value of the scriptures. To teach us patience when dealing with others. The Old Testament gives us much about how to treat others because of being God’s people and the New Testament takes this further. The Law in the OT formed a people who were different from their neighbours, giving them principles of justice and care in a lawless and unjust world, urging them always to be kind to strangers and the vulnerable.
In Romans, now that Christ has given us the perfect example of how to live, this patience goes further. It’s a selfless patience where we are aware that our actions, although OK for us, may cause others to doubt or stumble. And because we have Jesus to help us, more is expected of us. We have a picture of a perfect life, and teachings which enrich and encourage us. Knowing Jesus through His Word and as the Word, is our greatest gift. The secrets He reveals and the love He shows to us in His word, give us everything we need to live with peace and, whatever our circumstances. Ease and comfort are not promised but whatever, we are never alone, never abandoned or left in the cold. We are transformed by His generous, gracious and humble way of life. As Jesus emphasised in the scriptures, our actions and attitudes are shaped by what we long for in our hearts. Being the best we can be in Jesus, means enabling others to be the best they can be.
And this is what we see in Luke and this touching story of Jesus revealing His mission to His home town. Jesus read the scriptures so well known to His friends, family and neighbours and said that these scriptures came true today. How He must have loved these people who would struggle to see other than Joseph’s son. They heard the words, they were blown away by the beauty of His teaching and His wisdom but familiarity with this wonderful man made it difficult for them to see who He really was. Familiarity can work that way for us too.
We have all read the Bible Stories so many times. We know the parables; we know the life of Jesus and His beautiful words and straight forward teaching. We have the New Testament in our hearts and minds and that can sometimes blind us to looking at Jesus afresh, seeing new truths, understanding His word more deeply and living in our full salvation and victory. We might feel we know Him but that knowledge needs to grow and grow. Our opinion of God and our Lord can sometimes reflect us more than Him. The scriptures are living words and as such have everyday relevance for each one of us, every day. We can learn more by looking at these words and Jesus’ life as He was at that time and place. It is no random thing that He was born where and when He was or that He was born into Judaism. We can westernise Him all we like but we lose so much of who He was as a Man and who He is as God. We can explore the scriptures, as we have freedom to do so, try a little every day to learn something new. We can let the Bible speak to us and embrace the beauty of the words. Quoting the scriptures and knowing parts by heart is not for the purpose of winning arguments or making people feel ignorant. It is better to have no quotes and live by the love shown within its pages. Although even better still to know where to find the words which will heal and save and draw others to our lovely Savour and King.
We have looked at the Bible through the various chosen readings today, but for me, and I am sure, for many of us, the Bible is the most wonderful love story ever written. Even in the upheavals of the OT we see such a loving God, trying and trying to keep His people close to Him, having to punish them to make them understand, but He never forsakes them, His love is so strong, so pure and powerful. And then in Jesus, we see this love personified in such an amazing way. We should truly love our Bibles; they are precious letters of love to each of us personally and to a world hungry for love and not knowing how to satisfy that longing. There is so much to encourage us, to inform us and to show us how to live in a way which pleases God. It isn’t just about our wonderful life in eternity, it is about how to have that wonderful life with Jesus, here and now.