Big Idea: The Bible is important for your life because of its message, origin, uses, and results in your life.
In 1879 Lieutenant George De Long set out with a crew on the USS Jeannette in hopes of claiming the North Pole for the United States. De Long's plans were based on maps developed by mapmakers at the time (cartographers). Mapmakers believed that there was an open polar ice-free sea, teeming with marine life “whose waters could be smoothly sailed, much as one might sail across the Caribbean or the Mediterranean.”
Unfortunately, every previous expedition that had sailed north in search of the sea had run into a problem — ice. Now you might think that running into ice every time would lead scientists to abandon the theory of an Open Polar Sea. Not so. Instead, they modified the theory slightly. Mapmakers suggested that there was a small circle of ice. All you had to do was to find a gap in that ice, and you’d enjoy smooth sailing to the north pole.
De Long and his crew of 28 men wanted to find that portal. It didn't take long for De Long to realize that all the cartographers, scientists, and geographers had been wrong. He wrote, “I pronounce a thermometric gateway to the North Pole a delusion and a snare.” The ice seemed to stretch out forever.
De Long and his crew came to grips with the fact that they had been duped. The team had to “replace their wrongheaded ideas with a reckoning of the way the Arctic truly is.” In September 1879, the USS Jeannette got trapped in the ice pack and his crew escaped and tried to go toward Siberia. The crew got separated. Some made it to Siberia and survived; others continued their lonely trek through the ice. De Long died in late October 1881 of starvation. He was covered up by snow, except for one of his arms, which was raised as if to signal toward the sky. The wrong maps cost him his life.
James K.A. Smith comments:
Our culture often sells us faulty, fantastical maps of “the good life” that paint alluring pictures that draw us toward them. All too often we stake the expedition of our lives on them, setting sail toward them with every sheet hoisted. And we do so without thinking about it because these maps work on our imagination, not our intellect. It's not until we're shipwrecked that we realize we trusted faulty maps.
Which leads me to ask you: What are the maps for your life? What are the assumptions, the worldviews that guide your life? Is your map true or false? All too often we stake the expedition of our lives on false maps. If we base our lives on a false map, then we will get lost, or worse. It will cost us not only in this life but for eternity.
This is why we’re in a short series called #TheGreatestBook. For just three Sundays we’re looking at the Bible and what it means for us. Today I want to ask the question: Why is the Bible important for our lives? Think about it. What other 2,000 year old book do we hold in such esteem? Which other book do we open up and preaching about every week? Why would we take a book so seriously that was written so long ago by people who lived in such a different culture?
Today’s passage answers these questions. The reason why today’s message is so important is because your life depends on it.
Why is the Bible so important for your life? Four reasons.
Because of Its Message
One of the reasons the Bible is so important is because of its central message. No other book communicates this message. If the Bible didn’t communicate it, we wouldn’t know it. What is this message? 2 Timothy 3:14-15 tells us:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
From earlier in the book we learn that Timothy’s grandmother Lois was a believer. She had passed down the gospel to Timothy’s mother, Eunice. And when Timothy received the message, he too believed. What changed three generations in this family? Paul tells us: “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s the central message of the Bible. It’s the central way that we know about who God is, what he’s like, what our problem is, what Jesus has done about it, and how we can respond. We wouldn’t know about any of this if it wasn’t for the gospel.
That is the central theme of this book. It reveals the most important message we need to know. There is no other book that communicates that message except God's Book. In this book we have the good news — the gospel — that salvation is found in Christ alone. He loves us, he died for us, he took God's judgment for our sins upon himself and he rose again from the dead proving he alone has the power to forgive every one of our sins. That message is true for a child and it is absolutely true for every adult here today. What is the instrument that God the Holy Spirit uses to communicate that message of salvation? It’s the Bible. It’s what we need to even know about the gospel, and it’s what we need to continue living in light of the gospel.
I don’t think anyone’s put it better than George Mueller. He lived in England over a hundred years ago, and was famous for caring for thousands of orphans and seeing God answer his daily prayers for their provision. He talked one day about the importance of knowing and enjoying God, and then asked the obvious question: how do we get to know and enjoy God? Here’s his answer:
But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How shall we obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.
In the Scriptures, by the power of the Holy Ghost, He makes Himself known unto our souls.… Therefore The very earliest portion of the day we can command should be devoted to the meditation on Scriptures. Our souls should feed upon the Word.… This intimate experimental acquaintance with Him will make us truly happy. Nothing else will.… In God our Father, and the blessed Jesus, our souls have a rich, divine, imperishable, eternal treasure. Let us enter into practical possession of these true riches; yea, let the remaining days of our earthily pilgrimage be spent in an ever increasing, devoted, earnest consecration of our souls to God.
The Bible is important because God has revealed himself through the Bible. It’s how we know about Jesus and what he’s done for us. It’s how we grow in our knowledge and enjoyment of God. The Bible is important because of its message. We need this message. It’s essential for our lives and our eternities.
Why is the Bible so important? Because of its message, and also:
Because of Its Origin
Paul continues, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
That term — breathed out — isn’t one that’s familiar to us today. Think about it, though, and it makes sense. We’re getting to the colder part of the year. Pretty soon, when you speak, I’ll be able to see your breath. When we speak, our words are breathed — your breath, conditioned by your mind, expresses itself in speech. You breathe out your words.
Paul is saying, then, that Scripture is literally God’s Word breathed out to us. How does this work? Peter explains elsewhere that “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 2:21). One theologian explains it like this:
God’s providential oversight and direction of the life of each author was such that their personalities, their backgrounds and training, their abilities to evaluate events in the world around them, their access to historical data, their judgment with regard to the accuracy of information, and their individual circumstances when they wrote, were all exactly what God wanted them to be, so that when they actually came to the point of putting pen to paper, the words were fully their own words but also fully the words that God wanted them to write, words that God would also claim as his own. (Wayne Grudem)
This means that the Bible is uniquely trustworthy and authoritative. Because God is trustworthy, his Word is trustworthy. Because God is authoritative, then his Word to us is authoritative.
If God really is God, and the Bible really is his Word, then it has absolute authority over our lives. It’s why we say that the Bible is our final authority in faith and practice. We want to come to God with conditions. We think we know better than God when it comes to our money, our sexuality, our obedience. We want to accept God on our own terms, with conditions.
If Christ is really God, then all the conditions are gone. To know Jesus Christ is to say, “Lord, anywhere your will touches my life, anywhere your Word speaks, I will say, ‘Lord, I will obey. There are no conditions anymore.’” If he's really God, he can't just be a supplement. We have to come to him and say, “Okay, Lord, I'm willing to let you start a complete reordering of my life.” (Tim Keller)
Why is the Bible important for our lives? First because of its message, second because of its origin; third:
Because of Its Uses
Coaching is a big thing right now. If you are going to improve in any area — sports, business, fitness, or life — you need a coach. You need someone to not only teach you, but to give you feedback, and to show you exactly what you need in your life to grow.
As I read Paul in this passage, I’m reminded of coaching as I read about what the Bible does in our lives. Paul writes:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
According to Paul, there are four things that Scripture does. All four are crucial for our spiritual lives.
- Teaching — To know God, we must know certain things about him. There is a body of knowledge we need to know. Josh Harris says, “I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life. Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.” The Bible teaches us what we need to know.
- Reproof — Then there’s reproof. It sounds like a negative word, but it’s not. We need it. The Bible corrects heresy. It corrects our wrong understandings of God. It’s like the poison label on a bottle of dangerous chemicals. It warns us against ingesting beliefs that are harmful to our souls.
- Correction — Correction is the act of offering an improvement to replace a mistake. This is a very practical term. It means to straighten out. When we accept the Bible’s teaching and reproof, we’ll find that our lives will begin to straighten out.
- Training in righteousness — The Bible trains us in the right way to live. If you want to grow so that your life increasingly reflects the beauty and glory of Jesus, then you need the Bible.
The Bible has power in all four of these areas. You need the Bible because it will keep you from believing and acting in wrong ways. Positively, it will help you believe the right things and live the right way. It is useful. If you don’t treasure the Bible for its message or its origin, then treasure it for its usefulness. The Bible is useful for how we live our lives.
The Bible, we’ve seen, is important for because of its message, origin, uses. There’s one more reason why it’s important:
Because of the Result
Paul concludes this section by saying, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
The result of all of this is that we become mature. The ultimate purpose of Scripture in our lives is that we become proficient in life, fully equipped, enabled to do every good work. In Scripture God gives us everything we need. With this map, we have what we need to navigate through life and eternity.
Because of all of this, John Piper says:
We are a people of the Book. We know God through the Book. We meet Christ in the Book. We see the cross in the Book. Our faith and love are kindled by the glorious truths of the Book. We have tasted the divine majesty of the Word and are persuaded that the Book is God’s inspired and infallible written revelation. Therefore, what the Book teaches matters.
We began this message thinking about Lieutenant George De Long, who lost his life because he trusted in faulty maps. If you’re going to try to make it to the North Pole, you need an accurate map. If you are going to make it through this life into eternity, you also need an accurate map. The Bible is important for your life because of its message, origin, uses, and its effect on your life.
I want to call you this afternoon to a fresh commitment to the Word of God. You say that you believe it; you say that you trust it; you say that you love it…but do you live in it day by day? Are you faithful in God's Word every day, or is the Word of God sitting up on a shelf somewhere in your home gathering dust? If it is that's sin, and I call you to repentance this morning and I call each and every one to a renewed commitment to be faithful every day in God's Word. Read it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Treasure it.
Beyond that, I want to call you to a fresh commitment to the one to whom the Scripture points. I want to call you to Jesus. The Word of God is his story…his story of how he left heaven's glory to be born of a virgin; to live a perfect life among men; to die on the cross for our sins in our place; to rise from the dead and return to heaven; and to reign and rule as Lord and Savior in the life of everyone that comes to Him. Have you come to Christ really? Have you received Him, or are you not sure? If you've come to Him have you ever confessed Him publicly in baptism? I want to invite you this morning to come to him and to find in him everything that you need.
(adapted in part from a sermon by David Dobson as part of #TheGreatestBook series)