We continued our series at Gateway in Austin called “What is the Bible Good For?”
God created us for a relationship. His love letter, his truth, is available to us through the Scriptures. There will be questions and there will be moments of pause, but the Bible can be the foundation on which we build our lives. The Bible is relevant by helping us understand who God is and how to live a new life under His leadership and with His guidance. Transformation comes when we engage God through the Scriptures.
Message Video from Gateway South:
Message Notes from Carlos Ortiz:
Our hope is that this series will help you if you are skeptical to trust that the Bible is really from God and still relevant to our lives. This can be true of those of you without faith and even some of you who do have faith in Jesus, but you struggle with the Bible.
Our hope is that this series will also help those of you who follow Jesus and read the Bible all the time. It will help you know how to help those in your life who have doubts and questions.
If you missed the message last week, watch or read the notes from John Burke answering the question: Is The Bible Really From God?
Maybe you have had an on and off again connection with the Bible.
You can stand on it, you can carry it, you can pray on it, you can sleep with it, you can throw it…but you will not learn the message of God until you open and read it.
I found a comprehensive list of why people do not read the Bible, and none of them actually surprised me, but I want to go over them with you today anyway:
- I’m not religious.
- The Bible is for white Americans.
- I can’t get past Genesis.
- It’s boring.
- I can’t understand it
- The Bible is full of errors.
- I don’t have time.
- The Bible doesn’t work for me.
- The Bible is outdated.
- I just don’t want to.
So if I’m going to be honest with you, then I want you to be honest with you. Which of these 10 are things have you said or thought of when it comes to engaging the Bible? I have said 7 of these things at least once since I began my journey with Jesus, but as I’ve grown and learned what I’ve also seen grow is my level of confidence in assuming things about God and/or the Scriptures.
We can be in proximity to scripture, hear others critique scripture, even know a few stories from scripture, but nothing replaces our own diving into the Bible.
- How else will we know what it truly says about God, about us, and about how we practically live out a life with God?
- How many times do we assume something because of our proximity to it, but no real understanding or immersion into it?
- Can you imagine receiving a letter from someone you love every day, and never taking the time to actually read the letter?
That is us when we do not take the time to read our Bible. I’m not saying this to judge or to condemn, I’m saying it to let you know how much you and I miss out on when we do not fully engage.
Jesus actually took it a step further in our passage for today.
Matthew 7 gives us some context before our reading about the danger of these assumptions.
Verse 21 – 23 Jesus plays out this scenario of people who are in proximity to knowing truth and yet not fully knowing. He says they will one day reach heaven and will hear Jesus say, I never knew you. They’ll respond with I was a good person, I performed good works, I did miracles, but the same answer will stand, but you NEVER knew me. Then he says this:
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. – Matthew 7:24-29
There are a few things Jesus is communicating in this particular passage:
1. There’s a tension between hearing and doing.
- The academic process of orthodoxy is about believing rightly.
- The practical part of orthopraxy is about living rightly
We all lean towards one or the other, in almost all areas of our life:
Some will march in rallies for a particular issue, raise funds, and use our voice, but then not truly and fully understand the issue at hand.
Or we will give ourselves over to a Facebook discussion (aka social media rant) so that others will believe like us because we are fully informed, but then not make any sense with our practical decisions.
Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth. – Blaise Pascal
For Jesus he’s saying…if you know me, you will know I’m like a rock, a firm foundation, something that is necessary for long-term effectiveness. And on that rock you can build something.
If you don’t know me, or if you rely on yourself fully, then you can still build something, but it’s more like shifting sand.
To know Jesus more, we MUST engage in scripture for us to better understand and grow in our faith and understanding.
As I began following Jesus, and spending time with God, I was amazed how often a passage I was reading answered a question I had or a prayer request or was what I needed later that same day!
So now, learn to listen with your heart as God will whisper to you in your thoughts. You can tell a thought is from God if it is selfless, requires courage, and consistent with His character.
You can discover more about His character through His Word to us – the Bible.
He speaks through a song lyric, through someone sharing their heart in your life group or in the lobby, through a message on Sunday, through a conversation at work at home or with a neighbor.
God is always speaking, we need to learn to listen.
And if we build our life on God’s Word to us through the Scriptures, we will be able to discern from the voices we hear – which are our own, which are from darkness, and which are from God.
There are so many of us here who have been walking with Jesus, and we can tell you story after story after story of the miraculous way God speaks to us through the Bible! If you are new to faith or new to the Bible, ask the people in your Gateway group, network, or team to share some of their stories!
2. Storms will test how we chose to live.
- Right belief and Right living do not shelter us from the storms of life.
- Storms are fair game in the game of life.
- Your storm reveals the sturdiness and strength of the choices you made based on what you believe
When we know our life is built on a solid foundation it brings peace in these times
Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.
James 1:2-3 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And I know, as a pastor, believe me, there are many of us who are afraid of what we’ve built our life upon, because we don’t know until the storm comes.
Did you know you can go to church, get involved and raise your kids here, and it is still shifting sand? Theologian Dr. Timothy Keller says this, “
“Most Christians rely on institutions and formal instruction to “pass on the faith.” We think that if we instruct our children in true doctrine, shelter them from immoral behavior and involve them in church and religious organizations, then we have done all we can.”Timothy Keller, New York City Pastor
The kind of choices you make are the ones you make outside of being in a church building, and the time you invest in being the church.
This goes for those of us who believe and those of who don’t believe quite yet.
We have people in our groups, networks, and serving teams who dive into Scripture on their own on a daily basis and with others who are wanting to grow on a weekly basis. Those groups have people who are strong in belief and practice, people strong in either practice or belief and working on the other, and people who are neither strong in belief or practice.
3. We get to choose where and how we build our lives
- Many believe that when you come to Jesus then other people begin to dictate how you live
- The truth is that all along the way we are making decisions, and we begin to construct our lives on the decisions that we make
- Scripture/The Bible give us a picture, a compelling story and framework of who God is
- In light of who God is, we choose to lineup our ways that draw us closer to his ways.
Reading scripture is an act of humility, because along the way we all have to stop and ask ourselves if the way we live truly lines up with who God is.
Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This is exactly how God wants to relate to you. His love letter, his truth, is so available to us, to you, and all we need to do is engage it. There will be questions, there will be moments of pause, but never let it be said from here on out, that there were moments it was ignored, pushed aside, and irrelevant to your life.
The Scriptures are God’s love letter to us. Through this book you will get to know God’s character. His sacrificial love. His kindness and His compassion. Start with Jesus and read everything through that lens.
When you do, you will discover a connection with the God who loves you.
Join us with others in reading the “Connecting with God (Luke)” Bible Plan
Remember, this is not just about reading but praying, observing, journaling, and ultimately connecting with the God who loves you, who wants to guide you, and have a personal relationship with you.