There is a hymn written in 1917 by Haldor Lillenas called “The Bible Stands.” Here are some of its lyrics:
The Bible stands like a rock undaunted ’Mid the raging storms of time; Its pages burn with the truth eternal, and they glow with a light sublime.
The Bible stands though the hills may tumble, It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble; I will plant my feet on its firm foundation, for the Bible stands.
The Bible stands like a mountain towering far above the works of men; Its truth by none ever was refuted, and destroy it they never can.
The Bible stands every test we give it, for its Author is divine; By grace alone I expect to live it, and to prove and to make it mine.
This is a hymn I learned as a child in VBS and its words continue to ring in my heart today. The next topic that Charles Colson addresses, working like a lawyer through a line of logical reasoning, is the absolute necessity and authority of the Word of God. On page 75 he summarizes the relevance of his argument with the words “Your word is truth,” Jesus said (John 17:17). Nothing less than knowledge of that truth is demanded of Christ’s disciples. That knowledge comes only from fervent study of truth, that is, the study of His word. This is indispensable to genuine discipleship. It is indispensable to loving God.
The Holy Spirit drew Augustine to God through a piping, lingering voice “take up and read,” causing him to leave his life of pursuing lust and passion to a transformed life of obediently taking up and reading and studying Scripture. On pg. 47 Colson states that Augustine said “Not only am I reading the Word, I have been wearing it out.” On page 55 Colson continues with Augustine’s example, “This man of great intellect and compelling personality was utterly transformed by the Word of God. What power those Scriptures hold!”
Do you know that? Do you know it in your head but have not deeply experienced it in your heart? Do you rest solely on the authority of Scripture and the ability of Scripture to radically transform your heart and life and the hearts and lives of others? If so, how do you live that out?
Think about how Christian book stores have changed over the years. They used to be filled with Bibles, books about the Bible, study books, commentaries and things like Greek Lexicons. Now you have to search hard to find the above mentioned items because trinkets, posters, cups and bracelets with quaint sayings, and books with watered down devotional thoughts have taken over. Not that those things are wrong in and of themselves, but it shows a shift from the very words of God being at the core of what changes us and others to something much less than that.
Why is that so? I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons, but I’ll put down a few thoughts of my own, for what they’re worth.
1. On page 76, Charles writes: “Scripture calls us to die to self and to follow Christ. It demands that we recognize the sin in our lives and that we acknowledge and repent of that sin.” The Bible is intrusive and demanding. If my doctor demands that I go on a diet and I don’t want to or am not following that diet very well, I am going to find ways to keep from going to the doctor. I don’t want to be reminded of my short comings. The same is so with the living and active word of God, which cuts through our excuses to the thoughts and intentions of our heart. It’s easier to run away from that than it is to run to it. That’s the wrestle or the fight of the Christian life. Our flesh cries out against God, the world draws us away and Satan baits us. That’s why we need God’s empowering help, the encouragement of the body, and a self control that moves away from the flesh and toward God.
2. Our church culture has gotten away from Biblical content to a numbers driven pragmatic Gospel. Pragmatic means that you do it because it works, or produces results. The results that God produces runs contrary to the ones that our flesh seeks. God says the way is narrow that leads to eternal life and few there be that find it. Jesus had demanding words for those who wanted to follow Him and many turned away from those. Jesus didn’t lower the bar to pull them back in, He just kept and keeps asking for more. Sometimes we think if we share just the Scripture that people won’t show up, or that it’s just not for today’s culture to be that way.
When I’m fishing and I haven’t gotten bites for awhile, I reel the line back in and sure enough–the worm has fallen off. Ministering without relying on the power of the Word is like fishing without worms. I get to enjoy the sun, look busy and expend energy. But I won’t get fish. If I want to be a fisher of people, the worm is the Word of God. It must be on my hook.
3. We get fooled into thinking that the authority comes from us, or from a pastor’s charismatic or persuasive words, rather than it being solely from God. God’s Word is authoritative, my words or someone else’s are not. Everything that was written in Scripture, by 40 different men, are as though God Himself wrote them. We can’t discard them by saying things like “they aren’t in red (Jesus’ words) so they aren’t as important,” or “that was just Paul.” God chose the men to write what He wanted written. He used their personalities and backgrounds specifically to deliver the message to the people of that time, and also to the people of all times. 2 Peter 1:20-21 states “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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.”
4. Another thing that detracts from the authority of Scripture is a culturally or historically relevant view of Scripture. This would maintain that things written were only for that time and for that culture. However, God’s Word, the Bible is written for all time for all peoples. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be mature, fully equipped for every good work.” This includes the Old Testament and even all of its lists and genealogies. They are there for a specific purpose that maybe only God knows and He will reveal in time.
5. Perhaps we haven’t experienced the radicalizing, transforming work of the Bible because we haven’t been in it enough and we haven’t shared it enough to see if do its work in others’ lives. Simply put, we’re not reading and studying and devouring the Word enough. Other things call for our time and attention. Some of those are important, some aren’t. We read others’ thoughts about the Bible, devotional thoughts lifted out of context to bless our hearts, we read novels and biographies that are inspiring, but we just don’t read the Bible enough to have it dwell richly in our hearts and lives, as Paul puts it in Colossians 3:16.
Five is enough to chew on for now. Perhaps you differ with some of those. If so, pray about it, check out the verses here or the ones that Colson includes in his book and see why that might be so.
In the study guide on page 274, the writers urge us to pray to “ask God to give you a greater hunger for His Word and for the increased diligence in spending time reading and studying it daily.” May that be your prayer today.