By Ed Young
April 26, 2015
More Bibles have been purchased than any other book in the history of the world. Every year, it tops the charts. Yet, for as popular as it is, the Bible is too often misunderstood and mistreated.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young teaches us about the power and priority the Bible should have in all of our lives. Because when it comes down to it, the Bible isn’t just another good book.
It is a book that literally has the potential to transform everything!
Welcome to Fellowship Church! I’m Ed Young, lead pastor, and it’s great to have all of you here at all of our different environments. You know, we’re one church in many locations. Well, I’ve been in a series called Breath and today I’m talking about breath that is recorded. I’m talking about the actual breath of God.
ILLUS: When I was 15 years old I met a beautiful young lady at church. She’s now my wife, and she sent me this love letter. And this love letter was special. In fact, it was so special I read the love letter and read it over and over. And let me just read to you an excerpt of this letter. It’s still hot. Whew! It’s still hot. And it said, “Dearest Edwin B. You are super fantastic and I love you. All of my love, Lisa.” And she sprayed some cologne on it, Charlie cologne. I read that and reread that because it was a love letter.
ILLUS: I grew up in the dirty South, spent a lot of time in South Carolina. As a kid we lived off of a dirt road for a while. I really loved the setting. The beautiful pine trees and it was kind of outdoorsy. Across the road there was a lake and one evening Dad took my brother and I down to the shores and we were throwing rocks and stuff in the lake. And suddenly we saw a snake, then we saw another one and another one and another one and another one. For some reason, I don’t know if it was mating season or what, the bank was crawling with water moccasins. We had a little flashlight and I’ll never forget what Dad told me. He said,
“Son, jump on my back! Son, get on my back. I’ll carry you out!” He put the flashlight on and I can still see it flickering, and he would carefully step with my brother and I on his back. We made it through the woods all the way home. Wow that was scary! I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors. I’ve never seen that many snakes in my life in one area.
ILLUS: Lisa and I have had Dobermans for a while. Now we have one. The other one has passed on. I’ve had this Bible for a long time. In fact my mother gave me this Bible when we opened the doors of this facility in 1998. I usually preach from this Bible and anyway, the other day our Doberman was in my office at home and he ate part of the book of Jeremiah. I’m going to show you. I even saved it. Jeremiah, Jeremiah. There it is, Jeremiah. Look, look. He ate it. And I was upset at Dutch but can you really get that upset at a Doberman?
ILLUS: I was in Africa a couple of years ago in a place called Johannesburg, Pretoria Bloemfontein and between some speaking engagements the pastor of a church took Lisa and I out to this zoo. Now a zoo in Africa is the real deal. I mean there are all sorts of things. They don’t have the lawyers and all of the sometimes ridiculous laws we have about animals and protection and all that. I mean they’re fine but some of it is over the top, as you know. You can get up close and personal (I want to apologize to the lawyers). You can get up close and personal to all these animals. And it was fascinating to see these things. In fact one guy put us into this acreage that was fenced off and there were cheetahs just lying around, wild! And he would come up to them and he, “OK, just stick your hand out and pet the cheetah,” and we actually petted the cheetah. That’s Lisa and I petting this cheetah. And you could hear him purr. It was crazy, the zoo. The zoo.
All the things I just described to you, all of the stories I just told to you, have to do with the subject matter that I’m talking about today. They have to do with the Bible. The Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16 says, the Bible is the very breath of God. Right now you’re hearing the breath of Ed. My breath is moving over my vocal cords. My vocal cords are vibrating. You hear the breath of Ed. We have the breath of God in the Bible. We have the breath of God. We have a record of the breath of God. People say, well, I wish God could speak to me audibly about my relationships. I wish God would speak to me about my economic condition. I wish God would really speak to me about my job, about how to parent. I wish God would speak to me because should I forgive this person or not? He already has! His word is written down! The breath of God has been recorded! All we have to do is breathe it in. The Bible is literally God’s breath. Because in 2 Timothy 3:16, the word breathed, God-breathed, is literally theopneustos. Say it with me. Theopneustos. It means <breath sound effect> God-breathed.
Here’s what the Scripture says. “All Scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos) and is used for teaching (what we should do right), rebuking (what is not right), correcting (how to really do what’s right in all situations), and training in righteousness.”
That is the Bible. What’s so crazy about the Bible is the Bible is the best-selling book of all time. No book comes close to the Bible, not even close.
My favorite author is John Grisham. I like most of his books. I think it would be great to sit down with John Grisham, talk with John Grisham, have coffee with John Grisham, maybe share a cup of hot cocoa with John Grisham so I could read his book and I could just kinda talk to him. Ask him questions about, hey that character, how do you develop that? Where did you get that idea? I can’t do that. I don’t know John Grisham. When I read the Bible it’s the only book where the author is all around me and in me. Because I have inhaled the breath of God and I’m breathing the breath of God, and I’m reading and understanding the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God.
You know the Bible says that about itself in the Old Testament 4,000 times? The Word of God. So it’s the breath of God. The breath of God is the Word of God. Four thousand times it’s the Word of God. In the New Testament 44 times it says it is the Word of God. So we have the Word of God.
And when we started Fellowship Church 25 years ago we said, OK, we’re going to be a Bible-teaching, Bible-believing church. It’s that simple. That’s who we are, that’s what we are. We have no man-made creed, no group in Nashville or Paraguay telling us what to do. We’re a Bible-teaching, Bible believing church. So when anyone ever asks you, “Hey, what kind of church is Fellowship Church?” We’re a Bible-teaching, Bible-believing church. The Bible is the Word of God. And it teaches us about God and we worship the God of the Word.
Some people, though, over the years – because the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, it is also the most dissected and the most maligned book of all time. It has survived burnings and bans. People right now, right now, are dying for the Word of God, for the breath of God. Evil people are taking the lives of Christians and sadly our government, so many leaders in our government, are just turning their head the other way. They’re sticking their heads in the sands of denial. They will not call it what it is, a war between good and evil. A war against the Word of God. A war against Christianity. And it’s time that we have some leaders, some men and women in Washington, to stand up and to speak truth and to say, you know what? Our nation was founded on the Word of God, and we’re going to protect people who are persecuted and killed by evil! Somebody help me preach!
So we’ve tried to deny that the Bible is the Word of God.
ILLUS: I talked to someone a couple of months ago and this person was telling me, “oh, I’ve got problems with the Bible.” Well very, very quickly I asked him some basic questions about the Bible. He didn’t know jack about the Bible. And I’m thinking to myself, hmmm…
“So you deny Scripture.” He’s like, “Yeah, yeah. I just think the Bible’s been tweaked over time. It’s been changed.” Blah-blah-blah, what everyone says who has a vested interest in keeping God out of their grill. The more I talked to him, though, I discovered he’d been messing around on his wife! And I’m like, oh I got it now. I’ve got it now! See, you’ve got a vested interest in keeping God out of your business.
So we deny it. We watch one little show or hear one little Dr. Fuzzyface give us a lecture at the local university and say, “Oh, the Bible…”
Hey, the Bible is the most accurate, ancient piece of literature, ever. For example, take the words of Plato or Aristotle. Take their works. You’ve got barely 10 copies. Of the New Testament alone we have over 14,000 copies! So if you just take the classical historical method and put it to the test, and put Scripture to the test, it passes with flying colors. Archeology is behind the Bible. Geography is behind the Bible. Science is behind the Bible. So if you really want to discover and know all the stats and the minutia we have amazing resource centers at all of our campuses. All you gotta do is go back there and I have a list of some books that I would like for you to pick up or you can do that online.
Well, the Bible, though, speaks for itself. It’s like that lion that I saw in Africa. I mean, you just let the lion roar, brother. I mean, a lion is a lion is a lion. That’s the Bible. Yet we try to deny it. People try to distort it. They take different verses out of context and build weird and wacky theologies around verses out of context. Because whenever you take a verse out of context you can make the Bible say anything you want. Well, you’ve gotta take it in context. You’ve got to look at it from history, from the setting, the author, and take the totality of it. Here are just some things that you might find interesting about the Bible:
Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archeologist, says, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”
William F. Albright, archeologist, “There can be no doubt that archeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.”
Josh McDowell, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” states, “The Bible, compared with any other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any 10 pieces of classical literature combined.” McDowell also writes, “After trying to shatter the historicity and validity of Scriptures I came to the conclusion that it is historically trustworthy. If one discards the Bible as being unreliable then he must discard almost all literature of antiquity.”
So don’t you see how people kind of have a vested interest in denying and distorting the Bible? People say all the time, “Well, I want to have a Bible study. I just wanna have a Bible study.” No, you don’t need another Bible study, you need to allow the Bible to study you. You see, the Bible is not a textbook. The Bible is not something we worship. The Bible is the Word of God. The Bible was written by 40 different authors over the course of 1500 years, on different continents, and the miraculous, supernatural thing about it is it all tells the same story. The Word of God. God cannot lie. There is not a lie in God’s word.
And we believe in the original autographs, the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. It is our only standard of living. Yet people still, “Oh man, I want to keep my distance from that.” And then we distort stuff. We dissect stuff in the Bible and then some people do this. Hmm… wow, I don’t like that. I don’t like that verse about bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse. I’m just going to take that part out of the Bible. Tithing? What?! I mean the first portion of my income should go to the local church? Man, there it is again in Malachi. No, I don’t like that. OK, envy. Envy? Meh. I don’t like that. I don’t like that. Envy. Uh, well, see, my God is a forgiving God. And even though I’m having sex outside of marriage everything is cool. I mean, God just wants to… I don’t like that. Sex outside of marriage? No.
Isn’t it fascinating how we tear apart the Bible? How we edit the Bible ourselves? How so many people do that? Why? Because the Bible is the only book that when we read it, it reads us. The Bible. The <breath sound effect> breath of God.
The Bible is a love letter. I mean, it’s a love letter. Lisa wrote that love letter to me. I read it over and over. That’s what the Scripture is. Jeremiah 31 says, “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love. I’ve drawn you with lovingkindness.” It’s God’s irresistible, one-of-a-kind love that draws us to him. This Bible is a love letter and it’s packed with different aspects of who I am, of whose I am, of what kind of God that made me, of what kind of God I serve. It tells me how to live my life in every single area! There’s no book like it! It’s a love letter.
The Bible is also a light. Maybe you’re like, OK, man, I’m surrounded by water moccasins right now. This addiction is messing me up. This depression, depression is getting the best of me. Man, this person has betrayed me and I’m just waiting to get them back. Or I don’t know what step to take next? Where do I go as I negotiate the maze of life? Well, Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp (it illuminates, right?) to my feet (think about water moccasins, I’m back with Dad) and a light for my path.” So it illuminates, the Word does, and it penetrates.
When you drive at night, you’re out there at night and you turn your headlights on. And your headlights only reveal to you a certain amount of the freeway or the road. Yet you have faith to keep on going. It gives you just enough light to keep on going, and that’s the Bible. We read the Bible, we digest the Bible, and man, we see how to live.
The Bible is a love letter, it’s a light. It’s also a lunch. It’s a lunch.
Jeremiah 15:16, “When your words came I ate them.” You know what I love about Fellowship Church? We’re a diet and exercise church. As you’ve heard me say a squillion times, that’s what the Bible says. The Bible says we eat the Word of God, we feed on the Word of God. The calories give us the energy to push away from the table and to do the stuff. And in the belt buckle of the Bible belt, as we all know, there are so many obese Christians. So many people have their Bible belt on the last hole and it’s just straining to hold that big old belly in. Because we’ve gone to a Bible study and this and another concert and a Bible study, and we’ve dissected this or that and we’ve gone to this or that and that or this. Use and apply what you have learned and what you’ve known! So when your words came, I ate them.
Think about my dog, the Doberman ate the Word. We need to feed on the Word. If this is your only feeding you’re in trouble. As you grow you learn how to feed yourself. Little babies, we don’t want them to stay little babies for the rest of their lives. We want them to learn how to feed themselves. And that’s one of the amazing things, too, about Fellowship Church. We have a bunch of self feeders. He who trusts in himself is a fool but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. Wow, I love it.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Bahamas and one of my favorite expressions down there is “good morning this morning.” I love that. And another one they say is, “Man you doin’ fool. You doin’ fool.” So if I trust in myself, Proverbs 28:26 says, I’m doin’ fool. Doin’ fool.
So the Bible is a love letter, it’s a light, it’s a lunch, it’s also a life. It’s a life. It’s a zoo, because this word ‘living’ I’m going to read to you in Hebrews 4:12, is the Greek word zoo. “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
No wonder people distort it and deny it and dis it! You see this? Everywhere we turn. Then, of course, 2 Timothy 3:16 talks about the Scripture being God-breathed. God-breathed.
So when we receive the breath of God we have the life, the resurrection and the life. Jesus exhales on us and we have an opportunity to inhale his forgiveness and grace and mercy. And once I do that I’m born again.
Watch this: March 16, 1961 I came into the world. I breathed my first breath. Doctor slapped me on my bump, rump, donkey, whatever you want to call it, and I took in my first breath. I was born. OK. Then I was born again when I inhaled the breath of Jesus as a young guy. And that’s why I’m so thrilled to see children and students receive Christ! Because if you look at the stats once a kid gets over 18 years of age the percentage of them breathing in the breath of God goes down dramatically. So that’s why I’m happy I made that decision as a kid and I’m happy that so many of you did as well.
I was born March 16, 1961. Then I was born again when I was a kid in church. So if I’m born twice I die once. However, if I’m born once, I die twice. I die and then I spend eternity separate from Jesus. Have you been born again? Have you received the breath of God? Because this book, the Word of God, tells me how to breathe. I breathe in, I’m a Christian. I’m born again, yet in this world the Bible says we’re in the world, not of the world. This is my oxygen tank. You know, I’ve swam with sharks before and I had to go down 50 feet to swim. And I’m not even certified. That was stupid but I did it. This aerator and the oxygen tank kept me alive underwater. I breathe in <breath sound effect>, breathe out. This word teaches me. It shows me. It gives me life. It’s like an oxygen tank as I’m swimming in this world. Without it I’m shark food. I’m shark bait. So every single day we’ve got to take in the breath of God. We’ve got to read the Word of God.
Now and then I hear someone say, “God told me…” Really? Really, God told you? Well, God’s not ever going to tell you anything that is contrary to his word. And so often we’re going to pray about stuff we shouldn’t even be praying about. It’s already written in God’s word. God has told us how to live, how to deal with the opposite sex, how to have the best friends, the right they, how to get married, how to parent, how to handle our finances, how to deal with stress and anxiety. The Bible is the breath of God, the Word of God. It’s the oxygen.
ILLUS: When I was in high school my parents gave me a Bible and when they gave me this Bible I’ll never forget it. Dad came in and he said, “I want to write something down in the front of your Bible.” And Dad has horrible penmanship. I mean, he doesn’t write. You can’t even read anything. Yet he printed it and here’s what he said, and I’m going to read it from my Bible. He said, “When you read God’s word, study it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on.” You know, I’ve tried as a follower of Christ, as someone who uses the Bible as an oxygen tank, to live that out. I’ve tried. The breath, the recorded breath of God.
Well, here’s our homework, very simple. I’m going to challenge you to just take 11 minutes a day, just 11, and find a place. Begin with the book of John, read the Bible 11 minutes a day and ask God this question: God, how can I apply this in my life? Begin to journal that. You do that for 30 days. If your life is not transformed, if your breathing has not been totally resuscitated and changed, I’ll do a somersault off this stage. Now some of you are going, well, I just don’t feel like the Bible is true. You know, I don’t feel like the Bible is true. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. I mean, truth is truth. I could go to New York right now and say I don’t believe in the law of gravity, jump off the Empire State Building. Maybe Brad is on the 100th floor and he says,
“Ed, how’s it going?” as I’m falling and I can say,
“So far so good, man!” but I’m going to hit the pavement. So you can say aw… you know… But try it. It will change your life. We’re under the authority of God’s Word. Get under it, mediate on it, read it, get to know it, study it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on.
So maybe you feel like your life is just ripped apart. You’ve edited the Bible yourself. Once you begin this reading plan I’m telling you God will take all these pieces and put them in order. He will put them in order and you can have the kind of oxygen tank that you need to live, breathe, and thrive in this environment. As you exit we’re going to give you a reading list of the book of John. Eleven minutes a day. Then you read, say, “God, speak to me. Apply this to my life.” Find a place, a quiet place, you can sit still and just spend those 11 minutes. I promise you, you’ll be able to breathe, you’ll have life and energy and purpose, and you’ll see people and situations like you’ve never seen before. So let’s give the first blast of offensive energy in the morning to the Lord. When we give him that first, he blesses the rest. So as you exit we have those reading lists for you.
Also, too, at our different resource centers we have a reading list. If you want to learn more about the origins of our Bible, the translation of our Bible. If you really want to see some of those things, or Tianne Moon is a phenomenal teacher and her message is available on the Bible on the specifics, as far as the translation, the orientation, and the preservation of the Bible. Please pick it up because I’m believing we’re going to have people who move from cynics to skeptics, from skeptics to seekers, from seekers to those who are rescued, who are saved, by the breath of God.
Also, too, be sure to check out University of Next Level, our very own Dr. Tracy Barnes teaches classes on the validity and the beauty of Scripture. I’ll see you guys next time as we continue to <breath sound effect> breathe. Let’s bow for prayer.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]