By Colleen Donahue
Whether the Bible is relevant for you today is a question you’re going to have to answer for yourself. I hope to give you a few things to think about but the answer must come from you.
The Bible – at least in the Western world is a book found in almost every household. If you spend a night in a motel you’ll find one tucked inside a drawer – put there by an organization called The Gideons. Go to any library, bookstore and even sometimes the grocery stores you’ll find Bibles, either for reading or for sale. It’s the oldest book passed down through the centuries and around the world that is still read and treasured. Why? How can such an old book still be relevant? Why should we read it?
The Bible is also one of those books that people own and seldom read . For many it’s almost like having a good luck charm or a family heirloom on the shelf. But the question still stands. How can such an old book still be relevant? Why should we ever take it off the shelf and read it?
The Bible is Relevant Only If It is True
The Bible is HIS story – the story of God and his creation but especially as relating to men. The Bible is relevant only if it is true. But how can such an old book still be true? Things change by the day. You wouldn’t go to a family medical book written 25 years ago. Yes, there are some things that might still be true but so many more things have been discovered in those 25 years that most of the book would be old and outdated.
The Bible would be relevant only if it was written by someone who knew the end from the beginning. God, its author, was “in the beginning.” Before anything of this earth or man existed he was in the beginning creating. 1 As the only uncreated being He is eternal and therefore knows the end from the beginning. While God is the author of the Bible, men were the scribes.
This book could only be true and relevant if it was transmitted to us accurately from the time it was first written. Men inspired by God’s Spirit wrote what God gave them to write.2 They had to be correct concerning dates, people, and places. Today archeology has proved that while these men wrote simply, they wrote history with accuracy and without scientific absurdities. We have more manuscripts available for the Bible (as early as 48 A.D.) than most of the unquestioned classics. This material has been covered in the first article of this course called: Is The Bible History or Myth?
The Bible could be true and relevant only if the behavior of God and man is the same century after century. As to the behavior of God, men since the beginning of time have testified about Him. 3 They have found Him to be all powerful, truthful, faithful, trustworthy, just, unchanging, and merciful. He has been the one solid constant in our universe. He has inspired men to write because He knows the end of time as well as its start. 4 Time to God is just one eternal moment. While there are men that claim “there is no God” they have no universal answers apart from God.
But man too has been one of the constants in our universe. Man’s condition has been the same ever since our first parents Adam and Eve sinned. All men have been born in sin due to the decision of our first parents. This original sin has been transferred down through time to all of us and has resulted in our living independently from God. 5 Being born in sin means we are born with a dead spirit and without the life of God energizing us we quickly become corrupt from the inside out. 6
Men and women have the natural instinct to “take care of themselves” instead of trusting God to do that. Man advances and “conquers the world” by his own strength. “Self” is his focus rather than God. Therefore he is cut off from His Creator by birth and by choice. Man’s condition is the same in Asia, in India, in Europe, in Africa, in the Americas. God knows man through and through and there is nothing more to be discovered about the heart of man. 7
The Bible could only be relevant if the suggestions and remedies still work after all these years by anyone who obeys them. Something that is a moral truth works for anybody, at anytime, and in any place. It’s true despite gender, race, genetics or environment. It’s true whether you know it or believe it. Its truth must also be able to be validated. We have already mentioned the science of archeology and how it has proven that many of the events, people and places of the Bible are indeed correct and truthful history. But there are also testimonies by men who obeyed God and saw Him do exactly what He said He would. 8 And you can try one of God’s suggestions for yourself and prove His veracity for yourself. 9
Dealing with the Truth of God’s Word
In the end, every person has to choose what to do with truth. 10 God did not make us robots. He gave us free will knowing full well the choices we would make. There are only three options for dealing with truth : The first one is to ignore it. 11 Many people don’t want to know the truth. Ignorance is bliss to them. Furthermore, if they don’t know it they reason they won’t be responsible for acting on it. So they live as though God’s truth doesn’t exist.
The second option is to reject it. 12 These are men and women that have read the truth, heard the truth or seen the truth but they refuse to believe it or believe only the bits that suit them. They choose what they are going to believe and what they will act upon.
The third and last option for dealing with truth is to accept it. 13 They accept what has been proven historically. They test its principles for themselves and then act upon their belief.
The Bible Is Only Relevant If it is True and You Have Need of It
If you’re healthy there is no need for even the latest medical journal on your shelf. But on the day you sprain your ankle that book becomes very relevant.
You want to know exactly what to do so you can walk again. You have a need and now you want some answers – not just any answers – you want the truth.
So it is with the Bible. If you are self sufficient, and have no need of God the Bible will not be relevant. If you don’t see your inherited condition as a man or woman born in sin to be a problem you won’t think anything can or should be different. If you are not asking questions such as : Why can’t I seem to do the good that I want to do? Or, Why did I say that like I did? How can I stop my addiction to overeating that is consuming my life? Why do I always stretch the truth? If you have no concern for what comes after this life, then the Bible may be true but you’ll have no need of it.
But, on the day that you start asking just one of those questions, you’ll begin to hunger and thirst for an answer – not just any answer – you want the truth.
The Bible is Only Relevant if it’s True, You Have Need of it, AND You Act on the Truth
When life drives you to despair you might start to ask questions and want some answers. When men run out of answers then they might be open to what God has to say. On the day you receive the diagnosis that you have cancer you might begin to wonder if there is any life after this one? On that day you just might open your Bible and read the words “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b) You will look up and ask “Is that you God? Will you really be with me through this? Then I’m going to trust that you won’t fail or forsake me!” On that day more than the Bible has become relevant to you.
Life will have just begun – a life with God the way He had planned for it to be.
The Relevance of God’s Word: My testimony
I was 13 years old and already I was worrying myself into the grave. I worried about what I should wear to school – would I be “cool”? I worried about what would happen if I missed the bus. I worried about my grades. What would happen if I went to the dance and nobody would ask me to dance? What if no one came to my birthday party? What if…..what if…..what if…..By the time I was 15, I was a bag of worry and tension. I was a ball of knots inside and out! I would cry every night under the covers until I fell asleep.
My father had given me his little New Testament issued to him in the Navy. One night I started to read that little New Testament with my flashlight under the blankets. Words like “Come unto ME all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Or “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” 14 They were like an ointment over my troubled, young life and then I could fall asleep.
A Turning Point
One day I picked up a pamphlet that talked about worry (which had become the plague of my life). The author was talking about how Satan’s plan was to accuse us and then to get us to ignore the truth of God and His Word. He said when we worry we are living in unbelief of God. We don’t believe that God will take care of us like He says He will and so we worry. This author helped me to see that living in worry and unbelief was a sin against God. I believed in God and certainly didn’t want to sin against Him but worry had become my life. What was I to do? My whole nature went naturally to being a “worry wart.”
A New Start
All men have inherited the curse of Adam and Eve’s original sin of independence from God. 15 Therefore all men have natural tendencies to live apart from God and they develop ways to cope with their world. You might have the natural tendency to get angry or habitually lie or escape by being irresponsible or……like me to worry. If only you could start over. If only you could be born again with a clean slate – if only.
I was now in high school when I met Joan and Gary and some other kids that seemed very different from everyone else. They were fun and confident and free. They weren’t a tangle of knots like I was. I was drawn to them like a magnet. They invited me to a Bible study one week where I heard what is referred to as “the gospel” for the first time.
Four Truths of the Gospel
The first truth I heard is that God loves me and has a definite plan for my life.
John 3:16 -- For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. RSV
John 10:10b-- I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. RSV
I had never given it much thought but it was comforting to think that He loved ME and had some purpose for ME!
The second truth presented was that man is sinful and separated from God and therefore cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life. Was I sinful and separated from God? Was my worry and tension and fear separating me from all God wanted to give? But I couldn’t help it – or so I thought as I continued to listen.
The third truth was that God anticipated man’s helpless condition and set a plan in motion to allow any and all men to start over if they wanted to. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth as the only provision for our/my sin. 16 I learned that through Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead, He conquered ALL sin and death. That meant that Jesus broke all of the chains that weigh a man down. That meant He broke my chains of worry and fear!
By this time I was feeling hopeful but still didn’t think anything had changed. One more truth was still to come before change could happen. The fourth truth was that I must receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. It wasn’t going to be enough just to know about God’s wonderful plan. It was time for ME to act. The Bible study leader explained that we receive Christ through faith….
Ephesians 2:8-9-- For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast. RSV
Since Jesus Christ personally asks to be admitted to our lives we must give Him an answer.
Revelation 3:20 --Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. RSV
Receiving Christ involves turning to Him away from self and trusting that His Holy Spirit will come into our lives. It is not just a mental assent or an emotional experience. The leader challenged us/me to see that Jesus had died for MY sin. That was a FACT whether I believed it or not. He forgave MY sins. That was another FACT whether I believed it or not. And…He would fulfill His purpose in me if I let Him. That was a third FACT but only if I made the decision to let Him.
The snow was coming down gently as I walked the two miles home from that Bible Study. I was lost in a world of thought. I poured over those four truths in my mind always stopping at the fourth one with a screeching halt. What if I prayed their recommended prayer and Jesus wouldn’t come? What if He came and I still couldn’t change? What if I just couldn’t measure up?
At the Bible study they had given us a little booklet to take home. I opened to the page entitled: “You Can Receive Christ Right Now Through Prayer.” I was reading these words by a street lamp with the snow still falling. It said that God knew my heart and was not so concerned with my words as with my attitude. I had heard enough. I knew that I wanted to change. I didn’t have all the answers to my questions but decided to say out loud the simple prayer in that booklet. No one else was on the street to hear but I am convinced that all the heavenly hosts led by God Himself were witnesses to that moment.
I read and then said out loud: “Lord Jesus, I need you. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. ” 17
I then just decided to believe my first Bible promise….
I John 5: 11-13- And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. RSV
The Son of God – His Spirit – now lived in me and things were going to be different!
A New Day
The next day nothing had changed. I woke up worried that I might miss the bus and be late. But… the next day everything had changed. Remember that booklet I was reading about worry? Well, the author said that once and for all I was to make a deposit of all my anxieties and problems with God. I was literally to hand them over to Him and leave them with Him!
1 Peter 5:7- Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. RSV
And so I did. That was the second Bible directive that I acted on. From that day forward the plaque of worry was stopped. Every time a worry came bouncing into my mind I grabbed it like a ball and threw it back to the Lord. I did this until the balls got fewer and fewer. For the first time in my young life I felt free because I was free!
On that day in March 1970 the Bible became relevant for ME. I had no answers for my hopeless, worried, anxiety ridden condition and finally had a reason to look to God for His solution. But as you can see, if I hadn’t acted on the truth nothing would have happened – except, I might have concluded that the Bible had nothing in it for me.
Is the Bible relevant for your life? Take a look at what enslaves you. Take a look at the one or two things about which you feel helpless. Would you like to be free? Would you like to walk out of your prison into the fresh air? Then make the decision to believe that God’s provision of His Son Jesus is for you. Accept His Son’s request to come into your life as Lord. Then start to act on the words you’ll read in the Bible. You’ll be able to test for yourself whether the Bible is still relevant for today.