This is an adaptation of a Commencement Address given at Arrowhead Bible College on April 26, 2013.
The Subtle Inner Workings of Pride
Denying the great doctrines of the Bible is the blatant path, but I believe that a bigger temptation for us is much more subtle and hidden, and that is the subtle inner workings of pride. This happens when there is a conflict between us and God's word, when we think one thing but the Bible teaches another. Or when our feelings refuse to accept what the Bible clearly teaches. The temptation is to go with our thoughts and our feelings and our inclinations over God's word. The fundamental temptation, ever since the Garden, has been to trust our inclinations over God's word. This is why whenever people refuse to accept what the Bible clearly teaches, they start their explanation by saying, "I cannot believe that God would _______"or "I could never believe that God would ______." But this framing of the issue reveals that they have placed themselves in the position of the highest authority; they have placed themselves above the Bible. In that case, they trust their speculations about who God is or what he does or what he expects more than they trust what God has told us.
As Proverbs 14:12 warns us, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." In cutting yourself off from the word of God, you cut yourself off from God. You may be able to maintain a semblance of religion, but you are cut off from its source. You may still claim to be a person of faith, but you are left with nothing beyond your own speculations and your own cultural conformings. As Colossians 2:8 describes it, you have become "captive by . . . empty deceit." But it is "the word of God" that is "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12). Where there is a conflict between you and Scripture, you don't bend Scripture to your mind; you bend your mind to Scripture. That is what Scripture as the ultimate authority means. This is why 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to "take every thought captive to obey Christ."
Biblical Authority in a Post-Christian Culture
Our country is increasingly moving towards a post-Christian cultural environment, and we have seen this intensify. In previous years, our culture may have not followed biblical teachings or may have even disagreed with biblical teachings, now there is a growing hostility. Now, in a contemporary example of Orwellian doublespeak, holding to biblical teachings often gets labeled by our culture as hate.
With this increasing opposition and hostility, the temptation to sidestep biblical authority will gain strength. And you are going to see more and more Christians surrender biblical authority under this pressure. You will hear all sorts of fine-sounding reasoning and arguments. It may all sound so plausible. To surrender biblical authority will be spun as progressive and enlightened and tolerant. Surrendering biblical authority will be defended as the loving choice. But, if we compromise our allegiance to the Bible to become more acceptable to our post-Christian culture, we will have nothing left to give our post-Christian culture, because it is the word of God that saves. It is the word of God that brings life. It is the word of God that restores.
The Only Gold Mine
Now, in all of this, the Bible is not the end. Jesus is. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Our goal is not just to know a book; our goal is to know our Savior. And the Bible is where we come to know him. Plus, where else would we come to know the great truths that we find in the Bible? If we did not have the Bible, we would be able to tell that there must be a God, but we would know almost nothing of what he is like. So where else would we come to know that God is not just some Almighty, All-powerful tyrant, but is our loving heavenly Father? Where else would we come to know that the One True and Living God is not a lonely and aloof being, but that he exists as the happy and blessed Trinity? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who love and delight and honor one another and who pour out their abundance of life and gladness upon us; who created us in his relational image as male and female, and what a beautiful and glorious thing that is.
Where else would we learn that God created not out of a need and an emptiness but out of an overabundance? Where else would we hear that all things have been created by him and for him, and that all things have been richly given to us for our enjoyment? Where else would we come to know of a God who created us for the purpose of blessing us and bringing us into his fellowship? As the Bible repeatedly says, God desires to be with us, where we are his people and he is our God. Where else would we discover that we have a God who is not content to have us simply keep a list of rules, but who calls us to love him with all of our heart and our soul and our mind and our strength?
Where else would we come to know God's one and only Son, Jesus, who came to the earth for our salvation, who descended all the way down to the point of death, even death on a cross, who came not only to bring judgment but to receive that judgment? Where else would we hear the glorious news that Jesus rose from the dead, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him? Where else would we come to know the glorious Gospel—that Christ died in our place to receive that punishment that we deserved so that all who believe in him may have eternal life? Where else would we come to know that the very heart of God's character is love and grace and mercy? Where else would we learn that forgiving guilty sinners is what God delights to do? Where else would we hear that Jesus has not left us as orphans, but has given us his Holy Spirit, and through his Spirit, he has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age? Where else would we find the wisdom of God and the rich and abundant blessing of walking in his ways? Where else would we find the assurance that God will accomplish every one of his glorious and redemptive purposes and that he will redeem worshippers from every nation and tribe and tongue and language? Where else? Where else, if not God's word?
There is no one more glorious than our God, and there is nothing more glorious than his word. As Psalm 138:2 says of the Lord, "you have exalted above all things your name and your word."
So what do we do moving forward? We develop a lifelong habit of giving ourselves to God's word. You cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know, so give yourself to the Bible, give yourself to the word of God. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Develop a lifelong habit of giving yourself to God's word—to reading it, to memorizing it, to believing it, to praying it, to living it. Become an active and engaged part of a Bible-cherishing and Bible-teaching church, where you can serve and where you can be served, where you can feed and be fed. And share the word of God with others, because even your wisest words on their own do not have life – but God's word does. As 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2 tells us, "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 complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching."