Bring Me the Book
by Pastor Skip Heitzig
According to the Guinness Book, the Bible is the best-selling, most widely distributed book in human history. Since the year 1815, 2.5 billion copies of the Scriptures have been sold.
The Bible has been translated into 2,233 languages and dialects across the world. So, that alone makes it very unique. It’s estimated that most households in America own at least one Bible. 92% of all the homes in America, including homes of atheists and unbelievers, have a Bible. In the typical household that would own a Bible, the count is three Bibles per household. In homes like yours, there may be more. You, personally, may own more than three Bibles!
But - what about reading that Book? Well, 75 million Americans say it’s important to read. My question is, “How many that say it’s important to read it actually read the Bible?” Some of us might be like that gal in the small town whose pastor came to visit. When she saw him coming up to the door, she yelled out to her daughter, “Honey, quickly! Bring me the book that Mommy loves so much!” So the little girl came back with the Sears Catalog and handed it to Mommy.
We love to quote the Bible: in greeting cards, engraved on plaques, and plastered across posters. Most times it’s meant well – and it’s encouraging. But other times it’s totally out-of-context. I heard of a church nursery that had a sign hanging over the babies’ cribs quoting 1 Corinthians 15:51: “Behold… we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”! Some time ago, a friend gave me this little list of seven top signs you may not be reading your Bible enough: 1) the preacher announces the sermon is from Galatians and you have to check the Table of Contents, 2) you think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have had a few hit songs during the ‘60’s, 3) you open to the gospel of Luke and a World War II savings bond falls out, 4) your favorite Old Testament patriarch is Hercules, 5) you’re frustrated because Charlton Heston isn’t listed in either the index or the concordance, 6) you catch your kids reading the Song of Solomon and demand, ‘Who gave you that stuff?’ and 7) you think the Minor Prophets worked in the quarries. Funny – but also truly sad.
The Problem with the Bible
Sometime back, the cover of U.S. News and World Report asked, “Who wrote the Bible?” Which is a good question. Did a bunch of men write the Bible, or can we say the Bible comes to us from the mind of God? If we say that a bunch of men wrote it, we have a problem. The problem is: what do we do with the uniqueness of the document itself? Like the Bible’s exclusive ability to predict the future hundreds of years before events ever happened? Or the unity of 40 authors, who wrote a document over a span of 1500 years on three different continents in three different languages? And if we say that God wrote it, we may have a bigger problem. Because if He wrote it, the question becomes: why don’t we treat the Bible like God wrote it? And believe it and love it and study it and carry it and memorize it - if indeed this is the Word of God?
The Portrait of God
The Bible is God’s Own Self-disclosure. The Bible is sort of like a picture frame that was given to me - I carry it when I travel. The frame has two pictures: one of my wife and one of my son. If I’m in a hotel for a few days, I prop this thing up on my nightstand. And when I look at the picture, I’m warmed by what I see. I don’t have a relationship with the picture frame. I don’t talk to the picture frame or kiss it and hug it. But, I’m warmed by it because the two images speak to me of these two people whom I love very much. The Bible speaks to me of my God that I love - it is His portrait and His disclosure to me.
The Bible is God’s picture of Himself; what He chose to reveal to humanity about His character and attributes.
He Reveals Himself
The Bible is also God’s special revelation to humanity. General revelation is God revealing Himself through His creation and moral attributes. But special revelation is God revealing Himself through His Word, the Bible. When we say that the Bible is part of God’s special revelation to mankind, we mean that it reveals the mind of God. If I don’t write down these words, you won’t know what I’m thinking unless I reveal it to you. And we wouldn’t know the mind of God unless He tells us what He thinks and what He desires. Hence, God gives us His thoughts, actions, and decrees in His word - He reveals Himself to us through His word.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” I like that. This is the writing - the graph - of God. How does He do that? By inspiration. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Another translation states: “All Scripture is God-breathed.” And that’s very literal. It combines the Greek words Theos (God) with pneuma (breath or air). So all Scripture is a result of God’s breathing His will through human beings.
What does that mean exactly? Let me tell you what it doesn’t mean. When we say all Scripture is inspired, we’re not referring to ‘natural’ inspiration – when you see a Picasso and go, “Wow, he was so inspired!” Some people lower the Bible to the level of a Picasso – as an inspiring work of art written by a bunch of smart men. Listen, smart men don’t write a book that condemns them. Or write a book that points to the only way of salvation as being outside of humanity. They don’t do that.
Second, it doesn’t refer to ‘concept’ inspiration. Some people say inspiration means that God didn’t really give the writers the words, He just gave them the concepts. For example, God inspired Paul with the concept of love and so he sat down and wrote 1 Corinthians 13. Well, that’s not what Paul said. In 1 Corinthians 2:4, Paul said: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. That’s why the Bible says concerning Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9). Not, ‘I’m going to inspire you with some thoughts, some impressions in your mind.’ But actual words.
Not One Jot
Look at what Jesus Himself said. If we say we love Jesus and we follow Him, let’s listen to what He said about the Bible: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18). A jot is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet – it’s like an apostrophe. And a tittle is even smaller; it’s a pronunciation mark that distinguishes one letter from another letter. Jesus says that not one of those tiny dots will pass away until all of the words are fulfilled. Some theologians call this the ‘verbal plenary inspiration of the Scripture’. Meaning, the words themselves are inspired by God and the inspiration extends to all the words of the Scripture.
Finally, some believe that the Bible was written by ‘mechanical’ inspiration. So, they believe that God was sitting at some desk up in heaven and dictating: ‘Sit down, Paul, write this: Galatians… I, Paul…”. Now, God could have done that if He wanted to. But He didn’t. Rather, He used the unique personalities and writing styles of the many authors themselves. Luke didn’t write like Peter and Peter certainly didn’t write like Paul.
Destination Already Determined
So how did God do this? In 2 Peter, we read that: “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21, italics added). You see that little italicized phrase? It’s from a maritime term - a boating term - that speaks of a ship being carried along at the mercy of the. Picture these authors, the prophets and apostles, raising their sails, so to speak. Now they were themselves flawed men – but the Holy Spirit drove that boat to the destination He wanted.
Bur the writer had his own personality and writing style. Within the ‘boat’, he had all the freedom he wanted. He could move around anywhere inside it, anytime he wanted. But - the destination is determined by the ‘wind’. So the destinations of the Scriptures werethe very words God wanted to say, even though the personalities were individual. The words were carried along to the destination already determined by God.
Now, if all of the above is true - if every word in this Book is indeed inspired by God - why don’t we read it? Why is it so tough? We’ll affirm and shout, ‘Oh, yes! I believe the Bible! It’s the Word of God! Hallelujah!’ OK, cool. But read it – find out what God has to say. Don’t stop and think, “Oh, it takes so long to read the Bible!” Do you know what? It will take you 12 minutes a day – and in 365 days you’ll have finished it.
If you read the entire Bible at ‘pulpit-speed’ it’ll take you 72 hours: 52 in the Old Testament and 20 in the New Testament. That’s 12 minutes a day, 365 days a year – you can handle it. But do you want to? Is there anything else competing for your time? Now I’m not saying ‘never watch television’ or ‘never read anything else’ or ‘never have fun in other ways’. You know we don’t believe in that. But let’s have a little perspective here, shall we?
On the table, side by side, a Holy Bible and the TV Guide. One is well worn but cherished with pride, not the Bible but the TV Guide. One is used to daily to help folks decide, No, it isn’t the Bible; it’s the TV Guide. As pages are turned, what shall they see? Oh, it doesn’t matter - Turn on the TV. So they open the book, in which they confide, No, it’s not the Bible, it’s the TV Guide. The Word of God is seldom read, maybe a verse before they fall into bed, exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be, not from reading the Bible but watching TV. So then, back to the table, side by side, are the Holy Bible and the TV Guide. No time for prayer, no time for the Word, the plan for salvation is seldom heard. But forgiveness of sin, so full and so free, is found in the Bible – not on TV.
The important things – the ones that really will count – are found in the graph that God has written. The Bible. If we’re really saying God wrote the Bible, and if we really believe that - let’s not kid ourselves. If we really believe God wrote a graph for our very lives, then won’t it become important to us? Let’s commit that we will read and apply the Bible to our lives – every single day. For 12 minutes.
Where was this poem taken from? And what is the proper way to quote it?
Skip Heitzig is senior pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque. In 1982, Skip began a home Bible study which eventually grew into Calvary of Albuquerque. In 2008 Calvary of Albuquerque was considered the 20th largest church in America according to Outreach magazine. Today, Calvary of Albuquerque ministers to over 13,500 adults and their children every weekend and has spun off over 40 churches internationally. Skip lives in Albuquerque with his wife, Lenya, and their son, Nathan.