In the early years of Grace Church there were many things that were foundational, obviously. They are still foundational; those things don’t change. And as I have said through the years, there are some pastors who pastor different churches in different places. My Dad was like that. He pastored here and there and hither and yon, pastoring quite a number of churches in different places.
I’ve had the privilege of pastoring different churches in the same place. But there are vastly different churches that have occupied the thirty-five years that I’ve been here. The congregation shifts and moves. I’m the fixed point, which is a little bit different than the normal pastoral experience moving from place to place. And if I were to move from place to place, through the years I would feel like I needed to go back and lay the foundations that were basic and important and God blessed in other places. And because I’ve stayed in the same place, I’ve tended not to do that. But being reminded again that the congregation has changed so frequently through these years, particularly in the rapidly changing population of Southern California, that it’s good thing to go back and regrasp some of the great sections of Scripture that laid the foundation for all the work that God has done here.
Now obviously, the most important element in the ministry of Grace Community Church is our commitment to the Word of God. And I have battled for the truthfulness of the Word of God, the priority of the Word of God, the centrality of the Word of God all the years that I’ve been here. And the battle shifts and moves, and the front changes from time to time; but there is also the necessity of affirming the truthfulness, the priority, the centrality, and the glory of Scripture, not as an end to itself, but as a means to an end. It is the means by which people are saved, and sanctified, and equipped, and trained, and motivated, and given the hope of glory. It is not the end, but it is the single means by which God does all His work. It is the Spirit using the Word of God, the Word rightly understood and applied. And so, from the very beginning, back in February – February 9th of 1969 when I came here – we have, in every service, opened up the Word of God. We want to hear God speak. We know that He does His work through His Word.
The Bible, the Word of the one true and living God, is the truth, and the only source of truth that convicts of sin; warns of judgment; saves the sinner; purifies, cleanses, matures the believer; and gives the hope of eternal glory. And because it is the revelation of God by which God does His work to His own everlasting glory, it is the priority for the church and for every believer. It is also always under attack, always under assault by Satan and his demons and the people in the kingdom of darkness. Attacks on the Bible have never ceased, they’ve only accumulated through the years.
In the early years, the Bible was attacked as to its veracity, its truthfulness, as to its inspiration, its inerrancy. It was attacked as to its completeness. Is it all the revelation we have, or isn’t God giving more? Aren’t there more revelations in visions and dreams, and words of wisdom and words of knowledge? And is the Bible the singular inspired text of God, or are there not other texts that are equally inspired of God? Is the Bible relevant? Is not the fact that it is an antiquated book, an ancient book, if you will, written in another context in other languages, in another time, in another place? Doesn’t that set it on the shelf and make it virtually irrelevant to this modern world? And is the Bible actually comprehensible? Is it clear? Can it be understood?
Through the years we have gone to battle on all these kinds of issues. The early part of my ministry here was directed at the issue of inerrancy. Is the Bible inerrant, that is in its original autograph without error in all that it says and all that it affirms? That battleground launched a ten-year effort by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to defend the inerrancy of Scripture. A hundred scholars were engaged in that formidable effort, defending the inerrancy, the inspiration, and thus the authority of Scripture, down to every inspired word.
Then came another wave of attacks in the next decade, coming from those people who didn’t believe the Bible was all the revelation there was. There was more revelation. There were dreams and visions and experiences, and the voice of God; and revelation was continuing as God was speaking. And that was very, very dominant in the charismatic movement.
There was associated with that a kind of a spiritual movement, a kind of an inner-voice movement where people began to develop the idea that you could listen for the voice of God and He would speak to you quietly, privately in your own heart in some kind of quasi-audible fashion, giving you verbal direction, by directing your thoughts in a certain way. And this, too, was the revelation of God. And if you wanted to really live the Christian life, you had to learn to listen for the voice of God apart from Scripture.
In more recent years there’s been an attack on the clarity of Scripture, coming from the emerging church, telling us the Bible is not clear in anything to speak of; and so we want to be open and generous and all-embracing, and have a conversation with everybody, because we can’t be sure about anything.
But in the middle of those kinds of battles, there has been another battle that just goes along all the time, and that is assaults on the sufficiency of Scripture, as if somehow the Bible wasn’t enough. You need more than the Bible to make the gospel attractive. You need more than the Bible to solve your marital problems. You need more than the Bible to get a grip on your own life. You’ve got certain kinds of personality quirks that can only be resolved through psychology.
We have been embroiled in battles for the sufficiency of Scripture throughout the years. It is an issue that is not only an issue in our culture, but it’s been an issue all over the world. Everywhere I have gone, of necessity I have preached on the sufficiency of Scripture, that the Word of God is true, it is inerrant, it is inspired, it is complete. It brings all revelation to an end. Nothing more is needed than the truth of the of the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God. It is clear, and it is sufficient. It is sufficient.
Not all these attacks, by the way, come from people outside Christianity; most of them come from people who call themselves Christians, liberal theologians, experientialists, existentialists, pragmatists, occultists, cultists, et cetera, et cetera, all claiming to represent God and attacking Scripture’s inspiration, inerrancy, historicity, canonicity, uniqueness, power, clarity, and sufficiency. And so we’re always going to need to go back and defend Scripture.
How do we do that? Well, there are two possibilities. You could defend Scripture from outside of Scripture, then you would make human reason the ultimate determiner of Scripture’s truth. Far better to let Scripture defend itself; and then you let Scripture be the ultimate determiner of its own veracity. And so we take what is called a presuppositional approach to the defense of Scripture, we presuppose the truthfulness of Scripture. We assume it to be so. And any faithful, diligent exercise in studying Scripture will yield the fact that this is truly the Word of God. We let Scripture speak for itself, not trying to defend Scripture from outside Scripture, but from inside Scripture. Let God speak in defense of the Word which He has written.
And tonight I want to talk to you about God’s own defense of Scripture’s sufficiency from Psalm 19, Psalm 19. Along the way, as we talk about this, I want to make a comparison with Psalm 119. Psalm 119 much longer, one hundred and seventy-six verses, but basically built around the same theme as Psalm 19. So we’ll make some comparisons as we go with Psalm 119.
It goes without saying, and I think you’re very much aware of it, that through the centuries since the arrival of the revelation of God, God’s true people have been the protectors and preservers and the stewards of His truth. By God’s providential care they have guarded the truth to bring it down to us intact, and we have been given an incalculable treasure by those who were faithful to protect and preserve and fight for Scripture through the centuries. Many of them gave their lives, martyred, bloodied in defense of Scripture; martyred for no other reason than that they translated, printed, prepared the Word of God, so that people could hear His truth. There’s a high price that’s been paid through the centuries by many, many souls to get the Word of God into our hands.
I am a sort of minor collector of old Bibles. I love Bibles, I love all Bibles; but old ones are specially a treasure to me. And I have been given by friends through the years, because they know I love them, many copies of very old Bibles going back a hundred years, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred years. If you were to go into the interior of the Master’s Seminary – you need to do that some day – you will find pages of ancient Bibles on the walls there, a reminder of the greatness of the gift of God in giving us His Word, and protecting and preserving it down through the centuries. I pick up those old Bibles and rummage through them, and read notes in the margins and sometimes notes written by the people who had those Bibles in ancient days, and am reminded of the price that was paid to get the Word of God into our hands, and how precious it was.
One of the men who gave me some of the most prized Bibles that I have is a Bible collector now with the Lord. He had one Bible that was most notable. This is a Bible from the sixteenth century. This is a Bible that is a large Bible, very large in the way that they were first printed; and if you open it you notice that it has been saturated with fluid up to about three quarters of the page all through the entire Bible. Every single page has a waterline about three-quarters of the way up. The interesting thing about it is that waterline is a faded red color or a pink color.
The history of that one Bible is a remarkable history. When in the sixteenth century Bloody Mary was massacring Christians because of the Bible, because of the Word of God, one of the things they liked to do was to take those believers, and before they would burn them at the stake they would slit their wrists and they would bleed them, and fill a bowl with their blood, and then take a Bible and dump it into the bowl of blood. One of such Bibles is in the hands of my friend and now in a museum. Rummaging through the Bible, understanding the price that was paid for that Bible, was a very, very moving experience which I had on many occasions. This Book has to be treated with a great amount of sacredness.
Listen to the testimony of God, Psalm 19, verse 7: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”
In Psalm 19, starting in verse 7 and running to the end of the chapter, I want to call your attention to three specific emphases: one, the sufficiency of Scripture; two, the value of Scripture; and three, the right response. That’s what we’re going to look at.
Now just backing up a little bit, you say, “What about the opening six verses?” The opening six verses of Psalm 19 are also about God’s revelation, but not His written revelation. The opening six verses are about God revealing Himself in creation: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There’s no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
What is that talking about? That is talking about the fact that God has revealed Himself in creation. The heavens tell of the glory of God. Who would not conclude that God is all-glorious who looks into the heavens? The expanse of the universe declares the work of His hands. Every day, every night is a declaration of the mighty power of God. He is revealed in His creation. And it runs all through the conscious life that exists on this earth that God is a great Creator, and has told us a lot about Himself in His creation – about His power, and His design, and His order, His intelligence, et cetera.
He uses an illustration of the sun: “The sun literally rising from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; nothing being hidden from its heat.” What he’s talking about is something inside that’s now known to be true, that the sun has a massive orbit from one end of the infinite universe to the other, and it drags our entire solar system with it. These kinds of discoveries that we make clearly indicate the greatness and the power of our God. God has then exalted Himself in nature. He has revealed Himself in nature. As Romans 1 says, we can know His eternal power and Godhead. That is that He is the sovereign God and that He is powerful.
But more importantly and savingly, God has revealed Himself in Scripture. There is His unwritten revelation and His written revelation. And when you come to verse 7, the transition is made from God revealing Himself in nature to God revealing Himself in Scripture, in Scripture. The structure of these verses from verse 7 through 9 – notice it there? – is a series of parallel statements: verses 7, 8 and 9.
Here there are six titles for Scripture: the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, in verse 7; in verse 8, the precepts of the Lord, and the commandment of the Lord; in verse 9, the fear of the Lord, and the judgments of the Lord. Six titles for Scripture. Scripture is Law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear, and judgments.
There are also six characteristics of Scripture. Notice, it is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. And there are six benefits of Scripture. It restores the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and a final one, produces comprehensive righteousness. That’s what it means when it says “righteous altogether.” It converts, it makes wise, it brings joy, it enlightens, it purifies, it is relevant in every time, it endures forever, and it produces comprehensive righteousness. This is magnificent. Here you have God in His inimitable way, speaking the vast glories of Scripture in brief sentences. In a few words He captures the magnitude of the full sufficiency of Scripture.
Please notice one other component here. Six times is repeated this phrase: “of the Lord, of the Lord, of the Lord, of the Lord, of the Lord, of the Lord,” lest there be some confusion about who is the author. It is redundant. Six times the covenant name of Yahweh, the covenant name of the Creator God is used. Here then is God’s own testimony to God’s own revelation in Scripture, God’s witness to the sufficiency and the adequacy of His Word, which restores the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and produces comprehensive righteousness. This is sweeping, even in just a few statements.
Let’s take them one at a time. First of all, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” It is called the Law, Torah, favorite biblical word for Scripture. It identifies the Scripture as divine law, divine teaching, divine instruction. The term means “teaching.” That is to say it is God giving instruction to His creature – divine instruction relative to man’s life and conduct. It is a complete explanation of God’s will for man’s life.
When you buy an appliance or you buy an automobile, or anything that is at all technical, you get a manual along with it. You get an operator’s manual, so that the manufacturer can direct you and instruct you in the proper use of what it is that you now possess. The Bible is the manufacturer’s manual for the proper operation of humanity. It is God’s instruction for how man is to live. It is God’s law for man’s life. That is one way to view Scripture. It is that.
It is not only that, there are six descriptions of Scripture; but this is true of Scripture. Scripture is like a many-faceted diamond. We’re going to look at six of those facets as we examine this Psalm. It is God’s manual for man’s life. If man is to be everything that God wants him to be, if man is to reach the fulfillment of God’s intended creation for him, if man is to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessing, he must then abide by the instructions given by the manufacturer. And this is the only manual: the law of the Lord. As such, notice please, this characteristic: it is perfect, it is perfect. James calls it the perfect law. So he uses this same idea. It is perfect.
I remember the first time I studied Psalm 19 many, many years ago, I wanted to really know what perfect meant. So I went back and I got all the Hebrew lexicons off my shelf, and I remember spending several hours chasing this word “perfect” all over the place, wanting to wring out of it everything that I could, so that I would have a grasp of it. And after many hours of study, I came to the conclusion that what it means is “perfect.” A bit disappointing after all the effort. But that’s exactly what it means: perfect.
But, let me take you one step further. Not perfect as opposed to imperfect, but perfect as opposed to incomplete. Not perfect as opposed to imperfect, though it is that; but the primary thrust of this Hebrew word is not about perfect as opposed to imperfect, but it’s about perfect as opposed to incomplete. The best Old Testament scholarship gives this meaning: this Hebrew word means “all-sided,” s-i-d-e-d, “all-sided so as to cover completely all aspects of life.” It is comprehensive. It is sufficient. It leaves nothing out.
Yes, that is a feature of being flawless; but it says much more. To say something has no flaws doesn’t say that it’s complete. Yes, the Scripture has no flaws, but the issue here is that it lacks nothing. Here is the manual for man’s operation, written by the manufacturer, which leaves nothing needed out. And as the all-sided, fully sufficient, comprehensive, complete law of the Lord, it has the power – here’s the last phrase, verse 7 – “to restore the soul.” This is the effect, the impact, or converting the soul – some of your texts may say. The Hebrew term can be translated “restoring,” “reviving,” “refreshing,” or “converting.” What the world really means is “a total transformation,” total transformation.
So, we’re starting to build a really interesting case here. We’ve got the Scripture, which is God’s instruction for man’s life. Nothing is left out. It is comprehensive, so comprehensive that it can totally transform what? The soul.
Now, this introduces us to a Hebrew word nephesh, nephesh. What does it mean? Probably in your Bible – if you have a New American Standard or New King James or one of those more contemporary translations – probably if you were to look at a Hebrew Bible and compare it with your English version you might find that the translators have translated nephesh about twenty different ways in the Old Testament: person, self, heart, mind, soul. They translate it all kinds of ways, but it always means one thing: the inner person, the inner person, the inner person.
So what do we learn in this first statement? The law of the Lord, Scripture, is sufficient to totally transform the whole inner person. Powerful statement. Powerful, powerful statement. It’s able to save. It’s able to regenerate. It’s able to convert. It’s able to transform. And that gets repeated all through Scripture.
The sacred Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:15; the Scripture, the sacred writings, able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation. It is able to convert you. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, Hebrews 4:12 and 13; and it can cut you wide open and unbear your sin. And then it can regenerate and redeem and restore you. The Scripture then is utterly sufficient for the conversion, transformation, restoration, spiritual birth of the soul.
Peter puts it this way, 1 Peter 1:23, “Being born again not of corruptible seed but by incorruptible, by the Word of God.” We are regenerated, born again, given life by the Word of God which lives and abides forever. “And this is the Word by which the gospel is preached to you.” That’s why Paul says in Romans 1, “Not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; it is the power of God unto salvation.” It gives life. It’s powerful, it gives life.
Let me give you an illustration of this in Romans 10, Romans 10. If you’re thinking how we’re going to get through six, we’re not. Romans 10. When I first did it, I did it in two messages, and so I’ll do that this time as well. Romans chapter 10, really just an incredible chapter.
Paul says at the beginning of the chapter that his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is for their salvation. All right? So you want Israel to be saved. They’re not saved. The Jews are not saved. They don’t have their own special way of salvation apart from the gospel. Their problem is not that they’re not religious, they’re religious. In fact, verse 2 says, “I bear them witness, they have a zeal for God, it’s just not in accordance with knowledge.” So having a zeal for God but not having the right knowledge doesn’t save you.
What don’t they know? Well, they don’t understand God’s righteousness. They don’t know how righteous God is; they seek to establish their own righteousness. So they don’t know how righteous God is, and they don’t know how sinful they are. That’s a problem.
They didn’t think God is as righteous as He is, so righteous that no one could ever earn salvation. They thought God was less righteous than He is, they thought they were more righteous than they were, and so they could earn their salvation. Therefore they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
Furthermore, they didn’t understand that Christ is an end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. They didn’t understand that salvation doesn’t come by earning your salvation with God, it comes only through Christ, who brings an end to the law, and provides the righteousness that we could never earn, if we only believe. So they had their view of God wrong, their view of themselves wrong, their view of Christ and his provision completely wrong.
They’ve got a problem. They’ve got it all wrong. They needed to believe in Jesus Christ. They needed to believe in Jesus Christ. Down in verse 9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you’ll be saved.” You have to believe in Jesus Christ, His resurrection, death and resurrection, confess Him as Lord.
“For” – verse 10 – “with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness; with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. The Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ There’s no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him.” Here it comes, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
You can’t be saved unless you call upon the name of the Lord. You can’t be saved unless you believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and confess Him as Lord. You can’t be saved unless you know that God is too righteous to accept your works, and you’re too sinful to earn salvation, and that your salvation can only come through faith in Christ who provided a righteousness for you through His sacrifice. So we need people to call upon the name of the Lord. So what are we going to do? How are we going to get them to do that?
Verse 14: “How shall they call upon Him in whom they haven’t believed? How shall they believe in Him whom they haven’t heard? How shall they hear without a preacher?” They’re going to have to hear the truth to believe the truth. And to hear the truth, they’re going to have to have somebody proclaim the truth. “And how are they going to proclaim the truth” – verse 15 – “unless they’re sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’”
Somebody has to go. Somebody has to tell them the truth. Why? Go to verse 17: “Because faith” – the faith that saves – “comes from hearing, and hearing by” – what? – “the Word of Christ.” It comes by the Word of Christ. There’s only one way to be saved ,and that’s to believe the truth. The only way you can believe the truth is to hear the truth. The only way you can hear the truth is for someone to declare that true Word.
Is Scripture powerful enough? Is it the power of God unto salvation? Is it powerful enough? Is it enough to come here week after week after week and hear the Word of God? Does that Word have the saving power of God in it? According to the Scripture it does. According to the testimony of God: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”
Does the Word of God have to be helped along because its somehow inept, inadequate, irrelevant, antiquated? Do we need somehow to package it in some culturally-sensitive way to make it feel like everything else in this culture feels to gain an entrance? Do we have to beef it up by making it seem to promise health, wealth, prosperity, riches, healing, as if God was some divine Mary Kay passing out pink Cadillacs? Do we need to make syrupy, schmaltzy appeals to the emotions of people based on their feelings, bruised egos, need for self-esteem, desire for trinkets and goodies, and somehow alter the hard gospel so people will buy it? Does it have to be polluted with promises of material prosperity, material success? Is it insufficient on its own?
I don’t think so. I think the testimony of God is unmistakably clear. The Word itself is the sea where Christ the pearl rests. The Word itself is the field where Christ the treasure is hidden.
Listen to the testimony of Psalm 119, and I’m only going to be able to read without comment a few verses that support this point. It is Psalm 119 that reiterates again and again these same truths concerning the Word of God.
Verse 41: “May Thy lovingkindness also come to me, O Lord,” – listen – “Thy salvation according to Thy Word.” Verse 50: “This is my comfort and my affliction, that Thy Word has literally given me life.” Verse 81: “My soul languishes for Thy salvation; I wait for Thy Word.” Again the Word is linked to salvation. “I cried to Thee;” – verse 146 – “save me; I shall keep Thy testimonies.” Verse 155: “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Thy statutes.” Salvation comes through the Word. “I long for Thy salvation,” – verse 174 – “O Lord, and Thy law is my delight.”
The Scripture, the law of the Lord, statutes of the Lord inseparable from salvation. No wonder Paul said, “Preach the Word in season, out of season.” The law of the Lord is perfect, comprehensive, sufficient for the total transformation of the whole inner person.
Whenever I preach this, I always think of this one man named Tim Evalina. I was preaching in Sebring, Florida many years ago. And at the end of the message that I gave in this church, he came up to me, introduced himself. He said, “I have to tell you my story.” He said, “My entire family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, my family is responsible for the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the state of Florida. My job” – he says – “is, has been for years, to train all the Jehovah’s Witness leaders. I go from location to location to location training them.” But he said, “I have to tell you what’s happened to me.”
He said, “I was driving across Florida listening to the radio in a rental car; and I turned on the radio, and you came on. I didn’t know who you were. And you made one statement. You said, ‘Jesus is God.’ And I said, ‘That’s a lie,’ and turned it off. And then I turned it right back on again because I was curious. And you went on to show from the Bible that Jesus is God. That was on a Monday.” And Grace To You happens to be all over Florida, so if you keep moving you can find us. He said, “I listened five days that week to your program, and all week you were showing that Jesus is God. By Friday I was seriously grappling with that issue, because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that.
“Monday was the second week of the series, I listened five more days. Friday I knelt down beside a bed and I said, ‘O God, Jehovah, whom I thought I served, if indeed Jesus is God the Son, show me.’ That night my head was cleared, my heart was cleared, my soul was transformed, and I embraced Jesus Christ as my Savior.
“Now,” he said, “I had a problem, because I was going around training the Jehovah’s Witness leaders. So,” he said, “I had to do some retraining. So,” he said, “I started back trying to tell them all that Jesus is God. I was in odds with my wife, three sons, and my parents and extended family, and everybody in my whole world. I was called on the carpet, tried as a heretic, and excommunicated from the movement.” He said, “My life is transformed.”
You ask the question, “How do you reach a leader in the Jehovah’s Witness movement?” Just let the truth of Scripture do its mighty work. There’s no subtle way to do that. I can’t orchestrate that. He said, “Pray for my family. Please pray for my family.” This has only been a few weeks.
Got a letter from him some months later telling me his wife and all three sons were in Christ, they were redeemed. Serious dent in the JW system in Florida. This is only an anecdote, but it illustrates the amazing power of the truth to do its own work, energized by the Spirit in the heart. I always think of him when I think of that statement in verse 7.
Number two, number two, Psalm 19: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;” – listen to this one – “the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Testimony: this looks at Scripture not as God’s divine law, but as God’s own personal testimony. It is His self-revelation. It is His own witness. It is God disclosing His character and His will. So you look at Scripture not just as a manual for life, but as that which is a perfect reflection of the nature of God. This is God’s own testimony to what is true concerning Himself and everything else.
When you read Scripture, you’re getting to know God. This is God’s own testimony, His own self-disclosure. And as such, it is sure. Unlike other books, the Bible is perfect, comprehensive, complete, needs nothing. Unlike other books, it is sure. What does that mean? Unwavering, unmistakable, reliable. In a word: trustworthy, trustworthy.
I called the L.A. Public Library one time and asked them how many books they had there. And I think they told me something like twenty-five million books or something ridiculous that were either there or accessible; several million there and accessible through other library connections. And I just said kind of a funny thing to the lady I was talking to. I said, “How many of them are always and only absolutely true?” She said, “That’s a strange question.” Well, you just don’t want to work through twenty-five million to try to find one that’s always true. And I suggested the answer was only one, that was the Bible, the Word of the living God. It’s always true.
It is Peter who says it’s a more sure Word, right? Second Peter 1, it’s a more sure Word, more sure than signs, wonders, miracles. The world by wisdom knew not God, 1 Corinthians 1. Can’t get to divine truth, spiritual truth, eternal truth, you can’t get to the way it really is apart from the Bible.
So, here is this wonderful self-disclosure: God’s own testimony – absolutely trustworthy. You can trust all its statements, all its insights, all its promises. And so, “It makes wise the simple.” I love the word “simple” in Hebrew. The Hebrew language is a concrete language, not abstract. The Greek language, a lot of abstractions. But in the Hebrew language everything is sort of concrete, everything is tied down to something tangible.
And the word “simple,” the root of the Hebrew word means, “an open door,” an open door; because an open door doesn’t discriminate, right? If the door is open, everything comes in, everything goes out; no discrimination. That’s a great word. Do you ever hear anybody say, “Well, I have an open mind.” Well, shut it, because you’ve got to decide what to let in and what to keep out. Having an open mind is not a virtue. That’s one step above being a moron. Render a judgment on something.
It’s like the people who say, “I am an agnostic,” proudly. From the Greek, “one who doesn’t know.” They do, “I’m an agnostic.” You hear people say that. You know what the Latin word for “agnostic” is? Ignoramus. You hear anybody say, “I am an ignoramus”? Really?
You have a door on your house, and the reason you have a door on your house is to keep some things in and some things out. You want to keep the cool air in, the children, and everything else that belongs to you; and you shut the door to keep those things in. You make a judgment as to when you open it and when you don’t; that’s why you have a hole in it, right? You don’t live in your neighborhood with your door wide open and welcome everybody. You’d be a fool; it’s too much danger. You make a discerning decision when you shut the door; and that’s a great analogy for the mind.
The word “simple” meant “naive,” “undiscerning,” “uninformed.” But, “The testimony of the Lord” – the Scripture – “is trustworthy, and makes the simple wise, wise,” Hebrew chakam. Again, very different than the Greek word sophia, which is kind of an esoteric word referring to wisdom. Chakam is a word that means “skilled in practical aspects of living.”
You see, wisdom to the Hebrew mind was not some ethereal kind of thing. Wisdom was living life in the right way, to produce the best and most beneficial results: the art of living, mastering the art of living, living life to its fullest and best. So the Word of God is trustworthy. It can take the naive, unexperienced, undiscerning, uninformed, ignoramus, and make him skilled in the art of living.
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 there’s a verse in that chapter that defines the response of the Thessalonians to the gospel, it’s verse 13: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God,” – I love this – “which also energeitai, energizes its work in you who believe.” The Word of God takes over and shapes your life, and makes you skilled in the art of living.
This is the ability to make right choices. This is the ability to see things the way they really are. This is the ability to seize the moments in life on earth, and to act with heavenly insight and heavenly wisdom, to apply the Word of God to every aspect of life. Like babes desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow; and as you feed on the Word of God, you grow. You grow in your discernment. You grow in your mastery of the issues of life.
Do we somehow believe the Word of God doesn’t do this? This is what God says it does do. Do we question that? Do we need to put our trust in psychology, or sociology, or human wisdom for what it takes to live our lives? Do we need to learn some silly gimmicks, manipulating our own minds and the minds of others around us? Isn’t the Word of God enough?
Again I call you to God’s extended testimony in Psalm 119 in which He embellishes this same truth. Look at verse 27 maybe as a starting point, Psalm 119: “Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders. God, help me understand; give me understanding.” And of course, it comes through His precepts, another way to refer to the Word of God.
Verse 34: “Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law and keep it with all my heart.” Verse 66: “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Thy commandments.” You can’t separate knowledge, discernment, wisdom from Scripture.
Verse 98: “Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation.” That’s true of a Christian in a university setting or any other setting with very sophisticated intellectuals; you know more than they do about the things that matter everlastingly.
Verse 104: “From Thy precepts I get understanding.” Verse 125: “I am Thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know Thy testimonies.” God’s testimony, God’s Word, and understanding go together.
Well, there are more. Verse 169: “Give me understanding according to Thy Word.” Again, God’s testimony is that if you want to be saved, you turn to the Word. If you want to be wise, you turn to the Word. Sufficient is the Word then to give us salvation and skilled living in the wisdom of God.
Let me give you the third one tonight, okay? Verse 8: “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” Where do you go to find joy? Where do you go to find happiness? Where do you go to find relief from sorrow, relief from depression, relief from anxiety? Where do you go? The psalmist says, the voice of God says, “Go to the Word.”
Verse 8: “The precepts of the Lord” – precepts, what are those? Principles, doctrines. Here is the manual for man’s living. Here is God’s self-revelation, His own testimony. And here are doctrines, truths, absolutes that are the guidelines, the requirements for blessing and for joy. Divine statutes or precepts, same idea: principles, doctrines – “and they are right.” I love that word “right.” Doesn’t mean right as opposed to wrong. It means “right in the sense of a right path.” Okay?
And there are some nuances in the Hebrew here. But it means “the right path.” That is to say, the doctrines that the Lord has given are going to send you in the right path. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” More than that, the Word is the path here. The Word is the guide that shows the straight path to the divine end. We’re not left without principles for life.
People say, “Doctrine doesn’t matter.” Oh, it matters. What does it mean to have a Bible and not understand its principles? You don’t want to wander around in a fog of human opinion; you have a true Word to follow. And what is the product of this if you go on the right path? Rejoicing the heart. True joy, true joy.
Jeremiah 15:16, Jeremiah said this: “Your word was found – Your words were found, and did eat them, and Your Word was in me, the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” Now, understand Jeremiah’s situation. He’s trying to proclaim the Word of God to a recalcitrant, rebellious, obstinate people. They don’t want it; they don’t want to hear it; they resent it. They hate him. They finally throw him in a pit. And what does he say? “If nobody listens, Your Word was found. I ate it and it is the joy and rejoicing of my heart,” in the worst of circumstances where he’s trying to deliver a ministry that nobody wants. He has no popularity, no interest in what he’s saying. He ends up in a horrible situation; and yet he’s filled with joy, because that’s what the Word does. “My joy comes from what I know to be true about God and His purposes.”
When you have anxiety, when you have fear, when you have sorrow, when you have difficulty in life, you go to the things that the Word of God affirms, and you stand on those great promises and principles and doctrines. They show you the right path; you walk in that path, and it produces joy.
John writes, 1 John 1:4, “I write these things unto you that your joy may be full.” Joy, not a superficial giddy kind of thing, but a deep down, settled, confident, peaceful satisfaction that the goodness of God is unfolding in my life in good and bad circumstances; that’s the kind of deep joy.
I don’t need voices from heaven. I don’t need miracles. I don’t need to talk to angels. I don’t need supernatural experiences, neither do you. We don’t need visions. I don’t need to have some kind of vision to boost up my faltering faith. I know from the Word of God what is true, I know the path of truth in which I walk, and in that path of truth I find my heart rejoices. Depression, anxiety, fear, doubt comes from not knowing, not believing, not trusting the truth revealed in Scripture.
Follow the Word. Walk in its precepts, and you will know complete joy. All our true pleasure, all our true delight comes from following the path laid out in the Word of God, not from seeking self-fulfillment, self-esteem, personal purpose, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction; not from getting miracles and things happening in your life that bring you money, prosperity, health; no. True joy, true pleasure, true delight comes by walking confidently in the path of biblical doctrine, and resting in the things that are true because God has declared them so.
Again, Psalm 19, one more time for tonight, affirms this. Verse 14: “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I rejoice in the way, the path that Your testimonies have led me as much as in all riches.” Verse 54: “Thy statutes” – I love this – “are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” We come here on the Lord’s Day; we sing with all our hearts great doctrinal truths, don’t we, because they are our joy. They transcend all the petty issues of life.
Verse 76: “O may Thy lovingkindness comfort me, according to Thy Word to Thy servant.” We all need comfort. They are always those times when life is very difficult for us, we need comfort. He says, very simply, “My Thy lovingkindness, according to Thy Word, comfort me.” I’m comforted in the loving kindness of God; that’s a principle, that’s a precept revealed in Scripture. Verse 111: “I have inherited Thy testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart, they are the joy of my heart.” And 114 he says that the Word is his hiding place and his shield.
So the Scripture: source of true joy, true wisdom, and true transformation. That is God’s own testimony to His glorious Word. Three more next time, and then we’ll see their value and our proper response.
Lord, it’s been refreshing tonight to go back and wash ourselves again in the Word, to feel the richness and the sweetness of these great statements in Psalm 19 and Psalm 119. Thank You, Lord, for the fact that we can rest in these truths; and we have – some of us for a long, long years. And we thank You that by this Word many, many are being saved. And all who are saved are being made skilled in the manner of holy living, and being given joy as they walk in these precepts.
What a gift Your Word is to us, to save, to sanctify, and to direct and guide us toward real, deep, abiding, settled, confident joy. We find our life, our wisdom, our joy in Your Word. It is enough. It is enough. What more could we ask for: eternal life, true wisdom, everlasting joy; and that comes from Your Word. Thank You, O God, for this great gift, in Your Son’s name. Amen.
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