WALKING THE BIBLE Knowing the Story Finding the Meaning Meeting the Savior

By Don Bryant Pastor Spring Green Memorial Church Adjunct Faculty Eastern Nazarene College

The Bible - the book that changed the world. Actually, the word Bible simply means book, but it’s more than a book. It’s a library of books - 66 to be exact. Written over a period of 1600 years by 44 different authors. And though it has a great variety, it tells one story and has one essential theme. Notice how the Bible itself puts it. “Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong [a reference to the first man, Adam] and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right [Christ] and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.” (Romans 5, The Message translation). It’s the story of our creation, fall into sin and misery, and the promise of a single Deliverer who would succeed where we have failed and give to us all a new beginning. My goal is to give you a grasp of what the Bible is all about. A lot of people, most people perhaps, think the Bible is just a list of moral rules that we all are suppose to follow. But actually it’s about a person, the person who changed the world. It’s a book about Jesus - a first century Jew who came among us, who claimed to be and demonstrated himself to be God of very God. God visiting us, God saving us by paying the penalty for our sin by sacrificing himself on the cross. And through that death opening the way to God. This is a gift simply to be believed and received. It cannot be earned by your own goodness. But you can experience it through faith in him. This story is told in 2 parts. In the first part of the Bible known as the Older Testament, the Bible deals with getting us ready for God’s Savior who was to come. The second part of the Bible, known as the Newer Testament, deals with the Savior who has come and what that means for our lives. It records the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and then goes on to explain

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in various letters written to new churches what it means to live as Christfollowers. I want to unpack for you the story of the Bible, its flow, story line, and development. If you want to live a life of impact, it begins with knowing the Bible. While Bible knowledge without a loving heart doesn’t profit anything, it’s equally clear that a loving heart without knowledge of the Bible is ineffective and easily descends into sentimentality without power. Even though this is a big book with some 1500 pages, you can know the sum and the parts of it. Most Americans read only one book a year, and that’s probably not a 1500 pager like the Bible. (Though it is also true that high achievers read an average of one book a week, and that’s not just the book jacket). But in just 15 minutes a day, you can read the entire Bible in one year. And with some Bible helps you can get to the depths of the Bible’s meaning and how to apply it to life. You never want to be dependent on just a sermon once a week, or an occasional radio program heard here and there. You need to be able to feed yourself out of God’s Word daily. Every person who wants to be used by God should have a concentrated program of Bible learning and reading. Now you don’t have to know it all before you make an impact. But your desire to make an impact should drive you to know more and more. But don’t wait until you know everything before you talk and communicate to others what you do know. I want to tell the Bible story for you. Time constraints mean a lot will be left out, but you’ll get the basic idea if you follow along and then you can fill in the parts as you read and study on your own. Let’s begin at the beginning. Actually beginning is what the title of the first book of the Bible means, Genesis. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible begins with God. Not with man’s search for God, but God’s creation of us so that we may know Him and live to glorify Him. We are the result of the spilled out life and gladness of God. What we immediately learn from the Bible is that we are made in His image, and that means we have an incurably religious nature. Neither science nor technology or progress have erased this. Even in our culture, the most advanced nation on the face of the earth, only 2% of us are atheist.

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But there is something else true of us. As soon as we have the story of creation in Gen 1 and 2, we have the story of the fall of our race into rebellion against God and his plan for us and then the resulting misery. Question: how long was it between our creation and the fall? Well, the Bible reports the fall immediately upon telling the story of creation, almost as if to say ‘in no time at all.’ Mysteriously, without warrant or justification, our first parents asserted their independence of God, chose to create their own story without God at the center, determining for themselves what they would accept as good and evil. We find a lesson there that will be continued throughout the rest of the Bible. Left to our own resources, we naturally and immediately move away from God. And through the exercise of our choice to move away, sin and death entered the world. I think honest people will admit this anti-authority instinct that is just below the surface of our lives and it can rise up and assert itself in a moment. We naturally make decisions without reference to God, his glory, without an instinct to trust Him and patiently follow believing that He will work all things out for His glory and our good. If God chose just to be a judge, the story could end right there. But immediately upon the first sin, God makes the first promise. That promise is that though there is a fall and death, God will provide a Savior, another man born of a woman who will fully obey God, overcome sin, break up the alliance between us and the Evil One who tempted us into sin and free us to belong to God wholly once again. So the basic story line of the Bible is CREATION-FALL-PROMISE-RECREATION. Here is how the promise is put: “One of her descendants will strike you (that is, the Devil) on head, and you will strike him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Here is the prophesy that one day there will come a showdown in which the Devil himself will face down God’s sent Deliverer. And, of course, that is just what happens in the Newer Testament, when through the betrayal of Judas Jesus is hung on a cross to die. But it is not a final wound, because Jesus overcomes death and gains the victory over the Evil One forever. The rest of the Bible is the story of God fulfilling the promise to send a Deliverer, how His plan works out. How do you explain what God is doing? None other than this - He loves you. You really matter to Him.

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So let’s move on. What would you expect to happen next? Relief and repentance. No. It goes the opposite way. Our race moves further away. Though Adam and Eve believe, we see the story of rebellion continue in those who follow. We all know the story of Cain who murdered his brother Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve. In just the second generation we have the first murder. It doesn’t take long for sin to continue to its development. It says in Genesis 6:5 that the Lord saw how great man’s wickedness had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Bible says God repented that he made man. That doesn’t mean he changed his mind, as if God is fickle and couldn’t foresee the consequences of his actions. It’s a way of saying God experienced sorrow for the choices we made. God moved mercifully in judgment. Though the world was sinful, it was not as sinful as it could be. God stood in between the sin that was and the sin that could be. The Bible reports that out of all the people on the face of the earth, one man and his family found favor with the Lord. That man was named Noah. And God commissioned him to build an ark, after which God sent rains upon the earth for 40 days until all life on the earth was destroyed and new life could begin. That ark is a picture that shadows the greater ark which one day would rescue us - that ark being Jesus Christ. The Older Testament is shot through with images and hints of a coming Deliverer, demonstrations that God has not forgotten the story He has set in motion and that one day the final act of salvation will come. By the way, there’s a theme here that will continue to repeat itself again and again in the Bible. It is that at given points in history it all comes down to one person, chosen by God, through whom God will do a new work, a deeper work that moves God’s plan on through history. It is as Jesus said in the Newer Testament, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. 14But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13 f

So there’s a new start with Noah. The earth is re-peopled, and human history begins again. But in fact people continue to grow in their rebellion. In their pride, they forget the Lord and set about to build great monuments to themselves. God moves once more, but not in a great water destruction. God had made a promise that he would never destroy the earth again by 5

water. Judgment solves only one problem - how to rid the earth of evil. But it leaves another problem unsolved, how to change a human heart. Judgment alone cannot accomplish God’s plan, even as the judgment of a parent cannot be the last word in a home. The final word in a home is love. What God did this time was to disperse people across the face of the earth, introducing differences of language and culture so that evil could not gain critical mass. We are all acquainted with the evil just one nation can do, like WWII German. Just think if there was a full unity of all peoples and their hearts together were set on things evil. Differences among us can serve to keep evil in check. And so we have the Tower of Babel incident, when in their monument building God looked down upon the people and dispersed them through giving them different languages so they could not longer cooperate. God thinned out evil, even as great as evil is. ABRAHAM But men still moved away from God. What to do? Well, remember our theme. Often God’s plan comes down to one man. And this time it was a man by the name of Abraham. Abraham come up in the story out of nowhere. Why God chose Abraham we do not know. The Bible does not say. There is no indication he chose him because he was particularly righteous or skilled or popular, or whatever. What we do know of him is that he was from Ur of the Chaldees, present day Iraq. We have no reason to believe that he was any different than those around him, a worshipper of other gods just like his ancestors. He lived in about 2100 AD. He is the first biblical character that we can connect with history as we know it, setting him in a particular cultural, social, literary context. God chose Abraham and his descendants for a particular task - through him God would preserve true knowledge of himself. As we see in the Bible the mass of people continually move away from God. If there is ever to be true worship, God needs a laboratory where his work can be seen, his person known, worship kept pure, salvation taught, and through whom that deliverer who was promised way back in Genesis 3:15 would come. We know Abraham as the Father of the Jewish people. God made three promises to Abraham in Genesis 12. One, that God would make of him a great nation, that from him would come many descendants though he was only one man. The second was that God would give him a land, a place for those peoples. That land would eventually be the land that we first know as Canaan, but which would become Israel. And thirdly that 6

through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. In other words, God didn’t choose Abraham just to bless him. God had a larger purpose, that the whole earth would full of his glory. Of course, as we later know, what God was promising is that through him the Messiah would come. What we find, however, is that those promises would be fulfilled to him only through the patience of faith. As God led him out of his native land he became a wanderer and not a possessor of a land. Secondly, though God promised to make of him a great nation, he and his wife were barren. And thirdly, he found that rather than being a blessing, he encountered trouble and conflict with those among whom he wandered. But he believed God and God credited it to his record as righteousness. It was not by achieving but by believing and receiving that Abraham entered in to the blessings. The Abraham story is the story of being set right with God through faith. He is the father of all who believe and not just the father of the Jews. To the degree that we walk by faith we are all children, spiritual children, of Abraham. In seed form God did come through for Abraham. He gave him a place after his wandering, present day Palestine. He gave him a child, Isaac, born to them miraculously when they were very old, whose son Jacob would have twelve sons and form the core of the nation Israel. And through Israel God has blessed the world, for the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, was born of the Jews. MOSES In a period of famine during the time of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, the Israelites went to Egypt to find food in about 1900 BC, where ultimately they remained and became slaves of Pharaoh. God’s people were in bondage to a king of this world. This bondage became an unforgettable lesson for Israel, and it was that God alone was to be their king and they were to be his people. He would set them free. And he did so, once again, through one man who stood in the gap. We know him by the name, Moses, who lived about 1500 BC, born after Israel had been in slavery for 400 years. Through Moses God miraculously delivers Israel from Egypt. If you’ve ever seen the Ten Commandments, you know about the plagues God sent upon Egypt until the Pharaoh would let them go. And then how God opened up the Red Sea so Israel could pass through on dry ground, but closed the sea on the Egyptians who pursued their former slaves. Israel is then organized from a loose confederation of families into a nation founded 7

upon the law God revealed to Moses, the summary of which is the Ten Commandments. God sets them apart and makes them a holy nation, consecrated to the Lord with God dwelling in the midst of them in their makeshift temple as their sovereign Lord. That’s one of the emphases of this period, that this would be a peculiar people who would be set on a hill, a light to the nations. God would give them his word to preserve. Through Abraham we learn what it means to live by faith. Through Moses we learn what it means to belong to God, to be his treasure, to be a people for his glory and through whom his holiness would shine. The often used words of this period are “be holy, for I am holy.” The time of Moses’ ministry is the second through fifth books of the Bible, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. JOSHUA AND JUDGES Moses leads Israel from Egypt to the promised land. What would normally be a 40 day journey however becomes 40 years because Israel rebels against God’s laws and distrusts his kindness. They disqualify themselves from entering the promised land and by God’s design wander in the wilderness until that generation passes away, including Moses, the man of God. For at last even Moses falls short of the test of trust and obedience. Israel enters the land promised to them through Abraham through the leadership of Moses’ successor, Joshua, and the 6th book in the Bible is named after him. It’s the story of Israel’s conquest of the land. Here we have stories like the falling of the walls of Jericho and the sun standing still. On the other side of Joshua we have the time of the judges the 7th book of the Bible. The judges are men and women God raised up to deliver Israel from the surrounding nations who oppressed them and called them back to a renewed relationship with God. In the book of Judges we find a spiritual cycle we are all familiar with - obedience, followed by coldness and rebellion, punishment of suffering and trouble, followed by deliverance and gratitude, followed by coldness and rebellion, etc. Some the great Judges are people like Samson, Gideon and Deborah. Though God raises up the judges, still Israel has no earthly king, for the God of heaven is their king. The time of Joshua and the Judges was from 1400 - 1050 BC.

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MONARCHY But after a time Israel seeks an earthly king. And so we go into the stories of the kings of Israel recorded for us in 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Israel forsakes that immediate and intimate relationship with God and gives their loyalty and allegiance to mere men. But God takes this as an opportunity to demonstrate that no mere man could substitute for God’s gracious presence and rule. Israel’s first king is a man named Saul who begins to rule in about 1050 BC. When it comes to human attributes which we look for in a leader, Saul has it all. The Bible reports that he was tall, handsome, and gifted in war. He is a man’s man and a woman’s man. Admired, he is followed. But he has no heart for God. Rather than being a man who is called he is a man who is driven - paranoid, untrusting, and selfdirected, he demonstrates in the end that he is unfit to rule and God takes the kingdom away from him. He demonstrates a lesson repeated again and again in the Bible. Men look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. In fact, the Bible predicted that when the Messiah, the Savior would come, he would be missed because he would not measure up to the standards of the world. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. 3He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Is 53 God’s kingdom is not as the kingdom of this world. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God…Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the earth will belong to them…” God instructs his prophet Samuel to go and anoint an overlooked young shepherd by the name of David. He is an unproved child, still at home tending the flocks while his brothers are off at war. In fact, when the prophet shows up looking for the one whom he would anoint as King, it 9

doesn’t even occur to David’s father Jesse that it could be David for whom Samuel could be looking. There’s a lesson here! God has always chosen the weak and the rejected to do his work in the world, to confound the wisdom of the world, and to show that God is greater than any mortal. That young man’s name is David, who is described in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart. And through him God unifies Israel, gives them victory over their enemies and makes of Israel a great nation. During the reign of David and his son Solomon Israel reaches a pinnacle of prosperity, peace and influence not known before or after. Do you see how the promise to Abraham is coming true? God is making of him a great nation which would be a blessing to the peoples of the earth. Through Abraham we learn the importance of walking by faith. Through Moses we learn the importance of holiness. But through David we learn the importance of a heart for God. He is a God-thirsty man. Just read the Psalms, most of which were written by David, and you will see how deeply David lives with a God desire. As the deer pants for water, he penned, so my soul longs after you. He writes that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than even a king. The priests got to do something that David could not do - they dwelled continually in the Temple, night and day and ministered before him. “O that I were a tree,” he writes, “planted in the courts of the Temple…” But can a mere man bring in fully and finally the deliverance we need? We are learning that all men are like clouds blown away by the wind. Their glory fades, and those who lean upon them lean upon a broken reed that will pierce their hand. As great as David is, his glory is fleeting. And like all men he falls short of the glory of God. In his reign, after he is settled and the kingdom secure, he falls into the sin of adultery and murder, murdering the man whose wife he had taken. And though God does not strip him of the kingdom as He had Saul, David enters into a time of trouble from which he would never recover. It would be under the reign of his son Solomon that Israel would reach its absolute pinnacle of prosperity. Solomon has everything God could ever give to a man - wealth, fame, peace, education. He has opportunity to satisfy all of his appetites. His heart proves not to be as his father’s, and through intermarriage with the daughters of the kings of the surrounding nations for purposes of treaty, he worships 10

strange gods. Through Solomon God proves to us that you can get everything you want and still be left hungry, empty and miserable. Only God can fill the hungry heart. In the midst of his experiences he writes a book titled Ecclesiastes. The heart of its message is “Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless.” Without God at the center all that we have and can have becomes tasteless, mere diversion for a troubled and unsatisfied heart. God’s judgment is to bring Israel into a time of division. Upon Solomon’s death, the 10 northern tribes rebel against the house of Solomon, appointing their own king. Israel forever will be rent in two. And the rest of the OT is the story of these two kingdoms. The northern kingdom is called Israel, and sometimes Ephraim, which is the largest of the 10 tribes. The southern kingdom is called Judah, the larger of the two tribes which also includes the tribe of Benjamin. The northern ten tribes are always ruled by wicked kings, those whose hearts are far away from God. God sends them prophet after prophet to warn them and announce coming judgment if they will not turn to Him. It is during the period of the divided kingdom where we find most of the work of the prophets. They serve as God’s prosecutors, sent to bring God’s case against the people. Ahab, one of the kings of the northern kingdom, calls Elijah the prophet, “he who troubles Israel.” And so do all the prophets. Their message is not easy to hear and they are persecuted, rejected, and killed, as all God’s prophets have been, even Jesus. By the way, don’t think that ministry is always something gloriously comfortable. Being a change agent can be dangerous business, because we often intersect hearts far away from God. Well, eventually the ten northern tribes are judged by God in 722 BC with the conquest by Assyria. Through a process of deportation and assimilation the ten tribes are eventually lost to human history. All of the Jewish people today are descended from the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. As to the southern tribes we have a mixed history. There would both good and bad kings. At times the light of God’s presence is dim indeed, but it never goes out. They too experience being conquered and deported in 586 BC by Babylon, but their ethnic and national identity is never extinguished. They remain in exile for 70 years as predicted by Jeremiah the prophet, but also, as predicted, they return to resettle Palestine and Jerusalem. But Israel never returns to its former glory under David and Solomon. They are vassal 11

states of other great nations, their leaders appointed by others. For the rest of the their existence in the ancient world they are ruled by foreign nations-whether Babylon, the Medes and the Persians, Greece, or during the New Testament times Rome, during which time the Messiah came. Before we move on I want to call your attention again to the ministry of the prophets. God calls them “my servants, the prophets.” Unlike the Kings and the Priests, there is no line of descent among the prophets. They are individually raised up by God. They owe their position to no one and are uniquely suited by this to confront the powers and status quo. The Spirit of God comes upon them and gives them a message that is such a burden that it has to be delivered. They confront the people, the King and the Priests who allow religion to descend into heartless ritual and mindless performance of religious duty. Prophets are often divided up into the writing and the nonwriting prophets. All preach the message God gives them, but some record their message which become a part of our Bible. Of the non-writing prophets the more famous are Elijah and Elisha, through whom God also works great miracles. Some of the more famous writing prophets are Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, each of whom has books in the Bible named after them. The writing prophets are often divided into two categories: the major prophets, those just mentioned. And the minor prophets of which there are twelve. What we find is that there is a difference between the message of the earlier prophets and those who come later. The earlier prophets speak of repentance and renewal. But as it becomes clear that Israel will not repent, the prophetic message becomes more one of impending judgment and doom. And yet in their vision they see a future golden age, a day coming some time in the future in which the people of God will have a heart of flesh and not of stone, that the law of the Lord will be written on their hearts. They are, in fact, looking to the days of Messiah as the only hope of Israel, the only time when they would be fully and finally healed of their wayward hearts. Notice these words out of Hebrews in the NT. “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.” The Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, is God’s final word, God’s full revelation, the healing from Heaven that will make us forever whole.

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But until the Messiah comes, Israel is preserved. She is learning the lesson, presented over and over again, that salvation does not come through mere flesh, no matter how impressive and strong. What we find developing in Israel during the period between the OT and the NT, some 400 years, is a growing consciousness of and desire for the Messiah. Their concept of the Messiah is often corrupted by visions of more worldly things, like military victories, economic prosperity and the return of Israel to its former and even greater glory among the world powers. Their hunger is only increased by an absence of the Word of God. There is no prophet raised up. There is no new Scripture added. There is only silence. Israel struggling, Israel impoverished, and Israel weak. But there are those who hope. Corresponding to that exaggerated hope we find an increase of Messiah pretenders. Rumors were alive and well that the time of God’s visitation is near. And He does come. But when God steps into human history, he doesn’t step in the front door. He comes down the backstairs of history with a baby in his arms and lays him in a stable in Bethlehem. God’s ways aren’t man’s ways. “Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord.” God establishes a spiritual kingdom, but it is not weaker, feebler than the kingdoms of this world. It is God in the hearts of men, changing human history from the inside out through the forgiveness of sin and the imparting of the seed of God’s life to give us a heart of flesh and love for God and His ways. In fact, so different is the work God does through Messiah, through Jesus of Nazareth that the new age that comes through him is called the New Testament, or the New Commitment or the New Covenant. Not new as opposed to old, but new as contrasted to what no longer works, what is worn out, finished, and no longer fits the fresh state of affairs. But it is a kingdom that can be ignored if the heart so desires. And most desire. They don’t recognize him. He comes unto his own and his own receive him not. So far are they from seeing in him the presence of God, they eventually put him on a cross as a threat to the established order. They judge him an insurrectionist and pretender. But what they determine to do fits into God’s plan to offer him as a sacrifice for sin, to pay the penalty due to all of our sin. But as many as believe to them he gives power to become children of God. The four gospels, the first books of the Newer Testament, contain the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry, death, burial, and resurrection, along with the 13

promise that Christ would return again and usher in the kingdom of God in all of its power at the end of time. Each gospel is unique in the details the authors choose to include and the angle from which it looks at Christ. The next book in the Newer Testament, the Book of Acts, is the history book of the early church, recording its expansion from Jerusalem all the way to the center of the Roman empire, Rome itself. Next we have the epistles. These are letters from the Apostles, or those vouched for by them, instructing the young churches in the way of Christ. It’s written to people who suffer because they follow Christ in order to encourage them to be patient and steadfast. Most of the Epistles are written by the Apostle Paul to churches he helped to establish or to people he wants to encourage. The last book of the Bible is The Revelation, which is also a letter written to be circulated among the churches. But this letter is a special kind of letter. It is something we call apocalyptic literature. Through visions, images, allegories, and signs the history of the world since Christ is unfolded. It is not written as we write history, in a linear, event after event fashion. The story is told and retold from different angles and with particular points of focus. If you try to get datable future events out of the Book of Revelation as so many are tempted to do, you will undoubtedly be frustrated. While it deals with real history and makes real predictions of future calamity, the book’s emphasis is not on prediction but on promises in which we can rest secure. The message boils down to this: Christ has been given authority over human history by the victory He won through His resurrection, he has marked those who are his, and they will be preserved through a time of great trouble. The Evil One will have extraordinary influence, but he will also have an extraordinary fall when Jesus Christ returns at the end of history to roll it up like a coat. Those who are his will experience a new heaven and a new earth. Those who are not will be cast into everlasting suffering with no chance of relief. Each is sealed in their respective states, happy or miserable forever. At the end of the Book of Revelation we have some special words that give us insight into the basic theme and burden of the biblical story. “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” (Rev 21:3) This is what it was all about all the time. 14

God having a people in whom and among whom he could dwell. And people having a God who could be their home. We call this the Immanuel Principle. Immanuel means “God with us.” All through Scripture we have rehearsals of the Immanuel principle again and again. “He will be their God and they will be his people.” You know what’s really going on in the world? Not what you read about in the NY Times or the Wall Street Journal. It’s not about kings and presidents, wars, and big business. The real story is that God is moving among us to establish another kingdom not of this world. This world will pass away but this kingdom will never pass away. And in this kingdom God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. Ultimately the Bible is not a story of history, though it is historical. It’s not about psychology, though it is the best of psychology. It’s not about philosophy, though it has the highest of ideas and ideals. It’s about a personal God who personally created you, personally came to you through Jesus Christ and died for your sin so that you may personally say to him, “Come into my life, be my Savior and be my Lord.” Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will go in and eat with him and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Whenever you read the Bible, God is addressing you. Whenever you teach the Bible, God is addressing others through you. Ultimately it all comes back to Jesus. The Bible reports in Luke 24 that when Jesus walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus he explained to them how all the Older Testament spoke of him, how he had to suffer and die and be raised again from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. All along it was a plan. And it all focuses on Messiah So that no matter where you open your Bible, it has to do with the one sent from God to deliver us. “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, 15

everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms— get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross.” Colossians 1

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