Note: In January I have been focusing on ways we can live our best lives this year. We have discussed living missionally, using time effectively, and employing our influence redemptively. We close our series with today’s message.
President Biden, former President Trump, and now former Vice President Pence have all been in the news lately for their handling of classified documents. Partisan politicians and media outlets are debating (supposed) differences between the three cases. Independent counsels have been appointed to look into the issue with regard to Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump.
Here’s what no one is claiming, so far as I know: presidents are above the law and thus should be able to handle classified documents however they wish.
Even though the American president is commander-in-chief of the mightiest military in human history and is widely considered to be the most powerful person on earth, our founders constructed a republic built on the “rule of law,” not the rule of men. And for that we are grateful.
However, this concept of “authority” has fallen on hard times in recent times.
The 1960s saw the specter of Vietnam, the rise of “sexual freedom” with Woodstock, and the beginning of LGBTQ advocacy with the Stonewall Riots. The 1970s saw Watergate and continued political controversy. Postmodern relativism has convinced many of us that all truth is personal and subjective.
In addition, postmodern claims that the “will to power” is the basic drive in all human nature. As a result, anyone in power likely got there by harming others and is likely abusing their power now, or so we are told. All authorities are therefore suspect for the very reason that they are in authority.
Why have an authority?
Is this correct? Should we view all authority with such suspicion?
C. S. Lewis advised us in Mere Christianity:
Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority.
I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority—because the scientists say so.
Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority.
A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.
The late pastor and denominational leader Paul Powell agreed:
Man needs some authority in his life. Without duly recognized authority, chaos would soon result in every realm of life. For example, there is in Washington, DC, a Bureau of Standards to uphold the perfect measurement of every weight and measurement that we use in the United States. There is a perfect inch, a perfect pound, a perfect ounce, etc.
They are the authority for all weights and measurements used in our country. Can you imagine the confusion that would exist in the world if we did not have such a standard? Inches and pounds would soon shrink or expand according to the wishes of the person doing the measuring. It would not be long until daily business could not be transacted.
By the same token, a standard is necessary in order to measure time accurately. There is also in Washington, DC, the Naval Observatory. Every day at 12 o’clock the observatory gives us the correct astronomical time. What if there were no accurate way to measure time? If everyone got their time from somebody else, pretty soon we would have no idea as to what the time really was.
So, we all have and we all need authorities in our lives. The question is, Which ones?
Why make the Bible your authority?
Dr. Powell concluded his reflection:
As the compass is an authority for direction, the dictionary is an authority for spelling, the watch is an authority for time, and the calendar is an authority for dates, so the Bible is an authority for our spiritual lives. If you have any doubts as to what to believe or how to live, turn to it for the right answer.
Why should we do this?
One: The Bible claims to be God’s word.
- “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” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
- “The law of the Lᴏʀᴅ is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lᴏʀᴅ is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).
- “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Two: Evidence for biblical authority is remarkably compelling.
Of course, other religious books claim authority for themselves as well. However, evidence for the trustworthiness of Scripture from archaeology, ancient manuscripts, fulfilled prophecy, and internal consistency is more compelling than for any other ancient book. The more you learn about the Bible, the more you will trust the Bible.
Three: The Bible changes the lives of those who trust its truth.
- “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
- “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
- The psalmist therefore testified, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
All relationships require a commitment that transcends the evidence and becomes self-validating. You could not prove you should read this sermon until you have read it. You cannot prove you should get married, have children, take a job, or go to a university until you make the commitment to do so.
It is the same with God’s word: when you examine the evidence and then step into personal trust in biblical truth, you will discover that this truth changes your life. Abraham Lincoln stated: “I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man.”
N. T. Wright, one of the most brilliant scholars of our generation, testified: “The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by.”
How can we join him?
How can you make the Bible your authority?
How can we live every day by the authority of Scripture? Let’s close with four simple but urgent reminders.
One: Read Scripture each day.
Make an appointment with God to meet him in his word. J. I. Packer called the Bible, “God preaching.” Listen to his sermon each day, preferably at the first part of the day.
Two: Ask God’s Spirit to explain and apply God’s word to your life.
You’re not finished with your Bible study until something is different in your life.
Three: Go immediately to Scripture throughout your day when you have a question, problem, challenge, or temptation.
You will then say with the psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Four: Read the word of God to encounter the Son of God.
Martin Luther observed, “The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.”
The ultimate purpose of Scripture is clear: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
When we experience the power of living by the Word of God, others will see the difference in our lives and they will be drawn to the God of the Word.
Billy Graham was right: “We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.”
If you’ll choose to live biblically this year, others will join you.
This is the assurance, and the invitation, of God.