more than a book
What is life throwing at you right now? Are you tired? Anxious? Stressed out? Where do you hunt for an escape? Alcohol, parties, drugs? Maybe you face big decisions: Where should I go to college? Is this person I’m dating “The One”? Should I invest my money in the stock market or enjoy it now? Maybe you are just looking to be entertained: TV, Netflix, YouTube, concerts, clubs, etc.? Perhaps, you need nothing? Your life is wonderful?
No matter your situation, the man Jesus makes an audacious claim. He claims that He is the answer to your life. No matter how good or bad your life is, He says that He can change its quality and length. He challenges anyone to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” (Psalm 34:8).
Where to Begin
Remember from lesson one how 95% of the world can be divided into six major groups: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, and the non-religious? That may lead you to wonder, "Where does all the variety of religions come from if there are only six?"
This variety in “religions” comes from subdividing the major groups into a smaller combination of beliefs. This is true of atheists and scientists, too, whose beliefs come in thousands of shades and hues. They are willing to passionately and angrily debate amongst themselves the “truth.” Humans seem to all be the same in that respect. They either care passionately about their own version of “truth,” or they don’t care at all.
In the Bible, there is an idea that the words God speaks actually have creative and authoritative power. When God wants to create, He speaks. When He wants something to happen, He speaks. When He wants to change something, He speaks. When He shares information that will take place in the future, He speaks. When He corrects people’s lives, He speaks. His words are powerful. This is why the Bible is referred to as “The Word” of God. It was He who whispered ideas to the authors in their mind’s metaphorical ear and they wrote down these ideas.
The Bible is not a single book but a single idea. It is a series of thoughts that follow a singular theme. It is a composite word from God. It is a compilation of 66 books. They are divided into two time periods. The Old Testament is the first 39 books, written before the time of Christ. It is also known as the Tanakh, to the Jews. The New Testament is the last 27 books, written after the life of Christ, during the first century AD. There were over 35 contributors to this single “word” called the Bible.
The Word contains, among other things, historical accounts, books of poetry, wisdom literature, eyewitness testimony, letters, and prophecies. The Word spans more than 1500 years, where the singular voice of God is incredibly weaved together throughout each different style of writing and each different author’s presentation. God intended this book to be read as a single book that builds on itself and supports itself. It’s like having 35 people adding something to a book every few hundred years, and that book turning out to be in perfect sync and causing dramatic life-changing experiences, predicting the future, and giving millions the hope of eternal life.
A Book or A Man
Some of the words of the Bible are directly from the One who claims to be its highest author and editor. Other words are indirectly His, as the humans who wrote listened to the voice in their mind and wrote the ideas down. This wasn’t verbal dictation but thought inspiration. And the single thought that the author wants you to know is this: God loves us and wants to live with us for eternity.
The Word isn’t just something written down. It isn’t even just the voice of a divine being. The book of John tells us that the Word became human and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The power and creative authority of God was made into a human being, Jesus Christ. His name is also The Word (Revelation 19:13). Though He was one with God and was God (John 1:1), He chose to become one with humanity also. He had to be divine, because God couldn’t claim to be self-sacrificing if Jesus were only human. If so, God would be willing to sacrifice someone else but not Himself. His entire claim to be Love would be undermined were Jesus not wholly divine. But He had to be human, too, because God couldn’t claim to understand humanity’s struggles and experiences if He weren’t.
This God-man, Jesus, is whom the Old Testament points forward to, and whom the New Testament points back to. Jesus came to give us the greatest revelation of who God is and to destroy the ideas of who He is not. He came to right misconceptions and to establish the character of God—a God of love—in the minds of humanity. This loving, living Word came because He wanted to dwell among His creation and redeem it from brokenness.
As you read the Bible, you will come across famous names. Perhaps you’ve heard of Adam and Eve, a perfect couple created in the image of God who infamously ate fruit that God told them not to eat? Maybe you know of Noah, a man who survived a worldwide flood with just seven other people? You may know Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, referenced as the forefathers of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people? There is also the story of Moses and the nation of Israel escaping slavery in Egypt. There is David, the greatest king in Israel’s history. There is Jesus Himself written about by four different authors in four different ways. We can read, too, about how His disciples healed the sick and raised the dead, as Jesus did. Peter, Paul, and John are all disciples of Christ and who shaped the church of the first century.
The Bible is not all rainbows and butterflies, however. It contains brutal stories of death and murder. Of adultery and lust. Of greed and hate. Yet, through all this mess, the message is of redemption. The Word says: I can make you anew. I can give you a clean heart. I can take your heart of hate and selfishness and replace it with a heart of love. It doesn’t matter what you have done. If you surrender to Me, I will come dwell with you now on earth, and one day will bring you to dwell with Me in heaven.