Flying by the Instruments

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This is part 2 in an 8-week sermon series called Foundations: An Introduction to Christian Theology. Last week we began by asking if there is credible evidence for the existence of a personal, creator God. We discovered that the evidence is overwhelming.

That evidence is what we call in theology, General Revelation, how God has revealed himself as the Creator through the material universe.

Today, we turn to what is called Special Revelation, where God has revealed himself not only as the Creator and Judge but as a Savior, Redeemer, and Reconciler.

Our passage this morning from the Bible is from 2 Timothy 3:14-17, where Paul is talking to his younger disciple Timothy, encouraging him in his ministry as a pastor.

“14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

At 3:00 a.m. Bagdad time on January 16, 1991, the United States began an extensive aerial bombing campaign to launch the first Iraq War, an operation called Desert Storm.

On the first night of the war, Lt. Col. Jeff Patton flew as an F-15 pilot escorting a large formation of bombers to destroy a chemical weapons plant in northern Iraq.

The date for the bombing campaign was chosen because of the absence of moonlight and the high clouds that helped the allied planes from being detected by enemy defenses.  Flying in total darkness, the pilots became completely dependent upon their instruments.

Shortly after crossing into Iraq, An Iraqi surface-to-air missile radar locked on to Col. Patton’s F-15.  He violently maneuvered the aircraft to break the radar’s lock.  His maneuver was successful but created a new problem.  Such violent movements in the dark threw off the fluid balance in his inner ear, causing him to become severely disoriented.

Although it felt as if the plane was in a steep climb, his instruments indicated he was in a 60-degree nose dive towards the ground. He was physiologically convinced that he was in a climb and his emotions demanded that he lower the nose of his aircraft to halt the climb.  But his instruments instructed him to do just the opposite.  Because he was flying in total darkness, he had to decide quickly whether to trust his emotions or trust his instruments.  His life depended on making the correct choice. He had three seconds to decide.

Even though it took everything within him to overcome what he was feeling, he decided to trust his instruments.  He pulled the F-15 upward and the plane leveled out.  Trusting his instruments saved his life!

God has given us instruments, too. Not the dash of an F-15, but what Paul called the Holy Scriptures, or what we more commonly call the Bible.

However, just like the instrument panel on an F-15 may look overwhelming, so can the contents of the Bible.

So, my aim today is to help you understand the basics of the Bible so that you can live by the instruments of God’s wisdom. Like Col. Patton, trusting the instruments just might save your life.

Before we dig into our primary Bible text, let me give you a little background in the Bible, itself.

The English word Bible comes from a Greek word, biblos, which originally referred to a collection of written documents, usually inscribed on papyrus and contained in a scroll.

Today, when we think of a book, we don’t think of a scroll as much as a collection of pages bound together within a cover. Yet, with the advent of the internet and e-books, scrolls, or at least digital scrolls, are making a comeback.

The word bible simply means book. To distinguish the book we call THE Bible from other books, we refer to the Bible as the “holy” Bible to signify that we are talking about a special book, a unique and even sacred book. This is why Paul called the Scriptures the holy Scriptures.

Of course, the Bible as a book actually is a collection of sixty-six books which are divided between the two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament, which was written over a thousand year period from 1,400 BC to around 400 BC, contains 39 individual books that include genres ranging from history, to poetry, to wisdom literature, to prophetic writings.

The New Testament, which was written entirely in the first century AD (mid-40s to mid-90s) contains 27 individual books that include historical narratives of the life of Jesus and the early church, personal letters to churches and individuals from apostles such as Paul, Peter, James, and John, and John’s apocalyptic vision called Revelation.

There is an obvious question you may be asking. Can such an old collection of writings that describe life in ancient cultures have any real application for people living in the 21st century? Of course, an obvious answer is that while cultures change, the human condition has not changed.

Nevertheless, should we really allow the Bible to be our authoritative guide in what to believe, how to think and what to do?  Should we really ascribe to the Bible the status of “holy” and “sacred?”

Can we really trust the Bible, or is it just an interesting, old religious text?

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