Men and Women in the Church (Part 1) - Radical

Men and Women in the Church (Part 1)

As we approach topics that are controversial in the world and in the church, it’s critical that we have a right view of Scripture. Otherwise, we will assume that the norms of culture, or even our own sense of what seems fair, should dictate the church’s beliefs and practices. In this message from 1 Corinthians 11:2–16, David Platt lays out seven reasons we can bank our lives on God’s Word and two principles to help us rightly understand God’s Word. These truths help lay the groundwork for thinking about the proper roles for men and women in the church. This is Part 1 of “Men and Women in the Church.”

Men and Women in the Church (Part 1)

Church & Culture: A Study in Frist Corinthians series

I want to welcome you to worship, not just in this room, but in Loudoun, Montgomery County,  Prince William, and those of you who are online and unable to join us in person. We invite you to join us in person as soon as you’re physically able. It is so good to see this room filling up. Let’s give God glory for the opportunity to gather again like this. This prompts me to praise God and to thank you. We’ve been through a lot together over the last year, yet through it all, you have given faithfully to the point that we’ve been able to thrive financially while giving away millions of dollars more than we had planned to people in need amidst outreach in a pandemic. That is a testimony to God’s grace in this church family. So all glory be to Him and thanks to you. Continue to give. If you’ve been disconnected, I encourage you to re-engage in giving, knowing that the more we give, the more ministry we’re able to do together in this city and around the world. 

Now, I normally start by saying, “If you have a Bible, and I hope you do—let me invite you to  open to…” But before I say that today, I want to step back and ask a question. Why does it matter if you have a Bible? And not just in this gathering. Why does it matter if you have a Bible at all? Why should you care what this Book says?  

Think about it. It’s pretty interesting that thousands would gather today around the world with the same Book, that we would open it up together and spend an inordinate amount of time reading it and studying it, saying that our lives should revolve around whatever it says, no matter what it says. Now, that may not seem strange to you, but it sure seems strange to a lot of people in the world. I would say it seems strange to an ever-increasing number of people in our culture. I think about one woman who sat down with some believers. When somebody said, “Let’s turn to the book of John” she immediately asked, “Who is  John and why do I care what he says?”  

I think that’s a pretty good question and there are probably people who come every single week to this church who are asking the same question. Maybe this is your first time in a church, or you’re exploring Christianity; we want you to know you are not alone. Or there are others who have grown up in church. I grew up in church, and remember when I started asking the same questions. How do I know this  Book is true? Why should I listen to what it says? 

I think about teenagers across this gathering right now who may be asking the same questions.  You’re sitting there thinking, “I’m here because my mom or dad or whoever else brought me, but if I were completely honest, I don’t really get it. What does this Book have to do with my life and what I’m walking through right now? And why do I care what it says?” 

I know this because I’ve talked with you and because I’ve seen the data. Let me show you a graph that depicts people’s view of the Bible by generation. This is based on a six-year study the Barna Group did with the American Bible Society to gauge American’s views of the Bible. They asked, “How many of  you believe the Bible is sufficient for meaningful living?”  

Among those they classified as “Elders” —people born prior to 1946—they found that 65% said, “Yes, we believe the Bible is sufficient for meaningful living in America.”  

Then they surveyed what they called “Boomers” —the next generation—and 56% of them said they believed that. So still a majority. But then, among those classified as “Gen Xers,” only 40% said they believed this. Among Millennials—the youngest group they surveyed; 18-34 years old—do you know how many of them said the Bible is sufficient for meaningful living? Only 27%.  

Does that trend line tell you anything? To be clear, we haven’t even gotten to the current group of children and teenagers. That trend line makes me wonder how many of our children will believe the Bible is sufficient for their lives? So when I say, “If you have a Bible, and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with…” regardless of who you are—whether you’re new to church or whether you’ve grown up in church—I know many of you are wondering why it matters. 

I want you to know why it matters. I want you to know why you need this Book; why, if you don’t have one, we will give you one today. Just let us know. And not just to have it, but to hunger for it, to be ready to open this Book. I long for children and teenagers to come into this gathering thinking, “I want to open this Book. I want to know it. I want to understand what it says. I want my life to revolve around it.” 

I want people who’ve never opened this Book to open it for the first time in here and see that there is nothing like this Book. There’s no other book like this Book. This Book is the Word of God. For some of you, that sounds like a really bold statement. But I make it without reservation. I have no interest gathering with a bunch of people reading a book together and saying, “You and I need to revolve our lives around what this book says,” if that book is not the Word of God.  

have better things to do with my life if this is just one among many similar books. And you’ve got better things to do with your Sundays than to come to a gathering so read and study this Book, if it’s not the Word of God. Just join a book club some other time in the week. Don’t get up and bring your whole family together, serve in kids’ ministry teaching this book. Go to the ballfield. Go on a hike; it’s a beautiful day outside. Get some extra work done. Do something else! But, if this Book is the Word of God, then put aside all those things and prioritize getting together to study this Book. Prioritize serving in kids’ ministry,  so they learn it and that trend line changes.  

So how do we know this Book is the Word of God? What makes it unique, apart from any number of other religious books in the history of the world? Here are seven quick reasons we know this Book is  God’s Word.  

You might be wondering why we’re spending so much time here and where this is going. Trust me—this is going somewhere really important. I would encourage you to write these down for your own knowledge and so you can share with others why you know this Book is the Word of God. If someone were to ask you right now, “Why do you revolve your life around this Book?” what would you say? Maybe  you would say, “Because it’s God’s Word.” They might then ask, “Well, how do you know that? What  makes the Bible different from the Koran, from the Vedas in Hinduism, or any other religious or  philosophical writings in the world?” Every Christian should be able to say, “Here’s why I bank my life on  this Book, and here’s why you should too.”  

1. Internal consistency 

The Bible contains 66 books written by over 40 different authors in three different languages over the course of 1500 years. They all together paint a clear picture of one story that revolves around the one true God creating men and women, then us sinning against God, and God making a way of restoration for all things by His grace through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

This whole Book paints a consistent, clear picture of the gospel, the good news of Jesus. Forty authors over the course of 1500 years. If I took 40 of you right now and asked you to write down your views on God, what’s wrong in the world, and how it could be made right, there’s no way you would agree. This last year has proven that. And that’s during the same time in history and in the same language.  These were 40 different authors in different periods in history, with different languages. A few were well educated, but others were simple. There were farmers, shepherds, soldiers, and fishermen. 

By way of comparison think about the Koran and Islam. I say this with all due respect to anyone with a Muslim background; these are facts and not commentary on how the Bible and the Koran compare.  The Koran was written, not by 40 authors in three languages over 1500 years, but by one man,  Mohammed, who claimed he had a vision during one year. He was illiterate, so he dictated revelations from his vision to his followers, then after he died, those recitations were written down. There were discrepancies in different accounts of what Mohammed taught. So one particular person collated them and he alone determined what was authentic, then he burned the rest. One man in one year, with discrepancies,  that another man decided to clean up and burn the differences.  

With all due respect, there is no comparison with this Book. 

 

2. Manuscript reliability 

One of Islam’s most prevalent criticisms of the Bible is that it’s been changed, but the second reason we know this is the Word of God is because of its manuscript reliability. We base our knowledge of world history on writings where we have a handful of manuscripts, sometimes a hundred or so. But we have over 5,000 full or partial manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, with more manuscripts being found every year, none of which has ever resulted in a major revision. In a few, there are extremely minor variations. This makes the Bible by far the most reliably attested writing in human history.

3. Historical accuracy 

Also, the Bible is filled with history. Books like the Koran are not historical, like the Old and New  Testaments of the Bible are by covering 1,500 years. Over and over and over again, the Bible has been proven to be historically, geographically, and archeologically accurate. One non-Christian, non-Jewish  archeologist said, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a  biblical reference.”

4. Fulfilled prophecy 

The Bible has predicted history, containing thousands of prophecies fulfilled with uncanny precision, including 300 specific prophecies in the Old Testament, written over hundreds of years, that are fulfilled in detail in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The odds of that happening by chance are less than one in one followed by 2,000 zeroes. In the words of R.C. Sproul, “The very dimensions of this sheer fulfillment of prophecy of the Old Testament Scriptures should be enough to convince anyone that we are  dealing with a supernatural piece of literature.” And it’s not just that things were made up to try to confirm  what had been prophesied

5. Eye witness testimonies 

The Bible is a book of eyewitness testimonies. In other words, people were writing down what  they saw, what actually happened, in a way that others could similarly have refuted at the time, stating,  “That wasn’t true.” Keep in mind, those who were writing the Bible were often persecuted or martyred for what they were writing, but they wrote it anyway. Pascal once said, “I believe the witnesses who get their  throats cut for what they’re writing.” 

6. Timeless authority 

All this leads to the Bible’s timeless authority. I want to be careful here even using worldly categories to judge the Bible when the reality is that century after century after century, the Bible has shown itself to be our judge. While its authority has been attacked, questioned, criticized, disputed, and denied in every age by different people, it remains. The famous French philosopher and atheist Voltaire  once claimed, “A hundred years from now, the Bible will be a forgotten book.” Yet after he died, in a twist of irony, the house where Voltaire lived became a printing press for the distribution of Bibles across the world. People have forgotten Voltaire, but not the Bible.

7. Supernatural authenticity 

This reason is the most important. This supernatural book, written by 40 authors, carried along and inspired by the Holy Spirit over the course of 1,500 years, contains supernatural authenticity. By that, I  mean that throughout history, in every age and place where this Book has gone, it has supernaturally changed lives. In every century and every setting where it has spread, this Book has shown itself inspired by God Himself to transform people, to bring peace and joy and eternal life to those who open it, read it and bank their lives on it. 

I look across this room and see story after story after story. I see baptisms happening at locations where we’re gathered today of people whose lives have been supernaturally changed and transformed for all eternity by this Book. Six teenagers are being baptized out at Prince William today, five of whom have been supernaturally transformed by the Author of this Book. 

This is why we talk a lot around here about giving our lives and resources to get this Book everywhere in the world, particularly among people who don’t have access to it. This is why we come together every week and say, “If you have this Book, and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with…” because whether you’re a teenager or a senior adult, whether this is your first time in church or you’ve grown up in church, whether you’re from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America,  North America, this Book is necessary for your life. 

Yet despite the consistency, reliability, accuracy, testimony, authority and authenticity of the Bible throughout history, we live in a day and a culture in this country where so many people not only question all these things about the Bible, but they take things a step further to say that the Bible is offensive, even dangerous. They say the Bible is outdated and it’s time for us to move away from it.  

In that same research, I cited earlier about Americans’ view of the Bible, among Millennials—the  youngest group they surveyed—over a quarter of them described the Bible as, “A dangerous book of  religious dogma.” When they were asked if the Bible has too much or too little influence in society, more people said the Bible has too much influence in our culture than too little. In other words, more Millennials are concerned that the Bible is having too much influence in our culture today.  

After all, they think it is outdated and offensive for a book to say that you were born either male or female and that your gender is a good, God-designed, beautiful, wonderful, fundamental part of who you are. It’s outdated and offensive for a book to say that a woman who has feelings for another woman, or a  man who has feelings for another man, should not express love for one another in marriage. It’s outdated and offensive for a book to say that the sexually immoral, the greedy, the drunkard will not go to heaven. We saw all of these things a couple series ago in 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 on sexuality, singleness and marriage. 

I trust we realize that we live in a culture that increasingly would say it’s dangerous for people to gather together, open this Book and read it. Or maybe if you do that, don’t apply it to your life. Whether it’s in Loudoun County this last week, or scores of examples across our country in recent years—and likely increasing examples in the days to come—we live in a culture that says your job, your reputation, and your relationships will at some point be in jeopardy if you live according to this Book.  

When that happens, I want you to have confidence that this Book is worth it. Don’t just ask if this  Book is worth getting up for on Sundays and coming together to open and read and study it. Of course, that’s true. Don’t just ask if this Book is worth spending time in every morning, every evening of your life,  alone and with others, reading and studying it? Yes, of course. But the question is deeper. Is this Book worth giving your life for? Is this Book worth losing anything, maybe everything you have, for it? 

I want you to be able to say from the depths of your being, “Absolutely it is. I trust this Book and  will bank my life on it.” Together, we trust this Book. As the church, we come together around the Bible.  This has been tested in so many ways over this last year, but we’ve said over and over and over again— what this church has said throughout our history—“We unite around the Bible. We’re a Bible church.” We  are not a “this church” or “that church.” We’re not defined by a denomination or an affiliation. We’re defined by a foundation—the Bible. We love the Word of God. We bank our lives, individually and together, on it, no matter what that means for us in this world.  

That’s why I say, “If you have a Bible, and I hope you do…” That’s the reason I spent all this time getting to this point before we open the Bible today, because we are about to open the Bible to a passage that, not just people in our culture, but many in the church would label as offensive and outdated because of what it says about men and women. I want it to be clear, in your heart and in mine, when we open to this place in the Bible that this book is not offensive and not outdated. Actually, let me rephrase that. This Book actually is offensive, but not in the ways you or our culture might think. The way I would rephrase it is this  Book, the Bible, is “rightly offensive.” It’s offensive in a good way.  

I wrote a book a few years back called Counterculture, which as best as I biblically knew how addressed pressing issues in our culture. Things like sexuality, marriage, abortion, racism, refugees,  religious liberty, and others. I started that book by saying that when people today think about the offense of the Bible, they immediately think about the Bible’s views on sexuality, marriage and so many other issues.  But we need to realize that the Bible’s offense begins far before those issues. Those issues are nowhere near the greatest offense in the Bible. The Bible’s offense begins with its very first words in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God…” 

I am convinced that is the most offensive verse in this entire Book, because it announces from the start that there is a God Who is the Author of all things, which means He alone possesses authority over all things—including you and me. God alone possesses the right to say how you and I should live and that every one of us will give an account to Him for how we respond to what He has said. The authority of  God, not just in the world, but in your life and in my life, booms across the first sentence of the Bible in a  way that offends pride in every single one of us.  

The Bible announces from the beginning that we don’t determine what is true; God does. We don’t determine what is right and good; God does. Your life and my life, for all eternity, hinges on whether we trust what He says or what we think. So yes, in a sense the Bible is offensive, but it’s offensive in a really good way, in the best way possible.  

Think about it. Our Creator, the One Who made us and knows what is best for us, the Author of life, knows how you and I can experience life to the fullest. He’s given us His Word so we might leave behind our thoughts that lead to death and instead trust His Word that leads to life. That’s why we need the offense of this Book every week when we gather together. Every day we live in this world we need the good offense of the Word of the God Who loves us so much and Who wants you and me to experience life to the fullest forever.  

So yes, in a sense, this Book is offensive in a really good way. But the Bible is not outdated. The Bible is timeless. This is where we come to the challenge of a passage like we’re about to read.  So now, if you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—I invite you to open with me to 1 Corinthians 11. Yes, I know what you are thinking. I see the thought bubbles around this room. You’re thinking, “I’m looking at my watch and we just now opened the  Bible? Will lunch be happening today?”  

Let me relieve your rising anxiety by saying that this is Part 1 of a two-part message on 1  Corinthians 11:2-16. We’re basically setting the stage today for next week and I think you may be even more intrigued to come back next week after reading the passage before us. So let’s read 1 Corinthians  11:2-16, called by one Bible commentator whom I greatly respect, “One of the most difficult and  controversial passages in the entire Bible.” So here we go. Paul writes, under the inspiration of the Holy  Spirit, the Word of God: 

2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a  covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. 

Before I say anything else, let’s pause and pray in light of what we’ve talked about in this Book.  O God, with our Bibles open before us, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for not leaving us alone in this confused and broken world to try to figure things out on our own. We thank You for loving us enough to give us Your Word, even though our minds and hearts are prone to doubt it and rebel against it. We confess together that we are prone to foolishness in and of ourselves, and You, O God,  are infinitely wise.  

So we say together that we trust Your Word. We ask You to transform our minds and lives according to it, knowing that in a passage like this is so counter to the way our culture thinks today—and honestly, God, so counter to the way we think today. We pray that You would give us humble hearts and minds to understand what this passage says, to receive Your Word, and to live according to it, according to  Your rightly offensive, good, and timeless Word. We pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Again, I mainly want to take these last few minutes to set the stage for next week. I want us to think together about this idea that the Bible is outdated. When we read passages like this, don’t you just kind of think, “Are you serious? This seems very antiquated. Does that really have application for us today? Surely humanity has progressed over 2,000 years. Why are we reading and studying a book,  specifically a letter, that was written 2,000 years ago? And other portions of the Bible were written 3,000  years ago?” 

Asking these questions is good, bringing us to two principles for reading the Bible that I want to encourage you to write down. These two principles will not just help us with 1 Corinthians 11, they will help you with every passage you read in the Bible.  

The principle of history 

This principle says is that God has revealed biblical truth in specific historical and cultural contexts. That’s a loaded sentence that simply means 1 Corinthians did not just appear out of nowhere in history. This was a real letter, written by a real person name Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,  to a real church with real people in a real city called Corinth in the first century.  

So there is a real and specific historical and cultural context into which this biblical truth was communicated. This means that in order to understand what the Bible is saying at any given time, we need to start by—as best we possibly can—stepping into the historical and cultural context of the people to whom it was originally written, who originally read this or heard it. As we do that, we need to ask two important questions.

First, what are the timeless truths God reveals in this text, truths which never change over time? In other words, whenever we’re reading or studying a passage in the Bible, we are looking for the truth God is revealing that pertains to all people in all cultures at all times.  

Then we ask a second question: are there any temporary applications of those truths in this text which can change over time? So are there things in a text—in a passage in the Bible—that are taking biblical truth and applying it to a particular culture at a particular time in a way that might be different in another culture at another time. To be clear, not every text contains this. Many texts don’t. Think about these clear commands: “Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37). “Flee idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). “Flee sexual immorality” (1  Corinthians 6:18). Those are clear commands we see in the Bible in ways that don’t change over time or across cultures. 

Let me show you a similar example from 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Paul writes in a different letter,  “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided  hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with  good works.”  

So let’s ask those two questions. What is the timeless truth here? God is clearly saying in this passage that women at all times and in all cultures should adorn themselves with respect, modesty, and self-control—and most importantly with godliness and good works. That’s timeless truth from God that never changes. Part of how we know it’s timeless is because God’s Word says the same thing at different points in different times and cultures throughout the Bible.  

At the same time, this passage is a letter written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by Paul to  Timothy, who was pastoring a church in Ephesus. He is saying that braided hair, gold, pearls, and costly attire, in that context, we’re communicating a lack of respect, a lack of modesty, and a lack of self-control.  That’s a temporary application of that truth at that place and time in history, but this is why we don’t have  someone at the door today checking for women with braided hair, saying, “Not here.” Because braided hair in our context today, in and of itself, does not communicate lack of respect, lack of modesty of lack of self-control. That’s a temporary application of a biblical truth. So this means we need to think about how to dress in our culture today in a way that communicates respect, modesty, and self-control because that’s the timeless truth in this text.  

Now, the challenge, if we’re not careful, is that we’ll quickly label something as a “temporary application” that’s actually a timeless truth. Meaning, we can quickly say, “Well, that was just for them back then,” and excuse ourselves from what God is telling all people in all times to do.  

Take for example God’s command for a husband to lead his wife in Ephesians 5, or the command to flee sexual immorality, including homosexual practice. People will say, “Well, that was just for that context in the first century. That doesn’t apply to the 21st century.” Part of the reason we know these are timeless truths from God about marriage and sexuality is because we see them over and over again in  God’s Word, across time, and across cultures. 

This actually leads to the second principle I want to show you in order to rightly understand the  Bible. So we have this principle of history, where we ask these questions: “What are the timeless truths  God reveals in this text? Are there temporary applications of those truths in this text,” knowing God has revealed biblical truth in specific historical and cultural contexts. 

The principle of harmony 

Then this second principle helps us realize that we need to interpret each Scripture in light of all  Scripture. No part of Scripture stands alone. It all fits together in a unified whole. This goes back to where we started today, with the internal consistency of the Bible. Yes, the Bible has over 40 human authors, but the Bible has one divine Author—God, Who inspires it all. Second Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is  breathed out by God…” God does not contradict Himself.  

So we need to consider how different passages relate to each other. Specifically, whenever we see two passages that seem to contradict themselves, we need to look more closely at the context of each passage, like we just talked about. We need to ask, “What is the timeless truth here that we know is  consistent across both of these passages and across the entire Bible?”  

There’s an example of that here in 1 Corinthians 11 and in another verse we’re going to get to in a  couple months in 1 Corinthians 14. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 11:5,: “Every wife who prays or prophesies  with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” This is talking about a wife praying or prophesying and how to do that. But then, we’re going to get to 1 Corinthians 14:34 in a few weeks and will read, “As in all  the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches…” 

So at first glance, those passages seem to contradict each other, leading some people to think, “I  can’t trust the Bible.” Or people who do trust the Bible are confused, maybe a bit concerned. Especially when we realize that a lot of women speak in our worship gatherings in a lot of ways, including prominent ways on stage. So are we going contrary to what God is saying in His Word? We’re going to look at that more in 1 Corinthians 14 when we get to the context of that passage and what that is saying, along with 1  Corinthians 11 next week. 

But in all kinds of passages in the Bible, we have to look at each Scripture in light of all Scripture.  What does the whole Bible teach about men and women and worship? We’re going to see that, yes, we can absolutely trust the Bible; it doesn’t contradict itself. And we’re going to understand each Scripture in light of all Scripture.  

Now, all of this is important for how we understand the Bible, specifically for our time together next week in 1 Corinthians 11. So think about the passage I just read to you. We need to ask the question:  “What are the timeless truths in this passage in the Bible, and what are the temporary applications of those  truths in that context?” Both seem to be at work there. Headcoverings for women and men both seem to signify something in that culture. So does long hair or short hair or shaved hair. At the same time, there seem to be timeless truths at work in this passage about the nature of God and man and woman that go all the way back to creation. What does the whole Bible teach about men and women, wives and husbands,  and leaders in the church? All of that comes to bear on how we understand a passage like we just read. 

So these are questions we’re going to dive into next in order to rightly understand this passage, in order to keep from misunderstanding it in all kinds of unhelpful ways, and in order to make sure we are applying the timeless truth of God from this text in our lives today.  

But before we even get to next week, I need to ask you a fundamental question. I want to ask this of every single person in this gathering, from the youngest to the oldest, whether it’s your first time in church or you’ve grown up in church. I want to encourage you to let this question soak into your mind and your heart. It’s not for the person next to you, in front of you, behind you—this is for you.  

Here’s the question every one of us needs to answer first and foremost: “Do you trust this Book  with your life?” Another way to put it is this: “Do you trust the Author of this Book with your life?” Your answer to that question will affect how you view and respond to 1 Corinthians 11. And in a much, much bigger way, your life hinges, now and for eternity, on how you answer that question.  

Just to be sure we’re clear, the central message of this Book is that there is one true God Who created you and me and everything in this world. He created us to experience life in Him and with Him forever. The problem in our lives, and the problem in this world, is that we have rebelled against God. We have not trusted His Word to us. If you look back at the beginning of the Bible, the very temptation to sin in Genesis 3 started with the question, “Did God really say…?” God had said, “You can eat from any tree in the garden except this one,” then the first temptation was to doubt God’s word. Not long after that, the first sin—the first act of rebellion—was to go against God’s word. That’s not just the story of Adam and  Eve; that’s the story of you and me. Every single one of us has turned aside from God and His Word to ourselves and our ways. As a result of our sin, we are separated from God, so if we die in this state of separation from God, we will spend eternity separated from Him in judgment due our sin. 

But the good news of the Bible is that God loves us and has not left us alone in this state of separation. God has come to us in the person of Jesus, Who is at the center of this Book. Jesus has done what no one else could ever do or has ever done. He lived the life we could not live, a life of no sin. And then, even though He had no sin for which to die, He chose to die on a cross to pay the price for the sins of anyone who would trust in Him and His love for them. 

Then the good news keeps getting better because He didn’t stay dead for long. Three days later He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death. He says to anyone who trusts in Him, “You have eternal  life with Me.” He’s coming back one day and will restore all things to Himself for those who have put their trust in His love.  

So if you’ve never put your trust in Him with your life, I invite you to do that today. I urge you to trust in God with your life, to trust Jesus to save you from your sin and restore you to relationship with Him. Trust His work. When you do—and for all who already have—let me encourage every single  Christian in two ways as we close.  

One, I want to encourage you to meditate on this Book like your life depends on it, because it does. We’ve used this term before and I want to continue to use it so it’s engrained into us: meditate. Don’t just read the Bible like you’re checking off a box. Meditate on it. Soak in it. When you get up, before you go to bed, throughout the day.  

Let me speak pastorally to many of you, and in a sense to all of us who are Christians. We have more access to the Bible than ever before in history. YouVersion is a Bible app you can download in a  second. You can have half a billion chapters of the Bible in 500 languages at your fingertips. Followers of  Jesus a thousand years ago never could have fathomed having the Bible in their pockets at all times. At the same time, the problem is that there are a lot of other things besides the Bible on our phones, computers, TVs, and bookshelves. Many of you are spending far more time on these other things than you are in God’s  Word. I would venture to say almost all of you—I include myself in this—are spending far more time on  Facebook, reading or watching news, following what this or that person is saying, listening to this podcast, watching that video, reading a book or watching a show, than you are soaking in the Word of God. 

You don’t realize it, but it is killing your soul. I don’t say that to be overly dramatic. It’s true. It’s deceiving your mind, it’s dividing the church, it’s destroying our witness in the world, because we spend so much of our energy focused on temporary things in our culture and in our country that we’re losing our witness to the timeless Word of God. Students, most of you have an impulse to check texts and posts and videos on your phone, but you have no such impulse to go to the Bible—that is extremely dangerous.  

I just want to remind each of us, including myself, that these things don’t lead to life. In fact, most of these things are actually designed to deceive, manipulate, control, and conform you to a pattern of this world that goes against God’s Word which does bring life. So I want to plead with you to either cut off some of those things or spend far less time on them, then meditate on this Book like your life depends on it—because it does. I believe that’s a word from God for us today.  

Then in a world where an increasing number of people don’t know how good this Word is, who think all kinds of things about this Word, share this Book with others like their lives depend on it—because they do. Parents, read and study this Word with your kids like their lives depend on it—because they do.  Stop wasting so much time on so much stuff in this world while ignoring spending time in this Word with them. 

Don’t just keep saying, “I can’t wait for children or student ministry to open up.” Don’t forget that children and student ministry starts right there in your home every morning, every evening, and throughout the day. When you walk and when you ride in the car, all the time. This is what our kids need. It’s what every teenager in this gathering needs. Are we faithfully giving it to them? Are we getting involved in  Kids’ Quest and Rock to pass this Word on to the next generation and so that trend line doesn’t stay the same?

Not just in our homes or churches, but there are people in your life that you will interact with this week who need this Word. Their lives for eternity hinge on hearing it from you and me. So I just pray today that God would help you share the central message of this Book, the good news of Jesus, with one person this week. Let me pray toward that end. Would you bow your heads with me?  

First and foremost, as we bow our heads, for anyone who’s never said, “I trust You, Jesus, with my life,” let today be the day, even right now. As our heads are bowed and we’re praying, would you just pray to God and say, “God, I know I’ve turned aside from You and Your Word to myself and my ways. But today I have decided to trust in You. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sin. I trust Him as Lord of my  life.” I urge you to put your trust in Jesus with your life today.  

When you do, and for all who have, I pray, God, help us. We praise You for Your Word. We thank  You for Your Word. We pray that You would help us live differently in this world, not to be caught up in everything else this world is calling us to. God, I feel so limited in these few minutes we have together right now. We’re about to scatter into a world where we get all kinds of other messages that pull us away from Your Word. Would You please guard us by Your Word? 

God, I pray for this church. I pray for every single person who is within the sound of my voice right now. Please guard them with Your Word. Help them to prioritize Your Word. Help them to see its beauty, value, and worth. Help us to know and understand it rightly, to live according to it in our lives us, and to share it with others.  

I pray that this week You would open opportunities for us to share the central message of Your  Word with somebody else. I pray that You would bring others to supernatural life change this week through  Your Word, through our lips. Please may it be so. As we come together next week around Your Word, help us bring others with us to hear Your Word and to come to know life in You. We pray all of these things as people united around Your Word and in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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