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About this series
Why I Believe
Straight Answers to Honest Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity
When asked why you believe what you believe, how do you respond? Do you wish you'd paid more attention in Sunday school? Are you able to engage in thoughtful conversation, or do you become defensive? Why I Believe is a series designed to equip you with a simple, winsome approach to explaining why you believe what you believe about issues like: Jesus' resurrection, the authenticity of the Bible, life after death, the reality of heaven and hell, the validity of creation vs. evolution, and the God of the Bible, being the one and only, true God. Chip explains we can actually know the truth, and we can communicate the truth in a way that engages people rather than putting them off. There's solid evidence to satisfy the heart and mind of anyone honestly seeking answers. If you or someone you know has genuine questions about issues at the core of human existence, Why I Believe is an excellent resource. ACSI approvedMore from this series
You may not know this, but before I was a pastor, I was a basketball coach. And I honestly thought my whole life I was going to be a basketball coach. And I had coached middle school and then high school and then my dream was I wanted Bobby Knight’s job. I wanted either Indiana or Ohio State – I wanted to be a major college coach.
And so, I had to go to graduate school. I didn’t really want to go back to graduate school, but if you don’t have a Master’s degree then you can’t coach in college. And so, I found a job as a resident assistant at West Virginia University where I could teach the freshman-level stuff and then they would pay my way, which worked out really well.
And I’ll never forget, I was walking in to teach one of my classes and I had my books and I had my Bible on it because I was leading a campus ministry at the same time, and a very bright PhD student paused and then he looked at me, then he looked at my Bible. He said, “Is that a Bible?” I said, “Yeah!” And then sort of with disdain, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
And in a moment of faith, I said, “Yeah, I really do.” And then he walked away, but before he walked away, I got one of those glances that you’ve probably gotten. Oh my gosh. I thought you had all your marbles. Or, are you anti-intellectual? How in the world could you be doing graduate work at a secular university and actually believe the Bible?
And all I can tell you was, I’m ashamed to say this, I was ashamed of the Bible. I mean, I felt like, Wow, he was really big and I was really small. And I remember walking down the hall feeling like, What? Why do I feel like this? God, You have changed my life.
And what I realized was I didn’t have confidence. I had a personal relationship with God and He was speaking to me through the Bible, but I didn’t have the confidence that: this is the Word of God. I could proudly say, “This is God’s truth. And by the way, here’s why.”
And so, what I want to do in our time is I want to answer some of those tough questions that I went on a journey that I had to know, because I don’t want to just believe it. I don’t just want God to speak to me, I want to have a level of confidence that this is the very Word of God. And what I want you to know, you can have that same confidence.
Here are the questions that were plaguing me. Questions like: “Is the Bible the Word of God or the word of men?” “Is the Bible full of myths and legends and fairy tales or is it historically reliable?” “Is all the Bible true or are only parts of it trustworthy?” “Can the Bible be translated that many times over hundreds and hundreds of years and still be accurate?” And finally, “What makes the Bible different than other religious writings?” You get in a discussion and that group has their holy book and that group has their holy book. So, what makes it unique and distinctive?
And so, to go on this journey, I began to ask questions. So, what I want to do is I want to ask a handful of questions and give you the reason of what I learned of why I have confidence in the Bible as God’s Word.
The first question is: isn’t the Bible a collection of stories, myths, and legends? The answer to that is: no. And why? Archaeology. The Bible is an historically accurate document. Are you ready for this? There are over twenty-five thousand specific places in the Old Testament alone that are verified in history. Actual cities; actual people.
I can go to the New Testament, there are inscriptions. All the things we have heard about: Pontius Pilate, Bethlehem, Jesus, the census – all those things are historical facts that can be verified.
The New Testament, the Old Testament is not myths, dreams, legends, or stories. It’s people, places, and real events that can be verified.
The second question: don’t all religions have their holy book? What makes the Bible so special? The answer: Revelation. Revelation! The Bible claims to infallibly reveal the very words and the mind of God.
2 Timothy 3:16 says this, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” In other words, all Scripture, the very words of the Bible, are inspired or God-breathed through human instruments and through their personalities, but God superintended it in such a way that what we have is the very Word of God.
Now, you might say to yourself, Well, Chip, that is a little bit of circular reasoning, and I will admit that. But over three thousand times, “Thus says the Lord.” It makes it unique. In other words, it’s authoritative. So, there are lots of holy books, but here’s what I want you to get: the Bible claims to be the infallible, revealed Word of God. That makes it unique. But there’s something else that makes it unique. Its origin, it’s structure, and its unity.
A lot of people have no idea – did some guy just sit down and write the Bible? No! Are you ready for this? There are forty different authors, three different languages, over fifteen hundred years. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, New Testament was primarily Koine Greek, but also Aramaic.
And you have these different authors from all these different timeframes, and are you ready for this? In different geographical places, with one very central theme. From Genesis all the way to Revelation, it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ the coming Savior, Jesus Christ the King, Jesus Christ the One who will fulfill all the prophecies, Jesus Christ now the center of the gospels. And now, Jesus Christ ascended and the Jesus Christ that is coming back again – Genesis to Revelation – the theme of a book written over fifteen hundred years in multiple languages by multiple authors, one central theme: Jesus Christ.
Now, imagine two billion publications of the Bible since 1455 and then there’s one last thing that makes it very unique: its authenticity. Most holy books don’t show any of the weaknesses of the characters. Think about this. Moses: murderer. David: murderer and adulterer. The apostle Paul: a murderer. James and John: anger management issues. If you were trying to convince someone that this is a book from heaven, you certainly wouldn’t be that authentic.
And, yet, that’s what tells me: this is from God because God knows we struggle. He wanted to give us examples of real people in real time to reveal His heart and how He deals with us, not just when we’re doing well, but when we are not doing so well.
The third question I want to answer is it’s obvious that the data is strong, there’s a strong case that the Bible is very unique. But can it really be the very Word of God? Well, the answer is “yes” because of one very famous name: Jesus.
Jesus actually believed the Old Testament to be the very words of God and He predicted the New Testament to be likewise. Not just in concepts, not in generalities, but the actual words Jesus would say were from the Father. They were God’s Word.
Matthew chapter 5, Jesus is preaching on the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the law until it is all accomplished.”
And so, He says to them, “I’m not here to change things; I’m going to fulfill the very Word of God. He actually believed that every word was God-breathed or inspired. In fact, are you ready for this? Jesus actually bases His proof of the resurrection on a tense of the verb, not just one word, but on the tense of a verb.
And the religious leaders are trying to trap Him. And so, what they do is they come with this story, it’s a very familiar one for many of you. And it is about this woman who has multiple husbands and there are no heirs. And so, they say, “When this woman is in heaven, who is going to be her husband, because there are seven men?”
And what they were really trying to say is there is no resurrection. Listen to Jesus’ response in Matthew chapter 22, verse 29. “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error, because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection, people will neither marry or be given in marriage. They will be like the angels in heaven.’” Now, get this, “But about the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what God said to you? I am,” present tense, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.”
Now, of all the places that Jesus could go to support that He believes in the resurrection, there’s a passage in Job that’s really clear. He could have reached into one of the psalms. But He goes to one, little tense of the verb. You know what that says? Jesus actually believes that every word is inspired by God. And I think about that, He’s the expert witness.
I have been on a lot of juries and you listen to all kind of expert witnesses and as they come in, the better their credentials and the more they know, the more weight you give them. We have learned that Jesus rose from the dead. We have looked at the proof of the resurrection. If the resurrected Christ says, “I believe in the Old Testament and I believe the New Testament, every word is going to be inspired,” I will tell you, for me, that gives me a lot of confidence.
When Jesus talks about Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Adam, Eve – He doesn’t say, “These are nice legends or fairy tales.” They were actual people in actual space/time. He had full confidence and believed that the Bible was the very Word of God.
Now, the next question that I want to ask and answer is: yes, Jesus’ view is a strong argument. But for me, for me, and I think it’s because of what I was going through, the most convincing argument that God spoke to my heart where, when I walked out of that place and felt intimidated by that student and went through some times in my life, this next reason is the one that God used to say, “Chip, you can believe it. You can walk into any arena. This is not anti-intellectual. This is the very Word of God.” And this is prophecy.
Notice, prophecy sets the Bible apart from all other religions. Now, let me give you a little background.
Probably between my third and fourth year in college and I was growing and things were great, I stayed for summer school so I could play in a basketball league. And I had this weird experience. I didn’t know anything about it, I would learn later that theologians and mystics would call it “the dark night of the soul.” And every now and then, sometimes God will allow the emotional connection with Him to sort of fade away and help you learn to trust Him.
And just out of the blue one day, I had this thought. And it was a deep doubt. And it wasn’t like, I wonder if this passage over here is right or wrong, and it wasn’t like, I wonder about that book. It was like, I wonder if any of this is true. And literally, it was satanic. It was just like, I wonder if my salvation is true. I wonder if Jesus is real. I wonder if I can trust the Bible. And it was horrendous.
And my emotional connection with God, it was just like, whoo. It evaporated. And so, I remember deciding: regardless of how I felt, I would get up as was my custom now, and I would read God’s Word. And I read God’s Word every day and I didn’t feel anything. But I realized my faith can’t be built on my experience and on my feelings. It had to be on truth.
And so, I hung in there and I hung in there and I happened to be reading through the Old Testament. And I was reading through Isaiah and I came across this passage that I am going to tell you, it was so encouraging and so blew mind. It’s in Isaiah 46.
It says, “Remember the former things, things of long ago. I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, and what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
Now, there is a bigger context and in the context, what he is going to do in chapter 44, 45, and there in 46, it’s a comparison of: who is a true God and who is a false God? And Isaiah, speaking for the Lord, basically says, “Our God can tell the future, beginning to end, and He makes prophecies and they come through a hundred percent of the time.” And then he gives some examples.
And I just began to think, Wait a second. Do I believe this or not? And I could have gone to lots of different places, but I remember someone saying there were over three hundred prophecies alone that Jesus fulfilled in His first coming. And I thought to myself, Okay. I knew a few of them, like, okay, thirty pieces of silver; I remember that. He’ll be born of a virgin. I kind of heard that.
And the I did some research and found out those things were predicted seven hundred years before He was even born. And all of a sudden I began to realize, Wow. And I did a study on prophecy. And what I realized was a God who is sovereign and who is all-knowing and could say, “This is going to happen and it happens a hundred percent of the time,” is mind-boggling. And when He does it specifically about God the Son, all I can tell you is, my faith got infused.
And I thought to myself, You know something? Everybody trusts someone’s word. Think about that. That PhD student, it was like popular culture said, “Oh, the Bible is out.” He trusted someone’s word. We trust someone’s word. Some kids, their mom and dad. Sometimes it’s an authority figure. Sometimes it’s on what we hear on the TV.
Everyone trusts someone’s word about all kind of things in life. What I am telling you is the evidence is overwhelming. We can trust God’s Word. And prophecy is the thing that helped me hold onto my faith when I had my doubts.