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Jan 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 3, 2021



But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in Christ Jesus. 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 be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Intro: In the world of literature, it is not unusual to find,

An author’s most treasured insights aren’t in the books they wrote
– but in letters to their friends, students, colleagues, or admirers
• frequently their letters provide the most practical and helpful advice
◦ they reveal what inspired them, kept them going,
◦ and their personal sources of insight and understanding
• in his letters to Timothy, Paul shares wise counsel with his protégé
◦ we’re fortunate to have access to this personal correspondence
– believers who love the Bible, love this passage
• here, Paul tells Timothy to continue on the path he has traveled
◦ he refers specifically to his spiritual education from others and scripture
• in verse 16, Paul makes clearest statement on inspiration of the Scriptures that is to be found in all of the New Testament
◦ it is breathed out by God – and as such, all Scripture . . . is profitable

The reason I brought you to this passage was to point out the terminology
– in all of scripture, the phrase appears only in this one place
• that phrase is sacred writings
◦ these two words are so important, we will need a few weeks to absorb them
• why have many Christians become bored with the Bible?
◦ why do many struggle with much that they find in the Bible?
◦ why have many become disenchanted, disinterested, and skeptical?
– the answer is, we have lost the essence of what the Bible is
• lost our respect for it and do not know how to read it
• like every generation, we have been influenced by the spirit of our times
◦ we struggle with the Bible,
◦ because we read it with rationally and scientifically conditioned minds

Every religion has its sacred writings
– all of them are treated as having come from a higher source of wisdom
• that higher source can be divine or perhaps an enlightened human
• those sacred writings define reality, provide beliefs, practices, and rituals
◦ the Bible is a collection of the sacred writings of Christianity

I will emphasize one fact and want you to take into your soul

We read sacred writings differently from how we read anything else
– you will not get from the Bible all it has to give if you expect it to read like
• a novel, magazine, newspaper, text book, or any other sort of document
• sacred writings are not pried open by critical minds,
◦ do not share their treasures with doubtful minds,
◦ or force their truths into resistant hearts
Joel Green, “Reading the Bible is not necessarily the same as reading Scripture. More specifically, when we read the Bible we are not necessarily reading the Bible as Scripture. . . . At one level, this is the experience of many ordinary Christians who take up the Bible and read its words, then walk away unchanged, uninspired, and uncertain.”
– all types of literature that we read take us into their worlds
• the Bible also takes us into its worlds – but it does more
◦ the Bible has a life that leaves the page and enters our world
◦ but only if we read it as Scripture, as sacred writings
• frequently we read in the prophets a phrase that goes like this,
The word of the LORD that came to Hosea (Hos. 1:1)
◦ reading Bible as sacred writings, God’s living word comes to us
◦ and it can come with the spiritual force that took hold of the prophets
Joel Green emphasizes “the immediacy of the Scriptures—that is, their capacity to speak clearly not only to their first audiences but also to later peoples faced with fresh challenges.” He asks the question, “What might it mean for us to read these documents as though they were addressed to us?”

Our sacred writings are a gift

We must never forget this
– the gift is God’s revelation to us of himself
• its purpose is not to teach us science, philosophy, history, etc.
◦ these are subjects we can learn from other sources
• sacred writings tell us about things that are otherwise unknowable
– as I read these words in front of me,
• something comes to me from outside my universe
• something that cannot be known than any other way
◦ and it comes to me as experiential knowledge
◦ God’s living word, entering my world, entering me

I always feel clumsy when trying to explain meaning of sacred

It is one of those terms that is more easily caught than taught
– sacred is a synonym for holy
• holiness has only one source – and it isn’t in our world
• in our everyday experience, holiness is foreign
– holiness is like a spiritual energy – and it can be scary
• think of the invisible energy of uranium
• the energy of holiness can be either positive or negative
in devotion to God, positive energy is released: grace and blessing
in the violation of a taboo, negative energy is released : wrath and curse

God’s holiness leaves traces of his presence
– in any place he has visited, on anything he has touched
• coming to those places or things, we encounter the sacred
• the sacred brings an awareness of a transcendent reality
– we do not merely read the sacred text,
• we experience it as a doorway to the transcendent
• it is always more than information – it is about encounter
Hans von Balthasar, “The vital thing is the living encounter with the God who speaks to us in his word.”
. . . for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction . . . . you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Th. 1:5; 2:13)
◦ in the sacred writings, we draw near to God and he draws near to us

How are we supposed to read sacred writings?

This may sound at first like another “method”
– like “how to study the Bible” or “how to interpret the Scriptures”
• but it’s not that — in fact, methods can get in the way
Joel Green talks about “Scientific methods” of interpretation, to which we “come as visitors from another land. If we are concerned with applying the Bible to our lives, scientific approaches teach us to take safari into the Bible’s strange world, capture the meaning that we find there, and transport it back to our world so as to display it and, if possible, to translate what we have learned about the past into contemporary idiom. For the scientific reader of the Bible, there is no inherent need to concern ourselves with the significance of the Bible for ourselves. It is sufficient to study these texts on their own terms, for their significance as cultural products in their own times.”
• we can be overly rationalistic with our methods
◦ sometimes it’s an attempt to make the Bible more believable
– the sacred writings do not require intense reasoning
• in fact, that can get in the way (as it often did with the disciples)
◦ but neither do the sacred writings require us to be gullible
◦ credulity leads to superstition and not faith
• how are we supposed to read the sacred writings?
◦ I intend to spend two months answering that question

Conclusion: For now I will offer a few suggestions

Prepare your mind and your heart with prayer
– not only requesting God’s presence and assistance
– but sitting quietly, listening to the silence, and focusing your attention

Do not jump to conclusions about what a text means
– especially avoid immediately applying everything to yourself
– don’t immediately lake a verse and start preaching at yourself
• many of us are too quick to assume the Scriptures are here to condemn us
• they are here to point the way to Jesus Christ

Don’t overreact when what you read is annoying, disturbing
– or when you have any sort of negative response
– instead, bring awareness and curiosity to what you are feeling
• in this way you are more likely to learn something about yourself
• and something about how you can live closer to God

Take reading the Bible very seriously
Helmut Thielicke, when preaching on Jesus’ parable of the soil and the seeds, addressed worldly distractions symbolized by the thorn-infested soil. “The devout of all times have been aware of these sources of domineering appeal and have therefore mobilized other forces against them. Above all, they meditated upon the Scriptures and prayed. But how the great ones in the kingdom of God did that! For them every reading of the Bible was a battle and every prayer a sword stroke.” “. . . the Word of God is demanding. It demands a stretch of time in our day—even though it be a very modest one—in which it is our only companion. We can’t bite off even a simple ‘text for the day’ and swallow it in one lump while we have our hand on the doorknob. Such things are not digested; they are not assimilated into one’s organism.”

I am not going to tell you how often to read the sacred writings
or how much to read in one sitting,
a chapter, ten chapters, or just one verse
I am not going to recommend a reading plan
I am only going to urge you’re the read the Scriptures,
receiving and responding to them as our sacred writings


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  1. Ed Northen / Jan 6 2021

    Chuck, thank you for this refelxion on God’s words as sacred writings. The instruction and reminder that the Word of God is living and breathing and not intended to be studied as a scientific text is so important. Also the reminder we are to be wise and not gullible. What I am amazed at is how I continually discover different aspects of God’s nature, character and love in a way that is encouraging and formative. The knowledge is not an intellectual ascent but a soul ascent, a deeper connection to the divine. It is His very breath breathed into me and rearranges my paradigm and therefore my response to him and to others.

    I look forward to more of your insights on this topic.

    Thanks you for always being willing to challenge us in new and fresh ways .



  2. Steve Stutler / Jan 7 2021


    Thanks for sharing this and, wow, this is timely. My journals the last few years are chock full of more questions about life with Christ, real encounters, quiet spaces, reflection…than about bible study and bible reading, church attendance, and all of that typical Evangelical baggage I carried (and preached) for a lot of years.

    Anyway…I love and appreciate you so much and your influence on my life 27 years later! You’ve been one of those mentors that has helped me stay sane, breathe, and continue to walk in mercy toward others and toward myself.

    blessings, Steve Stutler

  3. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Jan 11 2021

    And Steve, your sincerity, integrity, and determination to push forward with Jesus Christ has always been a source of encouragement to me. Yes, “real encounters,” and in all the ways you described. Frequently, in the moment I open my Bible God is already near. Then, for that morning at least, reading is optional.

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