Ray Bradbury authored the now-infamous book, Fahrenheit 451. The story describes life under a government which limits certain ideas and freedoms of speech. If the government does not approve of a certain concept in a book, then it simply censors those pages or that book entirely. In some cases, nothing is left in a book but footnotes— footnotes that no one really reads. Eventually books are tossed out altogether, thrown into piles and left for firemen to arrive and burn.
You can’t read a book like that and not find a hidden message. For many the book serves as a warning against government censorship. Many fear the government may begin limiting freedom of speech until society can no longer freely address so-called controversial topics. Eventually, the government controls not only your words, but also your thoughts on certain issues. Except that’s not what Fahrenheit 451 is about.
The author, Ray Bradbury, went on record to say that his book is “a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.” (http://www.laweekly.com/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-451-misinterpreted-2149125) Already in 1953, Bradbury feared people would grow so addicted to television that they would stop reading books. When Bradbury shared this interpretation at a lecture at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), students protested. They insisted that he was wrong. They told him, the author, that his book only references government censorship.
Can you imagine what it must feel like when someone tells you, the author of your own book, that you have it all wrong? More than that, if you reject the author’s interpretation, it means that you have injected a new message into that book—a message never there to begin with. You are believing a message that does not come from the author. You are believing a message that you created. And if you believe a message you created, then you will receive an entirely different outcome than what the author ever intended.
When it comes to what you believe about your status before God, look to what God, the divine Author, so clearly reveals. Stand on Scripture. Find God’s heart revealed. Gain certain confidence.
You have heard me say it before: You and I live in a postmodern society. That means society teaches there is no absolute truth; there is no set standard of what is universally “right” and what is universally “wrong.” So, if I choose to wear a dress today, you cannot tell me that my clothing style is wrong. By you insisting that I change, you have now created a fixed truth that there is certain clothing reserved only for men and certain clothing reserved only for women. Yet, to me and my thinking, I may feel that dresses are not exclusive only to women or men. If I believe one thing about dresses, then that becomes a truth by which I will live. If you believe dresses do not belong on men, then that is a truth by which you live. We have two differing truths, but two differing truths that are both valid and equal because we feel strongly about our beliefs.
Your society feels truth is constantly changing and truth changes based on a person’s individual beliefs. If you feel something is true, then it must be true— and no one can tell you that you are wrong.
So, if you feel God will let you into heaven because you are a good, moral person, then this must be true. God must let you into heaven because you think this is correct. Or you may feel that God will give you eternal life because you are sincere in your beliefs— you sit in a church building, you listen to the Pastor, you are dedicated to behaving like a churchy-person. If you feel this is what God looks for in a person, then you must be right; sincerity in religious practice will give you eternal life. Or, you may cling to a tightly-held belief— even if it contradicts what God says. If you do not want to be judged for your lifestyle, then simply say, “I do not think God would judge me.” Therefore, you would believe that God accepts the way you live. If you want God to bring all people to heaven, then say: “I feel God will save everyone.” Your feeling, then, is considered true. If you want to skip worship, then simply state: “I think God knows why I’m sleeping in and he doesn’t care.” You can feel better about your life because you just said God doesn’t care. This is how postmodern thinking not only shapes your civilian life, but also how it can affect our views towards Scripture. We begin telling God, the divine Author, that he has it all wrong!
Yet, here’s the question: How do you know if your personal beliefs are right? A roomful of students told Ray Bradbury that his interpretation of his own book was wrong! Yet, Bradbury revealed an undeniable truth: He is the author. As the author, he put down his intentions in writing. Students may believe what they want, but their beliefs cannot change the purpose of his book.
When it comes to Scripture, and to its teachings, God reveals an undeniable: He is the Author. You may want God to condone your lifestyle, but God has still said: “Be perfect like me” (Matthew 5:48). You may feel that God loves you because you are a good person and because you are here today, but God still says: “All have sinned and all fall short of reaching heaven with me” (Romans 3:23). If you try to make up reasons as to why God forgives you, you may feel they are right, but God will still call them “wrong.” Clinging to your own personal belief— no matter how much you want to believe it is true— can still leave you standing apart from God forever.
A monk named Martin Luther dreaded that. He was terrified that God hated him— because he knew the Bible clearly teaches: God punishes sin— and he was a sinner. Luther never knew how to remove that guilt. His priest told him to confess his sins, to pray, to beat himself, to stare at bones of dead church leaders, to pay money, to do good things, to give up money— do all these things and his guilt would diminish. It did not.
Luther never knew how to remove that guilt. Making up solutions never fills you with peace. Trying to do more good than bad does not erase the bad you did do. How do you remove guilt? How can you be sure you can go to heaven? Stand on Scripture and find God’s heart revealed.
Our reading says: For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. How do you remove feelings of guilt? How can you fill your heart with peace? How can you know for sure that you will enter heaven? God says, “Look in the gospel.” The word “gospel” means “good news.” The “good news” is that Jesus rescues you from the consequences of your actions. You will never discover this truth by digging into your emotions. You will never recognize this truth by trying to live as a perfect person. You will only find this truth in Scripture because only in the Bible is a righteousness from God revealed.
God reveals to you this one chief truth: Jesus lives a “right” life. Jesus never calls the Bible a book of lies. Every time someone asks him to “prove” his teachings, he points to Scripture. When he needs comfort or guidance, he embraces what God clearly says. Jesus lives a “right” life. Even though Jesus lives the “right” life God demands, Jesus still dies on the cross. He steps into your place, is treated harshly by God, and suffers so that you never will. When it comes to understanding why God forgives you, Stand on Scripture and you find God say: “I forgive you because Jesus paid your punishment.
Stand on Scripture and you will find God’s heart revealed. As you see what God so clearly says, you will gain certain confidence.
Look again to our verse: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… This gospel, this good news that Jesus rescued you from the hellish effects of sin, is not just a happy message that you read in a newspaper and then throw away. This news is powerfully life-changing— literally. In the Greek, the word for “power” (δύναμις) is where we get our word “dynamite. That little phrase: “it is the power of God” says Scripture works like dynamite. You read and hear Scripture, and Scripture blasts open your heart to trust that only Jesus makes you “right” before God.
When it comes to understanding what you believe, Stand on Scripture. Point to what God, the divine Author, has so clearly said. Point to his clear words which tell that Jesus lived, died, and rose for you! When you Stand on Scripture you will always be certain of how God sees you. You will always know that Jesus has done enough to bring you into heaven.
For a man like Martin Luther, he Stood on Scripture for his confidence of eternal life. He did not try to do things to earn God’s forgiveness. He did not try to feel forgiven. He pointed at God’s unbreakable truth.
This is what it means to be a Lutheran. Like Luther, when wonder how you stand before God, you Stand on Scripture.
Stand on Scripture when you are crushed by guilt and gain certain confidence. In Scripture God says: “I forgive you” (1 John 4:19). He does not say that you must “feel” forgiven— as though your emotions must convince you that all is well between you and God. He does not say that you must earn his forgiveness— that you must do more good than bad. Rather, God points you to the cross and asks: What happened there? Jesus died. That’s a fact, a historical event. Why did Jesus die? Scripture says that he dies as you Substitute, stepping into the punishment you deserved (Isaiah 53). Since Jesus died in your place, it means you do not die forever. You are forgiven— not because you feel this to be true, but because God says it is true (2 Corinthians 5:21) Scripture has that dynamite power to blast away doubts and fears about eternity.
Stand on Scripture and gain certain confidence when you confront various ideas about God. Human beings always have and always will create new thoughts about how God should act. Someone may think all religions lead to the same God. Yet, those beliefs, as sincere as they are, are not capable of making people right with God. Someone may feel good works are enough to enter heaven, but that person cannot force God to agree with him. Only Scripture has the ability to free your soul from the pits of despair and to fill you with peace. Scripture has that dynamite power to blast away lies about God.
Stand on Scripture and gain certain confidence forever. As you get older, you may ask yourself: “Will God really forgive me?” You may feel that God is lying to you. You may think God wants something more from you. Point to Scripture, stand on what God has so clearly said. God made a specific promise to you— and God will never break that promise. Scripture has that dynamite power to blast away fears that God has hidden something from you.
When you Stand on Scripture you will never be wrong. Yes, a postmodern world may disagree with God’s truth. Yet, the fact remains: God is the divine Author. He has revealed his intentions about sin and forgiveness, heaven and hell in Scripture.
Scripture reveals God’s heart— the heart which moved him to send a Savior from sin. Scripture reveals the completed action: Jesus died for your benefit. Scripture reveals God’s feelings towards you so that you may have certain confidence in an ever-changing world.
When it comes to matters of what you believe about your status before God, look to what God, the divine Author, so clearly reveals. Stand on Scripture. Find God’s heart revealed. Gain certain confidence.
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