Bible Power to Transform Lives

Why is the Bible special? What makes the Bible different from all other books? Yes, there are many ways to answer that question but for this blog entry one word stands out: “power.” The Bible introduces us to a power that is unknown from any other book.

But does the Bible have the power to transform lives? Atheists loudly protest this claim. “A leopard cannot change its spots,” according to atheists. But for two millennia the Bible has shown the part it takes in transforming lives.

What I mean is, the Bible itself does not have the power to transform a person’s life. When a person becomes a Christian, he is transformed through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible does play an essential part in this conversion. The Bible provides us with the knowledge of Christ necessary for salvation. After conversion, the Bible gives the Christian guidelines for following Jesus and living as a Christian.

But is this claim for real? Does the Bible play an essential role in a Christian’s transformation? Let’s look at two examples of this change — John Newton and Charles Colson. These lives were totally transformed through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And the Bible exists as the only authoritative source for this knowledge

Transformed From Slave Trader to Abolitionist

Did you ever hear of a man named John Newton? Perhaps you have heard of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” You may have heard this hymn played on bagpipes at the funeral of a policeman or fireman. So people think it is the best known hymn in the world.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.

But John Newton did not start life as a writer of hymns. He started as a rather wretched person.

Newton He was born on August 4, 1725. Then his mother died when John was seven years old. At age 11 he began his life on the sea. In 1744, Newton was “press-ganged” into the Royal Navy.

Newton became known for his “unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint.” He deserted from the Royal Navy but was arrested and returned in irons. In 1747, he joined the crew of a slaver ship. The ship was the Greyhound out of Liverpool. On its journey home from delivering slaves, the Greyhound was overtaken by an enormous storm. Newton turned to Jesus during this storm and was converted.

Be aware that, during this time, serving on a slaving ship was considered an honest profession. Newton saw nothing wrong with continuing to serve on these ships even after becoming a Christian. He felt he could prevent the excessive violence and suffering taking place the ships where he served. But his exposure to the Bible gradually transformed his attitude toward slavery.

In 1755, he left the seafaring life and took an office job. He began leading Bible studies in his home. Finally, Newton was ordained an Anglican priest in 1764. He became known for his pastoral care and for the help he gave to the poor.

Over time, Newton became convinced that slavery is wrong and must be stopped. In 1788, his book Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade exposed the horrors taking place on slaving ships. He wrote, “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

This slave trader was transformed into a leading abolitionist through Jesus Christ. The Bible played and important part in his transformation.

A Prisoner Goes Free

Does the name Charles Colson stir any memories? People who lived through the Watergate Investigation in 1973 remember well the name Charles Colson. He was known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man.” He was considered the source of Nixon’s “dirty tricks.”

But Colson began as a lawyer. He graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School and founded a law firm serving Boston and Washington D.C. In January 1969 he left his firm and joined the Nixon administration.

On June 17, 1972, five burglars were caught breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. After the 1972 presidential election mounting evidence revealed a connection between the White House and the Watergate break-in.

The Nixon administration took steps to conceal evidence. Eventually, several members of the administration were charged with obstruction of evidence. Colson was charged with conspiracy to cover-up the Watergate burglaries.

While waiting to be arrested, Colson read a copy of C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. After additional study of the Bible, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Critics immediately expected this was a trick. Colson, they said, pretended to “get religion” in order to receive a lighter sentence from his trial. He was convicted and spent seven months in prison.

However, contrary to the predictions of naysayers, Charles Colson’s Christian life-change continued. After his release from prison, he started a religious organization named Prison Fellowship. This prison ministry resulted in thousands of prisoners accepting Jesus Christ and their Savior and Lord.

Colson became a leading evangelical. He received many honorary doctorates. In 1993 he received the Templeton Prize. This award features the world’s largest cash gift (over $1 million). It is awarded each year to the one person in the world who has done the most to advance the cause of religion.

Charles Colson was transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ as introduced through the Bible. .

The Power of a Restored Relationship

The real power in the Christian’s life comes from a restored relationship with God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. But the Bible remains an essential resource in promoting this change.

The Bible has the ability to accurately and authoritatively introduce us to God and to bring us before the throne of God. So, the Bible provides us with the information we need to be saved. The power comes from God.

The Bible’s Power to Create a Culture

Why is the Bible special? What makes the Bible different from all other books? Yes, there are many ways to answer that question but for this particular blog entry one word stands out: “power.” The Bible has power that is unknown from any other book.

OK, I realize that if an atheist read those words, he would be rolling on the floor in laughter. “The Bible? Power?” He would say with a chuckle. “Give me a break. That’s the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard.” But wait! Let me explain. During the last 2000 years the Bible has shown its ability to transform lives and to civilize cultures.

The Bible makes changes in partnership with the Holy Spirit of God. That’s right, the third member of the trinity. How can the Bible do this? Well, the Bible begins by showing us the values and standards needed for transformation. Then the Holy Spirit gives individuals the power to transform. Finally, when a civilization becomes dominated by transformed individuals, the civilization undergoes change.

In other words, the Bible provides the blueprint and the Holy Spirit builds the house. Changed lives provide the basis for changed cultures. For more than two thousand years, God has used the Bible as the basis for civilization. But how does this process begin?

The First Step — Change the Man

All Christian growth and discipleship start with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Why? Because if you do not have a living, loving relationship with God, you cannot know or understand the things of God. The apostle Paul wrote about this connection in I Corinthians 2: 10-12, 14.

“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. . . . The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (ESV)

Thus, the relationship with God begins. Now the process can be guided by the Bible and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This relationship with God enables the Christian to read and understand the Bible in a whole new way. The Christian for the first time can appreciate biblical standards.

Biblical Standards

God’s standards for human behavior are completely different from the standards mankind sets for itself. Why? Because God’s standards help us strive for holiness. The world’s standards leave us to wallow in a swamp of sin. The Bible speaks of the superiority of God’s standards in Isaiah 55: 8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (ESV)

OK, if a Christian wants to live for God, then he must adopt God’s standards for his own life. And where do we find God’s standards? By reading and studying the Bible. And according to Psalm 119: 7, 9, 11, we should store up God’s word in our hearts.

I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules. . . .
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word. . . .
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (ESV)

As the Bible begins to show us God’s standards and expectations, the Holy Spirit provides us with the power to change.

Power From the Holy Spirit

This change does not happen all at once. Change begins when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. In II Corinthians, chapter 3, the Bible uses the metaphor of a veil to describe this change. Before we accept Christ, a “veil” covers our eyes and prevents us from seeing the Lord clearly. However, according to II Corinthians 3: 16, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” Thus begins an incredible change described in II Corinthians 3: 18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

What is the extent of this change? How far will God change us? Romans 8: 29 states that God’s intention is that we be “conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” God wants us to become just like Jesus Christ.

As more people are transformed, they begin to have an effect on their society.

Transformed People = Changed Societies

The real power in the Christian’s life comes from a restored relationship with God and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Bible has the ability to accurately and authoritatively introduce us to God and to bring us before the throne of God.

History provides many examples of the Bible’s power to transform society. The laws in the Old Testament provide the basic structure for the laws of many societies today — including the United States. The words of Jesus help us learn compassion and kindness toward others. When the rule of law is paired with a culture of kindness and compassion, the transformation of a society is inevitable.

The Bible provides the support needed for the foundations of our government and our society

Eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant provided a good summary statement. “The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.”

Evidence of Biblical Authority

What is authority? Google’s dictionary defines “authority” as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” How does this fit into biblical authority?

During the twentieth century the Bible lost much of its credibility. Secular scientists battered the Bible through attacks on the Creation story in Genesis 1. Other “intellectuals” tried to destroy the Bible’s authority by saying there is no historical evidence to support the biblical account of history. Additional “experts” tried to plant a seed of doubt regarding prophecy in the Bible.

Belief in the Bible is an exercise of faith. Of course it is! However, belief in the Bible can be affirmed and bolstered based on evidence of the Bible’s correctness. After all, if the Bible really is God’s book, it should be accurate when compared to physical evidence. In this way we can test for evidence of the Bible’s authority. Two often used “tests” are historical accuracy and fulfilled prophecy.

Historical Accuracy

Is the Bible a storybook or a reliable record of historical events? This is very important. If the Bible is a storybook consisting of made-up stories, then it is not any better than fiction. But the Bible has proven again and again that it is not fiction. Archeological discoveries continually confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Archaeologists have found hundreds of examples of historical accuracy. Let’s look at a few examples.

(1) The Tel Da Inscription — Archaeologists doubted the existence of King David, the second king of Israel. But in 1993 an inscription was found in Tel Da. The inscription contained the phrase “house of David.” This simple inscription helped confirm the existence of King David.

(2) Moabite Stone — In 1868, archeologists discovered a tablet written in the Moabite language. This tablet described the Moabite account of a battle that took place between Moab and Israel during the ninth century before Christ. This battle is described from the Israelite perspective in II Kings, chapter 3. The Moabite Stone provides extrabiblical evidence for the historical accuracy of the Bible.

(3) Nebi Yunus in Nineveh — The ruins of Nineveh were discovered Austin Henry Layard in 1846 and 1847 AD. One site is known as the Nebi Yunus (translated as “Prophet Jonah”). Both Christians and Muslims believe this is the tomb of the prophet Jonah. For several centuries the Nebi Yunus mound was untouched. It was covered by an Islamic shrine to the prophet Jonah.  In 2014 the mosque was destroyed by ISIS. Archaeologists finally were able to examine the site. Recent excavations confirm the dating of the site to the time of the Assyrian Empire.

(4) The House of Omri — This royal house ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the ninth century BC. A reference to “the house of Omri” appears in three ancient inscriptions. First, the Mesha Stele bears a Moabite inscription of “the house of Omri.” It was written about 840 BC by Mesha, ruler of Moab. Second, King Hazael of Damascus wrote on the Tel Dan Stele that he killed the two kings, one from the house of Omri. Third, the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser names Jehu as a “son of Omri.”

These are only a few examples where archaeology verified the accuracy of the Bible. What about prophecy? How does it affect biblical authority?

Fulfilled Prophecy

The Bible is packed with prophecy. Experts estimate there are more than 1800 prophecies in the Bible. More than 300 of these prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Let’s look at a couple of these prophecies.

(1) God’s Promise to Abram — In Genesis 12: 2-3, God gave the following promise to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV) Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy. (see Galatians 3: 8)

(2) Jesus’ Death on the Cross — Psalm 22 contains several prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus on the cross.

  • verse 1 — [Jesus said] “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 46; Mark 15: 34)
  • verses 7-8 — “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads, ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 39-42; Mark 15: 29-32)
  • verse 15 — “my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 33-34; Mark 15: 23)
  • verse 16-17 — “a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet . . . they stare and gloat over me;” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 39; Mark 15: 16-20)
  • verse 18 — “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 35; Mark 15: 24;)

(3) The Place of Jesus’ Birth — Matthew 2 : 3 “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (ESV) (Micah 5: 2)

(4) The Voice Crying in the Wilderness — Matthew 3: 3 “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (ESV) (Isaiah 40: 3) (see Matthew 11: 10-11)

There is a difficulty arising from these examples. Skeptics can say, “These are set ups. You either find a passage of Scripture that describes an historical event or you change the event to fit the passage of Scripture.” Can we find an answer to this criticism?

(5) “Jew” As a Byword Among the Nations — We can find several Bible verse as examples of this. Zechariah 8: 13 says, “you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel.” (ESV) “Byword” is defined as “a notorious and outstanding example or embodiment of something.” (see also Deuteronomy 28:37; Psalm 44: 14; and Joel 2: 17)

So, in other words, Zechariah 8: 13 says the name of Judah and Israel shall be used as a curse word. Does this prophecy match the evidence? Yes. Sadly, many people around the world use the word “Jew” as a curse word. This prophecy came true. No one could “manipulate” this byword into existence.

Conclusion

Even in this age of secularism, science, and skepticism there is evidence of the Bible’s continuing authority. As Billy Graham said, “The Bible has stood the test of time because it is divinely inspired by Almighty God, written in ink that cannot be erased by any man, religion, or belief system.”

The Bible — God’s Word

The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. Here too, Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully.  It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Gideon Bibles Have This Statement on the Cover Page
The Word is part of discipleship

Many people in all countries around the world believe the Bible is a special book. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book (more than 3000 languages). In addition, more copies of the Bible exist than any other book.

Why? Christians believe the Bible is God’s truth and contains God’s plan for the salvation of every person on earth. God is the source of the Bible, that is, the Bible is divinely inspired. The Bible also provides the information needed to become a Christian, to grow and mature as a Christian, and to live the Christian life according to God’s standards. The Bible says this in II Timothy 3: 16-17, which says,

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 complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)

Divine Inspiration of the Bible

What does the Bible mean by “breathed out” or “inspiration?” The Greek word for “breathed out by God” (that is, inspiration) is “theopneustos” (θεόπνευστος). This word is used only one time in the entire New Testament. Some scholars believe the apostle Paul invented this word. Many translations render that word as “inspired by God.” In other words, God wrote the Bible. And because these words come from God, they have divine authority over our lives.

In addition, verse 17 states the purpose of Scripture. Scripture (the Bible) provides everything we need to make a Christian complete and equipped for the Christian life.

The Battle for the Bible

But many people choose not to believe that the Bible exists as God’s uniquely inspired Word. These people often rebel against the teachings of the Bible. They do not like the Bible. They feel the Bible intrudes on their free will. Therefore, they oppose the Bible. Their opposition includes inventing arguments designed to destroy the credibility of the Bible.

Is the Bible the word of God? Of course, we answer this question only by faith. We can neither prove nor disprove that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. However, we can provide evidence to support our claim that the Bible is of divine origin.

What sorts of evidence can we provide? The answer to that question fills dozens of books on Christian apologetics. But for this blog we will briefly examine evidence in three areas.

  • Authority — What gives the Bible authority? If the Bible contained examples of events in history and these events were verified again and again by the latest archeological evidence, would truth like this provide the Bible with some authority? And if the Bible contained prophecies that came true centuries after the prophecy was made, would true prophecies demonstrate biblical authority?
  • Power — If the Bible really exists as God’s special book, should it not have some kind of special effect over the people who read it? But the Bible, in fact, does change people who read it and believe its teachings. The Bible also has a positive effect on societies that follow it.
  • Transmission — Can we trust the words of today’s Bibles? How can we know the text of the Bible matches the text of the original manuscripts? Skeptics claim the original texts were changed by scribes either by accident or on purpose. Is this true? In addition, how do we know if the words and deeds of Jesus really took place. Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Providing evidence cannot prove the Bible is inspired by God. However, if a divine book from God does exist, we would expect the history contained in its pages to match the facts discovered by archaeologists. Right? And if the book contained prophecy of future events, would we not expect some of those prophecies to be fulfilled?

In addition, shouldn’t we expect the ethics in God’s book to have power to change our society? God’s book also should have the power to transform lives and bring people back to God. And if this Book had such power, wouldn’t we want the accurate transmission of this book across the centuries?

Evidence and Faith

As I wrote earlier in this blog, no one can prove or disprove whether the Bible is the Word of God. And this evidence does not prove divine authority for the Bible. But this evidence can silence the critics and give people reason to believe. But the final step for believing in the Bible remains your step of faith.