It Is A Dangerous Business Opening A Bible

Text:  Jeremiah 26:1-15 and Luke 11:14-28

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

It is a dangerous business opening a Bible, for when a Bible is preached, read, and heard, some will receive it with joy, and others will be offended.  And once offended, these individuals will attempt to close the Bible by silencing the person who opened it in the first place.  But if they are unsuccessful in closing the Bible, well… they will then go to work on attacking the person who opened the Bible. 

But why the resistance to an open Bible? It is because the Bible is light, and people love darkness more than light.  In other words, the Bible is light because Jesus is light. Keep in mind that Jesus is not only at the center of the Bible but is also the author.  And so, when the Bible is preached, read, sung, spoken, and illustrated, it is light streaming into a world of darkness. But as already mentioned, when the light confronts darkness, people run for the shelter of darkness.  Like a scurrying cockroach, the sinful nature won’t come near the light of the Bible.  The sinful nature is addicted to evil, hates the light, and is addicted to living in denial and illusions.

This is what we clearly see in our reading from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, a prophet to the kingdom of Judah, stood in the court of the Lord’s house and spoke the Word.  The light of God’s Word collided with hard hearts resulting in the religious leaders seizing Jeremiah and saying, “You shall die!”  The religious leaders were going to muzzle Jeremiah through death because they did not want God’s Word preached into their darkness.  For them, it was better to have a dead Jeremiah and a closed Bible than a preaching Jeremiah and convicted ears.

Contrary to what you and I might think, this happens frequently today.  In America, it is not uncommon to come across churches where parishioners are fighting against their pastor by pressuring him to close the Bible.  Without realizing it, these parishioners are trying to protect their sinful nature from God’s Word.  In fact, it is not uncommon for churches to run a pastor out of town for daring to open the Bible.  After the pastor has been run out of town, the church hires a new pastor to close the Bible and tickle ears.  Yes, I am not kidding you, pastors are often hired to protect parishioner from God in His Word. 

And pastors? Well, we feel the pressure to close the Bible as well and tell silly stories or teach silly myths that tickle the congregation’s ears.  Pastors always feel the temptation to keep their church at ease, so that they are liked by their parishioners.  Pastors know that an open Bible is not only unpopular in our society, but it will also confront the sinful nature of Christians in the church resulting in the pastor's popularity going down. 

Dear friends, know this today, your sinful nature loves the dark. Your sinful nature loves spiritual junk food. Your sinful nature loves catchy opinions, silly stories, empty self-improvement formulas, and pious principles rooted in self-determination.  As long as the Bible remains closed, your sinful nature is content.

And for me, as your pastor, my weekly temptation is to close the Bible so that I might preach in a way to be liked by you and not suffer the consequence of your sinful nature lashing out at me for God’s Word. 

To the point, a church that pressures their pastor to close the Bible, and a pastor who does not have the courage to open the Bible, results in a church and pastor that not only permit darkness but a church and pastor that are against Christ.  If we are not with Christ, we are against Him. 

Lord have mercy on you and me too.  God help us both. God forgive us both.  

In our reading from the Gospel of Luke, it is quite evident that the religious leaders were unable to successfully close the Bible. In other words, throughout the Gospels, we hear that Jesus had such a large following of people that the religious leaders were unable to shut him up.  So, as a result, they played one of the oldest tricks in the book; they went personal.

You see, personal attacks ignore the topic at hand, and instead attack the character and motives of the person delivering the message. These personal attacks do not address the issue at hand, but they go around and attack the character of the person.  And once the person’s character is destroyed?  Well, everything else that the person says can be written off as null and void.

Concerning Jesus, He had just got done casting out a demon from a mute man.  The exorcism was not only a profound miracle but clearly showed Jesus’ power over darkness. In chess terms, Jesus’ exorcism was a checkmate over darkness. His exorcism was like a mic-drop. But the religious leaders could not top the exorcism of Jesus.  And so, instead of dealing with the exorcism of Jesus, they went around to Jesus’s character and accused Him of using the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. 

Do you see how sly this technique is?  Instead of engaging the message and works of Jesus, they pulled back and went around to take a cheap-shot on the character and power of Jesus.  In other words, they didn’t deny Jesus’ power in exercising the demon from the mute man but attributed Jesus’ power to darkness.  Their goal was to ruin Jesus’ character, which would dismiss everything else from that point forward as a work of darkness. 

Dear friends, how tempting it is for us to shut the Word of God when we attack the character of the person who opened the Bible. 

We all know what this looks like and sounds like.  For example, a new preacher from the seminary begins a call in an old established church.  For the first 3 to 4 months, things go quite well.  However, the pastor’s latest sermon hit a little too close to home for some of the members. Later that week at the local cafĂ©, several of the members began to discuss the sermon.  They expressed their uneasiness and then one of the members said, “You know he is awfully young to be a pastor.”  And another member nodded their head and said, “I think you are right, he probably hasn’t learned the ways of the church quite yet.  So green!”  Now, what has just happened is that the young pastor faithfully opened the Bible and preached it; however, the members pushed back against the Word by discrediting the pastor’s character of being too young. This kind of talk is not only slanderous, but it pulls the rug out from underneath the pastor, allowing the members to disregard Word of God from that point forward. 

But should we all blindly just accept whatever comes forth from a pulpit? By no means!  As a church, we are called to follow in the footsteps of the Berean Church.  We follow by enthusiastically receiving from preachers but with discernment. As a church, we should always be examining the Scriptures every day to see if what the preacher says is true. 

And so, dear friends, we must always guard ourselves against dismissing what a pastor preaches and teaches based upon the pastor’s age, looks, and heritage.  This is not only breaking the eighth commandment, but it is also cutting ourselves off from the light of the Gospel, which leaves us in the darkness of sin. And pastors who let churches and people look down upon them because of their age, looks, and heritage, are not remaining steadfast in the preaching of Christ-crucified.  The pastor should give no attention to personal attacks but should stay focused on the Word.  To loosely paraphrase Martin Luther,

“God once spoke through the mouth of a donkey; therefore, no preacher should be discredited based on how simple he may be.  On the other hand, God permitted the highest angel to fall from heaven; therefore, no preacher should be trusted based on how wise, holy, or great he may seem to be.  You should rather give a hearing to what is said, not the appearance.”

Baptized Saints, you are people redeemed from darkness to light so that you may be people of the Word.  When you were in darkness, the Bible was a closed book to you.  But not now!  The Lord purchased and won you from darkness, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.  And now, as Christians, you are given ears to hear from an open Bible.  So, hear! And hear often!  Discern the content of the Word that is taught to you.  Hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word.  Embrace and ever hold fast to the Word that is open to you.  Hear God’s Word unto your repentance.  Hear God’s Word for the strengthening of your faith.

You are forgiven for the times you attempted to close the Bible. You are forgiven for the times where you tried to silence God’s Word.  And I am forgiven as well for the times that I chose to be well-liked rather than faithful to the Word of God. 

It is indeed a dangerous business to open the Word of God - dangerous for the devil and especially for our sinful old Adam, for the Word is the power of God unto our salvation.  It is the dynamite of God that not only reveals our sin but reveals and delivers Christ to us for the forgiveness of our sins.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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