Can I Be Forgiven?

We have all done things of which we are not proud.  We all have “a past.”  Everyone.  We have all made mistakes; and, yes, we can all be forgiven.

“Yea, but you don’t know what I’ve done!”

True, but I do know what God has said and what God has done.  The Bible makes it very clear that God’s forgiveness is available. This is the very reason Jesus came

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).  Or, as Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

As a matter of fact, God has gone to great lengths to make forgiveness possible.  Perhaps the best known verse in all of the Bible, John 3:16, sometimes called “the golden text” of the Bible, affirms that God has made forgiveness available through His Son Jesus because He loves us so much.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Notice, this offer is not restricted.  Anyone can be saved.  It is “whoever believes” that will be saved.  Forgiveness isn’t reserved for a certain group or class or race or whatever.  It is available for everyone.  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11).

So, availability is not the problem.  Neither is capability.  That is, God has forgiven sins before, and He can forgive mine.

One group of Christians in the Bible was reminded about their forgiveness.  “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  And these were people who had been, or at least some of them had been, sexually immoral, idolaters,  adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (1 Cor. 6:9-10).  God forgave.

The apostle Paul considered his own case particularly serious.  He even called himself “foremost” of all sinners because he had been “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” of God and Jesus (1 Tim. 1:13-15).

So, God has, and God can forgive sin; even mine.

Still, our mind wrestles with the very idea of it.  Isn’t that because we know we don’t deserve forgiveness?  That is exactly right; we don’t deserve it.  But this is the great beauty and power of God’s forgiveness.  God doesn’t deal with us in terms of what we deserve.  Instead God extends His mercy and grace.  Paul, again, says that even though he was “foremost” of sinners, “I received mercy…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me” (1 Tim. 1:13-14).

Mercy and grace are wonderful.  Mercy is our not getting what we do deserve, and grace is getting what we do not deserve.  We need both.

To illustrate the fact of God’s willingness and desire to forgive (even me), Jesus told the well-known parable of the prodigal son.  It’s worth hearing again:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:11-24; ESV)

Yes! A thousand times, yes! I can be forgiven.

God bless,

How To Choose a Bible

Have you ever been to a bookstore or even a Bible or Christian bookstore and looked at the Bible section?  Talk about overwhelming!  How in the world does a person go about picking out a Bible?  It’s not as difficult as one might think.  There are a few questions you need to ask yourself and from there the decision becomes very manageable.  And depending on your answer to the first question, it could be a very brief process.

Digital or Hardcopy?

Like virtually everything else, the Bible is also available in digital format.  The Bible text is available for smart phones, tablet devices, e-book readers, etc.  There are obviously going to be more considerations and concerns if you are getting a physical Bible rather than a digital format.  The next question applies to both, but after that it’s all questions for hardcopy Bibles.

Which Translation?

This is actually the biggest question in selecting your Bible.  Be sure and give this some thought.  All translations are not the same.  If you would like to read what is behind translations CLICK HERE.  My basic translation recommendation is the English Standard Version.

Which Cover/Binding?

Do you want a hardback or a soft cover?  The most inexpensive ones will be paperback editions, of course.  They are also the least durable.  The most durable cover is genuine leather.  They’re also more expensive.  Stay away from bonded leather.  It looks really nice in the store and is inexpensive, but it breaks down very quickly and begins looking ratty soon.  Another fairly recent alternative is a durable synthetic called “TruTone®” (by Crossway, publishers of the ESV, other publishers have different names).  This seems to be a durable soft cover that also features a wide range of colors and designs, just in case you’d like a more artful cover on your Bible.

What Size?

Bibles do come in all kinds of sizes.  The two things that affect a Bible’s size more than anything else is the letter font size and the paper thickness.  If your eyes are good and can read small print, you can use a pretty small Bible if you want.  If you need larger print to read comfortably, the smaller Bibles just wouldn’t be a good option.

Paper thickness may or may not be an issue for you.  The Bible is a big book.  To cut down on its physical printed size, publishers have traditionally printed Bibles on thin paper.  To make them even smaller–some publishers print a “Thinline” Bible–they have used even thinner paper.  I’ve known people for whom that very thin paper was just too much.  They had trouble turning the pages.

Study Notes?

Study Bibles are very popular.   These Bibles include a lot of information in addition to the Bible text.  There is background and historical information in addition to commentary and explanatory notes.  Study Bibles tend to be large just because of the additional material they contain.  The extra information can be helpful and useful. Some Bibles with notes, though, are explicitly intended to promote one particular theological viewpoint.  Just remember, particularly with commentary and explanatory notes, these are men’s ideas and not God’s word itself.

A man who is credited with the notes in two Old Testament books in the NIV Study Bible tells of the editor’s disagreement with him on a couple of points in the notes he wrote.  This illustrates what you are dealing with in the notes of a Study Bible.  They may or may not be correct.

I’ve also know people who have failed to make the distinction between the text of Scripture and provided study notes.  They thought that if it is found within the cover a book with “Bible” on the front cover, then it was Scripture.  I typically recommend that people shy away from study Bibles.

Selling Bibles is big business.  There are lots of options available and Bible publishers and sellers market their product just like anybody else does.   So, decide what you’re after before you go looking and find what you want.

Do you have any comments or suggestion?  Go to the comments below and share them with us.

God bless,

The Best English Bible Translation (5)

I have heard it said, and I tend to agree, that the best translation is one somebody will actually read.  A person could be in possession of the finest, most accurate Bible translation ever made, but if they never read it, what difference would it make?

It would make about as much sense as a person insisting on carrying an original language Bible–a Hebrew Old Testament and a Greek New Testament–because they wanted the most accurate biblical text to the originals, yet they didn’t know biblical Greek or Hebrew.   They may have the assurance of the text’s accuracy, but would be totally ignorant of its content.

Reading Levels

One of the goals of Bible translation, as we’ve discussed elsewhere (and can be read HERE) is to be readable.  In the effort to achieve greater readability some translations have aimed for lower and lower grade reading levels.  Here is a list of a few translations and their grade reading levels:

King James Version                                 12th

New King James Version                        7-8th

New International Version                     7-8th

New American Standard Bible               11th

English Standard Version                       10th  (though I have seen it listed as low as 8th)

Revised Standard Version                       12th

New Revised Standard Version              11th

Still other translations have aimed for even lower reading levels.

New Century Version                                       3rd

New International Reader’s Version             3rd

New Living Translation                                    6th

The Living Bible                                                 4th

The Message                                                        3rd

I have known people whose reading and comprehension levels were such that if they were to read and understand the Bible they needed something on a very simple reading level.  This was true for some of them by virtue of their young age, for others it was a lack of learning or lack of a capacity to learn.

So, it may be, that in given circumstances a simpler reading translation may be necessary.  But remember that accuracy is what is being sacrificed for readability.  If a person begins with an easy-to-read translation, then as their capacity to comprehend increases, they should move on to a more accurate translation.

One Last Recommendation

Here is one other important recommendation: do comparison readings from a variety of translations.  As you become more serious in your Bible reading and study, referring to others translations can be very helpful.

Quite frankly, some translations do a better job of translating and communicating a given text than do others.  So, don’t get too “married” to one translation.  You may have one that is for your primary use (as the English Standard Version is for me), but then also read a number of others as well.

While we’ve been concerned with the best translation, it might be that you are ready to purchase a Bible.  Maybe you have never had one or you’ve decided it’s time to change translations.  Believe it or not, deciding which translation you want is just the beginning.  Some thoughts on how to choose a Bible can be found HERE.

What are your thoughts?  Why not leave a comment below?

God Bless,

The Best English Bible Translation (4)

Finding the best English translation of the Bible means dealing with a challenging issue: effectively honoring the need for a translation to be accurate as well as understandable.  In case you missed it, the underlying concerns were introduced in the previous post, found HERE.

Translation Philosophy?

So, translation philosophy has to do with where a translation gives its emphasis in the whole readability/accuracy scenario.  Some translations have as a stated purpose to be more readable and some to be more accurate.  You get this idea when you sometimes run across a discussion debating “word-for-word” versus “thought-for-thought” approaches.

How does a person learn each translation’s philosophy?  Virtually every translation gives at least some explanation of their approach to translation.  For instance, to learn the philosophy and approach of the translators of the English Standard Version you can CLICK HERE.

There you will find, in part, these words:

The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

In contrast to the ESV, some Bible versions have followed a “thought-for-thought” rather than “word-for-word” translation philosophy, emphasizing “dynamic equivalence” rather than the “essentially literal” meaning of the original. A “thought-for-thought” translation is of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture.

How well the ESV fulfills its stated purpose is, of course, open to judgment.  And mine is that they do reasonably well.  That is why I offer this translation as one of my recommendations as one of the best.  (The other, in case you missed it previously, is the New American Standard Bible.)

Why Not The Most Popular?

This is also why I don’t recommend the most popular translation, the New International Version (NIV).  It has a stated intent of using a more “thought-for-thought” approach.  Though this achieves greater “readability” (as its popularity bears out), I believe it to be a step in the wrong direction.  In my personal judgment it has done more interpreting and explaining than it should.

We must remember that the Bible gives its readers and students the responsibility of “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).   While I may be dependent on Bible translators to provide for me a Bible text in my native language, I still have responsibility for understanding and applying God’s word for myself.

I realize my recommendations do “go against the flow” somewhat when it comes to popular opinion on the best Bible translation.  You may have thoughts or comments you would like to share, so please be sure to do that in the comments below.

We still have one more quick consideration to make; one last qualification on this recommendation in the final post of this series.

God bless,

The Best English Bible Translation (3)

Two, sometimes conflicting concerns dominate the translation of Scripture and therefore choosing the best English Bible translation: readability and accuracy.  On the one hand, there is the need for a Bible translation to be understandable, obviously.  On the other, there is a concern for the translation to be as accurate to the original as possible.  Sometimes this difference is described as functional (readable) versus formal (accurate).

Conflicting Ideas

Here’s the problem, these two appear, at times, to be at cross-purposes.  The more readable and understandable a translation is, the more it has been adapted and fitted to the culture into which it’s being translated.  The more adaptation and “fitting” that takes place, the less literal it is.  And the more literal to the original text a translation attempts to be, the more challenging it is to make it readable.

Biblical Principle #1

What’s more, both ideas are actually rooted in biblical principles.  First, regarding readability; God is concerned that people able to understand His word.  God has spoken to man (Heb. 1:1-2) and it is certain that He intends for that communication to be understood.  The message that God wants man to know has to be conveyed in an understandable way.

Jesus said this was God’s intent. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matt. 11:25-26).

If Scripture was kept in a language unknown to the reader or even in an archaic or otherwise difficult-to-understand form of a known language, the communication is effectively hindered or even stopped.  What good is it to have a Bible that one cannot read and understand?

Biblical Principle #2

The second principle is concerned for accuracy.  In the process of revealing His will to men and inspiring them to speak and then write that message, God made sure they said and wrote what He actually wanted.  Paul describes this process in 1 Corinthians 2.  God’s Spirit searches the mind of God to know it.  He then takes those spiritual thoughts and combines them with spiritual words and reveals them to selected men.  These words, Paul says, are the ones “we speak.”  The end result being that we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:6-16).

Notice that Paul says that the process of revelation and inspiration was not one of the writers of Scripture just saying things however they wanted to.  Rather the Spirit so guided and directed them that the very words were inspired (see also 2 Pet. 1:21 and 2 Tim. 3:16).

I believe this speaks directly to the need for accuracy in the translation of Scripture.  What has been gained if a translation achieves very high levels of readability,  yet ends up being only a human interpretation of what God actually said?

Balancing Act

This leads us, then, to the business of translation philosophy.  How does one go about combining these two?  We move on to that in the next post.  Please read on.

Before doing that, do you have any thoughts or observations you want leave in the comments below?  Please be sure and do that.

God bless,

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