"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world."
You may be perplexed as to why I've quoted the verse above. Who cares about a census recorded by a long dead Roman Emperor. That's neither inspiring nor helpful to my life! I beg to differ, and I'd like to show you why. And it has allot to do with God calling us to lean into the doubts we have about Him. To clear out the clutter that doubt creates in our heart towards God by leaning into His word, the bible.
"I don't know that I trust the bible"
I hear and read this kind of statement quite regularly in my conversations with people in this city. It's a commonly held position with respect to the bible. And the verse I've quoted above, which we often hear read this time of year in Christmas services, has huge implications for yours and my trust of the ancient biblical text. Let me explain further.
Caesar Augustus really existed!
"Yeah, so what," you reply. "So WHAT!"
"So what EVERYTHING!"
Think about the implications for Luke in writing his account of the life of Jesus, and the implications for any audience hearing or reading Luke's text. How quickly could Luke have been, in his own times, found out if he were making this all up. Historians tell us that Luke compiled his account of the life of Jesus before AD 70 (New Bible Dictionary). This is approximately 40 years after the death of Jesus. That's within a generation of the events being described throughout Luke's account (More info here). So Luke could have quickly been found out by the people he was writing to and read before, if he was making this all up. The census Luke refers to here appears to be the time of a great Jewish revolt - which Luke refers to later in Acts 5:37 (Bible scholar N T Wright explains here).
The implications for Luke and any audience taking in his account of events was and is clear - you can check this out for yourself. If you're unsure, if you doubt what I'm saying, ask around. You'll find people will tell you more about the events and times I've described here.
Dive into your doubts
Luke was a historian, not unlike the ancient Jewish historian Josephus. He carefully collected together all the information he could to form an orderly account of what happened to Jesus of Narazeth (Luke 1:3). Luke had the foresight to consider people and times beyond his own, more distant from the events and times of Jesus and his early followers. He diligently prepared an account of these historical events so that people who struggled with the facts could take in a historical account of what took place in the life of Jesus. Luke was giving people plenty of material to lean into their doubts with.
If Luke was inspired by God and led by the Holy Spirit in his work here, which I believe he was, we have God encouraging us here to dive into our doubts with and through His very word. God is not uncomfortable with our doubting, so neither should we be. Instead, he invites us to come explore our doubts with Him, through His word, seeking the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to lead us into the truth (John 16:13).
No matter whether you have doubts regarding the biblical text, or doubts that are more personal and regarding your life and journey, the invitation from God is this - dive into your doubts with and through my word. Why? What's the consequences for our lives? In and through the word, we will find the real truth that answers our doubts and concerns and gives us a sure and certain foundation for launching out into whatever is next for our days, weeks and lives.
If doubt has been cluttering your heart as you lead into Christmas, allow the word of God guide you to the truth - about Him, about yourself, and thus about what you need to do next!