Why and how should I read the Bible?
2 Timothy 3v15-17
ILLUS.: When we first came to UK, South Africa was still an unpopular place to come from, politically speaking. When we lived in SA I was very critical of SA govt. and its policies. Working in London when first arrived in England I was often questioned [usually very critically / aggressively] about SA. I used to get very irritated at the ignorance of people regarding SA. How could they have an opinion about something they had never investigated. When I questioned they about the SA situation many had little or no understanding.
When it comes to the Bible there is often a similar attitude. “The Bible is a load of rubbish! It is full of myths and contradictions!” Yet very often those same people have never read the Bible. I can understand someone saying ‘I am not interested in reading the Bible – I don’t really believe in God or Jesus!’ That may be a good reason why a person should read it BUT at least they are being honest.
The question is ‘WHY SHOULD YOU READ THE BIBLE?’
Anyone who has been through the UK education system should have read some of the classic books. You would expect a person to know Dickens, or Jane Austen, or Shakespeare, or ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Wind in the willows’ These are wonderful English classics that are still selling well after all these years; you would expect people to at least have read some of these best-sellers…
The Bible – The most popular book.
Estimated annual sales of Bibles is 44 million.
A few years ago there was an article in ‘The Times’ – a sub-heading was ‘Forget the modern British novelists and TV tie-ins; the Bible is the best selling book every year.’
The article continues ‘As usual the top seller by several miles was the .. Bible. If cumulative sales of the Bible were frankly reflected in best-seller lists, it would be a rare week when anything else would achieve a look in. It is wonderful, weird of just plain baffling in this increasing godless age – when the range of books available grows wider with each passing year – that this one book should go on selling hand over fist, month in, month out … It is estimated that nearly 1 250 000 Bibles and Testaments are sold in the UK each year.
When the Bible Society was asked to comment a spokesman simply replied ‘Well it is such a good book!’
The Bible – The powerful book.
There is a great resurgence of interest in the supernatural – there is an interest in occult practices, ouija boards, occult movies, in witchcraft and wizardry [there are more witches in the UK than there are clergymen] – Horoscopes are in almost every popular newspaper and magazine. It is not that there is a disinterest in supernatural powers but there is an interest in a supernatural that leaves God out.
In the Bible God offers us an opportunity to meet with the supernatural powers of good. To met with the living God.
The Bible is not simply paper and ink – behind this written word is the power of God himself.
The British PM, Stanley Baldwin, in May 1928 said, ‘The Bible is a high explosive. But it works in strange ways and no living man can tell or know how that book, in its journey through the world, has startled the individual soul in ten thousand different places into a new life, a new world, a new belief, a new conception, a new faith.
The Bible – The most precious book.
ILLUS.: in Antakya – Turkey. The young university student who was overjoyed to receive a Bible.
Countless stories of People in USSR in Communist days who cried and jumped for joy to receive a Bible after so many years of no Bible or sometimes only a page or two.
Why is this book so popular, powerful and precious to so many
Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (NIV)
comes from the mouth of God is present tense – God is continually communicating to his people and that id primarily through the Bible.
How has God spoken – or how is God speaking? Through creation – creation tells us something about God
Romans 1:19-20 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Psalm 19:1-3 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Science is the discovery or exploration of God’s revelation in creation. The Bible and science are complimentary – they are not enemies. But the Bible is not a science text book – it was never intended to be.
But ultimately God speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (NIV)
It is true that God can speak to us directly and guide us – we will deal with that in a few weeks when we speak about guidance – but for now we will look at the way God speaks through the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
God-breathed – the writer is saying that the Bible is God speaking. Of course he used human agents but nevertheless God is 100% behind the inspiration of scripture.
This does not mean that there are no difficulties in the Bible. Even the Apostle Peter found some of Paul’s letters hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).
There are moral and historical difficulties and some apparent contradictions. Some of the difficulties can be explained by the context of the writers. N.B. The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by at least 40 people [kings, scholars, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, historians and doctors].
It contains different types of literature [history, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic and letters]. Some difficulties can be resolved others are hard to resolve. However difficult some parts might be that does not mean we should abandon our belief in scripture.
Every great teaching of the Christian Faith has its difficulties – the love of God and the suffering of the world is hard to reconcile – yet every Christian believes in the love of God and tries to reconcile the suffering of the world within that context. Similarly we believe in the inspiration of scripture and endeavour to understand the difficulties within that context. It is important for a Christian to hold that ALL scripture is inspired by God.
As soon as we move off this base we place ourselves above the scripture – if we accept that the Bible is ‘God-breathed’ then its authority must follow from that.
If the Bible is God’s Word then it must be the supreme authority for what we believe and how we act.
The scriptures are our authority for what we believe [our creed]. It is in the Bible that we learn about God, Jesus, the cross, the Holy Spirit, God’s love and God’s judgement.
Here we find out about relationships, marriage, morality etc….. The 10 commandments are a brilliant code upon which a society / nation can base its laws.
The Bible gives us many clear directives for day-to-day conduct.
It teaches that marriage is a gift from God BUT that singleness is a high calling. It teaches that a sexual relationship outside marriage is wrong.
That it is right to try to get a job IF we can.
That it is good to give and to forgive.
Some say, ‘This religion stuff is just a lot of rules and regulations – it is boring and restrictive!? It is true that sometimes the Church and Christians have been guilty of being legalistic and miserable looking.
Good and just rules and regulations are not restrictive but bring freedom.
ILLUS.: Boys at a football ground with no proper field markings and without a referee – chaos and fighting and no enjoyment.
BUT when referee arrives, lays down the law, sets the boundaries and controls game – wonderful enjoyment.
When God said ‘Don’t commit adultery!’ He was not being a spoilsport – when people leave their wives / husbands and children to commit adultery lives get messed up and people get hurt.
ILLUS.: Computer – various handbooks and user’s guides – The Bible is the Manufacturers handbook.
There are some people who know the Bible very well – study and analyse – but there is no love for God.
Jesus to the Jewish leaders …
John 5:39-40 39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)
The purpose of the Bible is to bring us into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is God’s love letter to mankind!
2 Timothy 3:15 15 …..the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Romans 10:17 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (NIV)
There are many people who will testify to coming to faith in Jesus Christ simply through reading the Bible. [David Suchet (Poirot), Sam Solomon, ….]
Become like Jesus 2 Corinthians 3:18 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
ILLUS.: A couple married for a long time often become like each other..
Joy and peace in crisis Psalm 23:5 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (NIV)
ILLUS.: peace when Jayne and Esther died. Sorrow but not as those who have no hope.
Guidance Psalm 119:105 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (NIV)
Health and healing to our bodies Proverbs 4:20-22 20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. (NIV)
This does not mean that Christians never get sick or die prematurely. [This will be dealt with in a future section.]
Defence against spiritual attack Matthew 4:1-11 The temptation of Christ … “Jesus said, ‘As it is written…..'”.
In our sophisticated, technological age we ignore or disbelieve in spiritual powers – in Africa and other places the awareness of spiritual powers in a way of life. Christians need to be aware of spiritual forces.
Power Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV)
The word of God breaks through our defences and speaks to our hearts.
ILLUS.: As a boy when my Dad asked me to wash his car. Reading ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it to the glory of God.’
If you have never read the Bible seriously I encourage you to do so. At least read one of the gospels and get a picture of who Jesus is!
Some parts are not easy to understand – study aids can be helpful or read and study with someone who can guide you.
What does it say? What does it mean? How does it apply to me?
iii) Pray about it. [How to pray – imagine Jesus is sitting with you like a friend and simply talk to him in everyday language]
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (NIV)
WHY AND HOW SHOULD I READ THE BIBLE?
– The most popular book.
– The most powerful book.
– The most precious book.
Romans 1:19-20; Psalm 19:1-3;
Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17
John 5:39 – 40 … the Scriptures that testify about me, [Jesus]
2 Timothy 3:15 … to make you wise for salvation
Romans 10:17 …faith comes from hearing the message
Become like Jesus 2 Corinthians 3:18
Joy and peace in crisis Psalm 23:5
Guidance Psalm 119:105
Health and healing to our bodies
Defence against spiritual attack
Power Hebrews 4:
THROUGH THE BIBLE?
What does it say?
What does it mean?
How does it apply to me?
iii) Pray about it.