What to Remember When You Read the Bible
For this morning’s exhortation, I want to encourage you each to read the Bible in 2016. There are all kinds of tips and approaches out there that we could recommend — and we did a post on our website journal last week that mentions some — but the way I want to encourage you this morning is by reminding you about three truths that are always at work when you read the Bible.
These are basic truths. They’re so simple, in fact, that sometimes we can assume them and even forget them. But when we remember them I think it helps to refocus our hearts and minds on the wonder of reading the Bible. And I need this type of refocus. When I come to the Bible, my mind is going everywhere. There’s so much to think about. So I need something to call me back to the moment I’m in. There’s three truths help me. They are:
1) There is a God; 2) The speaks through a Book; 3) He speaks to people like me.
I have these written on a little index card on my desk, just so I’ll remember when I read the Bible that three things are always at work.
First, there is a God.
[I told you these were simple.] It is good to remember when we read the Bible that there is a God and that he is first and foremost. He is real and mighty and intensely personal. He is, as the Bible shows us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has always lived in the joy of himself, the Father loving the Son in the unceasing fellowship of the Spirit. And out of that fullness he created the everything that exists. He made it all, including us humans, and he chose to make himself known to us. He is a speaking God with whom we may have a true relationship. And even more than that, he stepped into this world himself as the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Jesus was and is the word of God in human flesh who died and was buried and was raised from the dead. And every moment that you hold the Bible in your hands, Jesus is still alive, and present with you by his Spirit. And when you read the Bible, because there is a God, you read the Bible under the Father’s delight, and with Son’s attention, and in Spirit’s presence. He is not distant and unconcerned with what you’re doing. He is working, listening, gladly leaning forward as the God who has something to tell you.
Second, God speaks through his Book.
He is a speaking God. He has something to say. And in his wisdom, he had his prophets and apostles write it down. And he had what they wrote copied. And he had what was copied preserved. And he had what was preserved translated again and again and again. And right now, right before you in full-book form, in a language that you can understand, is the word of God. These are the thoughts of God. These ancient words are what God is determined to say to his people across all generations and cultures, nothing less and nothing more. You are holding it in your hands. [We should remember that]
Third, God speaks to people like me.
There is God; there is his Book, and then there’s you and me. And God, by his rich mercy, because Jesus loved us and has freed us from our sins by his precious blood, God speaks through his Book to us (Revelation 1:5–6).
It’s not because we are great, not because we earned it. But because God is full of grace, because he brought us from death to life, when we open the pages of this Book, we get to hear his voice. We get to think his thoughts after him. It doesn’t really matter how you feel, or how distracted you might be, God’s word is always God’s word for us.
God is real. He speaks through a Book. He speaks to people like you and me. Let’s pray.
Prayer of Confession
Father, as we come now into a time of confession, I ask that you would make our hearts to see reality. We confess that so often we live in a fog, and when the fogs breaks we are surrounded by carnival mirrors. We don’t see things for what they are, and sometimes, too often, we would rather not. We confess that sometimes, too often, we want to live in the alternative worlds that we’ve constructed for ourselves. Sometimes, too often, Father, we don’t want to hear your voice. We don’t want your words to crash into our self-constructed realities because we know it will mean we have to change, and sometimes, too often, Father, we don’t want to change. You know all this. And we know this. And for it, we ask for your mercy. We ask for your forgiveness. And we ask that you now lead us now as we silently confess our sins to you. . . .