This series is all about the attributes of Scripture, and in this series God will speak to you.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV), Paul says the following:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Over-familiarity with words like “God-breathed” from verse 16, or the similarly translated “inspired” in other versions, can get in the way of the weight of this passage. Provided we handle a faithful translation, the words written in the Bible are God’s very words.
That is, when you read the passage above, whether through a laptop, phone or tablet screen, God just talked.
I told you God would speak to you.
And this is the God who talked and the universe came into existence (Genesis 1:3-27); galaxies, quantum mechanics, waterfalls, llamas and DNA have their origin in God’s voice. That same God spoke to you personally.
Herman Bavinck, a Dutch theologian, beautifully puts it like this (drawing on Hebrews 3:7 and 4:12):
“Holy Scripture is not an arid story or an ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful Word, which God, now as always, issues to his people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us. It does not just tie us to the past, it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It was not only “God breathed” but it is “God breathing.”
That’s outrageously good news. Why? Reflecting on his own discovery of this truth, Andy Croft says:
“When [I] first started doing ministry… I would get extremely frustrated…I never seemed to hear God…At certain moments I would gear myself up, concentrate hard and “listen” to God’s voice. I’m sure I looked like I was constipated; that’s certainly how it felt! Nothing remotely spiritual happened….Towards the end of my gap year I found myself reading the Bible and noticing things that I’d never seen before…It didn’t feel spectacular or “spiritual”, I just got enthusiastic about something I’d noticed. I would go to Mike [Pilavachi] and excitedly say, “Isn’t Jesus amazing when he does such and such?”… Then one day Mike looked at me, smiled, and said, “Gosh, that’s quite a good point for someone who never hears God.”
Do you want to hear God? Swamps of ink have been unleashed on precisely how we go about doing this; techniques, tricks, places, times. Much of this is unhelpful because there isn’t a secret. If you want to hear from God, open your Bible. We don’t need to pray that God will speak when we read Scripture. He will speak. We just need to pray that we’ll have ears to listen.
More specifically, the Bible is God speaking, through his Spirit, about his Son, to call us into relationship with him. Let’s pick up our Bibles. There’s no created object that we can, or indeed should, treasure more than Scripture.
The Bible teacher John Piper was recently asked at a conference “what would you do if you were 22 again?” He wrote an article (well worth reading, see the link below) answering that question. One of his six answers was the following:
“I would make Bible reading more important than eating, and getting exercise, and kissing my wife. There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos. I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have kissed my wife, because I have been away from my wife often, but I have almost never been away from the Bible.”
How do we begin? Think of it like weight-lifting. We start modestly (very modestly for some unfortunate gym-goers) and build up over time to do more. Reading a smaller chunk daily is better than reading a much larger chunk every so often.
If you’re just starting out, commit to five minutes a day. Start John’s gospel, and keep reading daily until you finish it. Move onto 1 Peter. As time goes on, you’ll quickly discover that you can and want to read more each day. So increase the amount of time that you’re reading for.
Give God’s Word your best time. When are you most able to focus? Put it in the diary each day, and don’t let anything infringe on it.
Have a notebook by your side when you read. Have an insatiable thirst to know God better. Write down every question that comes to mind, big or small. Don’t let any question you have about anything you read go unanswered. Work hard at it. Ask Christians you know who have a great grasp of Scripture. Ask your elders. Read what commentaries have to say on the passage.
Adopt a lifestyle of Bible reading. Do you have ten minutes spare before your next meeting? Read the Bible. Do you have a free evening? Instead of watching a TV show, grapple with God’s Word. Do you have a lazy morning at the weekend? Read the Bible in bed. Do you have a commute? Listen to the Bible on audiobook as you travel. I’m serious.
Ask other Christians what they’re reading. Share your encouragements and challenges from your reading with them. God wants us to say with the psalmist (Psalm 119:129-131):
“Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.”
Taking God at His Word, Kevin DeYoung; for those wanting to know more about how to handle the Bible.
Dig Deeper, Andrew Sach and Nigel Beynon; for those wanting to know more about how to handle the Bible.
Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem. “Part 1: The Doctrine of the Word of God”; for those wanting something meaty.
Words of Life, Timothy Ward; for those wanting something meaty.
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/if-i-were-22-again ; referenced above.
https://tom00908.wixsite.com/readforrelationship ; for those wanting a general idea of what might be useful to read.