The Bible: The written word of the Eternal God; gathering dust on our bookshelves and side-tables.
Many of you know my testimony. I grew up in a very Christian family. Almost all of my relatives are in full-time ministry. My parents are full-time missionaries. I grew up in a Christian home, but I was not a follower of Christ until I was 16, and this is how it happened.
I had made the decision in high-school to pursue one thing: Popularity. I wanted people to like and admire me. By grade 11 I found the key to success. But I was conflicted: I wanted to be a Christian as well. I wanted to be a cool Christian. But I couldn’t have both, so I chose just cool.
However, God had a different plan. He loved me and called me to Himself, and this is how He went about it. While I was actively running away from God, I inexplicably began reading the Bible. I can’t explain why I did that, except that God called me to it.
And what a treasure I found! I’d read the Bible hundreds of times before, but at 16 years old, in the middle of my headlong pursuit of selfish gain, the word of God came alive to me. In the Bible, I had my first real experience of God: Through seeing and experiencing His glory in the Bible.
In this Bible I found life and glory. I don’t know how else to describe it than ‘weightiness’, as opposed to the emptiness that I found in my conversations with my friends and my selfish pursuits.
Over the years I’ve learned to love the Bible. At 17 I learnt how to have daily devotions that led to me hearing God’s voice more and more clearly. At 20 I went on a week-long retreat where we read the entire Bible – Genesis to Revelation – in 6 days. I was so moved by that, I did it again the next year! Ever since then I’ve made an effort to read through the Bible once a year, missing it only once.
And I love to be a part of a Church which elevates the Bible to such a high place. Week after week you come here and listen to God’s Word being expounded, explained, illustrated, taught – you hear stories from the Bible, teachings from the Bible, songs from the Bible. I believe that as you hear from the Bible you are illumined and inspired, stirred and ignited to a higher life. What a joy it is to come week after week and experience that.
But then I wonder – what is your relationship with the Bible? Do you love to read it? Is it your communion place with God? Do its words fill your thoughts? Do its teachings direct your daily decisions?
As I contemplated what to share as a message for this morning’s gathering, I felt convicted to speak about this precious book that has changed my life and can change yours too. Because, every week you come here and hear from this Book, you’re taught from this Book; but how much time in the week are you going to this Book? How many times in the week do you look for God in this Book?
If you’ve grown up in Sunday School, you know the stories, and if you’ve attended a Bible-based Church, you know some of the teachings, and more will be explained to you so the question is:
WHY SHOULD YOU READ OR STUDY THE BIBLE?
What is it about the Bible that YOU should read it?
We have a few reasons for not reading it. The reasons we have for not reading are almost universal. If I were to ask why you struggle to read the Bible on a consistent basis, you’ll almost definitely give me some or all of these answers:
I don’t have the time…
I don’t understand it…
It’s not relevant to my life…
I don’t get anything out of it…
Check all the boxes that are relevant for you.
One of the reasons I make such an effort to read and study the Bible for personal (non-ministry) reasons is because of an encounter I had with a friend in Nelspruit. When I lived in Nelspruit we used to meet all the time and talk about our struggles to read the Bible, and we had these same excuses as listed above. I went off to live in Jo’burg, but I visited a few years later and met up with him, and again we got to discussing our struggles to read the Bible. The excuses hadn’t changed; and I became convinced that time wouldn’t change the excuses, theological training wouldn’t change the excuses, life circumstances wouldn’t change the excuses. I can either stop making excuses and start reading the Bible, or I could just give up right then.
We all have the same excuses for having no living relationship with the Bible, and those excuses won’t change with time. Yet the statement I made at the beginning still stands: It is the written word of the Eternal God; gathering dust on our bookshelves and side-tables.
Think of that. When God contemplated all the possible ways that existed for Him as an infinite, omnipotent, all-wise God to transmit and preserve His revelation to the world, He chose a book. This Book: the Bible. And yet our reasons for not reading it, studying it, loving it, adoring it, being excited about it, explaining it to others – are these: I don’t have the time, it’s boring, I don’t understand it, it’s not relevant to my life, and I don’t get anything out of it.
Is the Bible worth reading? You know what I’m going to say – but I’m asking you. Is the Bible worth reading? Is it worth skipping 15 minutes of TV to read? Is it worth waking up 15 minutes earlier to read? Is it worth skipping lunch break to read? If your entire relationship with the Bible is what you hear read from it on a Sunday morning or evening, then your answer to that question is an absolute ‘No’. You might have it displayed prominently on your lounge coffee table; you might have ten different versions strategically placed around the house. But if you are primarily being fed Scripture verses by others who have read it and are then preaching on it, you do not have a relationship with God’s Word; and all I will say is you’re missing out!
Is the Bible worth reading? I want to tell you: YES IT IS! For so many exciting reasons, but I’m going to look at three that are meaningful for me.
[The Bible is worth reading because] IT IS A WARNING AND GUIDE
Proverbs 4:18-19 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
Have you ever had one of those days where just everything seems to go wrong? You get out of bed and kick your toe on the dresser that you knew was there. You go to the kitchen and the first mug you pull out you didn’t have a real grip on and it smashes on the ground – but being clumsy is something you thought you’d dealt with at the beginning of your marriage. You go back to the room to make the bed and kick your toe on the same dresser – the one that you knew was there. You stumble through getting ready for work and then as you’re backing your car out the driveway you feel that heart-rending jolt that tells you that you’ve hit something hard. You do the walk-around and see that you’ve driven into the low wall that you knew was there. The bricks are lying everywhere, but worse is that your car looks like it’s going to be an expensive repair. Nothing you can do about it now, you get into your car and drive off, trying so very hard to be careful. Half the traffic lights are down and if you hadn’t been so reckless with your data you could have avoided much of it with Google Maps. You’re half an hour late for work but you don’t have the energy to sprint in, all your body feels sluggish. All you want to do is go home and climb back into bed and try again. Your toe is still aching, your head is starting to get sore from stress, and you open your car boot and see you left your work laptop at home. And as you look away in pain, you see the Big Boss car is parked next to yours. What’s he doing here today? Oh yes – you have the Big Presentation, and you haven’t prepared a thing. What a day! What is going on?!?!!
Oftentimes our lives can look like that. It might not be as visible as all this. You go into work and find out that the Big Presentation has been postponed to 11am which gives you three and a half hours to get ready! You sigh a quick Thank-You prayer and go to ask the receptionist for a spare work computer. She’s so slow that you use some degrading words to speed her up. She finds the oldest, slowest laptop in the building. You can’t understand why you were so stupid and weren’t nicer to her. You and sit down at your slower, older work computer to quickly check your email. Two hours later you’ve finally managed to wrench yourself off YouTube (What am I doing?!) You have ninety minutes to prepare this presentation and you start to work, and five minutes later your boss walks in and says the presentation is starting early. She leaves before you can explain that you haven’t prepared a thing and so you run and follow and catch her in the boardroom where now you have to explain to both your boss and the Big Boss, and the secretary smiles a satisfied grin in the corner. The Big Boss tells you to take the rest of the day and figure out your life. You go home asking God why this is all happening to you and promising that if He’ll help you through this trouble, you’ll tithe better at Church. You get home determined to write the best presentation you’ve ever done, sit down and spend the whole afternoon perusing Netflix, not even caring anymore about the trouble at work.
When you lay your head down that night the internal wrestle begins: Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why do I keep going to pornography – my wife hates it! Why do I say stupid things to people when I need their help? Why can’t I get a hold of my YouTube watching and my Facebook scrolling? Why can’t I eat better? Why do I speak so harshly to my kids all the time – I see the fear in their eyes every time I walk in the room! Why do I fight so much with my wife? Why am I in so much financial debt? Why am I doing bad work when I know I can do better! And why do I keep stubbing my toe on that stupid dresser and not just move it??!
When I gave my life to Christ, my life was very much like that. I kept lying to people, even when I knew they knew I was lying. I kept turning to pornography, even though I knew it was ruining the future joy of marriage. I kept being late to meetings and appointments even though I knew that is was damaging my relationships with friends and work. I kept handing in assignments late, I kept getting in trouble with older people for disrespect, I kept choosing movies instead of Church, and I kept on wondering: Why am I still falling into the same painful pits I fell into last year?
Now while I still have many struggles, which I’m not going to list right now, many of those issues have been decisively defeated in my life. It’s not because I’m a strong person: I’m not. I have a weak self-will. But God’s Word has opened my eyes and helped me to see the pits before I fall into them. And the more time I spend in God’s word, the brighter the landscape gets around me, and I can see pits further in the distance and learn to avoid them before I even get close.
My friends, this is what God’s word can do for you, and one of the reasons I love to read and study it. The Bible gives us wisdom so that we can avoid making the same stupid mistakes and same stupid sins as we did last year. It’s not a fix-instant, but it is a fix-all, as we surrender our hearts and lives to God’s Spirit.
If you find yourself constantly trapped, turn to the Bible to find lasting freedom.
Psalm 119:9, 11, 97-100, 105, 114, 130 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word…I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you…Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditateon your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts…Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path…You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word…The unfolding of your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
Love God’s Word. Read God’s Word. Become wise.
2. [The Bible is worth reading because] IT IS A WITNESS TO GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
On a scale of one to ten, how secure do you feel? On a scale of one to ten, ten being highest, how secure do you feel in your finances? How secure do you feel in your marriage? How secure do you feel in your job? How secure do you feel in your friendships? How secure do you feel in your home? How secure do you feel in your future?
Thirty years of life has shown me that of all the pains we carry as people: Insecurity ranks as one of the highest. We live in anxiety, we live in fear; fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of the future, fear of death, and (I think above all): fear of our masks falling down and being really known.
That’s why our prayers are 99.9% petition, and maybe 0.1% thanksgiving. There’s so much to ask God for: Please help my finances, please help my marriage, please help me in my physics exam, please help my sick aunt. None of these are bad requests! But we don’t pray them with faith, we pray them in fear. And the results of our prayers aren’t a ‘peace that surpasses understanding’ – it’s an unchanged continuation of the terror we had before we ‘presented our request to God’.
How do we get from petition to peace? How do we learn to live in a longstanding joy that Paul commands us to keep?
The answer is, I guarantee you, kick-yourself simple! How do we get from petition to peace? The answer is: Thankfulness. When you look ahead and see no way of guaranteeing a safe outcome, all it takes is looking back and seeing how God has orchestrated one safe outcome after the next to realise that guarantees aren’t what you need: God is!
I know that living in anxiety is a complex thing, and there’s no easy solution, but there is a simple one: Remind yourself of God’s previous faithfulness and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When you look ahead and see no way you’re get through this month financially, that can be a debilitating anxiety. Wrestle your heart to look backwards and see how this time last year you were in the same spot and there was no way through, BUT GOD got you through. Now why should I fear this present storm when God has shown Himself to be bigger than my storm?
When you look ahead and see no way your loved one will ever get out of hospital, that can be a debilitating anxiety. Wrestle your heart to look backwards and see how there was no way they were getting out last time, BUT GOD got them out. Now why should I fear this present storm??
Many, many times though, you’ll face storms you’ve never faced before. My marriage was never this much on the rocks. The country was never in this much turmoil. My life was never threatened this badly. My daughter was never this sick. My finances were never this tight.
That’s when, PRAISE GOD, we have the BIBLE! Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scripture WE MIGHT HAVE HOPE.
You need proof of God’s faithfulness? Read the Bible! You need proof of God’s ability? Read the Bible! You need proof of God’s care and concern? Read the Bible! It was written partly so that you could be encouraged and so that you can have hope!
Sarah and I are facing a huge challenge for next year. It’s a challenge we’ve never faced before. And you know where I turn to? The Bible! I was reading a few weeks ago in Numbers about the Israelites coming to the edge of the land God had promised to give their ancestors. They send 12 spies in, and those 12 spies come back with a tremendous report: The land is GREAT, but there’s no way we’re going to have it because the enemy is strong. But Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies, say,
“Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
I read those verses and thought: What’s there to fear about the future! What God gives me is mine! It’s not ‘if’ or ‘maybe’ – it IS!
What challenge are you facing for this year? Is it financial? God owns ‘every animal of the forest’ and ‘the cattle on a thousand hills’ (Ps. 50:10); ‘The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made… The eyes of all look to [Him] and [He gives] them their food at the proper time. [He opens his] hand and [satisfies] the desires of every living thing’ (Ps. 145:13-16)
What is there to fear? Is it health? God can even raise the dead! Is it opposition? God raises up and casts down nations. Is it impossible? God created all things – what can He not do?
My friends, we obey God for today and trust God for tomorrow because we remember what He did yesterday. The Bible is worth reading because IT IS A WITNESS TO GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. If you find yourself constantly unhappy and hopeless, turn to the Bible to find peace and joy that surpasses your ability to understand it.
3.[The Bible is worth reading because] IT REVEALS GOD
This is the point of the Bible. The Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It was not given primarily as a historical account of the nation of Israel. It is not a book of nice and not-so-nice children’s stories. Why is it that God gave us these written pages? What’s the Big Idea? This: It reveals Him to us.
J.I. Packer in his book, God Has Spoken, says ‘We see that God Himself is the supreme object of revelation in the Bible.’
From beginning to end. The Bible begins with God, and it ends with God, and all the way through it reveals God to us. And we could talk about this for hours, scores of books have been written on the subject, but what I want you to understand this morning is that this Bible was not written primarily to explain how and when Creation happened. It wasn’t written primarily to reveal more about you and your precious little heart and God’s plans for your future. It wasn’t written to give you a map to an easier, more successful life.
I was challenged with this thought this last week: Do we see the Bible mostly as Inspired, or mostly as Inspiring?
We post quippy little Bible quotes on our Instagram pages and our WhatsApp statuses that speak about how God is awesome and how He’s got our future secure and how there are 365 promises in the Bible about fear so that we don’t go a day with fear. That’s the Bible being inspiring – it makes me feel better about myself and about my day.
But If the Bible is Inspired, it’s about God, not me – not about how God plans to save me, or about His promises to bless and prosper me. Those things are true, but even those promises are God-focussed, not me-focussed.
And so, as J.I. Packer said, the Bible was written primarily as a revelation of God. God gave us this book to say with a resounding: “THIS IS ME!” To which all of mankind responds with a resounding, “Ah! Boring! Don’t have time. I don’t understand it. It’s not relevant to me. I don’t get anything out of it.”
The Bible: The written word of the Eternal God; gathering dust on our bookshelves and side-tables.
This is why I decided to preach on the Bible today: God has written a Book so that we can know the One who created us. God has written a Book so that we can know His heart, His character, His nature, His desires, His commands, His instructions, His goodness, His wisdom, His glory, His holiness. HE IS the most important figure in History, HE HOLDS all creation in His hand, HE DIRECTS the course of creation by His will: YOU CAN KNOW HIM IF YOU’D JUST READ THE BOOK.
God’s revelation of Himself: “I created, I chose a people, I saved them by taking them to Egypt when there was a famine, I allowed them to flourish there, I saved them out of the land when they were enslaved, I gave them a law that if they would live by would allow them to know Me and walk with Me, I led them, I fed them, I took them to a land of their own where they could settle down and know Me more fully, I gave them judges to save them out of persecution, I gave them kings to unite them, I sent them prophet after prophet when they were going astray and turning to dead things for life, I came Myself to save you from your sin, I died, Ilived again, I AM and there is no other. THIS IS ME!”
Oh, don’t you want to know this One? Don’t you long to know Him – to walk with Him as Adam and Eve did in the garden, to speak with Him as Moses did in the Tabernacle, to hear Him as Samuel did in the Temple, to love Him as David did in the fields, to meet with Him as Jesus did on the mountaintops?
God LONGS to be known – that’s why He gave us this Book. And you might say, ‘Why doesn’t He just come and show Himself to me?’ Who are you to tell God how He ought to reveal Himself? He could have chosen to leave us with nothing: No Book, no Spirit, no understanding – like the animals. But the Eternal One gave us a Book, and the ability to read it. It’s His Love Letter to humanity, His gift of self-revelation, and it often sits on our shelves under bills and waste paper. The Holy One has given us the Bible so that we can learn about Him. Do you have a relationship with this Book??
Maybe you’re asking how to have a relationship with The Book. You know it’s important, but you find that reading it is almost always dry and very inconsistent. Just quickly, 3 steps to reading the Bible more meaningfully:
1. Read your Bible
There’s no getting around it. You have to stop making excuses and start reading the Book. One way that I find helpful is by doing a Bible reading plan that includes some OT chapters, a NT chapter, a Psalm and a Proverb. That way, with 15 minutes of reading a day I get through the Bible once in a year, and through Psalms twice.
I’ve included a page the Bible reading plan I follow that I found in an NLT Bible years ago in your notes. It’s one month’s worth of reading. If you want to follow this plan, try it for a month, and if you can get into the daily habit and want to try read the whole Bible in a year, come speak to me in a few weeks and I will gladly print out the entire plan for you to follow.
The first step is to read your Bible. Many people struggle just at this step. But even once you’ve achieved this step, many people give up because they skip the next step:
2. Let the Bible read you
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Don’t just read the Bible. Open your heart to what God would say to you in it. Years ago, we taught our Sunday School kids that before they read the Bible, start with this verse: Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” And the High Schoolers learnt to start their Bible reading with this verse: Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
At this point, the Bible comes alive to you and changes your heart. You’re asking God for more than just Bible knowledge, you’re asking to meet Him, and be opened to Him. Many people don’t like this step. Many people memorise entire sections of the Bible without opening their hearts to a single verse because reading the Bible is easy, letting the Bible read you is oftentimes painful, as God takes the time to point out our shortcomings, our lack of faith, our sins.
Many people don’t like this step, but it’s vitally important. Then, having achieved this step, many people stop short of the next step:
3. Obey what you read
Jesus shared a parable with the crowds, saying: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). It’s no safety to your life to have the words of God and not to obey the words of God. There’s no value to reading and not acting. In fact, it is better not to read than to read and stop there. James (4:17) tells is that anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
We need to take time before we read and say, “God, whatever you command me to do today through what I read, I commit to doing, even before I know what it is.”
---WHY SHOULD YOU READ THE BIBLE? Because it is a WARNING AND A GUIDE for your life – it keeps you from falling into painful pits; because it is a WITNESS TO GOD’S FAITHFULNESS – it gives you peace about the present because of God’s performance in the past; and because it REVEALS GOD – and we know full well that man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Will you make a commitment today, that from this point forward you will make the sacrifices necessary to become familiar with God’s written word? Will you make a commitment to making the Bible your friend, the one you turn to when you need guidance, comfort, strength? Will you commit today to making the Bible, and not the pulpit, as your regular meeting place with God?