In our series on helping new believers get started in the right direction, we have moved to what we can learn about God from what we read. But this information is not academic — it must lead to action. So what four things can we tell new Christians they should do with the Bible?
The first is, “Read it.” This may sound a bit like, “Dah.” But there are many books about the Bible that vie for our attention (and many of them are good). None are as good as the Bible. We need to read the Bible.
Let me put it in terms of a relationship. Any healthy relationship needs healthy communication, and it needs it often and on a regular basis. The best time of the day for me is the first hour I am awake. It’s not that I’m a morning person. (I used to be, but graduate school cured me of that disease.) Every morning almost without fail my wife Robin and I spend the first hour together. After a couple cups of coffee we are mostly coherent. Nothing has gone wrong in the day, yet. It’s quiet, and we can talk. “How did you sleep? When did you wake up? What’s happening today? What are the kids doing? How are you feeling about what we discussed yesterday? What have you been reading in the Bible? Has anything come up in your prayer life you want to share? What is Jesus teaching you?” Often Robin will read me something out the Bible that has meant something to her — she generally gets up an hour or so before I do, so she has had time to read. And then we close in prayer. (We didn’t used to pray together, but recently we went through some difficult times and God finally got it through my thick skull that I need to pray with my wife, and she with me. I am thankful for that.) This is our “quiet time,” and without it our relationship suffers.
The same is true of our relationship with God. We need regular, quiet times to talk with him (our next topic) and to be silent and listen to him speak to us. Usually he speaks through the words of the Bible.
When you walked through the gate, one of the changes that happened was that someone came to live within you. It was God the Holy Spirit, and he is there to encourage and direct and empower us on our journey. One of the ways in which he does this is to help us understand the Bible. Before we walked through the gate, the god of this world had blinded our eyes; we know this because the Bible tells us so (2 Corinthians 4:4). But now God’s Spirit helps us to see.
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit–taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)
Paul will later tell his young friend Timothy to “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (2 Timothy 2:7).
So we read the Bible, spending times in silence to listen to his words, praying that his Spirit will help us understand.
But there may be more. Usually God speaks through the words of the Bible, but at times — and they are wonderful indeed — the God of the Sombrero Galaxy stoops down and whispers in our ears.
I will never forget the afternoon that Robin and I were walking through the darkest days of our lives, and we were silent for a bit except for the sound of tears. All of a sudden Robin burst into tears and exclaimed, “God just spoke to me.” I knew not to reply with my normal sarcasm: “Does he have an accent?” Rather, I asked, “What did he say?” “He asked, ‘Robin, do you trust me?’” Robin was floored that God would call her by name.
These were dark days indeed, days of turmoil at church and in our ministry. Days that were much darker than the deaths of our first two children. But they were days in which God was asking us if we would continue to walk down the narrow path, loving and trusting him, even if much of our world was crumbling around us. I doubt Robin would ever have heard God’s voice had we not been quiet, listening. But this is what happens in good relationships.
So we read the Bible, reflect on what it says, and listen for God’s whispers among the words.