Okay… Let’s start with the basics. You can start hearing God through scripture, starting today—in the same way that Kindergarten was the beginning of your education. Don’t get discouraged by that, though. Every day in Kindergarten is a day of wonder because you don’t know all the things you don’t know. Your mind is full of incredible new knowledge and experiences. That’s how it will be for you with Bible study too.
But you’ll also be aware that there’s much more to learn. Like your ABC’s, to keep up the Kindergarten metaphor. Once you’ve got your ABC’s down pat, you’ll be able to start stringing them together into words. And wonder of all wonders, words can be arranged into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories and letters and books. Every concept God teaches you now will be part of your “ABC’s.” And there will come a day when you start to see how that thing he said to you from Romans connects with what you learned in I Timothy. Before you know it, you’ll have a biblical framework to work with and you’ll start to think biblically, which is the same thing as saying you’ll be thinking more like God does. And the more you’re tracking with God, the more easily he’ll be able to get your attention through his word. See?
Let’s get to work on those ABC’s. Permit me ask you some questions.
What is the Bible? The word Bible means “book.” But the Bible we’re talking about is far more than just a book, right? We agreed on that already. So what is it? The Bible uses a couple of words and phrases to describe itself:
– “The word of God.” God wrote the book and the words are his words (Just remember that there is a mysterious gap between God’s written words and God speaking, present tense. We’ll unpack this a bit later).
– “The scriptures,” which means, “Sacred writings.”
– “The law and the prophets,” referring loosely to the Old Testament.
The Bible also claims to be “God breathed” (II Tim. 3:16). It came and comes right out of God himself. The first time we see God breathing is in Genesis where he breathes into Adam, who makes the jump from a lump of clay to a living being right there on the spot (Genesis 1:7). So saying the Bible is God-breathed is saying a lot. Just like Adam became a living being when God breathed into him, the Bible is a living book because God breathed and breathes into it.
What is the Bible for? Again, instead of getting all smart and guessing—or just repeating what smart people told us, let’s just let the Bible describe itself.
1. “You diligently search the scriptures because you think that in them you possess eternal life…These are the scriptures that testify about me (Jesus), yet you refuse to come to me to find the life… the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ…” (John 5:39,40, Galatians 3:24). Both of these verses point to the number one purpose of the Bible, what Jesus Himself said it was for—a guide for finding Him and the life he offers. The Bible properly read and understood always leads us past itself to the One who wrote it. That’s such a massive point that you should probably chew on it awhile: The Bible is designed to lead me past itself to Jesus.
2. “Every word of God is flawless… useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness… anyone who listens to the word… is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror… whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock… your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path… the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul… giving joy to the heart… light to the eyes… in keeping them there is great reward.” (Proverbs 30:5, II Timothy 3:16, James 1:22, Matthew 7:24, Psalm 119:105; 19:7-11). In other words, the wisdom found in scripture is the ultimate standard to live and learn by. Because it’s totally true, it’s what we compare everything else to. As we read it, it’s like looking in the mirror. You can and should be seeing yourself and your life as you read. You can build your life on what you learn, and as you do, your life will overflow with the blessing of God.
3. “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us… (by) eyewitnesses and servant of the word” (Luke 1:1-4). So the Bible is a historical record of God’s work in and through his servants in the world.
A guide to Jesus. A guide to life. A guide to history. Those are all fine and good, but why have I spent time on this question? Because the purpose of God’s word gives us a list of things we can expect from it as we read and study it. If that’s what it’s for, if that’s what it’s supposed to do, then studying it should produce those results in us too.
We should be growing our intimacy with Jesus. We should be increasingly living life to the full—corrected, trained, encouraged, revived, and strengthened by God. We should have something to base our life and all our decisions on. We should be seeing ourselves in what we study and being changed by it. We should have a growing understanding of what God has done in history and how to cooperate with Him in the present.
Right? Because that’s what God’s word is designed to do. If the Bible is doing all that for you, I guarantee that you’ll find it anything but boring. And the reverse is also true. If it’s not doing those things for you, you’re probably not too thrilled about studying it. But the Bible isn’t defective. The ultimate reason it’s not doing what it is designed to do isn’t it’s own fault, or God’s fault—it’s yours. Don’t get defensive, I’m just saying that you’ll have to learn to study it the way it’s meant to be studied before it jumps to life like you want it to.
So let’s get started. And get this: as we move along, I won’t just be giving you information. Pay real close attention, because I’m teaching you how to hear God speaking to you through his word so you can love and obey him for yourself.
See you tomorrow!