Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them:
“This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”
He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. And they were continuously in the temple praising God. (Common English Bible)
Perhaps you are feeling lost, maybe overwhelmed. Likely, you have experienced the feeling, even many times in your life, of being ungrounded, lacking a solid foundation under your feet – not quite knowing what’s up or down.
You sense there needs to be a great unifying force in your life – something to orient yourself around and make sense of the world, others, and especially yourself.
From the standpoint of Christianity, all of Holy Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – are focused upon and have their centrality in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. And it is this same Christ who opens us to understanding the scriptures.
My earliest memories of the Bible are in the church in which I grew up. I remember Bible stories from Sunday School and the pastor talking about particular verses from the Bible while I sat in our regular family pew.
It wasn’t until my late teen years that I took up the task of reading the Scriptures for myself. And, I have to tell you, it absolutely changed my life. I found that many of the stories I heard as a kid were a lot juicier than I realized. I also discovered that there were simply a lot of things in the Bible I didn’t know even existed.
However, the most profound breakthrough for me was plowing through all four Gospels and seeing the life and ministry of Jesus. My adoration and appreciation of Christ rose exponentially after watching him in action throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
I was so impressed with reading the Gospels that I moved into the rest of the New Testament. Then, I went back to the Old Testament and read the entire thing. In a matter of months I had read the entire Bible. Yet, I had more questions than when I started. There was just far too much I didn’t understand about it.
So, I read the whole thing again… then again… and again… somewhere along the line, I’ve lost count of how many times I have read the Bible – I estimate around four-hundred times for the New Testament and the Old Testament about two hundred. And I still have so much more to learn and discover!
I’m not telling you this to impress anyone. In fact, many feel as if all that reading of the Bible is over the top. I assure you that it isn’t.
After all, how could the living Christ ever open my mind to understanding the scriptures if I never bothered to read them?
And, after having read it once, why in the world would I spend so much of my life in plain straightforward reading of the Bible? I offer several reasons for my practice:
I can only lay hold of God’s promises if I know what they are.
Living from a place of faith and calm in the midst of uncertainty and unrest doesn’t just happen. It comes from knowing the words of Scripture and allowing Christ to permeate my soul. The promises of Scripture are like an asthmatic’s inhaler, enabling us to slow down and take a deep breath.
I can only be like Jesus if I am getting to intimately know him.
Reading Scripture about Jesus is like eating food. I have to do it regularly. It nourishes me for the day. Bible reading is stored energy, stockpiled emotional and psychological capital. can speak and act like Jesus throughout the day by making moment-by-moment withdrawals from that vast reservoir of stored Scripture knowledge.
I can only be wise if I am connected to wisdom literature.
By nature, we are all ignorant, and have to learn what is wise, just, and good through humility and experience. Over time, we can shed folly and become wise. I need help with becoming wise. I need a word from God each and every day to face life’s challenges, its ups-and-downs, as well as its mediocrity and mundane nature. Every day the Bible tweaks my life and prompts fresh mid-course corrections.
I need to see Jesus for who he is, and not what I think he is.
Everyone has an idea about Jesus. But I believe the Christian Scriptures tell me who Jesus really is in all of his attributes, character, and sovereignty – which then tells me who God actually is. God is pretty big – so big that I can read the Bible for a lifetime and never exhaust knowing the Lord. I read my Bible in order to sharpen my vision of God and to think more accurately about all that matters most in this life.
I need to see the Church for what it is, and not what I think it is.
Everybody and their dog have an opinion about how church should be and operate. But I must take my cues from the Bible about what is most important about the church and what it should be doing. I read the Bible in order to better know and understand who God’s people really are, and what they ought to be doing in this world. That’s important because the church is Christ’s Body.
I need Jesus.
Reading the Bible is a personal experience — an actual encounter with the author. Daily Bible reading requires routine and structure, but it’s not mechanical—just as a body requires a bony skeleton, but it’s not the skeleton that gives it life. We do with the Bible what the Psalms guide us in doing—adore God, thank God, complain to God, wrestle with God, express perplexity to God, etc. Without God I am lost. Which is why, apart from Scripture, I am lost.
Reading the Bible is an investment of time, energy, reflection, meditation, and prayer. Struggling through its contents can change your life. It did mine.
One of the great tasks you could ever do is to read the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation, because it is God’s Word that reveals to us Jesus, the center of it all, the way, the truth, and the life.