It’s February 14th, and you receive a red envelope through the door. As you pick it up, you wonder – what was the name of the postman? The postmark isn’t clear – I wonder why it’s smudged? The envelope looks like it’s good quality. The stamp is second class – I wonder why it wasn’t sent first class? You open the envelope to find a card – an interesting design you think, a slightly embossed picture with some glitter. I wonder how it was made? How many other cards are there like this one? Then you place the card down and get on with your day.
From this scenario, you could make the case that you have missed the point. It’s a Valentine’s Day card! There’s a person behind it, someone who wants to declare their love to you! So – open it, read it, read it again and hear from the one who loves you!
When it comes to reading the Bible, we can often forget why we do it. When we simply read the Bible for reading the Bible’s sake, there should be no surprise that our devotional times will often seem dry and cold. When we read the Bible, let’s remember that it is an invitation. An invitation to intimacy, joy and transformation.
If someone sits opposite you on a train, you might be able to guess a few things about them by being nearby – perhaps their line of work, their preferred reading genre, their taste in music or their personal hygiene. However, your knowledge about them would be very limited. To really get to know them, what would have to happen? They will have to speak to you; they will need to use words!
God has revealed himself through THE Word, his Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible is ultimately about him. Remember, the Pharisees had the Scriptures, but Jesus rebuked them because they’d missed the whole point: ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me’ (John 5:39). So as we read Scripture, we are learning more about Jesus and encountering him. We will see his ways, his goodness, his love, his power, his glory and his purity. As we get to know him better, we will know more intimacy with him. We will know what he loves and what he hates. We also have been given the Spirit, the same Spirit that inspired the writers. With the Spirit of God dwelling within us, helping us to see Christ, who is the exact image of his father, we are taking part in a divine moment. We are on holy ground.
This is so much more than just reading a book. This is relational!
What is it like to be near to God? What is it like in his presence? Psalm 16:11 tells us, ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ God’s Word is something to be delighted in (Psalm 1:2). Jeremiah, going through deep trials also experienced the joy of God’s Word, ‘Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart’ (Jer. 15:16). We are invited to encounter Jesus in his word, and as we do so, we are invited to take part in something that creates much joy. Why is it that we don’t have to work hard to schedule time to watch our favourite TV programme or sports team? Because they bring us joy! As we seek to read our Bibles, let’s remember this is an invitation to soul-satisfying joy!
What you spend your time beholding you will become. If you spend lots of time with someone, it’s not long before you start to pick up their mannerisms and quirks. So, as we behold Christ in his word – guess what will happen? ‘We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Cor. 3:18). As we experience the reality of God’s love for us in the gospel, as we see the beauty of Christ, as the Spirit brings this word to life – we will change. We will begin to love what he loves and hate what he hates.
Responding to God’s invitation
There’s so much more that could be said about this, but let’s get practical. Here’s the glorious invitation to intimacy, joy and transformation. But how can we make this happen? Here are three very simple and practical suggestions.
If you don’t plan to read the Bible, it quite simply won’t happen! Make sure there is a time in the day you set aside to spend time reading the Bible. For most, this will be first thing in the morning, before there are any other distractions or pressures. If you find yourself distracted during this time, why not charge your mobile phone outside of your bedroom overnight, and buy an alarm clock (they do exist!). This way, the first thing we read and the first voice we hear is our loving creator.
Making a plan and sticking to it can often sound restrictive, yet within the right boundaries as humans, we flourish. When I studied music at university, I used to dread the rehearsal rooms. In there, through the walls, you could hear the most amazing musicians, which was very intimidating! On their instruments, they were free, liberated. How was this accomplished? A plan: determined, regular practice. Through this restriction, they found freedom. By planning to read God’s Word regularly we are beginning a path to wonderful, truth-reminding, soul-fuelling, sin-freeing liberty!
Reading the Bible is relational; God is speaking to us! Prayer becomes the second part of the conversation. We talk to God about what he has said to us. Don’t close your Bible when you pray. Think through what God has said and use this to praise him, to confess sins, to be thankful and to ask for specific help. ACTS is a helpful acronym here – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
Reading the Bible is not a private thing! It’s something that is meant to be done with other believers. So when you read the Bible, don’t keep what you’ve read to yourself. Share it with someone. Why not read the same book as others in your church, and share what you’re learning together? As God has given each believer the Spirit, together we will get a greater understanding of his word!
So as we come to the Bible this week, please don’t see it simply as a book to read. But see it as an invitation – an invitation to intimacy, joy and transformation. God has written you a love letter. He wants to declare his love for you! Open it up, read it, read it again and hear from the one who loves you dearly.