Why should we read the Bible and how should we read it?

Why should we read the Bible and how should we read it?

At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, He approached James and John with a simplevbut life-changing statement, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:22 ESV). This call sets a trajectory of transformation, not only for the sons of Zebedee, but for the entire world. In a single moment, Jesus took two men of humble pedigree and showed them what could be. In that same moment, He inspired them to greatness and gave them deep hope for their future. His call to discipleship meant that John and James would now spend every moment of their lives with the Word of God (John 1:1; Rev 19:13). They abandoned their own way. They left the lives they were building in order to obey the teachings of Jesus. The same call that was given to these men is given to each and every of us. When we choose to accept the call, it is not simply a declaration of belief. And it is more than freedom from the guilt of our sin.

When we put up our hand for salvation, or pray in our hearts to follow Jesus, we are saying we accept the same call James and John accepted two thousand years ago.

We agree to walk with the Word of God.

We lay down our lives to be obedient to the Word of God. While Jesus is no longer with us in human form, His Spirit is alive in us, and His written Word has been given to us to guide us in our walk as we continue in obedience to Him. His Word is the Bible, and it has the power to cut through the “…thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 12:4b)

For the follower of Jesus, it cannot be overstated how important it is to engage with His Word.

The same message we find in our Bibles is the same message Jesus brought, a message of hope and transformation. However, this hope does not come solely by the reading the Word of God. In James 1:22, we are reminded that we must not only be hearers of the Word. Here, we are encouraged to be “doers of the word”. This lines up with what Jesus teaches us about the Holy Spirit He has sent to “be with” us, and “in” us (John 14:17b). Later in this same chapter, Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.”
(John 14:21 NIV) This means we are called to know God’s Word (“has My commands”), and to do what His Word teaches us to do (“keeps them”).

This begs two questions in the life of a Jesus follower.

First, we must ask if we know the Word of God?

This is not simply a question of Bible memorization. When we see Jesus face to face, the question will not be, “How quickly can you name all 66 books of the Bible?” Likewise, I don’t believe you will be on a stage before Him reciting as much scripture as you can remember into a microphone while He looks on in approval of your majestic rote knowledge. Scripture tells us that when we see Jesus face to face, “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Mt. 7:21-23) It is almost like James who wrote we must be ‘doers’ of the Word and not just ‘hearers’ knew the teachings of Jesus (The Word) and is teaching us how we must apply them to our lives. ‘Doing’ the word of God means we are doing the will of the Father. You might ask me to just tell you the will of the Father.

But I’d like to challenge you. If you want to be a follower of Jesus, it’s important that you discern His will for yourself.

The will of the Father is shown to us through His Word (through the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Bible). This means you must know what He teaches. It means having a regular walk, as the disciples did.

The second question we face is what to do with what we know from the Word?

Scripture is not merely a set of good principles. It’s not philosophy on par with Socrates, Nietzsche, or Kierkegaard. The Bible contains holy principles of life that come from the Creator of all things. God’s Word is power. When we allow the Spirit to speak to us
through His Word, it is His power to transform our lives. If we truly follow Jesus, we’ll know His Word and allow Him to lead us and guide us. The key word here is obedience. This is what Jesus means when He says He loves those who “keep” His commands
(John 14:21). It is the heart of what He is saying when He says, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.” (John 8:31) It is mirrored in the teachings of 1 John given to the churches to whom John writes. “This is how we know that we love the
children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even
our faith.” (1 John 5:2-4). We must know what the Word teaches through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we also must be obedient to those teachings.

Where do I start in the Bible?

With so many claims in the world to “follow biblical truth”, and so many different views on what the truth of the Bible is, how is an average person supposed to make sense of it all? There are some things you can do to help you in your walk with Jesus. The first is to start in a gospel (the first four books of the New Testament). You can pick any gospel, but the Gospel of John does an excellent job
showing us the divinity of Jesus and the importance of the cross for salvation. From there it is good to stay in the New Testament for a while, learning more about Jesus, or learning how the early churches lived out their faith in Him. After a while you will want to
go to all sorts of places. This is a great thing! However, you’ll want to ascertain what the Word is saying so you can properly follow in Jesus’ footsteps. This means the way you read is of utmost importance.

When reading our Bibles there are strategies to utilize that help give understanding. For example, I suggested you begin with Jesus because He is the centre. We then recognize that all scripture should be read through the lens of the Messiah. The entire Old Testament points to Jesus and our desperate need for Him. This means that, when we run into difficult passages, we can ask “what would Jesus say about this?” His answers to the questions are truth. Also, we must consider the context of who is being spoken to. Look at Jeremiah 29:11 which declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is such a positive scripture. It has often been used as a promise of personal prosperity. In its context however, we see that this was written for the Israelites in exile. It was for a homeless people to give them hope. Does that mean
God won’t take care of you and me? Of course not! But instead, we use the strategy of reading it through the lens of Christ. Is His promise to me for wealth? Or for spiritual and relational wholeness? Context is key and as my College professor always said, “A text
without context is pretext.” Another strategy to employ for gaining clarity in the message is to visit commentaries from Christian writers. There are many of these available. I suggest the NIV Application Commentary. A final suggestion is to use scripture reading
strategies such as S.O.A.P. This acronym makes the process simple for us: S – Scripture; O – Observation; A – Application; P – Prayer. Working our way through scripture and making observations, we pick out areas of application and pray about what God would have us do. It’s a simple strategy that helps us find those areas where we need to be obedient to Christ and apply them to our lives.

The call of the follower of Jesus is not an easy one.  That is why He teaches us we should “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) before we embark on this journey with Him.

The call to the follower is to walk every day with Jesus, who is the Living Word and has given us His teaching.

It’s crucial that we know His teachings and put them into practice. I challenge all of us (yes, even myself) to take this call extremely seriously. Someone or something will try to teach us who we are and what we should believe. Let it be your Creator. He knows every bit of you, and He wants you to become everything He has called you to be. The importance of the Word of God and its application in our lives will bring more than we could ask, hope or imagine. When we trust in Jesus in this way, we also trust when He says, “The one who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.” Amen!

Rob Olson

Pastor Rob and his family are  from Saskatoon, Sk. Having a B.A. in pastoral ministries from Horizon College and Seminary, Rob is passionate about God and the church. Previously they were Children’s Pastors in Saskatoon and Global Workers to Peru. He is our Discipleship Pastor at Bethel.