Chapter 4 – Surrender the way you see the Bible

 

As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:14-17, NIV

The Bible is controversial. It is seen by many (even Christians) as outdated. Several passages can be seen as offensive. Most of us have seen people twist the words of the Bible to meet their own ends, which can make the Bible itself seem off-putting or even hurtful. Certainly parts of it seem strange, to most of us, if we’re honest. The Bible in places can be hard to interpret, some passages are hard to read, and it can be difficult to apply. Sometimes it can feel like it would be easier simply to give up and not bother trying to get stuck into the Bible. There is no shame in feeling these things – we all have times in our lives when we think this way! And yet, we do not want to compromise in our relationship with God, and we know that He probably would like us to read it.

The passage above emphasises the importance of knowing and living by the truth of the Scriptures – and this can be difficult to accept when we do not know how to receive or apply much of it. Particularly in those times in our lives when reading the Bible feels like chewing on cotton wool, we realise that we need God’s own grace and His teaching when we approach the Bible. So may we lay down before Him our views, opinions, “insights”, theories and theologies – and surrender to Him the way we see the Bible. May we let Him show us how to read it and what to think about it.

What an amazing privilege it is to have the Bible, full of the history of the people of God and revelations of beautiful truths about the character of God, and the words and teachings of Jesus Himself… What an amazing aid in knowing God and following Him, and what an awesome weapon against evil! And what better way is there to get to know the Bible than from the main character Himself, the One who brought it into being, the One about whom it is written? May He guide us into all truth as we seek Him through His word, and may He teach us how to see the Bible, how to think about it, how to read it, and how to apply its words.

I admonish every pious Christian that he take not offense at the plain, unvarnished manner of speech of the Bible. Let him reflect that what may seem trivial and vulgar to him, emanates from the high majesty, power and wisdom of God. The Bible is the book that makes fools of the wise of this world; it is understood of the plain and simple-hearted.

– Martin Luther

Some Christians find it easy to get into a routine of reading the Bible regularly as a Christian ritual, yet perhaps secretly seeing it as a bit of a chore. Dare I say it, I believe that this is not how God wants it to be taken. May God fill us with a new excitement and passion about His written word, so that we never resent the wonderful opportunity that we have to read it. May we choose to sit down and read it because we WANT to, not because we feel like we should. May we ask God to bring it alive to us, every time we read it, and to teach us how to apply what we read.

Let us surrender to God the way we see the Bible. May He transform our attitudes and mindsets so that the Bible never seems to us like stiff old religion, but rather life-giving, transformational and painfully challenging soul food. Reading the Bible should animate and enthuse us, teaching us every day more about who we are and who our Lord is – and teaching us how to follow Him with everything that we are. It is full of exciting stories that display God’s greatness and can inspire us to genuinely live for Him; beautiful poetry teaching us how to lay down our problems before Him and find our strength and joy in Him; encouragement and advice teaching us to how to think and act in a way that pleases Him – and so much more. May He teach us to read the Bible with wonder. Let us recognise the incredible value of its teachings, and acknowledge the power in its words. May we marvel at the knowledge that if we faithfully apply what we read, our lives can be dramatically changed and can glorify God in astounding ways.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

– Hebrews 4:12, NIV

The night I first committed my life fully to Christ, I returned to my room and found that someone had left a Bible on my bed. I picked it up and began to read, and found it extravagantly exciting because I realised that the strange and radical words that I read were true, and that they display a kind of life that is vastly different to the life that the world offers. I had known the stories and heard it all my life, but when I began a real relationship with the One that it was written about, the stories and teachings had meaning for me now. That wonderful excitement about who He is and what He can do – may that consume our hearts and minds every time we read the Bible.

Over time most of us lose the excitement that we first felt, as the novelty wears off. But if we surrender to God the way we see the Bible and ask Him to teach us how to see it the way He does, He may give us new understanding and show us new things. As we surrender, may He bring a deeper excitement at getting to know Him further through His written word. May He lead us, through the Bible, into a deeper love of Him, a firmer trust in Him and a more solid focus on Him so that we may truly please Him with our lives.

After I started following Christ, I quickly got into a routine of reading a couple of chapters of the Bible each day, and most of the time for the first seven or eight months I really loved it. Sometimes, though, as time went by, I began to simply read my two or three chapters to get it done, because it was what I did every day. In those times, if I didn’t understand what I read or didn’t know how to apply it, or wasn’t excited by it, this did not bother me – I simply put it down. About a year after my conversion, I found that I had ‘forgotten’ to read the Bible for a while – it was sitting on my bookshelf under some other books, not by my bedside as it used to be, and had been untouched for a few weeks. Each day I had thought, ‘I should read the Bible again today’ – but then didn’t get around to it. I did not see it as very important, although I had a feeling that God would want me to read it, and that I would enjoy it and benefit from it. Other things just kept coming up, and each day I would ‘run out of time’.

One night around that time I had a dream, the details of which I still remember very vividly. I dreamt that I was kneeling in my church building holding something very tightly, clutching it to my chest. That something had some sort of power like electricity coming from it and flowing into me, so I could not let go of it. I could not see what it was, but was intrigued by it. In the dream I was excited but full of peace, and felt wonderfully alive. I felt absolutely amazing, and amazed by what I was holding, but I could not for the life of me guess what it was. I didn’t really care what it was – only that I had it and would never have to let go.

I woke up full of energy at about 4am, still feeling very much alive and excited, and intrigued by what it all could mean – I was not used to having very vivid dreams. I awoke kneeling on my bed, rather than lying down, and I was clutching something tightly to my chest just as I had been in the dream. Heart racing, I looked at what it was. It was my Bible. I was baffled – had I crossed the room in my sleep to retrieve my Bible from underneath the other books on the bookshelf, and returned to my bed holding it tightly against my chest? I was amazed and wondered what it could mean. For the next two hours or so I could not get back to sleep and was filled with wonder, excitement and adrenaline, realising that my dream was probably God trying to show me that there is wonderful life-giving power in His word and that I should commit to reading it again.

At that time I did not consider it possible that I would ever be tempted to neglect reading the Bible again, because of what a strange and amazing experience I had had that night. The exhilarating feeling I had felt in the dream was so ingrained in my memory and I knew that the Bible is not something to be taken lightly or to be taken for granted. However, I also remembered the excitement that I had felt the day I committed my life to follow Christ a year before, and how within a year I had already lost my commitment to regularly reading the Bible. I wondered how long it would take before I once again gradually lost my passion and excitement for the Bible, and prayed for Him to teach me how to see His word and how to read it.

I decided to commit to talking with Him while reading the Bible each day – asking Him to show me what He wants me to receive from each passage, and asking Him to show me specifically how to apply it to my life throughout the following days. I hoped that this would keep me learning from it and growing closer to Him through it – rather than simply reading it for the sake of reading it. May God teach each of us to see the Bible in the way that He wants us to see it, and may He shape us as we read it so that we can apply it to our lives each day in a way that honours Him. May we surrender to God the way we see the time we spend reading the Bible – and may He teach us to see this time, this opportunity, as a blessing and a privilege.

There are so many countries in which owning a Bible is a criminal offence, worthy of imprisonment or death. Christians in such countries treasure the Bible so preciously, risking their lives and their freedom just to own a Bible and to be able to read it. I wonder, if Christians in the UK valued the Bible the same way, would our lives be different? Would the way we read the Bible be different? May we surrender to God the way we see the Bible, and the way we see the time we spend reading it. May we never scorn the freedom that we have! May He teach us to praise Him for this opportunity, and not to see it as a chore or a bore, but as a valuable gift.

King James VI and I (1566 – 1625) was known for making the Bible readily accessible and available to the common literate man, since at the time only the priests were able to access it. The King James Bible was the first Bible that anyone could read whenever and wherever they choose, and the production and distribution of this was a topic of high controversy at the time. Many priests spoke out against the king for this, considering the Bible to be too holy, too dangerous, too powerful to fall into the hands of uneducated and untrained people. It could cause irreverence for the word of God, it could cause heresy when people misinterpret its words, it could be twisted and misused… Something that would cause such major disputes among great leaders must be something powerful and dangerous. King James VI and I gave people opportunity to read the Bible on a daily basis so as to get to know God better and learn to apply it not only at church. The Bible was immensely appreciated by vast numbers of people when they first had access to it for themselves. May God teach us to appreciate it likewise.

People have all kinds of different theories as to how to take and understand or apply each passage of the Bible, but only when we surrender to God our understanding and the way we see it can He guide us through it His own way. May we surrender to God the way we see each part of the Bible – including the parts we find difficult to understand or apply. May God show us how to see it, how to apply it, how to read it – may He guide us. May He explain to us the parts that we struggle with, and may we surrender to Him any problems we may have with the Bible. May we be free to wrestle with God over the difficult issues that arise. May we be free to rant at God about the Bible, about our understanding of it, about certain passages that we dislike. May we be free to express all of this to God, and to surrender to Him the way we see the Bible.

 
Lord my guide and my friend, thank You for the gift of the Bible.

I’m sorry for sometimes not seeing it the way You’d like me to.

I surrender to You now my views of the Bible:

– the way I see the opportunity to access and read it

– the way I see my time spent reading it

– the way I see the passages that I find difficult

– the way I see my daily application of it

– the way I see the influence it has on my life

– the way I see those who I disagree with on certain passages

Please help me to see the Bible from an eternal perspective.

Help me to value it, read it and understand it.

Teach me Your truth!

I surrender to You the ways I read and apply the Bible to my life.

Please shape my understanding.

I give You my eyes and I ask that You replace them with Your own.

May I live in Your ways, with Your views rather than my own.

Amen

 

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