Last night, I attended a book signing by a friend who has written a thoroughly researched book covering each of the 66 books of the Bible, exploring the various themes contained in it. I promised him I would read what he has written and do a review (watch this space). One thing my friend said that resonated was the main reason for embarking on his labour of love was to help others study the Bible.
I have read the Bible several times now, cover to cover, and I study portions of it every day. I reckon I know what it is about a lot more than most, except for the fact if I really had taken on board a fraction of what is contained therein I would be a much better Christian than I am. Notwithstanding personal hypocrisy, I can resonate with what the converted slave trader, John Newton, wrote. Given one of the many glorious themes contained in the Bible is the grace of God, which is also to do with eternal salvation and making sense of a world that appears to have gone mad and humankind’s attempts to delve into the mysteries of the eternal, I would not know about these things if I hadn’t found out about it in the Bible.
I regard myself as having been blessed by that grace when as a child growing up on a Council estate in the 1950’s my not especially religious parents insisted me and my sister go along to the nearby Sunday School each week. It was led by a rather strict lady, a headmistress no less, but with a heart of gold and who loved her Bible and the children in her charge, Miss Raffan. Everything she did revolved round the Bible: stories told, lessons taught, exercises set were Bible based (with appropriate rewards), sword drill – where we were given a verse in the Bible; we had to find it and read it aloud when we had, and memorizing Bible verses and passages. The first song I learned that I can still recall was at Sunday School: “The best book to read is the Bible … if you read it every day, it will help you on your way, the best book to read is the Bible”.
Later in my teens, I went along to Boy Covenanters, led by Bryn Jones. Again, and helped by the carrot being the games evening we could attend, that too was very much Bible focused. Later, I joined the church, which was Plymouth Brethren, and its focus was also Bible centred, including its more obscure sections, but with a particular emphaisis on the message of the Cross. While PBs are sometimes known by their narrow minded attitudes, their earnest desire to follow the teachings of the Bible could not be denied. Onto university, I joined the Christian Union, which was supported by the IVF (now UCCF). One of its strong emphasis was on regular Bible study, including daily quiet times (prayer and Bible study). In that time I met other Christians who believed in the importance of memorising scripture and applying its promises to daily life.
During that period and the years following, regular Bible study has been my habit, with and without the many aids that are available to help one to study the Bible. The blessings continued in that I have joined mainly Bible believing churches and have been around those who loved the Word of God. I regret many churches have strayed from the pure teachings of the Bible, but my biggest regret is while I try to live my life according to God’s Word and use it to inform my world view, I have not always seriously taken God at His Word, and while I know my Bible well, I still don’t know it well enough. Much wisdom has been shared over the centuries on the Holy Bible, which I regard as the Word of God, and why it needs to be studied, but the words of Spurgeon are ever true and remains the need of the hour.
The challenge I would want to throw out to those reading this is to get to love the Bible, and more importantly its author – God Himself, and remember the need to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. It is good to set aside time for the discipline of systematically studying the Bible each day, with aids like that produced by my friend or simply by itself doing so with a prayerful attitude. There is much on the Internet as well as easy to get hold of printed matter. And there is no reason why you can’t begin with the Bible itself, starting with one or more of the four gospels and then getting started on the Old Testament with Genesis. It is one of the best decisions you can ever make and one that can make you truly wise and much else besides if pursued in the spirit of one wanting to know and understand eternal truth, apply the lessons learned and live life as it should be lived – to the full and to the glory of God.