I grew up as a stranger to the Bible and the only memories I have are that of a small curious child wanting to sneak a peek at the fascinating pictures in the large ominous family Bible that lived in a draw. I also grew up thinking that if the white bearded God of the Bible existed, He was an equally hidden being who was always disappointed. But at about the age of 25 a stirring in my soul began as it started to dawn on me that throughout my life, on several occasions, I had asked God to help me in some impossible situations, and He did.
This realisation could not be ignored, it was too real and there was no other rational explanation other than I had encountered something supernatural. At this same time the Jehovah’s witnesses started visiting me at home. They gave me their literature to read which I eagerly did, I also read parts of the Koran, Hindi & other religious texts to see if I could find out more about, ‘’spiritual things’’. To be honest I could see some logic & credibility, in these explanations for the supernatural, but there was something missing and something just did not fit.
It seemed to me that in all these writings there was a requirement for me to behave in a certain way or undertake a certain practice or ritual and that certainly had not happened. And so, it was not until I read the Bible that I found an explanation that was relevant and that surpassed all other explanations regarding my supernatural experiences. The Bible captivated me, it transcended the Islamic, Hindi and other religious scriptures that I had read because it read me! The Bible knew my human condition. As I read the Bible it led me to a person, His name was Jesus Christ and in the pages of the Bible He showed me that He loved me, had come to save me and wanted me for Himself. An invitation I could not resist.
Since my conversion, it is plain to see that it is my commitment to the Bible that has directed the rhyme of my life. The Word of God has radically changed who I am, what I do, what I feel and think. This transformation is by no means perfect, nor is it complete, but it is nonetheless real. However, when I do not read the Bible, when I ignore it for days, weeks or when I use it like a search engine or as an ornament to impress visitors, I lose my way and I fall into a pit that I cannot get out of on my own. Or, less dramatic, when demands on my time increase, it is often my time reading the Bible that is side-lined and whilst I do take time to listen to online sermons or podcasts where there are blessings to reap, they are another person’s spade work and therefore in my experience the blessing is limited. God wants to meet with ME so it is necessary for me to dig into His Word to find my own treasures.
I acknowledge digging for treasure is a bit abstract, what I mean by digging is studying the Bible. In the rest of this article I am going to talk about what is this treasure I am looking for, how I read the bible and how do I dig/study?
When I read the Bible my aim is to meet with God, He is the Treasure I am looking to find. I am looking to see what the Bible teaches about Him so I can know who He is, what He has for me, wants from me and what I am going to do about Him. God is everywhere at all times so it stands to reason that He can be met in ways outside of the Bible. I meet with Jesus Christ in many ways including prayer, silence, music, creation and people BUT without knowing God first through His word I cannot discern whether it is God I am encountering elsewhere.
The way I know it is God that I am experiencing is because I have met Him in His Word. Without first knowing His covenant of love in the Bible I cannot discern it when it is being written on my heart. This relationship I have with Jesus Christ is a priceless treasure. He is setting me free indeed and He is always stopping me from wasting my life chasing treasures that will fade by showing me better treasures in the Bible. The Bible teaches me that His ways are best and that He is a treasure of far greater worth than anything else. It is only after being with Jesus, knowing Him through his word that I can begin to understand what the apostle Paul meant about the treasure he found when he writes in Philippians 3-8, “… I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…’
It may sound too simple but when reading the Bible, I must read! And read again and read again, slowing down and becoming more aware of God as I read. As I slow my reading down and talk to God about what He has written a conversation with God ensues and I see what is there, not what I am predisposed to think is there. It cannot be denied that the Bible makes some outrageous claims and it is does not take long when reading the Bible to see them.
When this happens I frequently respond with a passionate NO WAY that cannot be right! But this conflict cannot be avoided. The Bible is written by GOD whose ways and thoughts are MUCH higher than mine. It is an eternal living book, it is not a western European text and it will not bow at my temple of self-esteem. Therefore, it will not always fit my thinking so when I read the Bible I need to submit to its Authority by acknowledging that when the Bible says outrageous things that seem wrong to me, it MUST be my thinking or interpretation in error, because it cannot be the Bible. When I do submit to the Authority of the Bible my no way is usually changed into an ineffable …OH!
A good place to start digging is with a plan. Currently, my plan is that I am reading from Genesis to Revelation and I have just had several weeks reflecting upon what Jesus meant in Matthew 10:39 when He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’’ I have other plans in place, I am part of a small group where we study the Bible together and I am also hoping to be part of a group who are going to learn to read the original Greek Biblical text. God willing, at some time in the next 7 or 8 years I want to undertake a Theology Degree. Academic study and learning Greek are certainly not necessary but some level of digging is. If treasure was just lying around for easy picking then by its nature it would not be treasure.
The way I have been taught to study the Bible is similar whether I am reading large portions of scripture, studying BIG weighty doctrines like the relationship between God’s Sovereignty & man’s responsibility or when mediating on a few words. A Study Bible is a really good tool for digging into the Bible. I use a Greek –Hebrew Study Bible as sometimes knowing the original meaning of certain words grants a deeper insight into what is written.
I also find a Study Bible really useful when reading parts of the Bible which seem boring, for example genealogies and Levitical Laws. A Study Bible draws different parts of the Bible together helping me to see the BIGGER PICTURE of the whole Counsel of God; hence I can see that one point of genealogies is to affirm that Jesus Christ was fully man and a point of Leviticus is to affirm that God is a Holy God whose standards are so perfect that no human being apart from the God Man Jesus Christ could ever meet them. It has been by digging with a Study Bible that these difficult to read parts of Scripture have become relevant to me in 2019 in the Black Country.
It is also really important for me to talk with other Christians about my experiences in the Bible and listen to the experiences and views of other Christ followers, including great Christian minds of the past. Learning what the Bible teaches with others strengthens me to live out what I have read and it is a joyous way to live.
In writing this article I have not tried to justify the Bible but rather to testify that the Bible is the primary place to meet with God. I know this article is somewhat inadequate at fully explaining the power and life-giving flow that comes from Holy writ so please come and talk to me if you would like to know more about anything I have said.
It seems to me that the best way to end this article is with a promise for fellow treasure hunters- words from THE BIBLE,
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19, 7-11