I have been reading through these mini-courses provided for free by a website called Online Bible College (www.onlinebiblecollege.com), and I have really enjoyed what I have learned regarding the Bible’s structure and unity. I have been reading these for several days now, but I am just now writing about what I am learning from them, so I will probably make several posts over the next few days to get caught up. And of course, I won’t be writing about every little thing that is written in them – only the things that I believe God is teaching me from them. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re interested.
Reading the Bible is probably my favorite spiritual activity – it’s at least tied with singing during worship. I love God’s word, and I have always enjoyed studying it, even before I was saved (though it was mainly an academic exercise back then). Thanks to a lot of pushing from my wife, I have gotten into a good habit of doing some kind of Bible study in the mornings. Right now I am doing the Precept Upon Precept study over the life of Joseph and the end of the book of Genesis, and I have been posting what I am learning through that study (and my previous one) on my blog here for a couple of weeks.
The Bible As An Open Book
The first thing the Online Bible College (I’ll write OBC from now on) talks about is how the Bible is a popular book – “the world’s undisputed bestseller, topping the charts every single year” – but that for most people it is a closed book. In Luke 8:1-15, Jesus tells the parable of the farmer who sowed seed – some fell on the path and was eaten up by the birds, some fell on the rocks and when they grew up withered because they had no moisture, some fell among thorns and when they grew up were choked out by the thorny plants, and finally, some fell on good soil and came up and yielded a crop. Of course, Jesus goes on to explain that the 4 areas where the seed fell were actually describing 4 kinds of hearts, and the OBC outlines it this way:
- The path – a calloused heart: hardened against God’s word
- The rocks – a shallow heart: with little depth for God’s word to take root
- The thorns – a distracted heart: torn away by desires or worries of the world
- The good soil – an open heart: a heart receptive and responsive to God’s word
They go on to say that the only way you can get the Bible to be an open book for you is to have an open heart. And to have an open heart, you must hunger for God’s word and be obedient to it.
A Hunger For God’s Word
I was baptized when I was 8, and for much of the time after that I believed I was saved. But in hindsight, there was no real change in my heart to show that I had been saved – I only went through the motions because that’s what I saw others doing and that’s what I was influenced to do. As a young teenager, there were times when I would read the Bible out of curiosity and interest (mainly just the stories), but that is all I was doing – reading stories. I had no hunger for God to reveal Himself in His word. In order for the Bible to become an open book, I have to have an longing to see more than just the words on the page. Proverbs 2:1-6 says
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
In other words, if I want to make the Bible more than just text, I should call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. I must ask God to make His word more than just words; I need to ask Him to give me the “knowledge of God.”
Obedience to God’s Word
The biggest evidence that I was not saved as a young teenager was my actions – I still lived however I wished. As a believer, if I am to really get anything meaningful from the Bible, I must take action on what I read. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And 1 John 2:3-6 says
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
These verses say a person must be a person of action and obedience in order to get anything out of the Word of God and to be able to be “in” Christ.
Having the Right Attitude
I have been thinking a lot lately about what it is to have the right attitude toward God. God is holy and righteous, and because of that we must not take Him lightly – the Bible is full of stories of people who paid the consequences of acting irreverently towards God (see my post on the holiness of God here). In Isaiah 66:2, God says “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” We have to have a reverent fear for God’s Word, or as the OBC writes, “We should never treat the Word of God casually. If we disregard God’s Word for our lives, we will experience the penalties of a life not aligned to God. This is no light matter.”