Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
I came to Christ, like a lot of others from my generation, without a strong creedal background. That is, I think a lot of those from my generation were without much in the way of religious formalism. If we thought about the Reformation at all, it was only in the context of rebellion, for we were very rebellious, or perhaps we thought of the Reformation bringing the end of religion, and we saw ourselves as the moderns who would reform the evil of our world as we set ourselves against those of the prior corrupt generation. My generation was the generation of honesty and truth, and drugs and free love. Some of us figured out that these “virtues” being together were rather oxymoronic in nature, but as far as when we came face to face with the Christ, we were rather a blank page of doctrine.
Of course, we were to find that our generation was even more corrupt than that of our fathers, but the point I want to emphasize is that we came to Christ without many pretenses. Actually, when I came to Christ, I thought very briefly that any of those who claimed to preach Christ were my brothers in Christ, and it was not until I began studying the word that I realized there were many different “gospels” being preached. Why should a Christian read his Bible? One of the main reasons is exactly that—how are we to know when we are hearing another gospel except we know the truth of the real gospel?
God has wonderfully packaged many of his tools for Christian living within the Bible; the Christian has only to draw on them to successfully stand against many of wiles of the world, but draw on them he must, if he is to at all stand. I observe many Christians like unto the seeds cast into rocky soil. They come up and sprout promisingly enough, but the heat of the sun can wither them away in a single day. They are like a compass coming into near contact from an electrical source; its needle is drawn away from true north and points steadily enough, but in the wrong direction. The Christian finds himself spouting all kinds of nonsense, that even a cursory reading of the Bible would reprove, if he would but look.
Why is it that so many confess to a hard time reading God’s word? Saint after saint has come to realization that nothing, unless it is prayer, seems to be interrupted with such regularity as reading your Bible. I know Christians who have a sweet beginning spirit to them that never grow because they have never found the time to discover the Bible’s rules. I have intervened with such people, trying to get them to begin with just a single chapter from the gospel of John, but they run away from the idea of any regular reading.
Such people will go through life, only seeing God through their experience, and through that haze will come to conclusions about their God that simply cannot pass the inspection of the word. Such people have the softest of hearts that are pricked beyond what they can bear when they are hurt, and I often hear them complaining at the unjustness of it all, but they have no understanding of their wonderful standing before God because they are not grounded in the word.
What is grounding in the word? As a young man (yes, I dimly remember those days), I looked to several older saints for direction and counsel. One of these saints was our pastor, who was so warn and feeble that he had almost to be propped up in the pulpit. At the time I was headed off to Multnomah School of the Bible, and I remember his teaching. “You go to college just so you can learn how to study your Bible.” The Bible itself says it: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:9,11). Now as an older saint, I can look back on my life and see that the most meaningful times of my life came as I immersed myself in the Bible.
“Search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). How are we to get to know our Lord without the scriptures? To me, it would be like trying to get through life with only one arm. I might be able to do it, but at every turn, life is just going to be more difficult.
How Christians from historical times got through without reading is very difficult to me to fathom. How could a saint live his life not reading the scripture? Perhaps it explains the apostasy of the church, caught up with doctrine no longer centered in the Bible, and falling further away from the word as time went on. Christians were very dependent on the church for all of their doctrinal interpretation, and the further away the church went from the word, the more errors would be apparent in the thinking and practice of the saint. I do believe that the Reformers strongest “reform” was to translate the Bible into the common language, that all might be able to read.
I have long noticed the same pattern in many of those who profess Christ. Refusing to begin a path of education in the word, they become dependent on the message from the pulpit for all their spiritual sustenance. Something happens, as it always does, whether it is a split, or a disagreement, and the saint finds himself bereft of his pastor. He is now totally cut off from the church, and his life without leadership begins to show bird-walking as his feet carry him about aimlessly. I believe strongly in fellowship with the saints, and listening to a godly man (we do have a very godly pastor), but can any pastor really carry that much load? It ought to be the aim of every Christian to begin with such messages, and those messages ought to regularly drive him back to the Bible, which is the proper source of all doctrine.
An excellent verse which talks about what should be happening in our lives: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). How do we get renewed apart from the word of God? It is God’s will that we should become, in nature, like Jesus, who gave his example of living pure and devoted life to his Father. I cannot even take more than a first step without harnessing the power of God available through his word. It is the plan of God to conform us to the image of his Son. We enter into that plan, willingly, by reading and abiding in his word.
The word of God? The Bible. Literally, the book. It has transformed millions of lives, multitudes of sinners, but the masses of men have continued to break their heads upon its rock of truth. Did you know that it remains, even today, the number one bestseller of all time, and has been there so long that most bestseller lists will not even count it? The Bible is a deep and long story in which God’s compassion is untied bit by bit and generation by generation. It is the revelation from God to man, written by many men with but one Author, with the intent that man should again know his God. The one Author deals with many hard hearted characters in diverse fashion, choosing some as vessels of honor and others as vessels of destruction, but none can approach him without faith. Thus it has one theme: that man might turn from his own willfulness to the God of mercy through faith. The crowning achievement in the Bible is the cross, which all the Old Testament looks forward to, and all the New Testament looks back upon. Jesus becomes the winnowing fork of mankind, dividing forever men into two camps, one of everlasting joy, and the other of everlasting punishment. The mercy of God is clearly extended to all in the Bible, but just as clearly, many reject the truth it contains.
The arithmetic of the Bible is thus: it divides men, saints from sinners; it multiplies the grace of God, turning men from darkness to light; it subtracts sin from the sinner, but adds redemption to the lost. Altogether, we shall never find his grace less than our need, for it equals the grandest love story known to man, because it is greater than all our sin and shame. To sum it all up, the product of the Bible is rescued mankind, its quotient is the division of evil from the world, and there is no difference in those who are saved—all must face him equally, regardless of sin, race, or creed, and must be added to him through faith, or subtracted from him through sin. How could we ever find a better equation than that which has already been given us?
Having come to Christ, having put your trust in him, and having declared to the world that you would be his disciple, therefore go to the word of God, and make a disciple of yourself first, that you may obey everything he has commanded. It is his will. But you will not even know that it is his will, unless it be that you start reading the Bible. What is it that they say? A long journey begins with but a single step. Step into the book of John, and read about our savior, Jesus, or try the book of Romans and find out about your Christian standing before God. God calls us to become in the image of Jesus, and will one day make us totally into that image. Meanwhile we are to take on that image now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, and through instruction in his word. There is no other way. The book. The Bible.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.