Reading (Proverbs 13; Hebrews 4)

A few years ago, a brother brought a poster to the Chapel; it was the entire Bible on one single page. He was talking a little about it and he said something like “our whole faith is this page.”

The Bible is the all time bestseller. Five billion copies of the Bible have been sold or distributed worldwide. The Gideons International has distributed about two billion. They come to VCU once a semester and hand out a bunch of these little New Testaments. And to the credit of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as well, if you ask them for a Bible, they’ll give you one free of charge. I have one and it’s actually a nice Bible. The other day I went through the entire house, trying to count how many Bibles there were; I counted over twenty Bibles. Some of them were old and hadn’t been touched in a long time; some of them. I own eight Bibles—this one, two others that are worn out, a couple of travel-size Bibles, two that were given to me free by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I have a Bible app on my iPod. But many times, I don’t open my Bible enough.

Brother Bob Lloyd once said to us young people that if we went to a Bible School and met someone real special, and got home from Bible School and got a letter from them in the mail, that we wouldn’t just wait until we “had time” to read it. The creator of the universe has written to us as well; do we have time to read what he has to say?

According to a survey, almost ninety percent of people pray but only thirty percent of people read the Bible. It’s sad, but we can certainly be just as guilty.

The Bible says you must read for God to hear you; how can you expect him to listen to you if you won’t listen to him? Those prayers are an abomination.

Last year on a flight to Canada, I didn’t have a window seat and my carry-on had already been valeted so I only had my iPod with me for the flight. So I figured I’d get on the Bible app and read something, and I read Haggai for probably only the second time ever. I had never really paid much attention to it. I heard this story a while back; it’s online and Bob Lloyd did a Minute Meditation about it as well:

“A young man was preparing to go away for college for the first time, and was saying goodbye to his father. His dad said to his son, ‘Don’t let your professors take Jonah away from you.’ To this concerned father, Jonah represented his love for the Bible, and he did not want the higher learning of the university to cause his son to stop believing in Jonah. He knew that the secular educators of the day would soon attack the fundamental Christian beliefs that he had tried to teach his son.  He knew that one of the first things professors might attack would be the miracles of the Bible.  Believing that the Biblical account of Jonah would be first attacked, he forewarned his son. The son smiled and said, ‘Don’t worry, Dad.’ Four years later on graduation day, the father asked his son, ‘Do you still have Jonah?’ The graduate smiled and said, ‘No, but you don’t either, Jonah is not in the Bible.’ The father said ‘What are you talking about? Of course it’s in there!’ The son said, ‘No, it isn’t.’ The father said ‘I’ll show you,’ and he went to the bookshelf, got his Bible and flipped through the pages: Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Obadiah, Micah…‘Where the heck is Jonah?’ And the son said, ‘Four years ago, the day I left for college, I took a pen knife and cut Jonah out of your Bible. You obviously haven’t missed it for four years, so it might as well not be there. What’s the difference in liberal education taking Jonah out of my Bible and neglect taking Jonah away from you?’”

Proverbs 13:13 says, “Whoso despises the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.”

The Bible is not open to interpretation; I’ve even heard Christadelphians say it is. God’s interpretation is the right one. Peter says, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).”

Most churches do not teach from the Bible; they’re carried about by every wind of doctrine and that’s what we need to be careful of even here in our community.

Paul spoke well of the brethren at Berea; they searched the scriptures daily to see if what they were being told was true (Acts 17:11). We have many great speakers in our community, but how often to we hear someone say, “Well brother so-and-so says this…”

Remember that just because a Christadelphian or a prominent speaker says it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Search the scriptures to make sure of it, especially here in the twenty-first century. We live in a world of information overload. If you do a quick Google search for “Bible Truth,” you would probably find millions of sites with a million different ideas. Even in the brotherhood, with all the books that have been written and that are being written, it would be quite a challenge to find two authors who agree on everything. Solomon says that of the making of many books there is no end (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It confuses people and it’s an overload. Books can certainly be helpful but many times it is good to just read to go back to the Bible.

At the same time though, we need to beware of the flip side: searching the scriptures and learning facts and information while missing what God is trying to say. Facts and information do nothing for us unless we are brought to Christ. We shouldn’t just read the Bible to get to know the Bible, but to get to know God and Jesus.

The Bible is not hard to understand; it really isn’t if you just sit down and read from it, put the whole picture together, see what God is trying to say.

Starting on the first Sunday of last year, I began taking notes on every exhortation I heard, no matter where it was or who was speaking. I really began to see how the Bible all fits together. I definitely encourage you to take notes; just two or three things that you get out of the Sunday morning. Imagine if we took notes on every class or exhortation we have ever heard—at this point we might have an entire Christadelphian commentary on the Bible. You might not get something out of the exhortation every Sunday, but someone will. Maybe it’s just their day.

We have enough in scripture to tell us what we need for salvation (Micah 6:8); scripture is written for our benefit.

Why did Paul write the letters to the churches with problems? Not because he thought that there would be those exact problems years down the road (the incident with the incestuous man wasn’t kept on record because it would be like that 2000 years later, but because he wanted us to know how to deal with problems; it was an example, a sick example).

A few semesters ago, I was in a Mass Communications Law and Ethics class; I went to class every day, paid attention, took notes, enjoyed the class and the professor, but on the first two tests I got a “C.” I met with the professor and told him that I was a little disappointed to not be doing as well with those circumstances; he appreciated it and told me that it doesn’t work to just memorize facts and information; that it should become second nature instead. And it works the same way in the truth; God doesn’t ask us to memorize all these verses, but he wants us to be familiar with what he is saying to us. In a way, it should be second nature to just know that something is or isn’t right, and you can usually tell that because God’s word fits together so well that if something isn’t right, and it doesn’t fit in with what God has said, it’s probably not right.

The world gives us its daily readings every day; they’re not necessarily words on a page.
There are a lot of people out there who know the Bible but don’t know its author, they just know the facts and information.

I’ve met a number of famous people over the past few years: I shook hands with them and I also knew a lot about them—but they don’t know me. If I called them right now, assuming I had their phone number, they wouldn’t know who I am although they might remember me. One of them (Governor Jim Gilmore) was telling me, as I told him that I knew someone who worked for him, he didn’t know that person. All he did was sign their paycheck every week. To him, that employee was just a name and a number on a list of people to pay.

To know someone means that you have a relationship with them; you and them know a lot about each other, and most likely, they change or transform you in some way. We can claim to “know” Jesus, in knowing that he is the Son of God, and that he is the savior of the world; but we need to be sure that Jesus knows us; if he doesn’t know us, he will tell us to depart from him (Matthew 7:21-23), because we were never really transformed by him. If we know him, as opposed to just knowing about him, he will know us. The people he says he will tell to depart from him just wanted in on the cool stuff he could do, but they never actually had a relationship with him. That’s why his followers are called “brothers and sisters,” and not “fans.”

There was an interesting article online a couple of years ago about the late Brother Wes Booker. It said, “In 1985, Wesley entered a national Bible knowledge competition, in which he won a regional competition. Out of quite a number of competitors at the national tournament in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he placed second. The winner, after talking with Wesley for a while, admitted that he envied Wesley’s good knowledge of the Bible and its message–whereas his own knowledge (aided by what he called a photographic memory) was confined to facts without practical application.”

Everything God said would happen did happen when God said it would happen, every ‘I’ was dotted, every ‘T’ was crossed. We’ve seen that a lot in the Isaiah class, where history showed that things happened exactly the way God said they would.

A brother told us a sad story at the Eastern Bible School, about how he and a friend from high school once had a religious debate during their lunch break. The friend was convinced that we go to hell when we die, and he and the brother agreed to debate during their lunch hour at school one day. After all was said and done, the brother convinced his friend that we do not go to hell. His friend then gave him back the Bible and said he didn’t need it anymore, and that we was going to party and live it up since he knew that now he didn’t have to worry about burning in hellfire forever. It was a sobering lesson that the brother had to learn; that even though he won the debate, he failed at his mission, because he didn’t “win” his friend over to Christ. Winning is certainly fun, isn’t it? But when it comes to the truth, we want to win people over, not “beat” them with our Bible knowledge. Most likely, the majority of anyone who has ever gotten into a debate like that, still believes exactly as they did before the debate, and most likely it is because there was no interest by either side to actually convert the other.

We are instructed by Paul to “not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-25).” We need to be careful when it comes to the truth. If you win a debate but don’t “win” the person to Christ, you still lose. Christ is the word made flesh; he’s not just about knowledge. You can know about Jesus without actually knowing him. Plenty of people in the world know about him, you could go down the street and say, “Hey, tell me something about Jesus.” “Oh yeah, I heard he was a swell guy.” We can’t sit Jesus down and have a cup of coffee with him and get to know him that way, but we have a lot written about him: about a hundred pages about his actual life on earth, plus the rest of the New Testament. But Brother Peter King once said that when someone asked him who was the most important person in the Old Testament was, he said, without skipping a beat, that it was Jesus. Abraham rejoiced to see his day (John 8:56). David spoke about him too many times to count, as well as the prophets. He’s on every page of the Bible in some way or another; you just have to look for him.

Knowing the truth is not enough; one can know everything there is to know about the truth: all the meanings and facts and information about symbols, signs, prophecies, and everything else. But unless that knowledge produces fruit, it is useless (Matthew 7:17). And we may not convert anyone in our mortal lives; but we are sure to convert people in the Kingdom Age. We must be the light of the world now if we want to be it in future; we cannot hide our light under a bushel. We must let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).

The Pharisees searched the scriptures thinking they would find life, but they missed out on the one who gave life. Do we do the same thing? Could we read our Bibles hours on end but not get anywhere when it comes to knowing God or Jesus? Bible academics are very secondary to knowing our Lord. All scripture is for our benefit, even the names in Chronicles, but we must be led to Christ. Two important questions that must have a ‘yes’ to get into the kingdom: When we see Christ, will we know him, and will he know us? If you’ve ever met a famous person, chances are they won’t remember you later on but if they do they still won’t “know” you.

We can get acquainted with Jesus but not know him. Plenty of people in the world claim to know who Jesus was: “Yeah he was a swell guy…” But they don’t know him; they don’t have a relationship with him. He wasn’t just a radical reformer who came on the scene and flipped the world upside down. He’s living even now and is going to return soon to set up his Kingdom. So we have here, each of us, a copy of God’s written word; we all have easy access to it and should read from it daily; even if it’s just a chapter or a few verses to think about for the day. Let God speak to you; he tells us what he has done in the past and what he intends to do in the future, and if we piece it all together we see that it’s a great plan for this earth; he promises to bring peace to this troubled world and to bring all people to him, the way he intended for it to be from the beginning, and he tells us how we can be a part of it, but we have to do our part to read and see what it is that he requires of us and what he intends to do. He loves us so much that he gave his only son and he’s given us the hope of being in his coming Kingdom; do we have time to read what he has to say? ff

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