Thirty of us gathered on Zoom for June’s all age worship led by James Greig. Tim Clapp led us through some wonderful worship and Julia Wright continued our Youth Alpha series by talking about the Bible; prayers were led by Phoebe Culshaw.
Bible: Why and How Do I Read The Bible?
”There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”
2 Timothy 3:15b-17
Who here likes books, and stories?
I love reading.
One of my favourite books when I was a child, is this:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I expect lots of you probably know it too.
Can you guess how many copies have been sold of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe since it was written (1949, 72 years ago)?
85 million copies.
That’s a lot of books. It’s very popular.
But there’s another book that I’m going to talk about today, which is even more popular than this one.
In fact, the book I’m going to talk about is the most popular book in the whole world.
It’s been sold more times than any other book that’s ever been written.
I expect you can guess which book I’m talking about.
That’s right, The Bible.
Do you know how many copies of the Bible have been sold?
More than 4 billion! Not million, but billion.
But it’s a huge number.
The Bible is the best selling book of the year, every year.
In England, we can buy a Bible from any book shop, and I expect in your homes, you might have a few copies of the Bible, not just one.
But, in some countries, the Bible is illegal. It’s not allowed. You can’t buy it from any shops in those countries, and if the police find out you have a Bible, they might punish you or send you to prison.
And that’s because the rulers of those countries don’t like Christianity, and they know that the Bible is the most powerful book ever written.
But, in those countries where Bibles aren’t allowed, you might find very brave people trying to smuggle Bibles in, so people can still hear about Jesus.
What is the Bible?
So, we know the Bible is very popular.
But what is the Bible?
The Bible is a book.
Well, actually it’s a whole collection of books.
The word Bible comes from a Latin word biblia which means a library of books.
And that’s exactly what it is.
The Bible is divided into lots of different books.
In the Bible, there are:
- Poetry books
- History books
- Letters written to people
- And prophecy – which is important messages that God has spoken to prophets.
And the Bible is divided into 2 sections:
The Old Testament, and the New Testament.
The Old Testament is this section of the Bible. It’s the larger section, and it was written before Jesus lived.
And then the New Testament, which is this section, which was written after Jesus lived.
Together, the Old and the New testaments were written over 1600 years,
by 40 different people.
And these authors were all very different kinds of people.
It was written by:
Kings, scholars (that means very clever people), tax collectors, philosophers (people who did lots of thinking), fishermen, poets, historians, teachers, prophets and even doctors.
Now, I’m going to explain something a bit confusing about the Bible.
The Bible is 100% , that means completely, the work of human authors – so people wrote it.
BUT, Christians believe it’s also 100%, so completely, inspired by God.
Inspired means where the ideas came from.
So although humans wrote the words, Christians believe that God was the one who told those people exactly what to write.
One of the books in the New Testament, is a letter from a man called Paul to his friend Timothy.
And in that letter Paul writes the words we heard read to us earlier.
“Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.”
So Paul says that All Scripture (which is another word for the Bible – so the whole Bible), is God-breathed.
It’s as though the words have come from God’s mouth.
And then Paul explains that the Bible is useful to teach us what is true, and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives.
The Bible, this book here, is the most helpful guidebook, that we’ll ever find, on how to live life.
And not just struggle through life.
It shows us how to live the most joy-filled, most content, and fullest life that is possible.
It talks about things we deal with every day, like friends, work, money, pain, happiness.
The Bible gives us boundaries – like a fence – showing us what kind of behaviour will help us and others; and warning us about what behaviour will hurt ourselves and others.
Some people might say, “I don’t want a rule book. If I do what the Bible tells me, I’ll lose my freedom.”
But if there are no boundaries, no guidelines for life, then our lives would be complete chaos.
Think about driving. The rules we follow when we drive, make driving safe. If there were no rules on the road, there would be crashes everywhere.
Or imagine a game of football or netball with no rules. It would be terrible – you could just pick up the ball, push everyone else over, and carry the ball to the goal.
We need some kind of boundaries and guidelines if we want to live the best kind of life.
Also, what’s interesting, is that people who don’t read the Bible, will look somewhere else to find out how to live. They might just look to their friends and copy them, or look in a magazine, or other books to try and find the best way for living.
Bookshops are filled with self-help books like these:
- Stress less
- Why we sleep
These books can be helpful.
But, the ideas that humans come up with don’t compare with what God says.
Surely the God who created the world, the one who made us, surely He has the best ideas on how to live life?
But the Bible doesn’t only teach us how to live our lives.
Just as important, the Bible tells us facts about who we are.
When we read the Bible, we learn that:
- we are loved by God
- we are precious and valuable to Him.
- We have been made by God, and God has good plans for our lives.
- We learn that we are forgiven. That when we mess up and say sorry, God doesn’t shout at us, he forgives us and loves us.
- He helps us change.
- We learn that God is for us, He cheers us on as we live for Him.
The more we read the Bible, the more we learn about God’s love for us. And when we know how deep that love is, we find joy and freedom.
How do I read the Bible?
So we can see that not only is the Bible a very popular book.
It is also a very useful and powerful book. The truth we read in it, can transform our lives.
But, how do we read it?
If you’ve ever tried reading the Bible before, you’ve might have come across some pretty confusing parts that just fill you with lots of questions.
And if you find it tricky to read, then don’t give up.
The more you read the Bible, believing it’s God’s word, the more you’ll begin to understand the confusing parts.
And my biggest tip on How to Read the Bible, is this special key, which unlocks the Bible, and brings it alive. (large cardboard key, saying Jesus)
Can you read what my key says?
That’s right, Jesus.
The key to understanding the whole Bible is Jesus.
If we read the Bible, always thinking about Jesus, we’ll understand it so much better.
If we think about who Jesus was, the words He spoke, how he died and rose again to save us – if we think of these things as we read the Bible, we’ll find it makes sense.
It’s like putting on some glasses, where Jesus is the lens, and we look through Jesus as we read it.
Jesus himself, told some friends, that the whole Bible, points to himself. Right from the beginning at Genesis, all the way through to the end, Jesus showed these friends how it all speaks about Him.
So Jesus is our key to reading and understanding the Bible.
And a few other very practical tips for you.
- Get a Bible!
There are lots of different translations, some are easier to understand than others. The NIV, or the Good News, or the Message, are all really great versions for young readers.
- Find a time and a place that work for you.
I find the best time is the first thing in the morning before everyone gets out of bed. That’s because it’s quiet and I won’t be distracted.
- When you read the Bible, don’t just open it at random.
That can leave you feeling confused and a bit lost.
It’s best to look at one book at a time.
But don’t feel you need to start at Genesis, the first book.
I’d recommend starting with the beginning of the New Testament. The first four books are all about the life of Jesus.
- And as I just mentioned: Ask lots of questions.
When you read your Bible, ask questions like ‘Who was this book written to?’ ‘What was happening in their world?’
‘What does it mean for us today?’
‘What does it teach us about who God is?’
- You could stick a label on the front of your Bible saying, “Pray before opening.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you’re reading, and for God’s truth to really sink into your heart.
- And lastly, talk to people.
Reading the Bible isn’t something we should only do by ourselves. Talk about what you’re reading with friends or your parents. Ask them any questions you have.
So there we go, The Bible.
- It’s the most popular book of all time.
- It’s the very best guidebook we’ll ever find on how to live life.
- And I’ve given you a few tips about how to read it.
We’re going to sing a song now, and after that I’m going to tell you a quick story from my life.
We meet with Jesus when we read the Bible
I have a quick story that I want to share from my own life.
It’s a story that shows how God can speak directly to us through the Bible.
Before I went to university, I had an amazing year in Africa, learning lots about God and really growing in my faith.
When I was coming to the end of this time, I started to think about going to university back in England.
All the children here, you’ll learn this when you’re a bit older, but at university, something that all the students like to do in the evenings is drink a lot of wine and beer. And usually drink far too much, which makes them drunk.
When people are drunk they aren’t able to control what they do, so they do all sorts of silly things, and they often feel very ill the next day.
You might wonder why they do this, but lots of students think it’s fun, or they just do it because it’s what everyone else is doing, so they just join in.
Now I knew that when I got to university, people would just expect me to copy everyone else, to drink too much and get drunk.
However, I knew that actually, there were much better ways of having just as much fun, without needing to get drunk.
I also knew that it’s hard to make good decisions when you’re drunk and I wanted to have control over what kind of things I said and did.
So, out in Africa I prayed.
I said, “Please God, show me what to do when I get to university. What should I do when everyone around me is getting drunk?”
And almost immediately, the words 1 Peter came into my head.
Back then, I didn’t know my Bible hugely well. I knew that 1 Peter was a book in the Bible, but I didn’t know what it said.
1 Peter is not very long. It’s a letter that Peter wrote to a church that he knew. It’s full of really good advice on how to stay close to Jesus.
As I was reading this letter, I was amazed. The words I was reading spoke exactly into my situation.
It was as though Jesus was talking right to me, right into the question I was asking him.
Peter writes, “Be sober”.
The word sober means to have no alcohol. To not drink any wine or beer.
In other Bibles, the words ‘have self control’ are used, which is a similar meaning. But in the version of the Bible that I was reading, it said “Be sober”.
The first time I read it, I thought, “Wow! This is very relevant to what I’m asking God to help me with.”
I kept reading to the end of 1 Peter. And I was amazed, because it didn’t say “Be sober” just one time, it said it 3 times!
Peter’s is letter is all about not following the crowd, not copying what everyone else does. Instead, Peter is encouraging Christians to live differently, in a way that honours Jesus.
And Peter also talks about being ready to tell anyone who asks, the reasons why Christians chose to live differently to the world.
I couldn’t believe how directly God was speaking to me.
The Holy Spirit had prompted me to read this book in the Bible, and that it was all about being sober and living differently to the how the rest of world lives.
Straight away I said to God, “Do you mean I shouldn’t drink any wine or beer at all? Nothing?”
I didn’t feel like God was strictly telling me, “You mustn’t drink anything!” but I simply felt him asking me, “What do you want more – to fit in with the crowd and copy everyone else, or to be different and stay close to me?”
If you don’t drink anything at university, you are quite weird. It’s not very normal.
And yet, there and then, I made a decision to not have any alcoholic drink for my first year of university.
It was a bold decision, and I was rather anxious about what everyone would think of me. But I wanted to see what happened if I followed this gentle nudge to live differently, to not drink any alcohol that year.
And it was amazing. It was so easy for me to know I was in no danger of getting drunk.
It also led to so many conversations about life and God.
People wanted to know how I could have fun without being drunk.
They wanted to know where my joy came from, if it wasn’t coming from wine and beer.
And that led to people asking about Jesus.
That’s quite a grownup example for children to understand, but I hope it shows you that the Bible comes alive when we read it. God can use the Bible to speak right into our personal lives and help us know what decisions to make.
I try and read the Bible every day.
I don’t always have incredible moments, like that time in Africa, when I feel God is speaking right to me about a specific situation.
But it’s amazing how often that does happen.
But even when I don’t have amazing revelations from God, I know I need to read the Bible each day if I want to stay fully alive. Just like we need food each day to keep our bodies strong, we also need spiritual food to keep our souls, our hearts, alive.
The Bible feeds our souls, helping us to live a full life, to thrive.
When we read the Bible, we meet with Jesus.
And Jesus transforms our lives.
Let’s say a prayer to end.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the Bible.
Thank you that we have a love letter straight from you.
Thank you that it is alive, and thank you Holy Spirit that you speak to us through it.
I pray for everyone listening today, that you will give them a real love and passion for the Bible. Would you bring it alive to every person here, and Jesus would you transform lives through it.