The Best Christmas Present Ever – Learning to Discover God’s Truth as You Read the Bible!

A Brief Lesson on Bible Reading from Pastor Bob

Imagine a Bible where everything that is spoken by the prophets is true. Imagine a God who promises the people a way to cleanse themselves of all they have ever done wrong … and then delivers on that promise! Imagine a person who came to us as “God’s Son” and told us that when this world was over, our lives would be secure for eternity — that he had conquered death. Now, imagine that all of this is true:

> All the prophecies were right 

> God is doing everything that the Bible said. 

> God has sacrificed his Son for our sins — so that we could be made holy and pure even in our earthly existence.

> God has conquered death and opened the gates of eternal life to all peoples.

And then there is this: Imagine a Bible that told us exactly what God was going to do for us, and it was so good that many of us still can’t believe it, won’t believe it, or don’t even know how to believe it!

Well, all of these things … and more … are the truth, and are happening right now in our midst. 

You’re probably scoffing at me by now: Just another pastor pitching his propaganda. It’s so simple to say that all of this is true. But why don’t you prove it? Why can’t I see it? And what good is it doing anyway? If it’s all so good, why does so much seem so bad? 

And so the question becomes the same as Pilate asked Jesus on that fateful day: “What is truth?” 

Truth is all around us. But today, let’s start with the Bible. The Bible is God’s book of truth. But the Bible’s truth must be revealed by God’s Holy Spirit for us to learn its meaning. Let me be clear – without the assistance of the Holy Spirit within you revealing to you the truth, then the Bible is just another big  book, and it can be a very confusing book, and at its worst, a very dangerous book. 

Hang in there. Let’s try this:        

Have you recently sat down in a quiet place and spent some time reading a passage from the Bible? Or have you ever done that? That’s what I thought! So, let’s start there. Are you willing to try that? Hopefully so! BUT, before you start reading, let’s clarify what you’re seeking in your reading. You see, the Bible contains all kinds of stuff: a lot of history, some science, some really sweet poetry and some really boring generational lineages — not to mention a whole bunch of confusing and complicated rules, laws, and commandments that seem to have very little relevance to our daily life. And that’s not all — there’s more … much more! 

So let’s start here: the Bible is actually a book of books – a library if you will — that includes writings from many ages and authors, in styles that range from myths to visions to letters. So, to read the Bible correctly, it helps to understand what it is you’re reading in the Bible. 

Here’s what I mean: Since we have been focused on the prophet Isaiah this week, let’s think about the writings of the prophets. The prophets were chosen people by God to speak truth to the world — including to the people of God who had fallen into sin, and their leaders who had led them there. But, the words that God gives to the prophets are not just words for one time and place and audience — they are words whose meaning goes far beyond any particular time and place. 

So, if you’re learning how to discover the true meaning of the words of the Bible – reading the prophets is a good place to start. Their words reveal the eternal and universal truths of God — for all times and for all peoples. And that is what the whole purpose of the Bible really is: revealing God’s eternal and universal truths to the world and all its people … right now! 

Are you still with me? Now listen closely: That truth will not be revealed if we read the words of the prophets literally — and restrict them to a particular group of people or situation in history. The truth of the prophet’s words is not in the words themselves! The truth is in their meaning. And this is how the whole Bible should be read — for the meaning of truth, not the literal interpretation of the words. 

So, how do we do that, you ask? That is where the power of the Holy Spirit helps us. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would enable us to know everything we need to know. Thus, the Bible (especially) should only be read with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. 

For instance, consider these words from Isiah:

A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch.

The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding,

The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God.

Isaiah is not offering these words of God’s truth to the people to teach them about plants or branches or anything that can be taken literally from his words. In fact, Isaiah is teaching us about things that are beyond mere words. The truth of his words is beyond the letter of the words he speaks. In this passage, Isaiah is actually offering God’s truth to us about the coming of a person from the lineage of King David (Jessie’s father) and how that person will be more than you can imagine — beyond description. That person will be filled with the “life-giving Spirit of God” in a way that will give him powers and abilities beyond us mere mortals. Isaiah is telling us in these words God’s truth of how God is coming into the world and what form God will take. That is the true meaning of his words. 

Let’s try this again. Later in the same passage, Isaiah says this: 

The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid.

Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them.

Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together,

and the lion eat straw like the ox.

If you just read the words as they are, you’d think that Isaiah was teaching us about some really neat kind of petting zoo where all the creatures live together in peace and love each other. But that is not the meaning of the words. What Isaiah is really telling us is the truth about the kind of world that this new person that is coming will bring with him. It will be a kingdom of peace … and love … yes, more than you can even imagine. He says, it will be like wolves and lambs playing with each other and calves and lions sharing a meal. That is the eternal and universal truth about God’s kingdom … which has already come with the arrival of Jesus into the world. 

    How are you doing so far? That is just one small example of how the Bible should be read. Now, try it yourself: Think of a Bible story you’re hung up on, the one that you just cannot buy into. Now go back and read it again. But before you read, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and your mind, and help you hear the true meaning of the story as you read the words. 

That’s a big start! Now, if you make a commitment to this prayerful style of reading the Bible, God will begin to speak to you in ways that you have not yet experienced, and that could change everything you thought you knew and believed about the Bible … and about God.

I know you’re busy. I know your schedule is already beyond full. And I know that reading the Bible is probably not at the top of your priority list for this season. And I will tell you that all of those reasons are the very reasons that you should make reading the Bible a part of your daily life. In fact, I would say reading the Bible would be the very best Christmas present you could give yourself … and in so doing you might come to realize that the true meaning of Christmas is so much more than you ever imagined! 

Merry Christmas … and happy reading!

Pastor Bob