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Bible reading sermon

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Introduction

1. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of our country, once stated... "So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year."

2. George Muller, who established many orphanages throughout England, said... "I believe that the one chief reason that I have been kept in happy useful service is that I have been a lover of Holy Scripture. It has been my habit to read the Bible through four times a year; in a prayerful spirit, to apply it to my heart, and practice what I find there. I have been for sixty-nine years a happy man; happy, happy, happy."

·         Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe. - Ronald Reagan

·         Never let good books take the place of the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the Well .- Amy Carmichael

A Bible in the hand is worth two in the bookcase. - Author unknown

 

John Piper:

Why do you emphasize Bible reading and prayer so much?

I don't think there is anything more basic to knowing the supremacy of Christ, loving him, and obeying him—and being the church for each other and for the sake of the world—than to hear God speak to us in his word and then to speak back to him with the praises and the longings of our hearts.

The reason for that is because it is so plain that today God reveals himself to us by the word. The living Christ in his bodily form is not here. He has ascended and taken his place at the right hand of God. Neither are his inspired prophets and apostles here. God has ordained for himself to be known primarily by the word that was recorded from those prophets and apostles—especially those who knew the Lord himself in his physical form—and preserved in a book.

But let’s face it, reading through the entire Bible or even committing to reading a daily portion can be difficult. It can be a struggle to stay at it day after day. That’s the way it is with most new things that we resolve to start. We begin with enthusiasm but somewhere along the way we give up.

We may feel that we don’t have the time for reading the Bible every day.  But Dr. Tony Evans reminds us that we always have time for what is first on our list. The question then becomes: Is the Bible first on our list?

The Importance of the Bible

Why is the Bible important?

            The Bible is enduring and lasting. (Because God is enduring)

                        PS 119:89 says: Your Word, Oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

                        IS 40:8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.

Nobody ever outgrows Scripture: the Book widens and deepens with our years.—Charles Spurgeon[1]

God’s word is enduring. We live in a changeable age. Fads come and go. Popularity and ideas ebb and flow. How few things are enduring! If you don’t believe this just look at a picture of yourself from a few years ago!

The Word of God is enduring! Isaiah contrasts it with flowers and grass. Flowers and grass may be here today and we enjoy them but we know that they are short-lived. Their beauty is fleeting. The same is true of us, our time here is short. Our “wisdom” is usually shortsighted. God’s word endures and stands firm in the ups and downs of life.

The Bible has withstood the attacks down through the years of atheists, liberals, false religions and western culture. Countries have made it illegal and sought to keep it out of the hands of people. Yet, the Bible endures and is loved and cherished. People without a copy of the Scriptures in closed countries will risk their freedom to obtain it and to get it to others.

The Bible endures because God has promised that it would and he is faithful to his promises.

John MacArthur:

God anticipated man’s and Satan’s malice towards the Scripture with divine promises to preserve His Word. The very continued existence of Scripture is guaranteed in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (cf. 1 Pet. 1:25). This even means that no inspired Scripture has been lost in the past and still awaits rediscovery.

The actual content of Scripture will be perpetuated, both in heaven (Ps. 119:89) and on earth (Is. 59:21). Thus the purposes of God, as published in the sacred writings, will never be thwarted, even in the least detail (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:25; Mark 13:3; Luke 16:17).

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Is. 55:11[2]

            The Bible is trustworthy (Because God is trustworthy)

                        PS 117:7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

                        Eze 12:25  25 But I the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious house, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ ” [3]

God will fulfill what he says. He will honor his promises. He is faithful and just and we can depend on what he says. You can build your life upon the foundation of the Bible.

In our world it can sometimes be very difficult to find a trustworthy and reliable person. Whether a car mechanic or a doctor or a plumber, a trustworthy person can be hard to find. People often go back on their word. They fail to live up to their commitments. Have you ever been burned by an unreliable person? Have you put your trust in something or someone and they let you down? Most of us have and that makes us a little hesitant to trust. But God has always been and always will be faithful and because he is faithful, his word can be trusted.

Bob Utely writes

 I began to search for evidence of its trustworthiness, which I found in (1) the historical reliability of the Bible as confirmed by archaeology, (2) the accuracy of the prophecies of the Old Testament, (3) the unity of the Bible message over the sixteen hundred years of its production, and (4) the personal testimonies of people whose lives had been permanently changed by contact with the Bible. Christianity, as a unified system of faith and belief, has the ability to deal with complex questions of human life. Not only did this provide a rational framework, but the experiential aspect of biblical faith brought me emotional joy and stability.

John MacArthur again:

The sacred book which we read, study, obey, and preach deserves to unreservedly be called The Bible or “The Book without peer,” since its author is God and it bears the qualities of total truth and complete trustworthiness as also characterizes its divine source.[4]

The Bible really has one theme throughout and that theme is Jesus. (Read Swindoll page 17)

Why Read the Bible?

            Let’s start with the negative: we don’t want to be ignorant of what God has told us.

            Paul often warned his readers that he did not want them to be ignorant about important subjects.

He wrote to the Romans in 11:25 imploring them not to be ignorant regarding the dealings of God with Gentiles and the nation of Israel.

He warned the Corinthians repeatedly about not being ignorant of several different theological subjects. He said in 1 Cor 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant”.

He was disappointed with them regarding their divisions in the church and he was saddened that they were still needing milk like infants when they should have been pressing on to more substantial “meat subjects”.

He warned then not to be ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (2 Cor 2:11).

Likewise he warned the Thessalonians to not be ignorant concerning Christ’s coming (1 Thess 4:13)

The writer to the Hebrews lamented their lack of spiritual progress in these words: (chapter 5:11ff)

 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. [5]

Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their lack of Bible knowledge: (Matthew 22:29ff)

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” [6]

Likewise Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 12 by saying “Have you not read?” regarding David and the sacred bread and also the regarding the behavior of the priests on the Sabbath.

God speaks to us in his word and we do not want to be unaware of what he is saying to us. That is why it is important that we spend time reading His word.

Many cults and false religions take advantage of folks who do not know their Bibles.

                       

Now let’s look at some positive reasons:

I say “some” because there are very many more reasons but these will be the ones that we will want to look at this morning.

Reading God’s word gives us:

Education, Endurance, Encouragement and Hope

Romans 15: 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. [7]

The Scripture is given for our education. That presupposes that we will not only be reading the Bible regularly but that we will also be studying it for ourselves. We can’t rely exclusively on the teaching of others. We need to be in the Word ourselves. Reading, meditating and memorizing and digging into the parables and the narrative sections and the doctrine and the theology. We need to be listening to the Word.

Regular intake of the Word is going to do some things for us:

Knowing the Bible helps us endure

            When do you need endurance?

We need it in the difficult times. When the news is bad. When things are not working out like we had hoped. We don’t need endurance when times are good. Contained within the pages of the Bible are stories of endurance.

In Hebrews 11 we have stories of men and women whose faith endured in the midst of difficult and trying times. We have wonderful records of the prophets who endured such ill treatment and lack of results for their effort. And coming to the NT we see Jesus who endured ill-treatment and abuse and yet he endured. And going further we observe the Apostles and the early church who through faith in God and his word where able to persevere when the whole world seemed against them.

Knowing that they could endure during tough times helps us to do so as well.

Knowing the Bible gives us encouragement

Many times I have been encouraged by the Scriptures and I’m sure that you have as well. There have been times when it seemed like just the right verse came along at the right time to lift me up and to help me keep going. Personally, I do not see how the unsaved world is able to deal with tragedy and difficulty. How does a person who does not know God deal with loss, suffering and hardship? Many turn to alcohol or drugs or other forms of abuse to deaden the pain. But those things don’t solve the problems do they? In fact, they make the problems worse.

When I am feeling down, I know that I can turn to God’s word and be lifted up. But I need to be regularly in that word in order for the HS to bring out the help that I need. Sometimes I find encouragement from the Word in an unlikely place.

Knowing the Bible gives us hope

 

You can live for weeks without food. You can go for days without water. But how long can you live without hope?

Dostoevsky said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.”

Shakespeare: “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope”

Theologian Ken Boa writes

People cannot live without hope. Throughout history, human beings have endured the loss of many things. People have lost their health, their finances, their reputations, their careers, even their loved ones, and yet have endured. The pages of history books are filled with those who suffered pain, rejection, isolation, persecution and abuse; there have been people who faced concentration camps with unbroken spirits and unbowed heads, people who have been devastated by Job-like trials and yet found the strength to go on without cursing God and dying. Humans can survive the loss of almost anything – but not without hope.

Hope is how we live. Hope is what gets us from one day to the next. A person goes to school and hopes that one day he will graduate. That person graduates and hopes that one day he will enter into a great career. If he is single, he hopes that perhaps one day he will meet the right person and get married. He gets married and hopes that one day he and his wife will have children. When they have children, they hope that they will live long enough to get the kids out of the house.

We live by hope, and when hope is gone, endurance and joy and energy and courage just evaporate. Life itself begins to fade. When hope goes, we start to die. One of the most profound proverbs of the Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. [8]

Our God is a God of hope.

2 Cor 1:3ff

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. [9]

Yes but how?

Maybe you agree that having the habit of daily Bible reading is a good idea. Maybe you struggle with being able to carry it out long term. In the past maybe you have started out well only to struggle somewhere along the path.

Those of us in the English-speaking world are truly blessed with wonderful biblical resources to help us get into God’s word. We have a multitude of Bible versions available to us: plain Bibles, devotional Bibles, Study Bibles, Themed Bibles, and audio Bibles. We have various translations from the very literal, word for word type to the dynamic equivalent thought for thought versions. We can read the Bible on our computer, PDA or cell phone. Likewise we have a multitude of ways to get Bible reading plans: we have them in our Bibles, on-line, E-mailed to us. You can pick the plan that works best for you and your schedule.  The Zondervan website (for example) has plans ranging in length from 30 days to a 3 year plan. Google search “Bible reading plan” and you will be sure to find something that will work for you.

A year ago I set out to read the whole Bible. That's nothing new; I've begun to read the whole Bible every other year for about 28 years-emphasis on "begun." But with all the best intentions, I was never able to finish my annual program of Scripture-reading-until this year. A few months ago, I closed my Bible with a feeling of immense satisfaction: I had finally read it through, all 66 books, all in a year.

This time I can truthfully say that I never dragged myself dutifully on to the next chapters. I loved it and it pulled me back day after day. What made this attempt different? I'm certain God's Spirit provided the inspiration, because I was the same stumbling Christian I have always been. But I did decide to take a more creative approach to my "walk through the Word."

I didn't begin in January. I simply let the Spirit push me into it "any time now." I began in July.

I started in Hosea and read to the end of the Old Testament. I knew what had become of my efforts before when I had started quite literally, "in the beginning." I also knew there were chunks of the minor prophets I had never laid eyes on. There's something intriguing about unknown territory.

I didn't try to read books in sequence. After Leviticus, I was ready for some adventure in Acts. I completed one book before I began another, except for the Psalms and Proverbs which I read in scattered chunks whenever I wanted to.

I felt free to skim repetitive sections (like genealogies and censuses). But I did skim carefully enough to catch any unusual information that might have been stuck in unexpectedly.

I didn't divide the Bible into 365 equal segments. Sufficient to the day was the amount I could make time for. I have discovered when using daily reading guides that nothing kills my incentive like falling a few days behind and feeling under pressure to "catch up."

I kept my Bible handy. I often dropped it in my purse if I thought I might have reading time while I was out. At home, the Bible belonged on the kitchen counter, opened to the right place. Many times it called me away from dishwashing and into my easy chair.

I often took along only the Bible as reading material. This has been true for times as short as a ten-minute wait in the doctor's office and as long as a week's vacation. A bookaholic needs no encouragement to pick up something, anything, to read. And when there's only one book at hand, the choice is clear. And who can resist it?

All of those helped, but here was the most important difference from other efforts to read through the Bible. This time, I became a hunter, and my blue highlighter was my weapon. The prey was God's attributes. I set out to underline everything the Bible says about God (didn't want to set my sights too narrow!). I made blue stripes through all the names of God, word pictures about him, what he likes and dislikes, how he reacts to faithfulness and to sin. I was on my third pen when I finished.

This "hunt for God" was irresistible to me. It drew me like a magnet. And once I was inside the pages, it kept my mind moving-no more drowsing and waking up two chapters later.

My Bible's flyleaves are filled with lists. As I read, I found I didn't want to lose what I was finding out about God. I made lists of God's names (I found over 200 names, phrases and variations that referred to him), Jesus' names (about 140), and the Spirit's names (about 35). There is also a list of pictures used to describe God (shepherd, potter, eagle, farmer, husband, nursing mother . . . ). Another list is of references for passages so beautiful I knew I'd want to find them again.

I used my "finds" to focus my thoughts on God. From my daily reading, I could choose a name or description of God and think of him in those terms all day. For instance, on a vacation afternoon when my four boys had been out of school one day too long, it helped to know God as a Rock who cannot be shaken. Or when we couldn't see our way clear toward a decision we had to make, we still knew that God is our Light and our Salvation.

This year? I recently picked up an inexpensive paperback Bible and a new pink marking pen. This year I think I'll hunt for God's presence—all the times and circumstances when he promises he will be with us, that he will not leave us.


----

[1] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (64). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.). Nashville: Word Pub.

[3] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Eze 12:24–25). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.). Nashville: Word Pub.

[5] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Heb 5:11–14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[6] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Mt 22:29–32). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[7] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Ro 15:4). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[8] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 15:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (2 Co 1:3–11). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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