When I was a student at Glasgow University, we were asked to study a book with the interesting title, "The Strange Silence of the Bible in the Church." What does this mean? - the strange silence of the Bible in the Church. This title highlights for us a very real danger - the danger of paying lip-service to the Bible without really taking its message very seriously.
I heard the story of a woman who was most adamant in her belief, "The Bible is the Word of God." She said, "Yes. I believe that the Bible is God's Word." This is what she said. She spoke these words with such emotion. It would have been difficult to question the sincerity of her belief. There was, however, one very serious question mark over her belief. there was one disturbing fact which raised the question, "How much difference does this strongly held belief really make to her life?" What was this strange contradiction at the heart of the woman's life? On the one hand, she insisted, "I believe the Bible is God's Word." On the other hand, there was the strange fact that she did not even own a Bible. you could have searched her house from top to bottom. You would have found many things. Even after searching high and low, you would not have found a Bible. For all her professed belief, she had never even taken the trouble to purchase a Bible for herself. she said that she believed the Bible, yet she never read the Bible. It does not make sense to sat, "The Bible is God's Word", and then neglect to allow God to speak to you through His Word.
When I was a boy, in my first year at Secondary School, I was presented with a Gideon's New Testament. at the presentation, the Headmaster said to us, "Don't put this New Testament in a drawer and leave it there. Read it. It's for reading." Unfortunately, I did exactly what he told us not to do. I laid it to one side. I forgot about it.
The Bible is like a record. The message is on the record, but you will only hear it if you play the record. God's message is in the Bible, but you will only hear it if you read your Bible. How do we hear the message on the record? We bring the needle and the record into contact with each other. How do we really hear God speaking to us? We bring the reader and the Author into contact with each other.
Two years after I received my Gideon's New Testament, I came to faith in Jesus Christ. When I found Christ, my living Saviour, I also discovered the Bible as a new and living Book. Let's return to the record and the needle. What makes the difference when the needle touches the record? It's the electrical power. What makes the difference when the reader and the Author are brought into contact with each other? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened. We read the Bible with new eyes. We do not only see the many pages and the many words. We also see Jesus, the Saviour, the living Word of God. Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible seems to us to be so many hundreds of pages and so many difficult words. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we learn to read the Bible as the true and living Word of God.
There are different ways in which we can approach the Bible.
First, there is "the quiet time." We spend time each day, reading the Word of God. I encourage you to read the Word of God each day, Find some time, each day for a "quiet time" with the Lord.
Second, we can study the Bible in groups. Those who are involved in group Bible studies will testify to the value of gathering together with others to study God's Word. I encourage you to become part of a group which meets regularly to study the Lord's Word.
Third, we can hear God's Word preached when we come to Church. Before I begin to speak about the preaching of God's Word, I encourage you to pray for those who are called to preach the Word of the Lord. We do not preach God's Word perfectly. You can always look around and find other preachers who will be "better" than your own preacher. When you start thinking like this, remind yourself, "The preacher we have is the one whom God has called to be our spiritual leader." Pray for your preacher. Pray that the preaching will be filled with the power of God. Pray that it will be helpful to those who listen to the preaching.
In 1 Corinthians 14, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of clear teaching from God's Word.
1 Corinthians 14:3 - The Word of God is to be spoken so that people will be built up in the faith, encouraged to go on with the Lord, and comforted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 14:4, 6 - The Church is to be edified. we are to be taught God's Word so that our minds are raised above earthly things, raised to a deeper love for the Saviour and a closer walk with Him.
1 Corinthians 14:8 - If the Church is to rise to the challenge of living for Christ, there must be clear teaching from God's Word: "If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?"
1 Corinthians 14:12, 19 - Building the Church up in the faith, giving instruction from the Word of God - these are to be the priorities in the Church's life. Alongside this commitment to the preaching and teaching of God's Word, there is to be a commitment to prayer - "We will give ourselves continually to prayer , and to the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4).
1 Corinthians 14:20 - We are called to be mature in our thinking. We grow towards Christian maturity as we fill our minds with the Word of God.
This teaching from God's Word takes place within the context of worship. we do not gather to hear a lecture. We do not look around for the best theological lecturer we can find. We gather together to worship the Lord. the preaching of His Word is set within the context of praise and prayer. The spirit of praise grows in us as the Word of the Lord is brought to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we come to hear God's Word, we are to come prayerfully. Like the Psalmist, we must pray, "Give me understanding that I may keep Thy law and observe it with my whole heart" (Psalm 119:34). This is the prayer God wants to hear. This is the prayer God wants to answer. Let it be your prayer and God will give His answer - a life controlled by His Word, a life filled with His Spirit.