Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I asked in Part 1 the question, Why should I read the Bible? It is the most important book you will ever read, and millions of copies have been sold worldwide. People still wonder what the fascination is, but did you know it has the power to change the world?
If you really want to see breakthrough and change in your own life and also in the world, think about this. Quite contrary to being some dead old book, the message of the Bible has the power to bring new life to a person, community, city and nation—it has the power to change the world.
Have you ever stopped to see that the principles in the pages of the Bible are revolutionary? For example, Jesus’ teaching to love your enemies, if ultimately followed, would mean the end of world wars, as would his teaching to feed the poor would end world hunger.
The Bible paints a picture of what the world was meant to be, what went wrong, what the world could be, and what God is doing to restore life. There is power in these pages—power to change lives, power to change the world. Millions have read and experienced the Bible for themselves. Read it with your own eyes and see it for yourself.
A door to a whole new world
Books can open us to a whole new world through all kinds of new knowledge gleaned from their pages. Whether it is a cook book that details a new recipe or a novel that opens your eyes to a different time and era, you come to know new things through books. The Bible is certainly no different and opens us to the knowledge of God himself and gives us a glimpse into his very heart and being. As you read the Bible to gain knowledge of God, a good question to ask is, What kind of knowledge am I after?
There’s knowledge by awareness: At a basic level, we can know something simply by having awareness of it. For example, we can become aware about the death of someone famous from the news, but awareness of it has little impact on our personal lives.
We can know about something by description—Knowledge by description. If someone were to read an autobiography of you, they would know a lot about you from the descriptions of your personality and life. But unless they were a personal friend of yours with first hand experience of the things in your book, it is still just an impersonal knowledge of you.
Then there’s knowledge by experience: This is the deepest kind of knowledge, a personal knowledge gained by experience. You can claim you personally know a city if you have lived in it, walked its streets and experienced its sights and sounds. You can say you know someone personally if you have a friendship or relationship with them. The Bible was written for this deeper kind of personal knowledge—it was written to give you a personal knowledge of God.
A first-hand experience of God
On a deeper level, the Bible allows you to actually experience God first hand because its very words are God-breathed. It is God’s message to you, written from his heart to speak to yours. It can bring life to you—bringing alive the depths of who you are as it connects you with God’s heart. I suggest you let the goal of your Bible reading be to gain a true knowledge of God, a personal knowledge which requires reading with your whole being.
True knowledge and understanding happens when you respond to what you are reading and experience it for yourself. God intends for the Bible to be much more than mere information for you—there is power in its pages for transformation. Just as a book on time management will not change your ability to manage time unless you test it out and apply what’s in the book, the Bible really comes alive and offers strength to live for all who believe in its message and act on it.
Just to intellectually agree with the message of the Bible falls far short of the personal and true knowledge of God that he intends you to experience. At some point you will need to decide on what you think the Bible is saying. How will you respond to its message?
Ask Him for spiritual insight to understand. Knowledge of God and of the Bible is a spiritual knowledge that can’t be merely grasped intellectually. As you read the Bible, be honest with your questions, doubts and thoughts. Ask God to illuminate and engage your mind, heart and life with true understanding.
The Bible is an extraordinary book, not only because of what it says but also because of its unique structure. The Bible is basically a miniature library of many books joined under one cover to express one consistent drama and reveal essential truths through poetry, history, song, letters, and the like.
A quick-start guide of the Bible
Here are a few guidelines and notes to help you successfully engage with the Bible’s unique structure so that you can more fully consider its message and truth.
a) First things first. Like most books, the Bible has a table of contents. The Bible’s table of contents reveals much of its unique structure. If you flip to the table of contents of the Bible you intend to read, you will find a list of names. Whereas these typically refer to individual chapters within a book, here each of the names listed denotes an individual book within the Bible.
While the whole Bible—the compilation of all 66 books—is not actually intended to be read chronologically from beginning to end (many have lost their way through the Bible in their attempts to read it from cover to cover!), each of the individual books is meant to be read front to back. This guide will point you to read individual books from start to finish—quickly, in one sitting, in a recommended order to help you better understand the overall message of the Bible.
b) Christians believe that in one way or another all 66 books of the Bible have been written to inform the reader of its central figure, Jesus.
In the table of contents you will notice two main divisions of books in the Bible: the Old and New Testaments. This separation relates to how Jesus is presented in each:
- The Old Testament books anticipate and predict Jesus’ life and ministry
- The New Testament books portray and reflect upon Jesus’ life and ministry
Jesus is more clearly understood within the New Testament books than he is in the Old. Thus, most have found it best to begin their journey through the Bible by starting in the New Testament—encountering Jesus with utmost clarity and power—before dipping into the waters of Old Testament books.
By: David Kerr