Read the Bible for yourself. Read it to your children. Every time you do so, you're giving yourself and others the very real opportunity to hear what God has to say to you and to them. You'll be amazed what he tells us. We really don't have to stumble around in the dark "guessing" all the time.
(The following link will take you to a website that will give you a good start for Bible reading. The site includes a variety of ways to search the Bible online. Go to Biblegateway.com This also gives you an opportunity to look through several versions or translations of the Bible.)
"Well, that's your interpretation." That's what we hear most of the time from those who'd, generally, rather not believe that the Bible is all that important for us today. They tell us that there are so many interpretations and so many denominations which have resulted from those interpretations that it's virtually hopeless for us to even read the Bible and think we will know the truth. Our reply is that much of the Bible is very clear and the verse we use to prove the point is John 6:47: "He who believes in me has everlasting life." Is that clear enough? If not, please allow us to show you that it is not a lonely verse, there are others like it in the same gospel book of John:
who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell
you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal
life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 13:46)
For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whosever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Yes, Jesus makes himself very clear and often repeats himself and the apostles often repeat what they heard from him or what they were inspired to say by the power of the Holy Spirit. So don't tell us the Bible is not clear. Read it and then we'll talk. The sad truth is that most refuse to read it and they're just looking for excuses not to do so. Once you begin really reading the Bible, its clarity will amaze you. There's some thoughts and tips below for getting a start.
Do you want to know the will of God for your life or would you rather "just guess?" Will you continue to trust your "inner feelings" and live by them or do you want something more? What happens when those "inner feelings" let you down and you start to encounter the pain that so often comes into everyone's life? Where will you turn then? Do your personal relationships and experiences take precedence over the word of God?
Those are some good questions for every professed Christian to ask him or herself. I got some of them by reading R.C. Sproul's book entitled Knowing Scripture. It is a very good basic primer for those who want to get serious about reading the Bible.
I used to be able to get Sproul's radio program and I remember distinctly one day, he asked the question: Do you believe in absolute truth? He used an example of someone who told him that they believed that the only truth in life was their belief that there were no absolute truths. He countered by asking them if they believed that "absolutely?" Of course, his point was that in expressing their belief that there were no "absolutes" in this life, they were expressing what was for them, the very thing they were claiming not to believe--an absolute truth!
Of course Christ told us that there is indeed such a thing as an absolute truth and he told us that he is it. "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6)
Losing sight of truth
Wow. That's not the message you hear from most professed Christians these days is it? What we are more apt to hear is something to the tune of: "whatever I like is true for me and whatever you like is true for you." This "new age" wisdom is sweeping over us and many of us are just "goin' with the flow." See how far we've moved away from the truth of Christ? Is it any wonder that most churches today simply breed more confusion?
They claim not to know that homosexuality is a sin, that sex outside of marriage is alright, and that abortion is somehow not murder. They claim that love facilitates and tolerates such sins. What about a love that cares enough to say, "brother, that just not right, let me help you understand the alternative that Christ has for your life." What about love that is even willing to discuss, even debate, even argue at times (oh, my!). What about a love that is willing to be rejected?
As Christ told the devil himself: "It is written, Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) What does Christ mean by the words "it is written." And where is this "mouth of God?"
Well, it seems Christ himself had enough confidence in the Bible to repeat the words from Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan, his chief adversary. Let's see, the Bible (Old Testament) was good enough for this man Jesus, whom we call Savior, the One we claim to believe is God in the flesh, yet we're willing to take a lesser view of such pages than our Lord himself? I mean, we have heard that the Bible is written by men and that makes it less than trustworthy right? No matter that this same Lord and Savior tells us that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) No matter that his apostle informs us; "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 20-21)
And again, where is this "mouth of God?" Perhaps it is where His "breath" is? "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
And what about us moms and dads? Should we do something as radical as attempt to read the Bible to our children? Perhaps a book of Bible stories for the younger set? And then maybe even join them in prayer? Every night? Okay, I realize that I may be going a bit fast--but do me a favor and think about it. As you think about it, consider this: Is it true that most parents want more for their kids then they themselves had? Is there anything more important to your children than their spiritual eternity?
Here's some verses to consider: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
"Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
But you remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 14-15)
There are many in this day who try to convince us that the Old Testament is all about the Ten Commandments, they call it the "covenant of works." While we would never be accused of down-playing the Ten Commandments in anyway, these people need to know something about the Old Testament that is very important. The people of the Old Testament were saved by the faith God had given them in the promise of the Savior to come and not by trying to keep the Ten Commandments.
Though they indeed sought to keep those Commandments and obey God, none of them could do so perfectly and they knew that. That's why they returned to Jerusalem year after year to make the sacrifices of goats, sheep, cows and turtle doves that pointed to Christ's one sacrifice. The Commandments and the sacrificial ceremonies pointed to the only One who would keep them perfectly--Christ our Savior. So it was not the keeping of the Commandments that saved the elect of the Old Testament, but instead the belief in God's promise to send them a Savior--one who would keep those Commandments perfectly. God gave them the faith to put their trust in his promise of the Savior to come through the seed of woman, the seed of Abraham.
"The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.'"(Galatians 3:8) [ 3:8 Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18]
When did God make the first promise? At the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ was first preached by God himself to Satan in the Old Testament. It happened right after Adam and Eve had given into Satan's temptation and chose sin. God put the Gospel this way: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15 KJV)
Translated by the NIV, it goes like this: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he (the woman's seed) will crush your head, and you (Satan) will strike his heel." Perhaps the NIV version illustrates better the doom that God has planned for Satan--his head will be crushed, though he (Satan) will inflict pain on humankind "strike his heel" --which is also a reference to the torturous death of Christ. This is called the proto-gospel or first Gospel because it is here that God gives us the first glimpse into his plan of salvation.
While God did not provide many exact details about Jesus in this first Gospel, this promise was repeated time and again to all those in Old Testament times who became believers in the promise or "Promise" as in "the Promised One." They heard it around the campfires, etc. Those who believed put their trust in the One to come who would crush Satan. They, like us, were chosen by God to have this gift of faith and believe in his promise.
God revealed more of this Gospel when he chose Abraham and promised him that "...a son from your own body will be your heir." As we know now, God was talking not only about Abraham's son Isaac but also the Savior to come--Jesus, one of Abraham's many descendants--known as the Hebrews or Jews. God illustrated this connection in a very dramatic way by telling Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac--only to spare Isaac's life at the last minute.
This was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice that God himself would make one day by sending us his only Son. Even before Abraham's elderly wife, Sarah, had their son Isaac, God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. "And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:6) Abraham's belief in God and his promises, put him in "right standing" justified him before God. Abraham had been given the gift that only God can give--the gift of faith.
God's word, the Bible, tells us all of this happened more than 400 years before the coming of Moses. So those who will try to tell you that the Old Testament is all about obedience to the Ten Commandments, need to rethink the matter. Abraham and the first of God's chosen people lived hundreds of years without the Ten Commandments. Long before God gave Moses the tablets, he preached the coming of a Savior through the great nation of people that he would give Abraham. (Read Hebrews 11.)
"And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." (Galatians 3:17)
The apostle Paul points the importance of the gift of faith that existed in the Old Testament and how the so-called "covenant of works" or law did not affect it. In his letter (or epistle) to the Romans, he emphasizes that it is the gift of faith from God that saved Abraham and all who God chooses to share in that faith: "It was not through law (Ten Commandments, etc...) that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." (Romans 4:13) "This is why 'it was credited to him (Abraham) as righteousness.' The words, 'it was credited to him' were written not for him (Abraham) alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." (Romans 4: 22-25)
It was the promise of the Messiah or "Annointed One" to come and the faith God has always given his chosen people to believe in this promise that is the great connection between the Old and New Testaments. The gift of the Savior and the faith to believe in him (Ephesians 2:8-9) shows forth God's grace (underserved or unmerited favor to us), from the Old Testament through the New Testament. And clearly, that grace does not include any of our good works. "Even so then, at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace." (Romans 11:5-6) Plainly, there is no mixing our pitiful works with God's grace for salvation, as the Roman Catholic and many Protestant churches teach.
In the Old Testament, those who, like Abraham, believed in the promises of God were kept safely by God after their deaths and their salvation was made complete through the life, death and resurrection of Christ--the fulfillment of the promise God had given them.
11:11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself
was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him
faithful who had made the promise.
We who are heirs to this promise, that has now been fully revealed through Christ, are given the gift of faith to believe that God has indeed made good on his promise--by sending his only Son to take our sins upon himself and serve as the once and forever, perfect sacrifice to God. We trust in him and him alone for our salvation. His work--his life, death and resurrection, fully accomplished the salvation of all who would come to believe in him as Lord and Savior, as God in the flesh.
The real difference between those who were chosen for faith during the time of the Old Testament and those who are chosen for faith under the New Testament is that the promise has been fulfilled and we have many more of the details. For instance, we know right now with certainty, who our Savior is! Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God and God in the flesh! See how blessed we are?!
In other words, the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament is Christ and the gift of faith in Christ, as the "Promise" to come among the Old Testament believers and faith in the promise realized (the coming of Christ) by New Testament believers. The chosen people of the Old Testament believed in God's promise to send the "seed" of the woman Eve. Abraham was one of Eve's descendants and God chose him to be the father of the nation Israel. Abraham bore Isaac and God used Abraham and Isaac to show us more about his plan of salvation. Namely, that God would send his own Son to be sacrificed for his chosen people. Isaac's son Jacob would continue the blessed lineage of the Savior-to-be. God would change Jacob's name to Israel and the names of his 12 sons would be the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.
God later revealed that a "Messiah" or "anointed one" would be given to his people through the House of David, through the tribe of Judah. The prophet Isaiah described this Messiah as the "suffering servant": "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) "...by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)" "...and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12) So, long before the birth of Christ, the chosen people of the Old Testament knew the prophecy of his coming. In fact, as the New Testament records, by the time of Christ's coming the Jews were able to tell Herod that the "king" was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea.
All those chosen for faith by God in Old Testament times came to realize that they could not keep the Commandments and must rely instead on God's promise to save them by the "seed" of the woman (from Eve to the mother of Jesus, Mary). This seed, who would be the "son" or heir, in the ancestral line of Abraham through Mary, was God's only Son--Jesus. God fulfilled his promises to send a seed that would crush Satan and to give Abraham an heir that would save his chosen people. God used Moses to bring them out of bondage to the Egyptians, as God had promised. And Jesus, God's only Son, would save them from the bondage of sin and add many "nations" of Gentiles to those he had chosen for salvation, even as God had prophesied that he would!
"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all." (Romans 4:16)
Unlike anyone before him or after him, Jesus was without sin. He perfectly kept the Ten Commandments. He made Himself the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all those who would come to believe in Him as the fulfillment of God's promise, as Lord and Savior, as God in the flesh!
Today, we still try to keep the Commandments to say "thank you" to Christ and to try to glorify his name among men. Nevertheless, we know we can never do so perfectly--for we are sinners. Even the best of our works are filthy rags before the Lord (Isaiah 64:6). The Commandments show us our sin and our dire need for the Savior who has come. We thank God that we are no longer under the law or the Commandments but under the grace of our Savior. He is a Savior who covers all who believe in Him in His own righteousness and it is that righteousness (Christ's righteousness) alone through which we have confidence in Christ and his promise to prepare a place for us in heaven! (John 14:1-3)
Consider reading the Gospel of John and book of Romans first
The Bible is not like other books--it does not have to be read from start to finish. In fact, I recommend that you start with the Gospel of John. It comes right after "Luke" in the New Testament. I recommend John because it is the most intimate of Gospels. Don't miss chapter 10 where Christ talks of his sheep.
Next, I would recommend you read Romans (which comes right after the book of Acts). Here, St. Paul does a magnificent job of telling us how the Gospel applies to our lives.
Use a yellow highlighter as you read along
You might want to get a paper-back Bible to start. Some people find it harder to highlight the leather-covered ones. Some have one Bible that they "mark" in and a nicer one to take to church. Don't worry about how it looks--the more worn the better! Use a yellow highlighter to highlight verses or passages that you read that either especially speak to you and your life or those that you have questions about and wish to come back to at a later date. The highlighter will also help you track the progress you're making--you will be surprised how quickly the pages of your Bible seem to turn more and more yellow!. And that's good!
Once you begin to become more familiar with the scriptures--to the point that you can start remembering bits and pieces of verses from Christ or the apostle--get a concordance. This is a book that will help you look up scriptures that you are searching for but can't quite remember where they were in the Bible. Again, a concordance is especially helpful if you remember some of the words from the scripture. There are also topical concordances that might be a better investment for now--until you learn the scriptures better. The topical concordance categorizes verses from the Scripture by topic, so if you know the topic, you can find the verse.
Maybe a "study" Bible?—use caution
So-called "study" Bibles can be good for beginners and anyone who is interested in getting more information or being referred to other sections of the Bible that relate to the same topic you are studying. The footnotes in such study Bibles are designed to provide insights. Be careful here--consider who it is that is giving you the insights and exactly what their church or denomination might believe. I have a study Bible I purchased from Ligonier Ministries, which is associated with R.C. Sproul. I believe it is called the "Reformation Study Bible" now. It's in the New King James Version translation and has been a helpful aid. The New International Version (NIV) is the easiest to read to children but I would also recommend getting an Authorized King James Version (KJV) of the Bible--to compare your NIV with. The King James is closer to a word-for-word translation from the original Greek that the New Testament was written in. However, its archaic English can make it a harder read, especially if you're reading to children. There are also Literal Translations out there that you may wish to look into. These attempt to get as close to word-for-word translations of the Greek (language which the New Testament was originally written in) to the English as possible.
In any case, you want a Bible with both the Old Testament and the New Testament inside. The Old Testament starts with the book of Genesis. The New Testament starts with the book of Matthew.
How about the fact that 300 Messianic prophecies (prophecies about Jesus) from the Old Testament have proved to be true? Below you will find how they were fulfilled in the verses of the New Testament.
Gen. 3:15.....He will bruise Satan's
head.....Heb. 2:14, 1 Jn. 3:18
The evidence is overwhelming, isn't it? Also consider a current day observation from the so-called Dead Sea scrolls. These scrolls of the Old Testament were found early in the 20th Century near the Dead Sea. They date back to the time of Christ, and today they stand as firm and even scientific proof that books of the Old Testament of 2000 years ago remain unchanged form the Old Testament we read today. It appears that, despite the hands of many scribes, God has protected his word. In addition, please search the web for the latest in archeological finds which continue to amaze modern day experts who admit that the Bible is much more accurate, even in helping them uncover archeological finds, then they ever imagined.
(Wish I could say, I found and published all of the above verses to prove something to you. Instead I am thankful to whoever it was that did and very happy to share them with you.) Again, a great way to get to know the Bible better and get some insight into the various versions or translations out there is to go to Biblegateway.com