Saturday, January 4, 2020

How the Bible Helps Us Survive as Christians...and How to Read it Everyday.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn described a scene in a prison camp in Karaganda in Northern Kazakfistan which would have been impressed upon his memory from his years of imprisonment in the gulag. Ivan Denisovich woke up to the sound of a fellow prisoner at his morning devotions:
“Alyosha the Baptist was reading the Testament under his breath (perhaps especially for him—those fellows were fond of recruiting): ‘But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf’ (1 Peter 4:15–16). Alyosha was smart; he’d made a chink in the wall and hidden the little book in it, and it had survived every search.” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich).
Christian survival, in or out of prison, depends upon the closeness of our fellowship with God. To be able to overcome sudden temptation when no other believers are around, being ready to give an answer for the reason of our hope, to endure trials without weariness, and to manifest a Christian mind, well then...daily exposure to the Word of God is essential! C.S. Lewis spoke of the “shadow-lands” in which the world lives, but Christ’s disciple can open the Bible and walk into that clear world of absolute reality. He can see himself as he really is, discover how he should live, know God as He has revealed Himself to us and get answers to ultimate questions—what is the good life, what lies beyond death, what can be done with man’s past, why am I in this world, and who is this Jesus of Nazareth? Each day the Word of God will shine its healing light into his mind, answering those questions and many more.

There's a story of a pastor who was visiting one of his members who had come home from the hospital the previous day with her first baby. Her husband, an air force doctor, invited him in and he sat with them. The mother said, “The baby woke up at 5:30 this morning and I fed her, and by the time she’d finished it was too late for me to go back to bed, so I thought I would have my quiet time.” She continued, “So I picked up the Bible and I looked down at the baby and I said to her, ‘Now this is the book that God has given to us, and every day we Christians read it.’ Then I read to her the set portion for the day, and when I’d finished I said to her, ‘And now after we have read the Bible we pray, that is, we talk to our heavenly Father.’ So I put her little hands together and I prayed.” 

The pastor said it was intensely moving to listen to her. Here was a mother who was obeying Peter’s words: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2–3).

How can we Christians meaningfully read the Bible every day?

1. Strengthen your desire

Sit under the best preaching you can find. Meet informally with other Christians in some regular spiritual support group to talk about your faith. Lay aside anything that weakens your love for Jesus. Read good Christian books, especially biographies of great men of God. Get involved in every legitimate form of biblical evangelism. Look every day for those good works which God has ordained you must do.

2. Create a time

When your mind is most alert and you will not be disturbed by disruptive emotions read the Bible. Having set a time, be prepared for it to come under attack. There will be scarcely a day when you will not think of many things that have a priority on that occasion, and you will never cease doing battle guarding that time.

3. Make a place for God’s Word

You can read the Bible everywhere, and one of those little pleasures in the Christian life is to read a portion of Scripture in some beautiful place. But for regular daily reading, one special spot is best so that going to it you settle down and read. J.C. Ryle says that the way to do a thing is not thinking about it or planning it or talking about it but doing it. So it is with reading the Bible.

4. Develop a plan

There are many schemes for Bible reading. Try some. None will do you any harm except those on either extreme: that is, those which encourage too miserly an amount, and those which are over-ambitious for your own spiritual ability. This latter will only serve to create guilt and an impossible twenty unread chapters to make up at the end of the second week.

5. Cultivate proper attitudes

Beware of barren intellectualism—the New Testament epistles are love letters written to you by your loving Savior. Relax—expect days to come when nothing goes right and you miss your daily reading. Be forgiving—we all know seasons of spiritual desertion, awful winters of the soul when those we trusted most let us down the worst, and personal devotion is the most difficult thing in all the world to display. Such times will pass. Be humble—you will not understand the Bible quickly, but the more you read it the more you will understand and it will shape you into the image of the living Jesus Christ, whom we are destined to be like.