This is my short chapter in What the Bible Means to Me published by Christian Focus.
“Surely you don’t believe in a book written by a bunch of illiterate desert shepherds? The Bible is a lot of rubbish”. The young man was very confident in his understanding and rejection of the Bible. Too confident. And illogical (how could illiterate people write the Bible?!). I asked him if he had actually read the Bible. No – he had just read about it on various atheist websites. So the answer was simple. Why not just read the Bible?
I was brought up with the Bible and at one point in my teenage life I suspect I would have sided with my atheist antagonist. But then I met some people who not only read the bible, said they believed and it seemed to make a difference. So I started again. As a 16 year old I began reading at 1 Kings – not the best place to begin. I ploughed on into 2 Kings and was on the point of giving up, when after a series of events, I became a Christian. I saw the Bible in a whole new light and for the past 32 years have read it at least once a year. For the past 25 years I have been teaching it three to five times every week! So what does it mean to me?
Firstly it is an astonishing book – unlike any other. It is not an academic book yet is stretches my mind and makes me think unlike anything else I have ever read. It is not a self-help book yet it has been a greater help to me than everything I know. It is not a religious book and yet it has led me to God. It is not a political book and yet it has shown me why our world is in such a mess. It is not a book of morals and yet it has helped clarify for me right and wrong. In other words the Bible is my food, meat and drink. I do not read, study or preach it as a ‘professional’ just doing my job. It is the Word of God. Through it God speaks not only to me, but also to His Church and indeed to the whole world. People are ‘born again…through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
Indeed even as I write I have just returned from visiting a young man in prison, who having found himself in a cell on his own, began to read the Bible, and as he read Matthew’s Gospel, experienced in himself a profound change. The Bible brings light into darkness, life into death and love into damnation.
Of course there are great difficulties in the Bible – what else would you expect? There is variety of genre, apparent (though not real) contradictions, and even the apostle Peter found some things hard to understand! But as the living and enduring Word of God, it is still as fresh, and dynamic as the day it was first revealed. My young friend I mentioned at the beginning, decided to go and read the Bible. My last letter from him stated that he was now beginning to understand and it scared him that it all seemed to make sense. Indeed it does…