…where it’s normal to love the Lord Jesus and to read the Bible. Every believer should have such a place; in fact, every believer NEEDS such a place. Here’s why.
Many passages in the New Testament make it clear that believers in Christ Jesus should have a living that is distinct from that of unbelievers. The apostle Peter writes, “According to the Holy One who called you, you yourselves also be holy in all your manner of life” (1 Pet. 1:15). To be holy implies being set apart from everything to God. Being holy, or set apart, applies not only to our conduct outwardly but also to the inward source of our living—a living according to God’s holy nature.
The whole world aches for peace.
War is rampant on the earth, and where there is no war, societies are filled with civil and political strife. Yet the believers in Christ may echo the Lord’s own proclamation of peace to a world in conflict—a peace that anyone can experience, a peace that can descend upon any situation, a peace that is beyond human understanding.
This peace does not come from victory in war; it does not come from new legislation or judicial action; and it will not arise from demonstrations, protests, or from the ascendancy of any political ideology.
This peace is Christ Himself.
“For He Himself [Christ] is our peace, who has made us both [the Jews and the Gentiles] one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:14-17)
At the beginning of a new year, many people reevaluate their priorities, recalibrate their goals, and make resolutions for self-improvement. Setting priorities means deciding what comes first, and we naturally make this determination according to what is most important to us.
Suppose it’s Sunday morning and you’re debating whether to show up at church. There’s a football game to watch in the afternoon, or maybe there’s dinner with friends in the evening. But there’s also a paper due on Monday and you need to reserve some time to work on it. What do you do?
Many times in our experience, “first” doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services, morning quiet time with the Lord, and Bible studies are scheduled before anything else and are untouchable. Rather, “first” often means that our time for the Lord is the first thing we carve out of our schedule to make room for our studies, work, social life, sleep, time at the gym…and so on.
The Bible makes some striking statements about our priorities as believers—about what comes first for a Christian—and it’s worthwhile to take some time early in the new year to prayerfully consider them.
In times of extreme distress, many people—even those who might not ordinarily do so—turn to God in prayer. On December 2nd, as a young couple opened fire on an office Christmas party in San Bernardino, killing 14 and wounding many others, several people trapped in the building texted loved ones with a request: “Pray for us.” And “outside the building,” one report said, “evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.”
It is normal for Christians to pray at such times. On the day of the San Bernardino attack, many people said, tweeted, or wrote that their “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected—voicing their support for them.
Others, however, publicly expressed contempt for Christians who prayed for the victims, their families, and their coworkers. One publication stated that prayer is “an ineffective strategy” and even said that prayer is “useless.” A prominent newspaper ran the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” An avowed atheist simply said, “Stop praying.”
As believers, our connection in Christ is outside the realm of politics; the political context of what is mentioned above is therefore irrelevant.
As Thanksgiving approaches, where are your thoughts? We may be focused on many different things—food, family, football, Friday deals—but what about our Father? As a society, we take the 4th Thursday in November off but seem to forget the cause; as Christians, we ought to lead the way in giving thanks to God!
On November 1st, mysteriously, overnight, the distinctive oranges, yellows, and browns of the “fall” candy on the shelves of the local supermarket have been replaced with the telltale reds and greens, silver, and gold that signal the start of the Christmas shopping season. Santa and his elves, reindeer, sleighs, and snowmen are piping through the store’s sound system even though we’re still in short sleeves and the trees have yet to drop their leaves. Didn’t we skip something?
Perhaps it’s understandable—after all, there’s no money to be made from marketing contentment, from being satisfied with what we already have. But the Bible tells believers—actually, commands us—“Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:18). The world is trending in a certain direction—the apostle Paul, itemizing the characteristics of men in the last days of this age, includes “ungrateful” in the list (2 Tim. 3:2). As Christians, we are exhorted to stand against this trend: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
God is inexhaustibly rich, and His word is an expression of who He is. That’s why, although we posted Five Reasons to Read the Bible earlier this semester, we’re continuing here with five more reasons to read the Bible.
6. For enlivening: Sometimes we may feel full of spiritual life and have no problem loving and seeking the Lord. Other times we find ourselves in spiritual doldrums, adrift and struggling to go on. When we’re in such down situations, we can turn to God’s word for a breath of spiritual life. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, / That Your word has revived me and given me life.” Second Corinthians 3:6 tells us that there are two ways in which we can take God’s word: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” We can come to the Bible as a book of precepts—rules and regulations—or we can approach it with an attitude of seeking after God. When we do the latter, we are enlivened: the Spirit gives life!
7. For washing: If you’re a believer, then you should know that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7). But Ephesians 5:26 speaks of an additional washing, telling us that Christ is preparing the church as His bride by “cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word.” As we read the Bible, the water of life in the word works within us to cleanse away every defect in our fallen, natural life and transform us to Christ’s glorious image (see v. 27).
The Gospel of John is a book of conversations.
When we think of Jesus’s earthly ministry, we may immediately think of the signs that He performed. But John’s record is focused more on what Jesus said than on what He did. After all, John begins his Gospel by telling us that the Lord is the Word (1:1).
The eternal God, the creator of the universe, was incarnated to be a man in the flesh (1:14). What would He do as a man? He talked to people!
Some people initiated conversations with Him (4:46-47); others Jesus sought out (5:6; 9:35). He spoke to people one on one (3:1-2; 4:7); He spoke to crowds (6:24-25). Sometimes He conversed privately (3:1-2); other times He taught or cried out in the temple (7:37; 8:2). And if you take a look at His miraculous deeds, you’ll see that nearly all of them were accomplished simply by…speaking (4:50; 5:8; 11:43)!
At the beginning of John chapter 2, Jesus attends a wedding with His mother and His disciples. During the celebration, the wine runs out, and Mary calls on Jesus to do something about it. He instructs the servants to fill six stone jars with water, and when they draw some of the water out, it has miraculously changed into wine.
Perhaps you’re familiar with this story. But have you ever noticed that the only witnesses of this miracle were the servants and the twelve disciples? Neither the master of the feast nor the bridegroom had any idea where the new and better wine had come from. Another curious thing is that none of the other gospels records this incident. Why does John include it in his gospel?
It’s not just a miracle, it’s a sign.
Most Christians and even many unbelievers are aware that the four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament are biographical sketches of the life of Jesus Christ. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—have a fundamental similarity; they are all concerned with the life story of the same man. But why tell the same story four times?
Each of the Gospels presents Jesus Christ in a particular way:
Since we are beginning the semester by reading the Gospel of John, let’s consider John’s emphasis in more detail.
These aren’t the only reasons to read the Bible—there are many more. And the order is not particularly important, because the reason that stands out most to you may depend on your personal background and circumstances. But, here they are. We hope you’ll be encouraged to start reading!
1. For education: College is all about getting an education, right? The Bible is unquestionably the most influential book in the history of mankind (or, for the sake of avoiding argument—one of the most influential books…). For this reason alone, it follows that an educated person ought to have read the Bible. Certainly a Christian entering into adulthood would do well to read his faith’s foundational book. If for nothing else, read the King James Version for the monumental literary achievement that it is.
2. For guidance: As we struggle to make our way in the world, considering this or that major, internship, career path, relationship…at some point we all could use some good advice. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet / And a light to my path.” Verse 130 says, “The entrance of Your words gives light; / It gives understanding to the simple.” If the way before you seems dark and you’re groping to find your way, follow the lead of generations of believers and turn to the Word of God to direct you.