For it is written: man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
In the previous posts: Life and Death Part I, Life and Death Part II, and The Laws of Life and Death, I have been discussing how we are to live for God. In a nutshell, as Christians, we live for God in the same way that we get saved; we live by faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. We live by knowing that we are now a part of Him, as the true vine, growing and increasing and bringing forth good fruit.
Now I want to discuss the benefits of reading and studying God’s word and of praying and other such topics. Certainly, the benefits of these things are extensive, and space would not allow for a complete list, but it is, however, important to understand that these things must be done in the right way if they are to be effective in our Christian lives. This post will pinpoint specifically the reading and studying of the word.
First of all, let me lay down a little foundation. In the first few chapters of Genesis, we have a man and his wife, Adam and Eve, who turned their backs on God and refused to go his way and plunged the world into sin, death and hell. In the 11th chapter of Genesis begins the story of a family, namely Abraham and Sarah, who loved God and tried their best to serve Him, and in return they were rewarded with immeasurable blessings, and, indeed, through them all the families of the earth have been blessed.
In the time of Adam and Eve, God gave the revelation that the seed of the woman was coming, and that He would bruise the head of the serpent, I.e. Satan. In the time of Abraham, that revelation was brought into a much greater light by revealing that it would be through the seed of Abraham that the seed of the woman would come.
God gave to Abraham several different promises. God promised to Abraham that He would show him a land, the land of Canaan, and that this land would be his for a possession. He promised Abraham that out of his loins would come a great nation; that kings and priests would come out of him, and that the land that He had promised He would give to his seed after him for a possession, and that his seed would be like the stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore in number. He promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed him, and He would curse those who cursed him. He promised Abraham a son, and He promised that that son would come by the womb of Sarah. And He gave to Abraham the greatest promise of all. He promised that through Abraham and his Seed, all of the families of the earth would be blessed, and that spoke of the coming of the Redeemer of mankind.
About a thousand years later, God gave promises to another man—David. God told David that it would be through his royal family that the savior of the world would come. And to His kingdom there shall be no end(II Sam. 7).
About a thousand years after that, a man who went by the name of Joshua, I.e. Jesus, was born of a virgin, and that man was and is the son of Abraham, the son of David, and the Son of God. But Israel, the nation that came from Abraham, through Isaac, began to give to the world that great blessing beginning with the promises to Abraham, then through the giving of the law under Moses, and then to giving to the world the word of God(the Bible).
As I have stated in other places on this site, the Bible is the written word, while Jesus is the living word. John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In fact, it could be said that the entire Bible is the story of Jesus: Who He is, What He is, where He is, and, all-importantly, what He has done for the human race, which was to die on Calvary to atone for the sin of the world. If we read the Bible, or anything about the Bible with any other approach than this, we are simply not reading it right. In truth, if you were to take the sacrifice of Calvary out of the Bible there would be no redemption of the human race. And that is what the Bible is about. It is about the fall of mankind, and the futile efforts of man to save himself, and the one and only effective way that God has given to save us.
Many people read the Bible as though it is just another motivational piece of literature. Others read it as a self-help manual. Most read it believing that it will make them a better person. While all of these things can be true, the main and true benefit of reading the Bible is that it brings us closer to God by giving us a better knowledge of Him, and by giving Him the means to speak to us properly. But it must always be remembered that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes unto the Father but by Him, and so if we read the Bible with any other thought in mind than that we are drawing closer to Jesus, following Jesus, obeying Jesus and living for Jesus, we run the risk of reading the Bible from a position of law.
In other words, we are attempting to get to the Father without Jesus. And it must always be understood that Jesus is the way; because He died for us and was resurrected for us. You are not going to get to heaven by believing that you can get there on your own. You are only going to get there by believing that Jesus can and will get you there, if you follow Him.
Remember, it was at the point when Jesus said, “it is finished”, as He hung on the cross, that the veil in the temple was rent, signifying that the way was then open between God and the human race. Many people read the Bible all the way down through history, but the veil was not rent by reading the Bible; it was rent by the perfect life of Christ being poured out on our behalf.
I made the statement to a fellow Christian some time back: “there was no doubt that Jesus was going back to heaven, one way or the other, but had He not died on Calvary; had He stopped short of the cross; there would have been no hope of us following Him to heaven.” Our sin had to be paid for, and without His perfect, spotless sacrifice for us, we were doomed.
The Word of God is to the human soul and spirit what food is to the body. First of all, if you eat this food that has come down out of heaven(I.e. the Bible) you will grow and increase in strength and maturity, and if you don’t ingest it, spiritually speaking, you will starve to death. That should go without saying. I truly believe that the reason that so many Christians start out right and then later fall away is because they do not feed upon the word on a daily basis, and they eventually starve. But a far greater problem comes when individuals try to read the Bible, but no one has told them how to read it. Once again, they get the idea in their minds that just the mere act of reading the Bible will gain them something with God, or it will make them into a better Christian. We get it backwards. Reading the Bible will not make us better Christians. Being closer to God, which comes only by constant faith in Christ and His Cross, will make us want to read the Bible more, and it will cause us to get so much more meaning out of the scriptures when we do read them.
Please stop and think for a moment: if you are a Christian, you did not get saved by reading the Bible, per se, but you got saved by believing that Jesus died for you. You may have read about Christ dying for you in the Bible and believed, but the reading of the Bible did not save you, but rather your faith in Christ saved you. In fact, the moment you got saved, you were a Christian. There has never been a point in time when you were more of a Christian or less of a Christian. You are either saved or you are not. So this nonsense of being a better Christian or a worse Christian just does not exist. While we definitely can get closer to God and understand Him more, that does not mean that we are better Christians.
Once again, think about it for a moment: when you are born, in fact when you are conceived you are a human being. Just because you grow up and learn new things and experience more things does not mean that you become more of a human being. You will never be more of human being than you were the moment you were born.
When we get saved, that is the first step in getting closer to God, and every step after that is taken in exactly the same manner. We get there by faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we stay there by faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and we grow closer to the Father by faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
So how is it that we are to read the Bible? First, give the Holy Spirit control in your life by functioning in the faith that He has called you to, and, yes, I will say it again, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That is the only Way. Then as the Holy Spirit begins to work within your life to clean you and change you and fix you, you will find more and more that you desire to sit down and read His word; to such an extent, in fact, that you will find at times that you feel like you are going to die; you will literally starve to death if you go too much longer without getting your daily helping of the word.
This is what it is all about. When we get saved, we are changed from unrighteous to righteous, and at that point we begin to have righteous desires, rather than unrighteous ones. We desire to know God better, to get closer to Him, and to know more about Him, and so we feel drawn to reading and studying His word. And the more we feel drawn, the more we love His word, and the more we love it, the more drawn we feel. It is because I love Him that I want to draw closer to Him.
But if you begin to feel that “I’ve got to read the word to make myself into something better than what I am,” you have fallen from Grace. Now you are believing that you can make yourself into something better; instead of believing that God has already done it. You are believing that what God can do and has done at Calvary’s cross does not work, and you’ve got to do more to make this thing happen. You are in essence saying that what Christ did at Calvary is not enough to change you, and you’ve got to do more to change yourself through your own ability to read or pray or fast or go to church or crawl ten-thousand miles on your hands and knees, or whatever it might be.
I am being sarcastic, but, truthfully, anything that we do in the realm of works, no matter how spiritual and religious and godly it may seem to be, if we do it believing that it will cause some kind of holiness within us, then one thing is no better than the other. Crawling ten-thousand miles on your hands and knees will do you just as much good as reading your Bible, if you are doing it in that way.
Paul mentions to the Corinthians, “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”(I Cor. 11:26-30)
Paul is referring there to the rite of communion, but the same law stands for the reading of the word and praying or any other such thing we may mention. If you eat of the bread unworthily, you eat it to your hurt and not to your blessing. In other words, when we eat of the bread of life, which is the word of God, we are to ever understand that we are reading the story of Jesus mission here on earth, which was to die the death at Calvary that we should have died, in order that we may be pardoned before God the Father. We are ingesting the body of Christ, making His sacrifice our own, for He did it for us, and if we read the word of God any other way, we make the cross of Jesus Christ of none effect. We come along saying that “I don’t need Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin; I just need to read my Bible more.” And we then, whether we realize it or not, put Christ to an open shame; calling His sacrifice a vain thing and unnecessary, for we say that my good works are better than His sacrifice. We offer the fruits of Cain’s sacrifice, rather than the blood of Abel’s Lamb.
And “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep,” having not discerned the Lord’s body.