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TEXT: II Timothy 3:14-17
SUBJECT: Six Rules for Young Christians #2: Read the Bible
Today, with God's blessing, we will move on in our afternoon study and discussion of Brownlow North's pamphlet, Six Rules for Young Christians. The man was an evangelist in Ireland 150 years ago, and this is the advice he gave people who believed in Christ and wanted to grow in grace but didn't know where to start.
He wrote for new converts, but the counsel he offered is equally useful for the rest of us-for people who have long believed in Christ, but are not as mature as we ought to be or as we want to be.
What do we do? How do we become more conscientious? Where do we find the power to resist temptation? How can we reach people who don't know the Lord, or help the ones who do?
The Six Rules do not give us all we need to know, but we a ignore them at our own risk. It is hard for me to believe anyone can grow in grace without more-or-less doing what they say.
The first rule is pray every day, and remember to whom we are praying and that He hears us. Have you been doing this? No one is satisfied with his prayer life, but have you got a prayer life? Or, do you only pray with 'something goes wrong'? Or when 'you need something really badly'? The Lord hears these desperate prayers, and is often willing to give us what we ask for, but..
How would you like it if the only time you heard from somebody is when he needed a favor? You might do it for him anyway, but.
Would you think of him as a friend or as a user? Does God want us to be users, or does He want us to be His friends and children and servants and people? If the latter is true, we have to pray, both when we're hard up, and when we're not. Because prayer means fellowship, and that what He wants most from us, and when we're right, it's what we want most from Him.
If 'pray' is the first rule for growing in grace, I bet you can guess the second: Read the Bible. Brownlow North says-
Never neglect daily private Bible-reading, and when you read, remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what He says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules.
Does God command every Christian to read the Bible every day? Many of us would say, 'He does', but when asked to prove it, we'll spend a lot of time looking for a verse that isn't there. God does not command us to read the Bible every day, and how could He?
From the days of Moses till now, most Christians have not been able to read, and while our faith promotes literacy, it does not confer it or guarantee it. Also, until the printing press was invented about 1500, Bibles were like luxury cars-way out of the price range of most people.
So, as strange as it sounds to us, most of God's people have not read the Bible every day, and they have grown in grace without doing it.
So.if God does not command it, and people have gotten by fine without doing it, why does Brownlow North make it one of his top rules? He does it-I believe-because of what God does command, what the saints would have done had they been able to, and what every one of us can do.
The Lord tells us to meditate on His Word. Psalm 1 says of the godly man-
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law doth he meditate day
In societies where books are hard-to-come-by, people listen better than we do, and they remember what they've heard, often in ways that would astound us. Other than the Bible, the three great books of Western Civilization were recited and memorized centuries before anyone thought to write them down. And they're big books, too hundred of pages of non-rhyming poetry. Yet ordinary people knew the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid as well, or better, than we know our Bibles.
We cannot do this, and if we're to meditate on God's Word day and night we've got to read it every day.
Besides, do you think the saints who didn't have a Bible, would have wanted one if they could have? Can you imagine a man whose heart burned hearing the Law of Moses read once a year, not wishing he had one of his own?
Of course it's our duty to read the Bible every day, and more than that, it's our privilege. The Bible is a gift of God and how foolish and sinful we are to not prize it! The Psalmist makes me ashamed of myself. The Word he had was less than half what I have, yet how he loved that Word-
I rejoice in your word as one who finds great spoil!
WHAT THE BIBLE IS
The importance of the Bible lies in what it is and what it does.
The Bible is God's Word. Did men write it? Of course they did, and they used their own words that made sense to the people they first wrote to, but the Lord superintended their lives with such care that what they said, He said!
II Chronicles 20:20 is an example of Hebrew poetry, in which the same thing is said twice in slightly different words-
Believe in the Lord your God
And you shall be established;
Believe His prophets
And you shall prosper.
Believing the Lord and believing His prophets are one and the same thing.
The same thing is taught in our text, II Timothy 3:16-
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
To 'inspire' means 'to breathe into'. It's what God did to Adam-breathing into him the breath of life, and it's also what He did to the prophets, Apostles, and others who wrote the Bible. He breathed His Word into them, and they wrote it down for us.
We will not be consistent or good Bible-readers till the doctrine of inspiration becomes more than a doctrine to us. When it becomes a felt reality, then we'll start reading the Bible every day and reading it with reverence and joy and a desire to do what it says!
WHAT THE BIBLE DOES
Knowing what the Bible is should be more than enough to make us careful and consistent readers, but God knows it isn't. So He gives us more that 'what it is'; He adds 'what's in it for us'. The benefits of reading the Bible are many and rich and indispensable.
Staying with our text, I name only two. Firstly, the Bible tells us the way of salvation, v.15-
The Holy Scriptures.are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ.
This 'wisdom for salvation' is shallow enough for a child to wade in and deep enough to drown a giraffe! Basically, it this: (1) We are creatures of God, made in His likeness and Image to enjoy His company and share in His work forever, but (2) We have fallen away from all this because of our sins, and (3) In Christ, God is setting things right, and (4) With the resurrection, they will be right forever.
Some important things can be known without the Bible, or even if we consciously reject the Bible. But not the way of salvation, not what God has done for us at the cross and the empty tomb! This is Special Revelation, and is found in Scripture.
Secondly, the Bible equips us for living the life God wants for us, v.17-
That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This is the language of armor. Strap on a helmet, and a soldier's head is safe, but not his chest. Add a breasplate, and the enemy cuts his legs out from under him. Attach the greaves, and his legs are protected, and so on. It is not until he is fully armed that he is ready to face the enemy.
Speaking of which, Paul says, we are living in evil times, vv.1-13, dangerous times they are, and so we need what the Bible gives us, namely-
Doctrine, reproof, correction, training in righteousness.
Not all of these are equally pleasant; nobody likes being corrected, no less rebuked! But we need to be-and not by the crankiness or the pride or the opinions or the scorn of our friends-but by the Word of God, a Word that hurts our feelings at times, but also heals us.
Do we need to know God? To know what He's done for us? To know His will for our lives? If so, we need to read the Bible, and-if we need to know these things every day-we ought to read the Bible that often.
For most people, consistent Bible reading requires a plan. The plan gets you into the habit of reading the Bible, and keeps you in the habit when your days are extra busy or when you're not feeling well in body or soul.
Here's what I recommend:
Read twice a day, if you can. In one of the readings, try to read through the whole Bible, from page one to the end, as quickly as you can with some understanding. For most of us, this will take a year or two. This will give you the 'big picture'.
In the other reading, take one book or even a chapter, or whatever portion you can, and read it slowly, asking yourself the following questions:
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