I just finished reading the Bible through from cover to cover for the first time this past weekend. And after reading through Scripture at a voracious pace (finishing in under 10 months), I wanted to share some of the insights I have been able to pull from a 30,000 ft view of God’s plan. These are not revolutionary ideas that will change the world just because I wrote them; they are simple truths that we should know but sometimes forget. I hope they encourage you and remind you of the simple yet profound truths of the Scripture.
If You Are a New Believer, Read the Bible.
I know this is an elementary concept, but I get asked all the time what books do I recommend for someone to read on this particular issue or that specific problem. While I do not mind suggesting books I have read or have read reviews on, I still fall back on “Read the Bible.” I will admit, it is not always a straightforward on some subjects as a book at your local Christian bookstore, but the Bible gets at the heart of the issue rather than solving the topical problems. For example, you might be feeling lonely. Instead of recommending one of a thousand self-help books that will inspire you to pull up your spiritual bootstraps and trudge on through, read Paul’s letters on your new nature in Christ and what you now possess. The Bible is a wealth of encouragement and rebuke. Read it. Know it. Love it.
The Old Testament God is Not a God of Wrath and Punishment; He is a God of Patience and Restoration.
One of the reasons people say as to why they do not want to be a Christian is because they cannot believe in a God who is all about wrath, vengeance, and punishment in the Old Testament, then turns around and is all about love and grace in the New Testament. The reading plan I was on had me reading through a handful of books in the Old Testament then some New Testament books. It really gave me a new perspective while reading. Yes, God did command the armies of Israel to completely destroy other people. Yes, God did punish the people of Israel for their disobedience. But, if you look at what God did outside of those times, He was unfathomably gracious. At any point, God could have wiped Israel off the face of the earth; yet He continued to favor them. He listened when they repented and blessed them when they turned to Him. He rescued them from slavery and brought them back home from exile. A god of wrath and punishment would have left them to their own peril, but God is rich in mercy and grace. When Israel humbled herself, God was quick to redeem them. That does not sound too far off from the story of Jesus in the New Testament. God does not have multiple-personalities disorder; He is immutable. Redemption is just as much a theme in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament.
This May Be Your First, But You Are Not the First.
One of the things that is engrained deep in my soul is the desire to look at things from a new perspective. I want to re-imagine what has already been imagined. I want to look at things in a new light. I want something fresh, something new. The paradox when it comes to Scripture is this: God is unknowable because He is so infinitely complex that we cannot ever understand His nature to the fullest; you are not the first to discover this aspect or attribute of God. These statements seem to contradict, but I assure you, they do not. When we look at Scripture we look at it through the lens of all of our experiences up to that point. Each person, while your experiences are unique to your situations, shares global themes in life: divorce, loss, joy, surprise, hope, love, betrayal, shame, contentment, etc. So, someone before you has had similar feelings and read the same passages you and come to the same conclusions. They may not have written them down. You may have never met them, but there is someone who has come to the same conclusions you have. You are not the first to discover this truth about God. You are part of a long history of people who are discovering more and more about God each day. It does not diminish what you have discovered about God, if anything it shows that our God is the same now as He was then. It also shows that you are part of something larger than yourself. You are part of a family who understands you and where you have been, and that is comforting to know.
There is No Substitute for the Bible.
Sometimes you just need a fresh word spoken into your situation. I cannot tell you how many times I was reading through a book and something new just popped out that encouraged me. It may not have spoken into the specific situation that I was dealing with, but God still showed up and spoke. You can get some insights from other books and learn some important things, but there is no substitute for the Bible. Regardless of whether you are consciously looking or not, God can wake you up and hit you with something you would have never found any where else. The simple truths that He hits home time and time again seem to reoccur no matter where you are in your reading.
Consistent Faithfulness is Rewarded
I was first introduced to the concept of consistent faithfulness in a short book I read not too long ago. The author talked about the process of writing and how inspiration is not a spontaneous lightning strike, but rather a product of consistent time in the trenches. Inspiration shows up when it has seen you are faithful to doing the hard things on a regular basis. This is what I learned while reading the Bible. If I just sat down and read haphazardly every couple days, what I was learning would be spotty and sparse, but if I consistently spending 20-30 minutes a day just reading, the time between insights would be shorter and shorter. It was almost as if God was rewarding my faithfulness. I know it does not always work this way. God is not a formula which you figure out or a vending machine you manipulate. I will admit, there were stretches where I was not seeing any patterns or learning anything, but I tried to be consistent knowing God would be faithful on His end in the end. And, He was.