Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why. Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces its particular topic.
Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.
Letter No. 3: What God Says to Us in the Bible
I didn’t grow up reading the Bible. I heard it read in church, Sunday after Sunday, and I learned about many of the stories in it through religious education classes in school. But I didn’t pick up a Bible to read until after college. Now I read from it daily, often several times a day.
The Bible is a life-line for me, the source I count on to give me a dose of God’s take on the world. It clears my mind and reorients my perceptions, setting me back on the right course. What it tells me is what I want running through my head day after day, not the messages I’m bombarded with in the media which say I need to be (or look) young, have lots of money and act somewhat scandalously in order to be considered interesting and of value in this world.
In this letter I try to explain to Caleb how God speaks to us in the Bible, and why we can trust what He says in it. My hope is that he, too, will turn to it daily throughout his life and consider it his life-line.
In the previous two letters I’ve talked about the Bible: how by reading it you can get to know God better and how it contains some terrific examples of prayer. I’ve got more to add to that list: In the Bible you’ll find everything you need to know about how to live a faithful life. You’ll also find mentioned what things to avoid in life, the kind of things that will only cause you grief and misery.
In the Bible God tells us the truth we need to hear about ourselves and the world around us. He also reveals His true nature in the Bible through the stories, reports, prophecies, prayers, letters and gospels we find there.
These two passages sum up the most important aspect of God’s nature:
…the Lord is good; His love endures forever. (Jeremiah 33:11)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
“But what makes the Bible so special?” you may ask. “Why should we trust what it says? How is it different from an internet site with lots of helpful information, or a great book of literature like, Treasure Island?” These are great questions and I’ll attempt to address each one and explain why I say with great conviction that the Bible is God’s word to us.
To begin with, the Bible does not offer up facts so that we can add to our store of knowledge like other books of information do, such as an encyclopedia or a website that answers questions. The Bible does contain a lot of information, but the purpose of this information is not to help make us a smarter person, or even a better person.
Instead, the Bible helps us discover our need for God. It shows us, through the lives of the people God singles out to speak to, what happens when they choose to rely on themselves, and how wonderfully blessed their lives are when they choose to rely entirely on Him. In it we learn all about selfishness, greed, lust and hatred and how if left unchecked, these forces will just take over our lives.
In the Bible we find out that God knows everything about us – that nothing about us is hid from Him – but yet, He still chooses to love us and save us from our sins. We are told how to choose wisely and live a faithful life. And we are given the promise, that at the end of life, God has something wonderful in store for us. So, the Bible is unlike any other book of information.
However, the Bible is not presented to us as a menu from which we can select what we want. It all hangs together, from beginning to end, Genesis through Revelation, so either we accept it on its terms, in it’s entirety, or not at all. The Bible doesn’t worry about what we think concerning this chapter or that, whether it makes sense or not, or whether its point of view is considered out of date. We’re the ones who are being challenged by what’s between its covers. It asks the questions; it’s we who have some explaining to do. This passage highlights the statement I just made:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The Bible is not like a great work of fiction, either. Its purpose is not to provide us with a new way of looking at something, or give us a warm feeling about God. Instead, it reveals to us what we need to know in order become the kind of people who resemble a God who will do anything – even sacrifice His own life – to win His creation back. This is a God I want to know about and the Bible is the place where I can find out more about Him.
So the Bible is basically telling a story. It’s the true story of a people who encountered God and found out He always keeps His promises, even when they don’t keep theirs. We call this “good news” and to this day, when the Bible is read, or studied, or preached, God speaks and affirms His promises.
Next week Letter No. 3: What God Says to us in the Bible continues.
Discussion Questions for Eighth Installment: What God Says to us in the Bible
- What does the Bible reveal to us about God’s nature?
- What does the Bible help us discover?
- How is the Bible different from other sources of information?
- Why is the Bible not a menu from which we can pick and choose what interests us?
- What stories in the Bible stand out in your mind? Why do these stories capture your attention?