How God Speaks to You
How God Speaks to You
Fyodor was a wild young man. His life revolved around eating, drinking, talking, music, theatre and the company of women. He dreamt of fame. He was caught up in a movement for political and social reform in Russia during the repressive reign of Tsar Nicholas I. He was arrested, tried and condemned to be executed.
On a bitterly cold morning, the prisoners were taken out to be shot. The prison guards raised their muskets to their shoulders and took aim. At the last moment, a white flag was raised to announce that the Tsar had commuted their sentence to life imprisonment in Siberia.
On his arrival in Siberia on Christmas Eve 1849, at the age of twenty-eight, two women slipped him a New Testament. When the guard turned away momentarily, they suggested he should search the pages thoroughly. He did.
While in prison, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the great Russian novelist, read the New Testament from cover to cover and learnt much of it by heart. He wrote, ‘I believe that there is no one lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic and more perfect than Jesus. I say to myself with jealous love not only is there no one else like him, but there never could be anyone like him.’ It was through the Bible that he had encountered Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul describes all Scripture as ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is not just inspired in the way that artists, poets, composers and musical performers can be said to be inspired. It actually has God’s breath, his Spirit, in it. Through the Bible, God speaks to you.
Enjoy reading the BiblePsalm 119:89-96
The eighteenth-century philosopher and critic of Christianity, Voltaire, said, ‘Within a hundred years the Bible will be obsolete and will have gone out of circulation altogether.’ A hundred years later the Bible was more popular than ever. His own house in Paris was converted into a Bible factory, churning out Bibles by the hour! When you hear attacks on the Bible, it is good to remember that this is nothing new.
God’s word is ‘eternal’ (v.90). In spite of all the attacks on the Bible it has survived. ‘What you say goes, God, and stays, as permanent as the heavens. Your truth never goes out of fashion; it’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up. Your Word and truth are dependable as ever’ (vv.89–90, MSG).
The Bible is a delight. The psalmist describes the Scriptures he has read as ‘my delight’ (v.92).
It is fitting that this, the longest psalm in the psalter, should be all about the Scriptures.
When you are under attack, meditate on God’s word: ‘The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me, but I’m only concerned with your plans for me. I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands!’ (vv.95–96, MSG). God’s commands are there to protect you, and remembering God’s words will help keep you from harm: ‘I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life’ (v.93).
Lord, help me each day to meditate on your eternal words and find delight in reading the Bible.
Look for Jesus as you read2 Timothy 3:1-17
The Bible is all about Jesus: ‘There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (v.15, MSG).
Paul was writing to a society not unlike our own. He wrote:
‘There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God’ (vv.1–4, MSG).
Paul describes them as ‘having a form of godliness while denying its power’ (v.5). It describes both a secular world and a kind of nominalism that has a form of godliness (people would say, if asked their religion, that they are Christian), but denying its power. There are also some who go to great lengths to oppose the truth (v.8).
You are called to be different. The pressure of the world is strong. Paul writes, ‘But as for you…’ (v.14). He points to his teaching, his way of life, his purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings (vv.10–11). He warns that ‘anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it’ (v.12, MSG). Do not be surprised by opposition. Take a rock-like stand on the ‘holy Scriptures’ (v.15).
Some books inform, and even reform. The Bible transforms. A man complained to his pastor that he didn’t read his Bible because it interfered with his work. When asked what his work was he replied, ‘I’m a pickpocket’! The Bible was not given simply to increase your knowledge. It was given to change your life.
The Bible’s aim is to point you to Christ. The Scriptures are able to make you ‘wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (v.15). Jesus said, ‘the Scriptures… testify about me’ (John 5:40). As Martin Luther, the great reformer, put it, ‘The Bible is the cradle in which Jesus lies... Every word rings of Christ.’
Like many others, I first encountered Jesus through reading the Bible. It was as if he emerged from the pages of the New Testament.
But it is not just initial faith that comes through the Bible. It is your continuing faith and growth, because ‘every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us’ (2 Timothy 3:16–17, MSG). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, Scripture is ‘written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, [with] God as [its] author’.
The Bible is our authority in all matters of faith and life. You find out what God says (and what you should, therefore, believe) about suffering, about Jesus, about the cross, and so on. It is also in the Bible that you find out what is wrong in God’s eyes and how you can live a righteous life. Feeding on the Bible is the way to be ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (v.17).
Lord, thank you that you equip me for each day as I study your words, ponder them, meditate on them, and listen to your Spirit. May I grow closer to Jesus and be transformed into his likeness as I spend time in his presence.
Hear God’s words and put them into practiceJeremiah 50:11-51:14
We all put our trust and security somewhere. The temptation is to place your trust and security in your money, education, job, health, family or friends. There is nothing wrong with these things, but ultimately there is only one absolutely secure place in which to put your trust, and that is in the Lord.
Throughout these closing chapters of Jeremiah, we have seen how all the nations had put their security and trust in things that could not ultimately deliver. Today we read how Babylon trusted in its rivers and its wealth: ‘You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures…’ (51:13). One by one, Jeremiah dismantles these false hopes.
Again and again, Jeremiah calls on his readers to listen to the words and promises of God rather than the things of the world. Two phrases that are repeated continuously are: ‘this is what the Lord Almighty says’ (50:18,33; 51:1), and ‘declares the Lord’ (50:21,30,40).
We are encouraged to listen to his words, to ‘do what I tell you’ (v.21, MSG), and to ‘tell the good news’ (51:10, MSG). You can build your life on the promises of his word. You are to hear God’s words and put them into practice (see Matthew 7:24–27).
There are two great things that the Lord promises to those who hear his words, put their trust in him and put his words into practice.
First, he promises satisfaction. Your spiritual appetite can only be satisfied by a relationship with God (Jeremiah 50:19), which Jesus came to make possible.
Second, he promises complete forgiveness of your sins and removal of your guilt: ‘They’ll look high and low for a sign of Israel’s guilt – nothing; search nook and cranny for a trace of Judah’s sin – nothing. These people that I’ve saved will start out with a clean slate’ (v.20, MSG). What God promised to Israel and Judah was fulfilled through Jesus on the cross. However careful a search is made, no one will be able to find any sin or guilt in you because of what Jesus has done.
Lord, I put my trust in you. Help me each day to listen to your words, put them into practice and find satisfaction in your presence and your love.
2 Timothy 3:15
‘... from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise...’
It is so important to start reading and learning the Bible from as young an age as possible. It is never too early to start, even if at first, like our grandson did, they just eat the pages!
Verse of the Day
‘Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us’ (2 Timothy 3:16–17, MSG).
Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p.71.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.