August 23, 2010

To Live is Christ — life from His Word

I’m nearly finished a quilt inspired by a photograph of a Japanese Cherry tree. Once I had a dream that inspired me to write a poem that took a prize in a contest. My friend has a fitness trainer that inspires her to do exercises that she would never try on her own. My husband is inspired by good golfers he watches on television. Inspired. Is this what the Bible means when it says Scripture is inspired by God? 
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
When translated to English, the Greek word theopneustos might have been better left as “God-breathed” since our English word, inspired, has many nuances that do not describe how the Bible came to be. As humans, we are inspired by many things and for many reasons, but this is not the way the Bible is inspired.

I’ve tried various explanations. In one, I think of the biblical writers as a glove and God as the hand that moves the glove. This isn’t quite right, but it does show that apart from the hand, the glove could not have written anything like it.

However, these men had life and personalities. They could have written something else without God’s help. Perhaps this is why so many people assume that the Bible was penned by mere men, period. However, it doesn’t read that way.

There were other books written about the same time and making similar claims, but I’ve read them. They read like they were written by mere men, gloves without the hand. Flat, lifeless. Without the impact that Scripture has. There is something about the Bible that makes it different from anything else. Even our best literary efforts are missing something. They don’t have that special spark, that life-giving power.

I once thought otherwise. I read the Bible daily from age thirteen to age twenty-seven. I didn’t understand any of it. It was just a book, but because my mother read it every day, I thought I should. I didn’t feel anything or notice, but it was doing something inside me for those long years.

Then one day, I read a Bible verse in another book. When I did, something happened. Suddenly I knew that the Bible was true, that Jesus is God, and that He saved me from sin. The warm glow in the room was more than the late afternoon sun. I felt the presence of God and was deeply aware that the Bible was His Word speaking to me.

Of course my years of habit helped me continue to read, only with new understanding and a new sense of the value of God’s book. I also was aware that He was using it to change the way that I think and behave. This book is not like a novel or even like the best self-help books. It brings dead hearts to life, opens closed minds, and as the verses say, teaches sinners how to live a new life.

I’ve since heard many stories about people whose lives were changed simply by reading this amazing book. Three men fled their families and went way north. In the boredom of a long winter, one of them started reading whatever he could get his hands on. He read aloud. The other two soon got tired of him reading the same magazines over and over. Then the man found a Bible in the bottom of his suitcase, put there by his daughter. He read it aloud too. By the end of the winter, all three had put their faith in Christ. Their lives were transformed.

The same thing happened to our next-door neighbor. Her father became ill. She and her mother were very concerned. They started reading the Bible. Soon they were reading it aloud so he could hear its comforting words. All three of them put their faith in Christ. The parents have since gone to be with the Lord. Our neighbor rejoices in the new life He has given her. Everyone can see that she is a changed person.

Some have read the Bible to prove it wrong, only to have their lives changed. Others have read it because it was part of their schooling, or out of some other duty. It doesn’t matter the reason. This book can breathe life into a hard heart just as well as one that is seeking God. It can do that because God breathes life into it and while we read, He can use His Words to somehow breathe life into us. No other book can do that.

Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. (Psalm 119:49–50)

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