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The Christian life is a journey. It is a journey of discoveries and decisions and determination. Realising that Jesus is truly the Saviour is just the first, with many more wonderful discoveries following, as we keep following Jesus.
Deciding to turn away from sin (repent) and live God’s way, is a momentous decision, but it is only the beginning. Jesus wants us to become spiritually mature, so it is also important that we continue to make decisions that will help us to become more like Jesus and do the things he wants us to do. One of the Holy Spirit’s main tools to help us become spiritually mature is the Bible.
The Spirit of God inspired various authors at different times to write the 66 books that form the collection we know as the Bible. Some of these books are histories, some are poetry, others are letters, etc. While these different books show a diversity of literary styles, subjects and purposes, there is a unifying theme that runs throughout. The Bible unfolds God’s plan of salvation, which involves the redemption and restoration for mankind and creation. The Bible is sacred scripture all about Jesus and salvation, even the Old Testament.
Speaking about the message of salvation in the Bible, the apostle Paul once wrote to a young man named Timothy and said:
“From the time you were a toddler you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise leading to salvation which is through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed (inspired). . .” 2 Timothy 3:15-16.
For new Christians, it is best to start reading the Bible with the books of the New Testament. The first four books of the New Testament are about what Jesus did and said when he came to earth just over 2000 years ago. These four books are often referred to as the Gospels (or Good News) of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For brand new Christians, the Gospel of Mark is a great book to start reading. (Look in the index of your Bible if you have trouble finding it.)
The New Testament was originally written in Koine (common or everyday) Greek, and the Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, but nowadays there are numerous translations of the Bible in modern languages available. It is important to choose a translation that is both accurate and easy for you to read and understand.
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New International Version (NIV) are two popular English translations. The website Bible Gateway has over 150 Bible translations in 50 languages online and free here.
A Bible that has a good explanation at the beginning of each book can be very useful as it helps readers understand the context of each Bible book: its setting, background, structure, themes, and purpose.
The Holy Spirit and Bible Reading
The Bible is full of rich, deep, inexhaustible, spiritual truth. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit and we need the Holy Spirit to help us understand what God is teaching and telling us through the Bible. We also need the Holy Spirit’s help to put Biblical and spiritual principles into practise.
To help you grow as a Christian, try to make a set time everyday to spend alone with God. Some people prefer to make this time early in the morning; some people prefer to make this time last thing at night. Some people make several times during the day.
Find a time everyday when you are least likely to be disturbed or distracted, a time when you don’t have to rush. This can be easier said than done. God is with us constantly, every moment of the day; however it is good to spend time alone with him so that we can focus our undivided attention on him and his word—the Bible.
Before you start reading, talk to God. Share your heart and your thoughts with him. Tell him your joys, concerns and needs. He is listening. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring clarity and understanding and “life” to the Bible verses you are going to read. Then read a few verses, or a short passage from the Bible, and really think about what you are reading. Allow the words sink in.
Don’t think that you have to read the whole book or a whole chapter in one go. A few paragraphs a day is fine for beginners.
Joining a group where you can read and discuss the Bible is also important.
While you are reading, if there is a verse that really sticks out, is particularly interesting to you, or seems to speak to you personally, try and memorise it. Memorised Scripture verses are like a ready arsenal of wisdom, comfort and guidance that can help you live successfully as a Christian.
Next: Growing as a Christian – Prayer and Worship