Another way to communicate with God is by reading the bible.
You might wonder how this is relationship with him but the bible is written through direct inspiration from God.
So when we read it we really are hearing God’s words to us.
As we read it is important we ask God questions about what it means and how it can apply to our own life. He often speaks to us by giving us certain thoughts so you do not necessarily have to hear him clearly like when you have a conversation with someone. Just give him time to give you understanding by meditating on it.
You have to keep in mind that the bible contains a lot of symbolism.
Even the actual events it describes have a deeper meaning that always can teach us something for today for our current lives.
Since the bible contains two covenants with God, one old for the people that lived before Jesus died and one new for us today, you might want to start with reading the new testament, which means new covenant.
Thankfully God changes us from the inside when we become believers and although we are not under the law anymore like they were in the old covenant the instructions God gives us still lead to life if we obey them.
Many of the laws God gave to the Jews however do not apply to us because they were symbolical and were fulfilled when Jesus died for us. All the sacrifices they had to make to atone for their sin are not needed anymore because Jesus died for all our sin once and for all. They never took away their sin, they were just a reminder of their sinfulness.
Yet they still have meaning to us if we look at them closely at the background of the gospel. Then we can see the meaning of them and even can get a clearer understanding of the salvation we received and that we can read about in the new testament.
Other laws God gave them were timeless though.
They still apply to us today. Obeying them does not make us righteous but it does make this world a better place. Both for ourselves and others.
And of course they contribute to our intimacy with God.
We need to study the bible and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding to discern which laws still apply and which were symbolic and do not need to be literally carried out anymore.
However many jewish people still perform some of those rituals (not the sacrifices) which can be a powerful reminder of what they stand for.
But it is not a mandatory commandment anymore to obey them in order to be in right standing with God.
Also without having accepted Jesus these commandments (laws) have little meaning and become empty rituals.
The laws that you can be assured of to still count are the ten commandments but there are more.
It is basicly the laws about moral living that still apply to us today.
(So not the laws about sacrifices, food, and clothing among others.)
Yet the feasts are of great importance as well because of the symbolism they contain.
The sabbath for example is a picture of the rest we have in Jesus. It speaks of the work He finished doing for us when He died on the cross. Because of it we have now peace with God.
It is also a reminder that He is our Creator. In the biblebook Genesis we read that God made the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th.
Of course God did not need to rest, but it shows us that the creation was finished.
We do not need to add anything to it on our own. All our ability comes from him. Everything we create flows from what He already created first.
Therefore it is important for us to take rest one day a week. On that day we do not do our regular work.
It reminds us that He is the great Creator in whom all life originates.
Yet we are to live from that place of rest all the other days of the week.
We need to be constantly aware that all our achievements are rooted in him.
That is the only way we can have peace at all times.
I do not belief it matters very much on which day we keep the sabbath as long as it is once a week.
It is a celebration of who God is to us and of all that He has done.
The bible says that with this new covenant God writes his laws on our hearts.
It is like He gives us a new conscience.
I have had it happen several times that I had a certain conviction about something without someone telling me this was the right thing and only later I found out this was actually in the bible.
However it may take time to develop this sensitivity and I believe that reading the bible helps us to become more connected to our spirit.
We do not read the bible to impose outward laws upon ourselves.
Rather we read it to draw out the wisdom that is already inside our spirit since the moment we surrendered our lives to God.
It is also a good way to test if our current convictions are in line with God.
Though we are not under the old covenant anymore with its ceremonial laws they still teach us something about the nature of God.
Every law and instruction, every story in it, shows us what God is like.
His goodness, his purity, his kindness etc.
The bible is like a book of vows for believers.
Like marriage is based upon love and devotion for each other and is made with promises, so a relationship with God has vows.
It is basicly the vow to love each other and stay faithful, for better or for worse.
But even when we struggle to stay loyal to him, He never struggles to stay faithful to us.
He actually was devoted to us even before we made a commitment to him.
We get to take part of so much more of God’s goodness in our lives though when we enter into a covenant with him.
Just like no one who gets married considers vows as some mandatory part of the wedding, so these vows are not something we consider as necessary evil but rather they give expression to the love we have in our hearts. And the same goes for God.
The bible contains all his promises towards us, the vows He made to us in love.
And though we may not always be faithful to him, He always remains faithful to us. Yet our faithfulness flows from our love for him and is never some outside pressure that we put on ourselves or that He puts on us.
God has no interest in shallow slavish obedience. He wants our hearts.
Always remember that He accepts us based on his own love for us which He expressed through the blood of Jesus that was shed for us.
It was never because of our good behaviour that He loved us.
Nor because of our good intentions.
Rather our behaviour changes as we receive his love.
We cannot become righteous through our actions because we cannot earn God.
Rather our actions become righteous because He made us righteous first.
Because He put his Spirit inside of us and made our spirit holy.
It is only through connection with God that we can live a life that is pleasing to him.
It is not our actions in themselves that give him pleasure, but our faith in him. In what He did for us. And out of that faith we can live life the way He intended it to be according to his will and pleasure.
It is our faith that brings him joy and puts us in rightstanding with God.
And yes the bible also tells us the ways God eventually deals with people that have not believed in him and did not surrender their lives to him.
It would not be love if God let evil (sin) continue forever.
But He always postpones his judgements as long as possible so that many people have a chance to repent and return to him.
It can be helpful to read books that explain the bible through additional information about the culture it was written in and other related events during these times that are not described in the bible itself.
We always need to look at the context in order to understand what was meant. Be careful not to take one verse and try to explain it without taking the context into account. What you read might only apply for a certain situation or a certain period and not be universal. So keep that in mind. Yet we can always learn something from it.
A modern translation of the bible that really makes it come alive is The Passion Translation from dr. Brian Simmons. (Since the bible was written mostly in hebrew and greek you will always read a translation of the original manuscript.)
It is not finished yet but it contains the whole new testament and some of the old and it has many notes with valuable additional information and explanation.
With all commentaries on the bible you do have to keep in mind that the authors can make mistakes and often do.
So above all keep listening to the Holy Spirit inside your heart to confirm what others have written.
Another readable translation is The Amplified Bible.
It often gives multiple possible translations of the original text since many words can have different meanings.
It may seem overwhelming to start reading a big complicated book like this but keep in mind you have the rest of your life to read and understand it.
Start with the book of John and then read the other gospels and the rest of the new testament.
When you read the wisdom books, which are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs you might want to just read one chapter (or even a few verses) a day along with reading other parts of the bible to make it easier to digest.
You also may want to memorize a verse now and then so you can ponder it any time of the day and really let it sink in.
It is not about gettig more knowledge in our heads but about getting understanding.
If you really want to dig in you might want to read passages in different translations so you can see multiple possible meanings and get better understanding of them.
Also this helps you to see mistakes that some translations have. No translation is flawless since the bible is not easy to translate.
Thankfully the Holy Spirit inside of us who inspired every word of it knows the exact meaning and can teach us. So do not get stressed out over this.
Just like we need food every day in the natural we need the bible every day.
It is spiritual food.
It gives a measure of peace and it draws us closer to God.
Jesus told us to come to him and to learn from him so we would find rest.
Jesus himself is called “the Word of God” so when we are reading the bible we are having fellowship with him. We are coming to him to learn from him and be refreshed.
The bible is like a huge treasure chest, or rather a large vault, that you will never exhaust. It always has more layers of meaning to it.
We will never get bored when we set out to get to know God better, and that is the purpose of the bible.
Reading it is spiritual treasure hunting.
So have fun!
Unlocking the bible, David Pawson
On bible.com you can find many translations in different languages. They also have audio versions.
To be continued…