Yesterday, a gentleman from Gideons International gave a presentation at our church. In his presentation he told stories of people who had received Gideon Bibles and, through those Bibles, come to knowledge of God and salvation.
There was the story of the Mexican criminal who received a Gideon Bible through the prison programme the Gideons run. He was converted to Christ and not only reformed his ways but even overcame his addiction to smoking overnight.
I can’t remember the details of most of the stories to do them justice, but I’ve heard others. Someone who had been in long discussions with some of her friends from Inter-Varsity about the probable existence of God went for a walk and encountered a Bible someone had left in a phone booth. She took it, read it, believed it, and believed in God.
Or the high school English teacher who was an atheist and decided he would read the Bible and mark down all the inconsistencies and systematically prove it false. The Bible got a hold of him instead, and he converted. This story I heard from the man himself. He said that it was half-way through his second reading of the Scriptures that he was overcome by the power of God and of his message. He became a Christian.
The Bible is powerfully central to Christianity. It transforms us from the inside out. If we allow it, the Bible challenges our methodologies, worldviews, presuppositions.
Of course, one could easily point to stories like the man who converted by a voice from the air. Or of people who, like the character in Chesterton’s ‘The Sign of the Broken Sword’, misread and misuse the Bible for wicked ends. Or of the fact that God is far bigger and better than Scripture.
Yet he has given us this gift, and it has the power to change lives.
We should never forget this, especially in times when Bible reading feels dry and arid because we’ve read it all before. In these words is life, and we need to suck the juices of that life out of them like when you eat a fresh mango and it runs down your chin.
A friend of mine once remarked about an Orthodox friend who was rediscovering his faith that she was a bit concerned because he was busy reading the lives of the saints and the history of the Church but not reading his Bible. And how many of the pious evangelicals can get caught for the same sin — so busy reading the latest Rick Warren or Max Lucado book, rereading CS Lewis and John Wesley? How many of us who read the Fathers can sometimes forget the Fathers’ primary text and source of inspiration and revelation?
May we never abandon the reading, careful study, and meditation upon the Bible. It is living and active. It will change us.