Column from Finland: What will happen if we fall in love with the Bible?
No, I have not read the Bible as intense as I should have done. But yes, I have fallen in love with the Bible now. This year, I am reading through the whole book. I understand things better. This is even nourishing me.
A pluralistic and secular society is pushing Christianity to the margins. The decades when Finnish society was dominated by a culture of unity based on Christian values are far back in the past.
However, Christianity is growing in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia, both through high birth rates and conversions. So, Christianity is by no means in decline when viewed globally.
Three megatrends unite the growing churches: 1. An emphasis on the authority of the Bible and the proclamation of God's word in the power of the Holy Spirit; 2. Christians living in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of grace working in the church, and strong prayer life in the church. In addition, Christians witness their faith and engage in mission and diaconate. 3. Churches are not tied to denominations imported from the West but are autonomous and have a strong emphasis on lay responsibility.
Of these three megatrends, I now highlight the authority of the scriptures. In many Western churches, the Bible does not have the authority it deserves anymore. This is also the case in Finland. Even among priests and other spiritual workers, surprisingly few manage their spiritual life by reading the Bible regularly. In many churches, there are a lot of different kinds of activities but hardly any Bible lessons. Knowledge of the Bible is quite thin even among Christians in Finland.
What we need is a revival in Bible reading. What if every Christian started spending 10 minutes more on studying the Bible every day? Maybe then God's truth would take hold in us more and the reality of His kingdom would begin to grow. It is important to nourish yourself properly. As Jesus said: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). Without God's word and power, we will be lost. “Jesus answered them, ‘You are mistaken because you don't know the Scriptures or God's, nor the power of God’” (Matthew 22:29).
I am not an exemplary Bible reader. I confess that there have been times when I have been lazy in reading my Bible and that is a bad thing. However, at the beginning of this year, I made an improvement and started reading my Bible systematically. My goal is to read through the whole Bible during the year.
I read or listen to both the New and Old Testaments almost daily through a Bible app. The word of the Bible has been nourishing my inner being. My understanding of the overall message of the Bible has improved. Although I have been a believer for a long time, I read through all the books of Moses for the first time at the beginning of the year. The book of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy have been more or less strange for me.
In addition to reading through, it is important to pause and meditate on the word of the Bible. Which passage speaks specifically to me and specifically for today? Recently, I experienced insights as I studied the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In familiar passages of Scripture, I found depths I hadn't noticed before.
I got my first Bible when I was 10 years old. It was one of those little Bibles with purple covers. I received it as a recognition of being active in a girls' club I regularly attended. It was run by two Christian women. They told me about Jesus while we were making arts and crafts.
I became a believer at the age of 15 in confirmation school. Around that time, I was involved in the church youth. However, I did not learn to read the Bible regularly. I only read some famous and easy verses and the Psalms.
When studying at the university, I was involved in a Christian student organisation where the Bible was respected and taught. I also participated in a Bible study group, and we used to memorise Bible verses at that time. Even though memorising verses was something one has to do to prove that you are a true Christian, it was a valuable legacy. The verses I know by heart, I learned when I was a student.
Every Christian should memorise Bible verses. The Holy Spirit can use what we have in our hearts when, for example, we pray for other people. In prayer, I often find that the Holy Spirit brings to mind passages of Scripture that are appropriate to the situation.
However, even when I was a student, I did not fall in love with the Bible, it was only later when I was renewed in my faith and came to know the Holy Spirit better. It is important for a Christian to both read the Bible and know the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, the word remains just empty letters.
Let’s read the Bible and pray that Holy Spirit will enlighten our hearts and brains to understand what we read. So that we would be rooted in the word of God.
About the author
Sari Savela is editor in chief of Seurakuntalainen, a Christian news website in Finland. She is also active as a photographer. In her free time, she is involved in municipal politics.
She is married and mother of three grown-up children. Together with her husband, she does marriage work.
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