The most definitive way in which God has revealed himself to the world is in Jesus. John writes in his epic prologue to his Gospel,
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . .
The Word became flesh and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1, 14)
When God sought to speak to the human race, to disclose who God is and who God calls us to be, he did not send a book, he sent a Person. Jesus was God’s Word, God’s message, wrapped in human flesh. Jesus once said to his disciple Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). All other words ever spoken or written about God are to be interpreted and understood in the light of this one word, “Jesus.”
But how do we see and know Jesus? We know him through our life of prayer, our experience of him in our lives, and others’ experience of him, to be sure. But our primary way of knowing Jesus—what he said, what he did, his heart and character and hopes for his followers— is through the New Testament, and most clearly and directly through the Gospels.
To that end, I’ve long taught our congregation that if you wish to follow Jesus, you should read through at least one Gospel each year. Every Lent I reread one of the Gospels, and often another throughout the year. As I read, I listen for God to speak to me through the words and witness of Jesus.
The Walk is about walking with Jesus, following him, yielding our hearts and lives to him, trusting in him, and seeking to do his work. But my relationship with Jesus is largely made possible by reading and meditating upon the Scriptures. They bear witness to this man I love. Jesus came to reveal God to us. And when I imagine God, I see Jesus.
Pay Attention to God
After worship and prayer, if we would walk with God and become the people God wants us to be, we have to learn to pay attention and to listen. With the constant noise of life bombarding us, we often find it hard to hear the voice of God. But when we pay attention and listen, we find our lives enriched, and we hear God speaking to us in so many ways.
Scripture records what the biblical authors heard God saying to them as they listened to the Spirit. It is the testimony and reflections of God’s people concerning their experiences of God’s deliverance, God’s discipline, God’s grace, and God’s will. It is the primary witness we have to God’s Word that became flesh in Jesus Christ. As we read it, illumined by the Spirit, we hear God speak through it.
Open your Bible and read it, starting with the Gospels. Start with five verses a day, but, as you grow, consider five chapters a week. Read on your own. But also find or form a small group or Sunday school class to study and grow together. Do this and I can promise you will hear God speaking to you, you’ll grow deeper in your faith, and you’ll find yourself in a closer walk with God as you follow God’s lead.
By the way, here are a few tips for reading the Bible (I describe each in detail in the book):
- Select a good study Bible (like The CEB Study Bible) to use.
- Ask questions of the text: What does this passage teach me about God? About people? About God’s will for me?
- Turn the passage into a prayer.
- Practice lectio divina (from the Latin meaning "diving reading"; it's a way of approaching Scripture using reading, prayer, meditation, and contemplation with the goal of encountering God through Scripture).
- Study the Bible with others.