Every time a person responds to the truth of the Bible, a miracle has occurred. It takes supernatural insight to grasp the profound significance of the simple facts of the Gospel message. Why would any rational person believe that the death and resurrection of one man in 30 AD somehow provides the only way for all people to be forgiven of all their sin and live eternally in Heaven in perfect harmony with the God of the universe? (cf. John 3:16; Rom. 6:23)
On the face of it, it seems to beggar belief. Yet, it’s this unique belief in Jesus, and only this belief, that saves us from eternal separation from God (cf. John 14:6).
The son of Christian missionaries, I grew up believing in the God of the Bible. I literally cannot remember a time when I ever doubted the existence of God. Three to four times a week I heard excellent expositional teaching from the Bible. I knew all the Sunday School stories. I was even teaching those same stories to others by the time I was 15 years old.
But that’s all they were to me – stories. I did not see the Bible as God’s personal message to me. Not until the Summer of 1978.
As was the practice of our High School Youth Group, every Summer we spent a week at Church Camp with teenagers from other Baptist churches from around the state. It was the highlight of my summers growing up. It provided the opportunity to get out from under the watchful eyes of my parents, hang-out with my friends, engage in a wide variety of fun outdoor activities and flirt with cute girls. What else could a 16 year old boy want?
God knew I needed a lot more. At the top of the list was a deeper appreciation for Him through a greater understanding of His Word. God finally broke through my self-absorbed thick head during one of the morning Bible talks early in the week.
The guest speaker preached through Psalm 139. After bringing David’s Psalm to life in a deeply reflective way, he challenged each of us to carve out some time later that day to sit quietly on our own and read through the Psalm slowly, inserting ourselves into every verse.
I initially thought it sounded like a silly suggestion. But something inside me was stirring that day, down to my core. It was the work of the Holy Spirit. I felt a deep conviction to take up the speaker’s challenge. I told my friends I needed to take some time out on my own and excused myself to go read my Bible – to really read my Bible.
This time I tried something different. I prayed first and asked God to help me understand what the passage meant and what He wanted me to learn from it, specifically.
What God taught me that day blew my mind:
“Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I get up; You understand my thought from far away. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, Lord, You know it all... For You created my innermost parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully formed in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my formless substance; and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts for me, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psa. 139:1-4,13-17)
The words seemed to jump off the page of my Bible and penetrate both my heart and my mind. For the first time in my life I realised how much God loves me personally, that He knows everything about me and that He has a very special plan for my life. That day the Bible became a living and breathing two-way communication channel between God and me, no longer just a boring historical book full of of stories that I never quite fully understood.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13)
That must be how Cleopas and his friend felt on that most important day in history – the day the resurrected Son of God came alongside them, opened up the scriptures to them and helped them to fully understand its eternal significance. Like me, they knew their Jewish Bible better than most. They’d no doubt studied in the synagogue like all good Jewish boys. But knowing and understanding are two very different things.
We need the power of the Holy Spirit to properly understand the Spirit inspired Word of God (cf. John 14:25-26; Rom. 8:16; 2 Tm. 3:16-17). That is what God gave me at Camp Tadmor in 1978. That is what Jesus gave to the two disciples in Emmaus. That is what God gives to every one of His children.
God wants so much more for us than simple head knowledge about the Bible. He wants us to walk with Him hand in hand on the road to our ‘Emmaus’ with His words of life burning in our hearts as we grow in our appreciation for His love and His unique plan for our lives.
Every Christian has access to the same Holy Spirit who empowered the incarnate Jesus during His time on earth. The same Holy Spirit who opened the hearts and minds of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17; cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-16)
It is He who provides supernatural insight. It is He who illuminates our way in this dark world. Let’s daily invite Him to be our guide.