Growing up in a Christian home has many advantages and blessings. From an early age I was taught the importance of the Bible and personal Bible reading. When I was about in the 5th or 6th grade I remember that the teenagers in our church carried bright red leather Bibles. This was impressive to me. I really wanted one of my own. So as a way of encouraging me, my parents promised that if I read one chapter of the Bible each day for a year, they would get me one of those prized red Bibles.
So I set about diligently reading one chapter of the Bible each day. I think I started reading John’s Gospel and then other books in the New Testament, chapter after chapter. Somewhere along the line, I ventured into the Old Testament and discovered the book of Psalms, many of which are relatively short. I steered away from Psalm 119, the longest but was delighted to find Psalm 117, the shortest chapter in the Bible having only 2 verses.
Now I really wanted that Bible and was determined to get it. More than once, in fact, many, many times at the end of a long, busy or distracted day, I resorted to reading Psalm 117 just before going to bed. I confess that I read it just to say that I read it – I was just going through the motions and fulfilling a requirement. So, I confess of my intentions were not the greatest. Even though I wanted something good, my motivation was selfish – I wanted that red Bible.
Yes, I did persevere and read at least one chapter a day from the Bible so I earned that shiny red Bible which I so desperately desired. I’m always amazed when I see how the Lord works in my life. In this instance, he took my sinful, selfish motives and actions and used them to great benefit in my life. Out of that year of determined yet self-centered endeavor grew several great benefits. Yes, I did proudly display my bright red Bible. More than that though, I developed a lifelong love of the book of Psalms, became very familiar with the gospel of John and several of the epistles/letters of St. Paul. Without a doubt I was introduced to biblical principles and concepts I would later learn to call Reformed Theology. My understanding was not fine-tuned until my seminary years (and continuing throughout my life), but I gained a very basic understanding of the Bible.
Prior to the experience of the red Bible, I had been introduced to a little song In Sunday School:
The b – i – b – l – e, this the book for me. i stand alone on the word of God. The b – i – b – l – e.
Years later, when I learned of the account of Martin Luther standing against Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, together with all the religious and political powers of his day, I experienced a deeper appreciation for the Bible and how the God of the Bible uses it.
Just in case you’re not familiar with it:
On April 2, 1521 Martin Luther was summoned by the emperor, Charles V to appear before him and the representatives of the church, personally appointed by the Pope, Leo X. Leo had previously excommunicated Luther for his teachings and writings and expected Charles to immediately order Luther’s execution.
Instead Luther was granted a safe-conduct pass to the German city of Worms. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon of April 17, Luther appeared before the assembly or Diet as it was called. The scene must have been intimidating to poor Luther. Charles, although a young man, was the most powerful emperor in centuries. He was seated on a throne and surrounded by the pomp and splendor of the papal officials.
An official pointed to a table covered with his books and writings and asked Luther two questions. “Are these your writings?” and “Do you wish to recant or retract them?”
Luther had the titles of the books read to him; then he spoke. He precisely repeated the two questions and answered the first question in the affirmative. Regarding the second question, he asked the emperor for permission to carefully reconsider, as the matter had eternal significance for the souls of men.
The members of the Diet went into conference and shortly announced that Charles would grant Luther 24 hours before giving his answer. Luther was sequestered to his room; he spent the night reading the entire New Testament and praying.
Thus on April 18 Luther appeared before the Diet for the second time. As darkness approached, Luther responded first in Latin and then in his native German. When he finished, he was rebuked for not speaking to the point. The question was would he retract his writings or not.
Luther responded: “If the emperor wants a plain answer, I will give it to him. It is impossible for me to recant unless I am proved to be wrong by the testimony of scripture. My conscience is bound to the Word of God. It is not safe or honest to act against one’s conscience. Here I stand. God help me. I cannot do otherwise. Amen.
I quickly confess that my experience was not as significant nor as dramatic as Luther’s, but it does point to the truth that God uses his word in mighty ways to impact his people.
““For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10–11, ESV)