John 17:13 “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Why read the Bible? A person who is not a follower of Christ might ask that question. To many, reading the Bible is a total and complete waste of time. What possible value could there be in reading a book that was written thousands of years ago? What possible relevance could it have to us today, in this modern age? We know so much more today than those people knew. While the Bible may say some nice things that make people feel a little better at funerals, and it has some nice teachings that are good stories about virtue, what real value does it have to you and me?
It is likely that many people, view others that read the Bible as pretty naïve – or “quaint” in their thinking. However, according to Jesus, that very way of thinking is naïve at best. This One who was wiser than Solomon and eternal in His being, had things to say that have great relevance in any age, be it past, present, or future. When Jesus prayed the words above, He made mention that the things he had spoken to the world had a very specific and wonderful purpose that would greatly bless anyone who would read His words and believe them. When Jesus spoke of “these things I speak to the world” we can apply them not just to the things He had spoken in that particular prayer or at other times in the hearing of His disciples, but all things that He had said in the past through the prophets and that He would continue to speak to His apostles through the Holy Spirit after His ascension back to Heaven. It is these words – all of them – that have been given to us all for the very purpose that we might have the very joy that Christ had within our own hearts.
There is tremendous joy that results when one believes the words of Christ that He came into the world to save sinners, and that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). There is great joy in knowing and believing all the wonderful promises of God given to us in the Bible – promises of eternal life, the abiding presence of Christ, hope for the future, help for each and every situation in life, and knowledge of the reason we’re alive and our purpose for living. As the infinite Christ reveals Himself in ever deepening ways to those who study His words, there is ever increasing joy that results. Like the disciples whom Jesus met after His resurrection on the road to Emmaus, we too can have the experience they had as He spoke to them about Himself. Afterwards they said to each other “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures (Luke 24:32)?” The “burning” they spoke of was a fire of joy that resulted from hearing the Words of God from the lips of their Savior.
So, why read the Bible? Why would we not read it? Why would we not want this same joy in our hearts, especially in the face of all the anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions at work to influence our hearts in this world of trouble and heartache? Why not rather have the joy of Christ “fulfilled” in us, i.e., joy that is full, that fills our hearts, what the Bible calls elsewhere “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8), joy that is present no matter what the circumstances of life that we find ourselves in. Have you ever known such joy? It’s available to anyone who would turn to Jesus, read His Word, and believe.