The “I Have Written to You” blog spoke to the brother Ildeu Santos from the local church in São Paulo, Brazil. In an environment of freedom and caring, the brother helped us a lot regarding one of the most important aspects of the christian living: the reading of the Bible. He encouraged us to create and maintain the habit of reading the Bible and spiritual books in order to be spiritually healthy. More than that, he helped us by showing us a principle that, when is applied to our daily living, will make us more adequate and useful to the Lord.
We hope this interview will be of great help to our readers, encouraging you to seek to have more fellowship with the Lord through the Word and to live as spiritual men.
– I Have Written to You:Why do we read the Bible and how do we read it?
– Ildeu: It’s very important to read the Bible because it’s the Word of God. We can find God’s will in the Bible, all the desires of His heart and every divine thought. The question now is, how do we read it? People only learn how to do something by doing it themselves. So, in the same way, we need to read the Bible, and as we read, we take the most out of it. There is no recipe, but we can start little by little, we can read a few verses and in a short period of time. The important thing is to start the reading.
– I Have Written to You: What does it mean to say that the Bible is the “Word of God”?
– Ildeu: We realise the Bible is the God’s breath by reading it. Here’s what the apostle Paul told Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, all instruction comes from God’s Word. The Bible was inspired by God, like God breathed into it. It came from God through the Spirit and He used specific people in order to record the Word so that it could be at our disposition today. (2 Peter 1:21)
– I Have Written to You: Is the content of the Bible relevant to present-day?
– Ildeu: The content of the Bible is very current! You realize this each time you read it. It’s always a fresh word. It’s current because our God is ever new, He doesn’t grow old and is always a current God (James 1:17). In fact, if there’s a being in the Universe who is always current, one who isn’t limited by time it can only this being is God! Therefore His Words aren’t affected by time which makes it timeless and constantly fresh. To read the Bible is like we are eating something fresh from the oven.
– I Have Written to You: Is it a right or a duty to read the Bible?
– Ildeu: First of all, the reading of the Bible is a right of all God’s children. At the same time, we can also say that is a duty. We must read it as a matter of daily practice and discipline. We need to establish a day’s schedule to read the Bible; we need to organize our time. We need to develop the habit of reading the Bible even if it feels like a duty. People who do so can testify the value and the importance of doing this. If you talk to someone who reads the Bible, he is going to tell you that the scripture reading has been of great help for his daily living because it’s a spiritual nourishment he gets day-by-day. If you cant’ read the Bible in the morning, you can read it anywhere and anytime, on the bus on your way to school or work, for example; at night, before going to sleep etc. Every christian should read the Bible.
– I Have Written to You: What should be my attitude when I read the Bible? How do I know if the way I am reading it is adequate and what are the risks of an inadequate reading?
– Ildeu: The apostle Paul encourages us to read the Bible praying at all times (Eph. 6:17-18). It’s very good to pray before and during the reading of the Bible. It’s pleasing to transform the words of the Bible into our prayer, this is also precious and very healthy. Reading the Bible in this way help us to extract life and Spirit that are in the Word. The Lord Himself said so in John 6:63: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Many people read the Bible but cannot extract life from it because they read the Bible as a mere history book. We need to read the Bible as the Word of God. God is Spirit, therefore, we need to extract this Spirit and the life there are in the Word. The Lord Himself worried about people who read the scriptures at the time He was on Earth. He said: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). If He worried about this, it’s because we have this difficulty. We need to extract life, extract the Spirit, touch in God when reading the Bible. This is the most pleasant and healthiest way to read the Bible.
– I Have Written to You: How can apply the previous principle when I read the Old Testament, from which it’s not easy to “dig” nuggets that apply to me now?
– Ildeu: The Bible is God’s Word – both Old and New Testament. The difficulty a person might have when they read the Old Testament is that there are words harder to understand. But apart from that, the books are extremely precious. When we read, i.e., the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible, all written by Moses), we see the divine seeds developed into the framework which makes up the Bible. Which means, the seeds that once were sowed there, they develop, enrich, and we have the harvest at the end, which is the result of the sowing. Therefore, it’s very important to take heed to the Old Testament books, specially the first five. It’s natural to not understand everything we read, but it’s still important to read it, because we will understand the purpose of that being written in the Bible and why God said so. God is economic! Everything He speaks to us has a purpose. So, even though we don’t understand at the time, ahead on the reading we will and will be very helped. Therefore, we cannot not skip even one book of the Bible.
– I Have Written to You: The Bible was written over centuries and by different authors. So isn’t the Bible incoherent on a few aspects? Why was the Bible organized the way it is?
– Ildeu: As we said so, the Bible was inspired by God. Even though it was written by men, these men were full of the Spirit, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, when we say that the Bible is incoherent, this is a sign of a superficial reading or even restrict to some portions. If you read the Bible and seek to interpret it with God’s Word itself, you will end up realizing that there is no incoherence. The Bible is one, it’s the same word because is the word of God from beginning to end.
Regarding the way it’s organized, the books chosen to assemble the Bible and the sequence of the books, were determined by God in order to satisfy His needs and supply man with His life. The gospels, for example. All four gospels are narratives or contain reports regarding Jesus’ life, but each writer approached a different aspect and all of them are true. Each one emphasized on the biggest experience they had. There are books, this is true, that weren’t recognized, are not part of the so called Canon of Sacred Scripture – these books are known as apocryphal. These books weren’t recognized and it’s not up to us to ask why this or that book is not in the Bible. If you read the Bible worried about what’s not in it, you’ll certainly get distracted and won’t receive help or spiritual supply. The Bible has such a wide-ranging content – there are 66 books and each of them is full of riches! Why am I going to worry about what’s not in it? If I take heed to what is registered and seek to extract help and profit out of it, I will be blessed, nourished, and will enjoy of a healthy life in all aspects.
– I Have Written to You: How to discern the Lord’s voice in the Bible from what we want to hear? Do you have any experience to share with us?
– Ildeu: I don’t know how to number the times we open our Bible as if it was a “promise box”. We think: “I’m going to see what God has prepared for me”. Actually, when we open our Bible like this, there is already a wish in our heart, and mos of the times you find a word of encouragement. But many times, what we are looking for regards our own interests, our own things and we always want God to make our will. What I’ve been learning in my life with the Lord is that I shouldn’t seek Him only to fulfill my needs, but I need to know what is the will of God in order to cooperate with Him in the execution of His plan, because if God is only the One that satisfies my needs, I am going to expect that every time I read the Bible and will have many difficulties because I won’t understand God’s sovereignty, God’s governmental arrangement. I won’t believe in God as He is, I won’t believe in His promises, I won’t walk by faith, I will always want something according to my thoughts, my will, and we need to be guided by God’s will. We know this isn’t easy, but as time goes by, little by little, we realise this. I always seek to fulfill people’s needs when we preach the gospel, but we need to remember that God also has a need and we always need to see His need when we speak of Him, of the importance of spiritual books and of the scripture reading. God needs man’s presence. So, when you are reading the Bible, try to offer yourself to God, try to present yourself to Him. The Lord wants to know where you are.
– I Have Written to You: What should I do if I read the Bible but don’t have a clear vision of what is God’s will?
– Ildeu: Even if we don’t understand God’s will during the scripture reading, it’s important to keep reading it. But if we want a more practical help, we need to seek spiritual books and also have fellowship with people who have the habit of reading the Bible, who have more experience than we do and that can help us. In essence, the principle is: if I have a vision, I proceed on my walk according to this perception (Phil. 3:16); if I don’t have a clear vision, I must be near those who have a spiritual vision so I can walk with them (2 Tim. 2:22). This also applies to the matter of knowing God’s will.
– I Have Written to You: Can I replace the Scripture Reading by books?
– Ildeu: People always have doubts concerning this matter. Is a spiritual book a substitute of the Bible? No. The christian book is actually a help, an encourage for us to understand and to read more the Bible. There are many spiritual books, but when a spiritual book is healthy, it leads people to the scripture reading: it doesn’t replace the Bible, but on the contrary, it stimulates people to read the Bible. Many people have the Bible and read it, however, few can understand it. Even if you read and understand the Bible, you still need spiritual books because they were written by men who had many intimate experiences with God and that shared these precious experiences with us in the form of letter. We cannot be proud and think that we don’t need help from others. I would like to encourage you to read more spiritual books which will help you to understand the Bible and you will realise that your appreciation towards the Bible will only increase, instead of decrease, as some may think.
I can mention books from the Tree of Life Publisher. All of our books are based in lectures ministered by, mostly, brother Dong Yu Lan, who is the main author. He seeks to link a portion of the Bible to our experience on every conference he ministers. That’s why his words have helped many people. Brother Dong’s ministry is of Spirit and and life. He tries to help us to extract life from the Word and not to read the Bible just for the sake of doing it, because what will happen if we want to acquire a background knowledge and we read the Bible like this? We will be tempted to discuss about the Bible when we meet people and the Bible is not a book that was given to us in order for us to discuss about it – it’s for our edification, for our spiritual growth. This is the main burden of brother Dong and the focus of the books published by the Tree of Life Publisher. We see books that concern the church and the New Jerusalem on Christian literature, but there aren’t many adequate and clear books about the Kingdom. The Tree of Life Publisher seeks to fulfil this gap with books that show the church as a way to introduce the coming world. The church is not, as some may think, a physical building, but is a spiritual environment for the perfecting of people until all God’s children reach an adequate stature in order to govern the world to come with Christ.
– I Have Written to You: As a christian, should I read only spiritual books?
– Ildeu: I am Christian, and spontaneously, I seek to read books that help me to develop my faith, my spiritual life, but I also am a professional and read books that are related to my area of work which are important to understand and to keep me up to date. Besides from spiritual books and the ones related to your work, I would like to encourage the reading habit. We need to read! To read is a healthy exercise because it enhances our capacity of understanding. When you get to the super market you see a great variety of products choosing what best suits your needs. Reading, in general, follows the same principle as of the super market. You read and always have to discern what is best to keep, you need to know what’s good for your learning – the choice is yours! We are always ahead of our choices and we need to make the best choices; we need to choose what is useful for our growth in all aspects of our life, whether is in our family life, professional life, christian life as a whole. We must discern, learn what’s good, enjoy what is healthy. I leave aside what is not healthy. I can have a certain knowledge about it but I won’t get involved with it. As time goes by, we learn how to better discern things, but we need to always read, to daily be surrounded by books.
I would like to advise parents that are reading this. Parents must be people that read and children need to see what they read. It’s good that your son or grandson sees you reading a book. If they only see you watching television or doing things that are not related to reading, they will do so when they’re adults. But if they realize you are someone dedicated to reading, they will also understand: “look, this is important; if my dad, my mom, my older brother and my granddad read, then this must be cool”.
I think that we need to encourage reading in general because it brings many benefits. A christian needs to create and keep a habit of reading the Bible and spiritual books; the more he reads, the healthier he will be. This doesn’t mean that he should read only christian books, but he needs to try to use the human spirit in every reading, God put the spirit in his inner being. This will help him to enhance his discernment of things. He must use his spirit when reading technical books, scientific articles, news papers etc. We need to read in our spirit every time. Not only spiritual readings – we need to read everything in our spirit! A christian person is a spiritual person, therefore, he is not only a spiritual person only when he is reading the Bible or spiritual books; he is spiritual when is dealing with people on his daily living and when is reading any kind of book.
– I Have Written to You: What final message would you leave to our readers?
– Ildeu: I would like to leave two verses. The first one is in Revelations 1:3 and says: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”, it says “he who reads”, “those who hear” and those who “keep those things which are written in it”. The second verse is Revelations 22:7: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” On chapter 1 he spoke of those who read, hear and keep; then he spoke of keeping things which are written in the Bible. We need to enjoy every opportunity we have to read and to keep, which is day by day to put the word we read into practice. I’ve heard an interesting phrase once and would like to repeat it: “the person who doesn’t read good books is like a person who doesn’t know how to read, that never learned how to read”. I speak of the reading as whole. We do need to read the Bible and spiritual books. This is my encouragement to you. Start right now!
Translation of the article Ildeu Responde / Leitura da Bíblia (Blog Eu vos escrevi)