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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Michael Youssef » Michael Youssef - How to Read the Bible

Michael Youssef - How to Read the Bible

Michael Youssef - How to Read the Bible
TOPICS: God's Word

As fewer Christians read the Bible daily, fewer understand what a marvelous revelation it is from God to man. It's so easy to forget as we scurry around our day-to-day lives what a profound gift Scripture is to us, 66 books weaving a tapestry of God's love for us, words from heaven sitting right in our hands. As a culture, we've walked away from these time-tested truths, rejecting the wisdom found in its pages. Now more than ever before is the time that our world needs to understand what Scripture actually has to say. Join Dr. Youssef, cultural anthropologist, pastor, and author, for a timely discussion of the relevance of Holy Scripture.

Jane Robelot: Sixty-six books, forty authors, over fifteen hundred years and yet, Michael, it's one book and it tells the most amazing story ever, and that is God's love for us. So why are we not reading it anymore?

Dr. Michael Youssef: Well, the problem is that is exactly what the devil doesn't want us to do because he knows there is power in the Word of God. And when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, what did he do? He quoted the Scripture, the very Old Testament Scripture that some evangelical pastors are saying we need to get unhitched from, and that we need to ditch, and we need to move on and just focus on the resurrection. But the fallacy is Jesus did not appear in a vacuum. Every book of the Old Testament says he's coming, he's coming, from Genesis 3:15 when God said to Adam and Eve that Jesus will be born and he is going to be nipped at the heel by Satan, but he'll destroy Satan and all of that, and goes on and on and on throughout the Scripture, one theme, and yet the arrogance and the human arrogance and pride has forbidden and stopped people from reading it or seeing the relevance to them, not even in the church. And you see, I am concerned about the church. That's the bride of Christ. And when people in the church, and I read these statistics, and if it's one or two, I might not take notice of, but just continuation, so many statistics. They said 10% of Christians, not the world out there, the Christians, 10%, read it every day, 18% would read it twice a week. Now, that is so ludicrous. And I often said that what the despots have failed to do, and particularly we know that in China, literally, they used to burn the Bibles, and churches, the underground churches, would have little pieces of the Bible to read in their cell groups. And yet, what despots have failed to do, we have done. They have failed to accomplish the destruction of the Word of God, but by our neglect, we have done that. And therefore, I am absolutely on a mission, has been the mission of my life, but now it's really coming into concentration and culmination that if you claim to know Jesus and you do not read the Word of God, then you have a fake claim. There's something wrong with your faith. And so this is a challenge. And I'm saying it in the strongest term possible.

Jane Robelot: Well, then it's a challenge that is thrilling once someone has done it. I am going to confess to you, I had not read the Bible all the way through.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Sure.

Jane Robelot: I had not read the entirety of the Bible until I was in my mid-40s, and it was so life-changing for me. It is one story. It all points to Jesus. It all points to the kingdom of God. I mean, why would we not want to do this? What's holding us back from this gift? And most people in the west, Christians certainly, have five or six Bibles in their houses.

Dr. Michael Youssef: I know it.

Jane Robelot: It's not for lack of access.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Yeah, different translations.

Jane Robelot: Why are we ignoring it? Is it Satan? Is it we are busy? Why are we ignoring this gift?

Dr. Michael Youssef: I think it's a combination. Satan hates it. He hates the Word of God. Particularly he hates two books in the Bible, the first and the last. He hates Genesis and he hates Revelation, and that is why, even people in pulpits, in some mainline churches and other churches would say Genesis is a myth, Revelation is a mystery. That is a lie from the pit of Satan. And the reason Satan hates those two bookends, those two books of the Bible is because, as I already mentioned, in the Book of Genesis his condemnation is pronounced and in the Book of Revelation it is executed. His doom is seen to be done. It was announced, now it's pronounced. It's accomplished. And so, he hates those two books and he hates everything in between because you see the character of God, the holiness of God, the righteousness of God, the justice of God, and the love of God. I mean, people say, "Well, the God of the Old Testament is not the same God as the New Testament". Really? Have you read how many times God would plead with Israel and he is patient with them over 200, 300 years? And prophet after prophet after prophet he sends and he expressed his love for them and then said, "Return. Come back to me. Don't keep running after Baal and Asherahs and all these foreign gods. They're not the ones who going to bless you. I'm the one who blessed you". And in the end, when they absolutely stubbornly refused, God sent them into exile and they had to end up in Babylon. And you see, that's all part of God's plan, and you cannot take a part of it. I mean, it's like a puzzle. And you take part out, it's not going to make sense. And so, it's a book. It's a whole book. It's a unit. There is no book like it, whether scientific book or literature, whatever it may be, because there is no book that is so united and one unit like the Bible.

Jane Robelot: If we love him, and we want to follow him, we first need to know who he is. And he completely reveals his character to us throughout. And I love that you said, "Yes, in the Old Testament he is the same". But is it? It's kind of become fashionable to characterize some of these as fairy tales or yesterday's stories.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Well, this is an effort on the part of some pastors and theologians and mega church pastors particularly who want to accommodate to the younger generation who have a problem with certain aspects of the Old Testament like Jonah and the whale, or the flood, or whatever it is, they have a problem with it. So what do you do? You accommodate to them. You know, when I moved from Australia to the United States, in Australia, I knew cricket and I knew rugby, and then I had to go and watch something called baseball and American football. They never said, "Oh, because you're new here, we need to accommodate to you and change the rules so you understand them". No. They never did this. I had to learn. And instead of us accommodating to the carnal and to the ungodly, we need to teach them, we need to instruct them lovingly as we can that, "You need to learn this. You need to understand this is the incredible love of God". You know, we live in this age of hypocrisy where people just operate on emotions and they don't want to take the time to comprehend the incredible love of God. And the problem is, they will be blessed by it. They'll be blessed by it.

Jane Robelot: Absolutely.

Dr. Michael Youssef: I don't know how people can live without that. I mean, I don't understand.

Jane Robelot: Amen, and especially once you've read it it's not like, "Oh, that was great, you know? On to the next thing". You do want to start all over again, and yet, back to what those who are doing to try and turn us away from the Bible, they'll take little bits and pieces. Well, Paul said this or it says in the Old Testament that we cannot take this book out of context.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Absolutely. Absolutely, because if you take it out of context, who's sitting in power? I am, then the person who claims the authority to interpret the Bible. If I take it out of context, well, this is what I want you to know, this is what I want you to learn, allowing the Bible to speak for itself because when you allow the Word of God to speak for itself, it's going to have power not just to convict us and encourage us and make life not just bearable but joyful. Even in the difficult times and the hard circumstances, when you read the Word of God, you're going to find that it's going to lift you up above the clouds of depression and discouragement that we all feel from time to time. I mean, I'm flesh and blood. I understand all those emotions. We go through them. I've been through many stuff in the 75 years that God allowed me to live. But in this... now, I don't know how to live without it to be truthful, and yet that's how we bought into the lie that, well, some of it is good, some of it is not, and so, it's a smorgasbord; you pick and you choose. And who picks and chooses? The pastors. And I hear people all the time, "Pastor Smellfungus says this. Pastor Super-doc says this". Well, I don't care what the pastor, and I tell people all the time don't quote me, quote the Scripture. If it's not in the Word of God, it doesn't matter.

Jane Robelot: Amen. And when we read the Word of God, we understand more about Jesus, right? Everything points to Jesus and salvation. And to really understand what that blood sacrifice of Jesus means, holy, you have to go back to the Old Testament.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Exactly. And that is why some of these progressive theologians said, "You know, we don't want to believe in somebody hanging on a cross with blood dripping all over the place". What? Do you understand that this started in the Garden of Eden and started in the Garden of Eden when God slew an innocent animal? And imagine the horror on the faces of Adam and Eve when they saw this being done. And it's a reminder for them of the enormity of their sin of disobeying God. When he said, "Don't do this," they did it. And when that sacrifice was offered, that was the beginning of God trying to impress upon humanity the enormity of our sin, the enormity of our sin of independence, a sin of not submitting to God's authority, obeying his Word. And from that moment on, it was understood that it's through the shedding of blood that forgiveness of sin takes place. And these were all pictures, images, similes, whatever they may be to show God's people when they go and sacrifice, and then ultimately, which all these things were pointing to, all of these animal sacrifices were pointing to that there's going to be a perfect one, a sinless one who had never sinned, who coexisted with the Father before all worlds who's going to come down and then he is going to offer himself to be the greatest sacrifice of all. It's his righteousness that God the Father looks and sees me not in my sinfulness but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ because I covered my life by that blood, by that faith in him and him alone as my Savior and Lord, and that is the greatest message. This is the good news. And we all just say the gospel is good news. This is the greatest news of all, but sadly it's going to be bad news for those who reject it.

Jane Robelot: It is every day on a daily basis sad news for those who reject it because they're missing out on the joy and the promise. But you're also talking about the kingdom come. There are three kingdoms. There's a one kingdom, but there's the kingdom past, present, and future, and that's really what Jesus teaches us.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Yeah, I'm glad you brought this up because the theme of the kingdom, or the kingdom of God, is really what unites the whole Bible, and that's what I focus on. In all of my writing I focus on the kingdom of God. And it's amazing, Mark tells us in chapter 1:14, he says Jesus went about proclaiming the kingdom of God. He said, "The kingdom of God is here. The reign of God, the rule of God is here. Come, enter it. Come under his wings. Come believe in him, trusting him". But in the very beginning, I mean, the kingdom of Israel was never the kingdom of Israel until later. That was the kingdom of God. God is the King. God is the ruler. He gave them the Word, how to live, these commandments of how to live in the wilderness and then in the Promised Land, but sadly, they turned it from the kingdom of God as their King and rejected him and wanted an earthly king. They did this with Saul, followed by David. And so, the kingdom of God that was the kingdom of God became the kingdom of Israel. So Jesus came to restore all that and to say, "Now the kingdom of God is here, now the kingdom of God is in your midst, and I'm here proclaiming it to you. Come, enter into the joy of that kingdom". And that really is the theme of the entire Bible. And so, that is the great news of the gospel, and that's what sadly people miss, and that is why I'm taking that gospel to the ends of the earth. I'm going in person as well as through media and every possible way to take the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone who would listen, to everyone who would believe and trust and come into his reign and rule.

Jane Robelot: It seems that a new generation has less exposure to God. I mean, I'm in my 60s now, but when I was in public school, we memorized psalms, we talked about the Bible. Now it's such taboo. But you do such a great job of showing us that we are just like they were. We have turned away from God just like they did. They called him Baal. We call him jewelry, clothing, pride.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Sure.

Jane Robelot: We haven't changed.

Dr. Michael Youssef: No.

Jane Robelot: We have to get back to this.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Absolutely, because if we do not, unfortunately and sadly, the consequences are too severe to even comprehend. And that is why if anyone has an ounce of love in them, truly love people, love God and love people, they must tell the truth, they must speak the truth, they must call people to the truth, and if they don't, they going to pay a heavier price. And so it's my appeal, it's my longing, it's the longing of my heart that people come to know the real Christ of the Bible.

Jane Robelot: And, again, you really make it a point to show there are no contradictions.

Dr. Michael Youssef: No.

Jane Robelot: Sixteen hundred years, sixty-six books, forty authors, there are no contradictions.

Dr. Michael Youssef: No. Absolutely. I mean, and people are always picking up contradictions. And I've seen so many of them, I've answered so many of them, and they're not really contradictions at all. And it's like saying, you know, one time Jesus fed 4,000, one time he fed 5,000. Which one is it? I said both. He did both. He did it twice. And so, those who are looking for contradictions are going to try to find it, but the problem is, if you come in humility, this is a really operative Word 'cause humility says I'm not... I know there is a God, and I'm not him, and I have experienced his guidance in life. In 2024 it will be 60 years since I started walking with the Lord. And so, I know experientially. And that's not only me. There are thousands of people, millions of people out there who testify to the guiding hand of God when you come to him in submission, when you come to him in humility.

Jane Robelot: Passionately proclaiming the truth of the gospel.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Amen.

Jane Robelot: Sixty years you will celebrate that, when you came to Jesus and you went to the pulpit. What is it, this seems a silly question, Dr. Youssef, but what is it that fuels that passion? I see it growing in even year after year.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Oh gosh, yes. Oh my goodness. And when people say, you know, when they get older, you kind of lose, I said, obviously, didn't work for me.

Jane Robelot: Not at all.

Dr. Michael Youssef: And there are a lot of people who say that. While you get older, you lose your passion, you lose this, you lose, I said I am more on fire now than I was 25 years ago. I've always been on fire, but I'm burning faster and pedal to the metal, as they say, because I can see the finishing line, and therefore I'm running and I want to make sure that I'm running really hard until I reach the finish line. And the only thing I long for more than anything in life is that I take as many people with me to that finishing line.

Jane Robelot: We feel your passion in the books that you write, in the messages that you preach, in hearing you right now. You have taken that passion and you have put it into a book, "How to Read the Bible (as If Your Life Depended On It)". And I really love the subtitle because it does.

Dr. Michael Youssef: Yes, absolutely. You return the life, not only this life. Just think about what you're missing out on: the joy, and the peace, and the confidence, and the assurance, and the internal. I'm talking internal because circumstances cannot be controlled, but the internal peace in the midst of difficulty and the midst of problems or whatever they may be, physical, emotional, or financial, that you are at peace because you have placed your confidence in Christ, and then in eternal life as well. So it's both here and for all of eternity. And that is why I think it's vitally important that people understand what the Word of God has said and they begin to obey it and live by it because it means everything both in this life and for all of eternity.

Jane Robelot: And I feel like if you read it, you want to obey it and live by it, but you've got to start there. So I love that this book you really walk your readers through what the Bible is. And so, if people have read the Bible in its entirety, this is fabulous because it kind of brings it all back and inspires you to get back in. For somebody who's never read it, you really lay it out so beautifully to show us how interconnected it is.

Dr. Michael Youssef: It is. And that's the longing of my heart. I tell people, you know, there are some of my books that are taking me 6 months to write, some take longer, some take shorter, depends, but this book about reading the Bible, "How to Read the Bible," it's taken me 50 years to write. It really has taken me 50 years, from the moment I learned it and I learned this unity of the Bible and how it is one book. As one theologian once said, he said the Old Testament is like a house. It doesn't have a roof. The New Testament is the roof. And so, in many ways, one without the other do not make sense, and so it is to knowing how to read the Bible and how to apply it to life and realize that it's authenticity. That all the people who bring doubt about the Bible, they've never read it or they read it like the devil. The devil read the Bible. The devil believes the Bible. James said the devil believes and trembles. That is something more than 21st century Christians do. We don't tremble at the name of Jesus, but Satan trembles at the Word of God. And so, you can read it that way, you can read it or not read it at all, then criticize it, but if you read it, and you understand it, and you comprehend it, you would never want to be without it.

Jane Robelot: There's something in us that recognizes truth when we're really honestly seeking it. And I feel like this new generation, those that are in their 20s, they get it. They understand what's truth and what's not. Maybe it's a great idea to recommend to youth group leaders or small group leaders or young people who are forming their own Bible study start with this book, "How to Read the Bible".

Dr. Michael Youssef: Absolutely. And I know some families already said they want to do this with their children and read it at night. They've done with some of my other books. But this is a book that no family and no household should be without, and it should be read loud, and to the family or if an individuals or single people, they can get together and study it and then compare notes and talk about it. And look, in the end, I am very realistic, and I believe that those whom the Father will draw will come, but those who going to be stubborn and refuse, that's their responsibility, not mine. Ezekiel the prophet talks about if you're a watchman and you are seeing danger coming and you warn the people, then you're innocent, but if you see danger coming and you don't warn the people, their blood is in your hands. And I do not want to have blood on my hands, and that is why I will, with every breath I want to warn people come, come to the loving God while there is opportunity.

Jane Robelot: Maybe pastors need just be the ones who are first making this appeal to. Maybe pastors need to be the first ones to read this book.

Dr. Michael Youssef: I would long for young pastors just get it, read it. It will affirm the things that you might have believed once in your life and now you have rejected because you are afraid you might lose your job or for whatever reason. There are lots of reasons. But read this book. And I know that God will use it not only to bless you but bless your congregation.

Jane Robelot: It's taken you 50 years, you said, to really write this book. "How to Read the Bible (as If Your Life Depends On It)" is available now. And, Dr. Youssef, what is your desire for this book to accomplish?

Dr. Michael Youssef: It's a longing to show people that the Word of God, powerful, that the Word of God is true, that the Word of God is authentic, that the Word of God is the Word of God, and therefore it is his love letter to you personally. I am appealing to people. And we try to do everything possible at Leading The Way to make it available, of course, in bookstores, in Amazon, it's published by Salem, and it's wherever books are sold, but we make it easier for you, one step to Leading The Way and you get this book. And please don't get it and just put it aside. Read it. Read it immediately, and then give it to others to read or read it together with other people.

Jane Robelot: Dr. Michael Youssef, thank you so much for this gift. Thank you for the gift of your ministry which has inspired us for so many years now.

Dr. Michael Youssef: To God be all the glory.

Jane Robelot: To God be all the glory. And thank you all for being with us.
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