While seasons change, God remains the same.
I have found this to be a grounding truth in the various seasons of my life. How true this is especially in the turn of a New Year. One of the best ways to live this out is by cutting time out for reading the Bible.
Many surveys continue to show how Christians are engaging minimally with the Bible. Even among Christian leaders, there is a downward trend in so far as these leaders live out of a biblical worldview. Is this the reason why our personal and church lives are plagued by so many ills?
This blogpost serves as a cure to this spiritual anemia. The proposition is fairly simple: Spending time reading the whole Bible is of great benefit to the Christian life. I could think of several ways this is true:
- We enjoy God’s Word the more we read it (Psalm 119:18, 27, 35-37). Just the same way we grow in our enjoyment of friendships, spouses or hobbies through spending more time with them, so does our love of God’s Word grow as we spend time in it.
- We are able to stand in the day of temptation and to victoriously wage war against sin (1 Cor 10:12-13, Jn 17:14-15).
- We are more grounded and are able to face life’s challenges and divergent worldviews (Eph 4:11-15, Jn 16:33, Jude 3).
- We develop more confidence to live the Christian life and to share the gospel (Mt 28:18-20, Jn 17:18-19, Rom 10:14-15, 1 Pet 3:15, 1 Jn 2:18-20).
However, while we may intuitively hold to these advantages of reading the Bible, several obstacles come in the way of our reading. In this last part of the article, I want to offer some several remedies that can aid our reading of the Bible.
1. Acknowledge the reading of God’s Word as part of spiritual warfare
While spiritual warfare conjures up demonic battles and deliverance services, I use it here in a more modest and everyday sense. Spiritual warfare is part and parcel of the Christian life, and it has to do with what keeps us off the narrow way of Life. Reading the Word of God is the primary way we learn to think God’s thoughts after him, how we grow in spiritual maturity and how we are strengthened in our service to God. Satan is aware of this and will use a great number of distractions to prevent us from our direct communion with God in Word and prayer. This strategy of deception is evident in Satan’s proposition to Adam in the garden “did God actually say” and also his main job description (Gen 3:1, John 8:43-45, Rev 12:9, 20:3, 8). Acknowledging bible reading as spiritual warfare is connected to the second remedy.
2. Engage Prayerfully with the Word
What is remarkable in the Bible is that the demons and even Satan reveal a high level of acquaintance with God’s Word (Mt 4:1-11, James 2:19). Many people even do miracles in the name of God and his Word (Mt 7:21-23). The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had large portions of Scripture memorized, yet refused to embrace the Life offered them in the Scriptures through Christ (Jn 5:37-40). It is therefore possible to read the Word and remain unchanged by it (James 2:22-25). This is a unique danger for those who have been followers of Christ for some time. Familiarity can easily breed contempt. The antidote is to engage God’s Word prayerfully, acknowledging that it is wisdom for Life, honey to our tastebuds, sweet melody to our ears, power for transformation, and the great story of our redemption. In other Words, Scripture is our very Life.
3. Connect every Portion with the Great Story of Redemption
If you have ever tried to read through the Bible, I can bet that you had great challenges dealing with specific parts of the Bible. For example, reading through the rituals of Leviticus, scrolling through the genealogies of Chronicles and trying to grasp the imageries, countries and antique language of the Prophets. In fact, we can easily see these portions of Scripture as either very difficult or not important for our Christian life. Let Jesus show you how they may be important.
After his resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and says something remarkable “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). What Jesus is saying is that there is a way in which the creation narrative, the Tower of Babel, the Egyptian slavery of the Israelites, the period of Exile, the Kings, the sacrifices and priests of the Old Testament, all point, either directly or indirectly, to Christ. Upholding the way the Bible tells one Big Story of Redemption can help us better handle the difficult parts of Scripture.
4. Decide on Time and Format that works best for your Schedule
Our modern day realities mean that our working hours or the format of our work, in a hybrid world, may be a bit dynamic. However, it is necessary to cut out specific time to do our reading. This can either be early in the morning before the cries and runs of our little ones; or perhaps during lunch hour as we break from our working activities; or even maybe a late night evening when all is quiet. Be it as it may, we must have a set time. Using each of these moments for Word and prayer can better strengthen our walk. This is because we will have time, throughout the day, to fellowship with our Father. With the benefits of audio Bibles, we can still ingest and engage with God’s Word during our free time or on a commute to work or to drop our children to school. We have no excuse. An old Scottish Minister by the name Murray M’Cheyne developed his yearlong Bible reading plan to help individual Christians in a way that could also be used for family devotion.
Savor the Saviour’s Word
A last encouragement is that what we are doing through Bible reading is not earning a relationship with God. We know and are convinced that through faith in Christ, we have a relationship with God. Our reading of the Bible is therefore not an exercise of self-centeredness but an exercise of savoring the Savior. In reading the Scripture, we are living out what it means not to live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). In reading the Word, we are growing in our salvation as Christ prays for us “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Making the most of the Word is to make the most of the privilege of being a child of our Heavenly Father. It is to grow in our familiarity of Him, being shaped by his commands, warned from various dangers, and commissioned for various means of service. May our reading of the Word be profitable.
Featured image from Alexandra Fuller http://www.unsplash.com
Further Resources for Bible Reading
Top Apps and Sites for Spiritual Growth
Tips for Navigating Difficult Passages of the Old Testament