Anyone with any exposure to Christianity knows there are things that you should do. This is true for the person who has been attending church their entire life and for the person who has had only a marginal experience with Christianity. There are a lot of things that we should do and we are often reminded of it. We should read our Bibles, pray, go to church, etc.… but WHY? Regardless of your level of involvement in church or with Christianity, there is often a sense of shame or guilt because we know what we should do but we often don’t do it. The true ‘shoulds’ of Christianity are things meant to nurture us, not give us a sense of guilt. My desire for this blog series is to go deeper into why these things are good for us and why we need them.
The true ‘shoulds’ of Christianity are things meant to nurture us, not give us a sense of guilt.
Let’s start with the first ‘why’ - why should I read the Bible? Most people, regardless of their level of engagement with Christianity, automatically have an assumption that the Bible is something that should be read occasionally. If you take a moment and Google how many copies of the Bible have been printed in the U.S. over the last several decades, you will find various numbers ranging from 5 to 6 billion. That’s a lot of Bibles in print, circulating around. This doesn’t even account for apps like Dwell or the YouVersion Bible app which have grown significantly in popularity over the last several years. Scripture is everywhere. We see references to it at weddings, funerals, in Instagram posts. We tattoo it on our bodies. We see Scripture written on signs at football games or on billboards on the side of the freeway. We understand to some degree that Scripture is important and good. Yet, I also rarely meet a person who says, “I consistently read my Bible”. So what accounts for this disconnect between what we should do and what we actually do?
We tattoo it on our bodies. We see Scripture written on signs at football games or on billboards on the side of the freeway. We understand to some degree that Scripture is important and good.
Could it be that reading the Bible has become a chore. It is in the same category as taking out the trash, doing the dishes, etc. If someone enters our home and sees heaps of garbage or dishes stacked four feet high in the sink, there naturally arises in us a sense of shame (usually). Likewise, if the question is asked, ‘Do you read your Bible?’, we often answer by making excuses; I just don’t have enough time, I don’t understand it, I’ve never been much of a reader, etc. However valid they may be, excuses are a verbal indicator that shame is at work. We create excuses out of fear of judgment or condemnation. Yet, John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Persistent shame over falling short in any of the ‘shoulds’ of Christianity will not lead to spiritual growth. In fact, it will do the exact opposite! Shame builds barriers and divisions. It is important to remember that while shame is contrary to our spiritual growth, true conviction (that is, the moment we realize that something we are or are not doing is contrary to God’s will) is complimentary. We confess and speak truth to shame, but listen carefully to conviction (1 John 1:5-9).
Persistent shame over falling short in any of the ‘shoulds’ of Christianity will not lead to spiritual growth.
Up to this point, we have focused on why we often don’t read Scripture. Admittingly, we are flying above this topic at 30,000 feet. So how do we move down into the practical? How do we stop looking at the Bible as a chore and start looking at it as sustenance? Sustenance is essential and life-giving.
Food is sustenance. When my stomach growls, I know that my body needs more calories and nutrients to continue working. I have to find and prepare food before I can enjoy a meal and satisfy that need. Likewise, Scripture is sustenance (Matthew 4:4). We have to do preparation work and enjoy it in order to satisfy that need. Just like I cannot consume calories by merely being near food, we also cannot grow spiritually by simply being near Scripture. We must consistently read it to enjoy its essential life-giving nature.
It is the written Word of God, and by it we can know Him more deeply which shapes our love for Him (John 17:17).
We must consider how Scripture is life-giving. What makes reading the Bible different from reading other books? Scripture is unique because it is how God has chosen to reveal Himself. It is the written Word of God, and by it we can know Him more deeply which shapes our love for Him (John 17:17).
JT English in his book “Deep Discipleship” provides a helpful illustration of this. He explains that he has been married to his wife for twelve years. She’s five feet four inches tall, has brunette hair, is in the technology industry, and is very artistic and creative. Anyone who personally knows JT and his wife, Mary, would know that this is totally incorrect! She is actually five feet ten inches tall, has blonde hair, and isn’t artistic but very athletic. He then says this, “Based on my inability to describe my wife accurately, you would wonder, Does he really love his wife, or does he just say that he loves his wife? You might wonder if I really knew her all that well”. As Jen Wilkin frequently says, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know”. The same is true to our relationship with God.
"The heart cannot love what the mind does not know".
This blog article only scratches the surface of why we should read our Bibles consistently. Fortunately, the greatest authority on the topic is Scripture itself! As with any new or challenging thing, it is best to take small steps. Begin with prayer and evaluate your heart. Have you been neglecting Scripture? Why? Do you need to confess anything to God and have faith that He will forgive and restore you (1 John 1:9)? In reading Scripture, a great place to begin is by reading a Psalm or Proverb each day. Another option is to join a life group or Bible study where you’ll have consistent opportunities to study Scripture and find encouragement within the community. There are no shortage of small steps to take! We must be diligent to take them.