We live in times of unprecedented biblical illiteracy. In this article from earlier this year, Al Mohler works through concerning statistics about the state of biblical knowledge among American Christians. The conclusions he discusses remind us of an inescapable truth- Christians must read the Bible more than they do at the present time.
It would be wise for every Christian to read the whole Bible at least once a year. There are exceptions to this suggestion, but they would be to read certain sections of the Bible in greater detail and not to neglect the discipline of reading at least three or four chapters every day. While this sounds overwhelming, it takes less than half the time a person would spend watching an episode of TV. In my ESV Audio Bible, it takes the narrator less than thirteen minutes to read Colossians and a little over 20 minutes to read four chapters of Ezekiel. Imagine cutting out one episode of TV or the time it takes to scroll through Facebook and devoting that to reading the Bible! What kind of tangible difference would that make in your life? (This great post by Andy Naselli has a chart that shows how long it would take to read each book of the Bible. It doesn’t seem so overwhelming when you see it broken down like this.)
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Here are seven reasons we should read the Bible at least once a year.
Many of our modern worship songs talk about our deep desire to want more of God and we sing them with passion while ignoring the chief way we know more of him. The Bible comes from God and in it, he reveals himself to us. The more we read the Bible the more we know him. In the pages of the Bible, we gain a greater understanding of God’s being. This paragraph could become book-length if I were to list all of the glories of God we see in Scripture and began to reflect on how each one helps us love and trust him more. God is altogether glorious and good, and what the Bible reveals to us about him helps us to glory in who he is and understand how he works in the world more deeply.
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The more we read the Bible the more we will understand who God is, what Christ has done, who we are through faith in Christ, and how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. Developing this understanding is crucial to spiritual growth. Everyone wants four tips on how to be a better parent or three ways to get along with their spouses, but this is like training someone to do brain surgery without first teaching them anatomy and physiology. Scripture doesn’t just teach us the right things to do, but forms our character and changes our hearts.
We live in a culture rife with thorny ethical and cultural issues that Christians must know how to navigate. Scripture, while written almost 2,000 years ago, was inspired by the eternal God and speaks across all cultures. All issues are theological in nature, and so the first questions we must answer when thinking through our current controversies and pressure points are related to God and his truth. The basic truths about how we know what we know, who God is, the nature of the world he has made, the nature of human beings, the root of all human problems, what God has done to redeem humanity, what happens to the people whom God has redeemed, the mission of the church in the world, and what God bring about when the world ends help us understand how to think about protecting the unborn, human sexuality, racial reconciliation, caring for the poor, the proper role of government and showing hospitality to the refugee.
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I often hear pastors say things like, “I want to tell people on Sunday that they can put into immediate use on Monday mornings.” This sounds nice, but it creates an unhelpful expectation for both sermons and Bible reading. Many times we don’t learn things from a sermon or in Bible readings that apply to our lives in the moment, but the repeated reading of God’s word over time gives us a storehouse of truth to draw from when we need it. We often don’t know that the horrible phone call about the death of a relative, the diagnosis of cancer, or the pink slip is coming on the day it happens, but having God’s word stored up in our hearts gives us the resources to face these difficult circumstances with grace when they do. When I get bad news, I don’t want a sermon, but I remember many I have previously heard. In the same way, my initial response to tragedy is not to grab my Bible so I can sit down and read it, but a flood of God’s word comes to my mind. Like Joseph storing grain for the coming famine, the best way to be prepared to apply God’s word is to store it up in your mind and treasure it in your heart ahead of time.
One recent discipline I have established is having my personal devotions at home while eating breakfast before I go to the office. Often this means my kids are joining me at the table for breakfast while I’m reading Scripture. This has led to some great discussions about God and them picking up the importance of reading the Bible themselves. The other day my eight-year-old daughter asked why I highlighted verses, underlined certain lines in pencil, and drew boxes around particular words. I explained that I like to highlight and underline things that stand out to me. A few days later I was reading my Bible and she reminded me of that conversation. She said she was reading Psalm 96 in her bed and drew a box around “Sing to the Lord a new song” because that stood out to her. Now this is just one story from one of my kids and doesn’t establish some kind of statistical pattern, but I do believe that reading the Bible often in our home creates a love of Scripture in our children. They begin to read it themselves, and the Lord does amazing things in people when they are exposed to his word. In addition, when we are reading Scripture frequently ourselves it gives us the answers we need as our children are asking us questions about life’s most important issues. We won’t be tripped up by these conversations, but will be prepared with the truth of God’s word.
One reason many Christians are hesitant to share their faith is because of their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. They are afraid they will get questions they won’t be able to answer. I think this hesitation is often overblown, as we only need the most basic knowledge of the Gospel to share it and shouldn’t be afraid to say we don’t know how to answer a question, but the best way to overcome this fear is to grow in the knowledge of the Scriptures. As we grow in our grasp of the Bible, we better know how to address people where they are in their current state instead of giving them a prepared Gospel presentation and will know how to think on our feet when we hear objections and questions. Also, since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ,” knowing the Scriptures will help us to quote them along the way as we explain the Gospel.
Not only do we grow in our evangelistic effectiveness as our biblical understating increases, but it also serves as an aid in our discipling other Christians. We know how to help and encourage struggling believers more clearly when we know the Bible. We can offer them strong and solid words of hope instead of reciting tired platitudes and verses taken out of context. When we talk with a believer mired in sin, we can point them to Scripture that will give them real help as they seek to follow Jesus more faithfully. As we encounter Christian friends who are straying in their understanding of basic Christian truths, we will have solid explanations for these doctrines that will steer them in the right direction.
Many great Bible reading plans are available to help you get started. (I find the Bible Eater plan intriguing.) Choose one and begin discovering the riches of the whole of God’s word.
The First 15 Bible Verses a Christian Needs to Memorize
Eight Passages Every Christian Should Memorize
40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer
God’s Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts
This article was originally published on ScottSlayton.net. Used with permission.
Scott Slayton serves as Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL and writes at his personal blog One Degree to Another: scottslayton.net. He and Beth have been married since 2003 and have four children. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottslayton.
Publication date: October 10, 2016
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