By Drew Zuverink
"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double - edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
Why do you read the Bible?
Have you ever thought about that question? Reading scripture is important, all Christians know that, but our aim in reading it, or what we hope to gain from it, is also important.
Our church just finished a Bible reading challenge where we read 5 chapters a day for 30 days straight. We had a mixture of different feedbacks, but some shared that 5 chapters is just too much. Some people felt that they couldn't get much out of reading 5 chapters because it was too much information. Whether you agree with that or not, that feedback raises a good question. What do you mean by "get something" out of it? When you sit down to read your Bible, what are you hoping to receive? What are your goals?
For many people their goal is to find a verse, passage, or chapter that encourages them, motivates them, or gives them some other form of application for their individual life. In other words, many people approach the Bible with the motivation of what can this do for me? That is why some people struggle to read more than a chapter or two at a time - because once they find one application for their day, why keep reading right? They have what they came for.
But is this the right way to approach our Bibles? And most importantly, is it how God wants us to read it?
Let me suggest 5 reasons for people to read the Bible.
(1) TO KNOW GOD.
The first thing that we must always remember is that the Bible is not about us. It is not primarily a book about people or morality, it's about God. Romans 1:20 says that people can learn about God's eternal power and divine nature just by observing the created world, but without the Bible, that's all that we could know about him. Only in scripture are we able to learn what God is actually like as a person. A.W. Tozer once said, "What we think about God is the most important thing about us." I completely agree, because our understanding of what God is like impacts everything that we think and do. Not every chapter is going to have an application for how we are to live, so don't only read it that way. Sometimes it's more important to ask the question, what does this chapter teach me about what God is like?
(2) FOR KNOWLEDGE.
How much knowledge of God's word do you have? Full disclosure, my devotions always involve 5 chapters of the Bible. That has been my habit for as long as I can remember. I don't say this to brag, and I'm sure many people read much more than I do, but this habit has given me a relatively strong understanding of scripture as a whole. If I approached the Bible strictly to find application for that day, I would not have the amount of knowledge that I do now. This is important for a few reasons. I'll mention three.
1. Knowledge protects us from being led astray. The better understanding of scripture, the easier it is to identify false teachings. Sadly, because many people approach the Bible strictly for life application, they don't have enough knowledge and are led astray by bad doctrine.
2. Knowledge leads to correct understanding of scripture as a whole. The Bible is composed of various books, that together, tell one big story. It is important to read all of the Bible so that we can understand how it all fits together.
3. Knowledge helps us fight against temptation. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Luke chapter 4, he drew upon his understanding of scripture in order to fight against temptation.
(3) TO KNOW GOD'S WILL.
It is not wrong to ask what does this passage mean for me? In fact, it is a very good thing to learn how God wants us to live. I simply mean that it is not the only reason to read the Bible. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's (moral) will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will." Approaching scripture to learn how God wants us to live is definitely part of why we should read the Bible.
(4) FOR SANCTIFICATION.
When Jesus prayed for his disciples in John 17:17 he said, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." He also said in John 15:4 "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." There is great power in the words of scripture, power that transforms us from the inside out. A regular and rich devotional life plays a major role in freedom from sin and conformity into the image of Christ.
(5) TO BE WITH GOD.
The Bible is not just an ancient text, it is the very words of God. When we read scripture, we are just like Mary in Luke 10, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him talk. For those of us who love God and want to be with him, the Bible is one of our primary ways of doing so. Often times it is not enough for us to listen to him for just a few minutes, our love for him cries out for more. 2 Timothy 3:16 also says that all scripture is from God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Sometimes the words of scripture encourage us, sometimes they bring reassurance to our doubts, and sometimes they convict us of sin. When we are with God, the Holy Spirit brings us what we need.
Think again to what you hope to "get out of" your Bible reading. It is not simply a roadmap for how we are to live our lives, although it does help with that. If you only read it for individual applications, you will miss out on so much that the Bible has for you, so please don't stop once you've received your motivational verse for the day. Continue reading, because it's really hard to understand what's truly going on if you only read a chapter or two at a time. Just think about it, when's the last time that you read a novel and stopped after two pages thinking, "That's enough for today, I'll read two more pages tomorrow." Or when have you started a movie only to stop it five minutes in because, "I just want to think about those five minutes for today. I'll come back for another five minutes tomorrow so that I don't have information overload."
There is a time and a place for meditating on small sections of scripture, I 100% agree, but that should not replace our regular Bible reading. If you haven't read through the entire Bible yet, join us for our Bible challenge of 3 chapters each day! If you do that, you'll finish in a year.
(I am more than willing to have conversations about this, so please, if you disagree or just want to discuss this further - contact me and we can set up a time to meet.)