Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Read The Bible?

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Have you ever thought that meant we’re just supposed to read our Bibles?  Read ‘em more, read ‘em better, because then we’ll know what to do?  I think it’s a mistake if we believe and approach this transforming act as one that will result primarily in a smart mind and a head crammed full of wisdom and what to do.  That’s not it.

In his outstanding book, “Birthright,” David Needham writes, “. . .the renewal of our minds is far more than simply exercising brain power. A crucial ‘how’ of holiness is inseparable from knowing the truth of God’s Word, but it must be more than simply quantitative information. It must involve a participant, relational type of knowledge, which in the Bible is inseparable from the power of its Author.  Instead of simply telling us to ‘memorize the Bible,’ Paul prayed,

‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…’” (Ephesians 1:17-19 NIV.)

Knowing God and the riches He has given us is the point!

What do I do? Well, no longer is it my goal to commit scripture to memory so that I might not offend God, or so that I might not make Him mad or disappointed in me because of my actions resulting from not reading the Bible enough.  I heard that angle suggested about Bible reading for many years, which led more than a few people into disappointing false guilt when, having been given a standard of time they were supposed to spend reading, they concluded that they hadn’t read enough or good enough because their days weren’t as good as they thought they would be if they read enough.  Frankly, they had done nothing wrong!  But because they’d been taught to read their Bibles so as to not disappoint God, they assumed they were guilty.  They didn’t hear that from God, but it didn’t seem to matter because they had figured it out on their own without Him.  Or so they thought.

Look, all kinds of life and busyness and family and jobs and various distractions are going to happen to you, right?  So if you believe you have to put in a certain amount of time in the Bible in order to qualify for God’s blessings, or in order to be transformed, you’re going to struggle with false guilt which usually leads you to stop reading the Bible altogether.  And you’ll feel worse still, as it sits on your table, glaring at you.  “You haven’t picked up the Word today.”

Many of us have been taught that the Word of God is text on a page, something to be memorized, and not God Himself, someone to be known.  When Amy Grant sang Psalm 119:105—“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”—we figured that meant the Bible.  It would have been a better song if Amy had included the New Covenant fact of what God did concerning the Word:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

The Word is Jesus!  And where is the Word now?  Where is the “lamp unto my feet”?  In us, the receivers of Christ Jesus!  Considering the path you’re walking, aren’t you glad that the “light unto your feet” is in you?  You don’t have to carry a pocket version of the Bible so you’ll have the Word with you at all times—you already do!  You have much more than a pocket version!

I love the Bible and sometimes I memorize a verse or two—it’s a good thing!—but I don’t read it so I can be a “good Christian,” with lots of spiritual brownie points accumulating in my heavenly file. I memorize and think about certain passages and verses so that in my day, whether beginning, middle or end, I’m thinking about Him. Reflecting upon what He has done for me and what He has made of me, does something miraculous:  the real me, the newly created son of God, me, stands up and is noticeable.  I can tell!  My thinking is clear, my heart is open and on display, and I love without fear of consequence.

I’m transformed, I’m brought out, and I know it. The lie of my earthly citizenship and belonging is removed, and there I am, a heavenly creature.  The decoy attractions of this world appear as the ludicrous seductions they are, and true hunger and value and thirst and freedom invigorate me.  Hooray!  And things are as they should be, including me.

I don’t mean to imply that the scriptures are not sacred and “God-breathed,” because they surely are!  It’s just that we get deceived into thinking more highly of the text and our knowledge of it than of knowing God and the “God-breathed” part.  That’s what counts and that’s what transforms.  Needham writes, “Remember, God did not save us simply to use us.  He did not save us to get such and such quantity of holiness produced.  He saved us for love.”

He loves you perfectly, and that’s transforming.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Why Read The Bible,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click, or simply scroll down this page. You can also subscribe at the link by clicking on the red Subscribe button.)

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