Before I start, I want to confess I am totally guilty of this so I’m including myself in this question:
Why is it easier to read a book, blog, magazine articles, or devotional than to turn to scripture when we are looking for spiritual nourishment?
I’m not picking on books, blogs, magazines, or devotionals in the slightest; I write some of these so, obviously, I feel they have value. Immense value. I’ve spent hours pouring over C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, Wayne Grudem, Charles Swindoll, and John Piper, just to name a few. I deeply appreciate their works and dedication to making scripture, truth, and theology accessible for people. I’m excited hearing others share their stories of what God is teaching them through blogs. I’m drawn towards magazines that make me think. I love getting devotionals which remind me of my focus.
Why don’t we express the same kind of passion when we talk about reading the Bible?
Maybe it is because it is intimidating: it is a varied collection of books that range from narrative, to poetry, to law, to letters, and even to prophecy. It can be hard to know where to start, but we need to be willing to begin. We need to be willing to learn about our God as He has revealed Himself through scripture.
Maybe because it can be harder to find application. If we look deeply into hearts, we have to admit we are selfish. Are we just looking for “what’s in it for me?” instead of coming at it from a perspective of trying to better understand God and the whole grand story of His redemptive grace? God is the Hero; it ultimately isn’t about us. He has saved us, but that is because He is good; not because anything we’ve done to deserve it.
Maybe because we think we know it all. Growing up in the church, I could recite stories and verses with the best of them. However, I doubt any of us even come close to the knowledge that was commonly described in scripture: scholars typically memorized the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Ironically, the more we learn, the more we learn that we don’t know.
Maybe because it’s confusing. Anyone who has tried to read straight through the Bible usually hits a point of frustration around Leviticus, if they don’t get stuck there altogether. However, God gave us the whole Bible for a reason: Jesus is the fulfillment of the law in the Old Testament. We can’t understand Jesus and grace without understanding the Old Testament.
None of these are good reasons. They are understandable, but there is a profound difference between understandable and good. If we are to call ourselves Christians, we need to go to the source. That’s where C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers got it. That’s the place that Wayne Grudem, Charles Swindoll, and John Piper spend time. It’s where we need to be too.
There are a lot of good reasons to read the Bible, and to be passionate about it.
For starters, I could say Paul walked on water and Peter was a tax collector (neither are true, by the way!), but if people don’t study for themselves, that misinformation, while somewhat immaterial, might be allowed to persist. (Just in case you were concerned, it was Peter who walked on water and he was a fisherman.) But, there are a lot of things we say are in the Bible that actually aren’t and many things that we don’t remember that scripture actually says.
Try as we might, we can’t distill God down into one little human-authored book. The Bible is different: “All scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV). It comes straight from God; the only way to truly know Him is to go straight to the book He divinely inspired. Other resources are great because we can glean wisdom from brilliant minds, but ultimately, these authors are still fallen human beings, capable of mistakes.
If we start following authors as our primary source of spiritual nourishment rather than a secondary one, we run the risk of becoming primarily their follower. It is easy to do. We revere their work so we put them up on a pedestal and we connect with other people who like them. We start talking about their work, maybe attending conferences just to see them.
It starts to sound a little bit like worship doesn’t it?
This is the kind of behavior that should be happening with Christ as the focus, not another human. God should never be secondary.
When we are reading the Bible and come across a question, there are resources to help us understand. But, that is what they are: resources. Resources like books, blogs, magazine articles, and devotionals are wonderful tools to help us learn more and keep us focused on God. But, if that is all we are passionate about, it begs the question, who are we actually following?
Despite our common objections, the Bible is exciting, interesting, and applicable. Wouldn’t it be great if next time we were asked about what we are reading, we answered passionately about scripture? I am sure Lewis, Chambers, Grudem, Swindoll, and Piper would all be proud. What’s more, God would be.