My wife recently began her second in a series of classes in American Sign Language. She came home from class last night, and she told me about something that I think was pretty relevant to today’s lesson from The Ever Loving Truth. She said that her instructor started reviewing very quickly what they were supposed to have learned in the previous class. My wife quickly realized that her instructor was reviewing things she didn’t know and that they had not gone over in her previous class, and that sent a quick jolt of panic through her. How was she going to succeed in this class if she was going to have to play catch-up the entire time?
This is a similar issue we face as Christians. We are trying to live for Jesus, we are trying to live according to the truths of Scripture, but when it really comes down to it, many of us haven’t spent much time reading the Bible to know what those truths are. We are always playing catch-up, so to speak. Sadly, though, we have no jolt of panic about it. We figure we have a lifetime to figure it out, or perhaps we think that God doesn’t care whether we read the Bible or not. But we’re wrong.
Today I’d like to share some reasons why I believe that anyone can read the Bible. After that, I’d like to share why I think it’s so important that everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus must read the Bible regularly.
- The Bible Isn’t Too Hard To Understand. One of the biggest reasons people give for not reading the Bible is that it is just too difficult to understand. They have tried to read it in the past, or they have heard it read in church, and they just don’t get what it’s saying. I can completely relate to this, because I have had this same thought in the past. Truthfully, there are some areas of the Bible that are a little more difficult to grasp than others. But that would make sense, considering that it was written between 3400 and 1900 years ago (depending on which part you’re reading), in cultures that were very different to ours today. It was written in many different literary styles, like poetry, songs, legal writings, and personal letters. And on top of it all, we are all imperfect human beings with clouded understanding of just about everything. We can’t expect to understand everything clearly until we get to Heaven and God chooses to make it clear for us. But even so, we must also remember that, if we are followers of Jesus, God’s own spirit has entered us (see Romans 8:9). That same spirit “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). If we will simply pray for help, God is right there, ready and willing to provide it whenever we ask Him. That’s not to say that reading the Bible will automatically get super easy. We get better in every area of our lives by persevering and striving. The same goes with our spiritual lives. And just like my wife’s first ASL class, where they weren’t pressed as hard as they should have been or taught every concept they should have been taught, we won’t be prepared for our spiritual battles if our Biblical instruction isn’t also a little rigorous. (see here for more detailed discussion)
- The Bible Isn’t Too Hard To Read. As a kid, I was never big into reading the Bible on my own, but the only Bible I had was a King James Version (KJV). Now, I’m not putting the KJV down in any way – I still like to read passages from there every once in a while – especially passages that I’m familiar with from my childhood, like John 3:16. Where else can you see the word begotten? But as a whole, the KJV is very difficult to read when you’re not used to reading that form of English. Now days, I prefer the New International Version (NIV) or the Holman Christian Standard (HCSB) translations, simply because of their modern English usage. But there are plenty of others to choose from, too. Often people argue that the KJV is the most accurate translation, and that any other translation that is in any way different from the KJV is just plain wrong. I think these people are saying this more because they have grown up with the KJV, and nobody likes change. It’s true that if you read some passages from the KJV side by side with the same passage from the NIV, they sound quite different, almost as if they are saying very different things. The truth is, the KJV was translated from Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek word for word as closely as possible. The NIV, on the other hand, uses whole phrases and the main thought behind them when translating into English. So it’s more of a thought for thought translation. There are definitely going to be some difference between the wording that results from these two kinds of translations, but I have yet to see any differences that are so blatant as to be able to say that they say opposite things. My suggestions for anyone who thinks the Bible is too hard to read is to try a different translation. If you are a die-hard KJV-ist, and can’t bring yourself to move to NIV, try the New King James Version. It’s alot like the original KJV, only with more modern English. The best option of all is to have 2 or 3 translations to read from, so that you can always see a verse from different angles no matter what. That will help in understanding things a lot better. If reading, in general, is not your strong suit, consider listening to an audio version of the Bible – in different translations. Many free ones exist on the internet (including the site I like to use for looking up scripture, BibleGateway.com).
Reasons why all believers must read the Bible:
- It’s Half of our Relationship with God. In order to have a relationship with someone, you have to communicate with them, and they have to communicate with you. I have a brother who I only talk to once or twice a year, I’m ashamed to say. I don’t call him, he doesn’t call me. I don’t write him emails or texts, and he doesn’t write me either. We have virtually no relationship. The same goes in our relationship with God. In order to have a relationship with Him, we not only have to pray and talk to Him, we must also allow Him to talk to us. The way He has chosen to do this is through His Word, the Bible (see Hebrews 1:1-2). And this means that we have to read the Bible every single day. Only listening to the pastor on Sundays isn’t enough.
- The Bible Contains Instructions for our Lives. For a book that was written so long ago, you know it has to be more than just mere words from the hands of men, because it contains application to our lives even today. The core message of the Bible talks about the human condition. It talks about why we are the way we are, and why we do the things we do. And better yet, it gives us guidance on how to live ethically, how to interact with God, and how to get into a right relationship with Him, so that we can live forever with Him. But if someone doesn’t read the Bible daily, if they only rely on listening to sermons (which is a good thing…don’t get me wrong), they are only piecing together a few of the puzzle pieces – 1 day in 7, if you will. They don’t get the whole picture, and therefore are missing out on what God has for them.
- Missing Out on the Truth of the Bible Can Lead to Ruin. When people don’t understand the entire Bible, when they only take bits and pieces from here and there, that is how cults get started. A friend of mine once joked with me that the Bible actually says “There is no God!” I looked it up…he was right! There it was, in black and white. Psalm 14:1. But the whole verse actually says “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” See? Taken out of context, the Bible does say that there is no God. But if you read the whole verse, you can see that that isn’t what the Bible was saying at all. In fact, it was saying quite the opposite. When we fail to read and understand the entire Bible, we are putting ourselves in danger of making some huge mistakes. Take the Episcopal Church and it’s acceptance of a homosexual bishop and it’s allowance of same-sex marriage ceremonies in it’s churches. They claim that they are focusing on the Bible’s push for loving everyone. Unfortunately, they are missing the many, many themes in the Bible where sin is abhorred (more than hated!!!) by God. Unfortunately, now that they have opened themselves up to accepting such sin, what will they do whenever other sin in introduced into their church? What happens if they had a practicing pedophile apply to be a bishop? Could they accept him? If not, they are then going back on their own standard. They’ve opened themselves up for ruin. The same goes for us if we don’t take in God’s Word – all of it – on a regular basis.
I realize that a lot of this sounded like preaching today, and I apologize for that. Truthfully, this didn’t follow much of the lesson from The Ever Loving Truth today, but I still felt it was important to write. If you are someone that doesn’t read the Bible much, and after reading this you have any desire whatsoever to start reading it more, but you don’t know where to start, please let me know. I’ll try to help. And know that I said a little prayer for you today. I’m definitely not perfect – I don’t read the Bible much on Saturday’s – it’s something that I should work to improve, to read it every single day. And I definitely need to improve my prayer life. So let’s commit together to get better in these areas, so that we can get closer to this great God who I believe loves us very much.