I have something I’ve been thinking about a great deal, and I’m not sure how to make sure I say this in a right manner. It is hard to know how not to come across pridefully, and I’ll confess to you that I struggle with that sometimes. But there really isn’t any room for pride when we’re talking about God’s incredible grace, is there?
First of all, this is a post that is aimed at professing believers in Jesus Christ. Here it is, and please hear from me, not legalism that would have you check a box to do a duty, but a concerned and caring friend, okay? What I’ve been pondering is how much I wish my brothers and sisters in Christ could learn what a blessing it is to read and study God’s word. How much I wish that instead of crying and pleading and looking in Christian book after Christian book and from speaker after speaker and source after source for a ‘deeper’ sense of belonging to Christ or more, more, more in our experience of worship that instead we would feast on the word of God and find satisfaction in knowing Him and in the grace of a steady, daily growing in sanctification as we fill our minds with His word and begin to grow in discernment as the Holy Spirit uses His word to transform our hearts and minds and lives to the image of Christ, as we learn to obey His word. This is not wispy mystical stuff, and it doesn’t, poof, just happen to us after we really, really pray hard for it. It does take effort and commitment, though, and it really is a work of God in our hearts. We can't obey His word if we don't know what it says. We can't recognize when error is being taught if we don't know the truth. I say this is a post for professing believers, because I don’t want to be misunderstood here. What I pray for you, my friends who may read this post, is that God in His mercy and grace would open your heart so that you may have ears to hear, eyes to see, faith to believe and obey His word and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God.
When I read the book Radical, I remember thinking that of all the things David Platt has at the end of the book as part of the radical experiment, I was surprised by ‘read the Bible all the way through.’ I was surprised that this has come to be considered ‘radical.’ That grieves me, I’m sad to say. Is it really so radical for a Christian to read God’s word all the way through once, not to mention that one could even do it, say, consistently? Don’t we want to know it and learn to obey it? Isn’t one evidence of a saved person that they have a growing hunger and thirst for God’s word and for His righteousness? Have you ever read Psalm 119 and pondered whether that kind of zeal resides in your heart? Have you ever wondered why a quick little devotional thought or verse for the day not read in context doesn’t seem to change your life? I am not saying I’ve arrived at some super spiritual height and I’m not saying there isn’t much room for growth in my life because that's not it. I am just a wife and mom who desires to love and obey Jesus, but I want to worship and love the Jesus who is, not some Jesus from my, or anyone else's, imagination. What I am saying is that there ought to be an ongoing and growing hunger for God’s word in a believer’s life, yes? That’s not radical, is it?
It’s so tempting to make excuses about time and not being able to read the Bible all the way through prayerfully, and I have to tell you that one of the things that just hurts when I hear it is when a mom or dad laughs about not having time to read the Bible through, and others all say knowingly, “You have kids.” I know that the challenges of parenting small children can change when and how we have time to read the Bible, but please don’t let that be an excuse. I say that, not as a judgmental legalist, but as someone who has seen the fruit of time spent in God’s word, reading it and thinking on it, and who truly desires the same for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can testify and really want to encourage you that if you ever start reading the Bible through, making it a daily habit to spend time with God through prayer and the reading of His word, you really will begin to see your thinking become more biblical. God is extremely kind in this. When reading and understanding the Bible becomes very important to you, it’s really amazing the gradual growth you’ll see when you look back. I don’t say this because I came to this because I’m so smart to have figured this out on my own. No, humbly, gratefully, I tell you that I know that it is only because God my Redeemer put a hunger in my heart for His word that I am so thankful for, and I can’t imagine not reading it often now. I am extremely thankful for the godly influences along the way in my life who have encouraged me the way I hope to be encouraging you in this post.
And, yes, I have kids, too, busy ones. And they were even younger when our pastor in Indiana first challenged us to read the Bible through and the fire was lit in my own heart. And how I needed God’s word filling my mind and training my thinking then, during one of the hardest years of my life. How I need it today, too.
I remember how excited I was when I read the Bible all the way through and for the first time really read for myself all those Bible stories I thought I knew frontwards and backwards after years and years of Sunday School, and I read them in the context of the whole redemptive plan of God and how my heart began to rejoice as I saw those stories, not as isolated moral lessons, but as a great tapestry of God’s grace.
And now I pass the encouragement on to you, my friends. Spend time reading the whole Bible with an eye to see what God has told us about Himself. We in this country are so blessed to have access to the Bible in abundance. What wealth we have! Let us not squander it by letting that Bible sit unread on the shelf while we replace actually reading the Bible ourselves with chasing after what other people say about the Bible. Let us not dishonor the God who created us and redeemed us to Himself by neglecting, or worse by lauging away our neglect of, the Word He has graciously given us. May I encourage you to spend more time reading the Bible itself before reading another book about the Bible? It is so very worth the time spent.