Do you get enough Bible?
In a past series of blog posts on the ‘Call to Missions’ we concluded that if one is properly relating to God and pursuing godliness, there is little to fear in terms of missing God’s call, whether to missions or any other pursuit. If you haven’t read that post yet, click here to go to it now.
We then determined that the way to ensure that one is properly relating to God and pursuing godliness is through the practice of the spiritual disciplines or habits of grace. We composed a list of habits of grace that are biblical, that is, they are taught or modeled in Scripture.
And the first habit we will examine is Bible intake.
No habit of grace is more important than the intake or consumption of God’s Word. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.
And the reasons should be obvious. In the Bible we learn who God is and who Jesus is. The Bible tells us about God’s law and shows us how we have all broken it. In the Bible we learn how Jesus died as the sinless substitute for lawbreakers and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn God’s way and His will. We learn how God wants us to live and what brings joy and satisfaction in life. None of this information is available anywhere else. Therefore, if we want to know God and be godly, we must know the Word of God.
While most of us would nod in agreement with the last paragraph and honour God’s Word with our lips, we must confess that our hearts (and eyes, ears, hands, and minds) are often far from it. Regardless of how busy we become with all other things, as Christian we must never forget that the most transforming practice available to us is the disciplined intake of Scripture.
So how do we take in Scripture? There are a broad range of ways to consume the Word of God.
Let’s look at a few.
Hearing God’s Word
The easiest of the disciplines related to intake of God’s Word is simply hearing it. It may seem silly to include this as a discipline, but it will usually require developing the practice of regularly attending a Bible-believing church where the Bible is faithfully preached.
Luke 11:28 - But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” Simply listening to God-inspired words is not the point. The purpose of all methods of Bible intake is to do what God says and grow in Christlikeness. The method of intake Jesus encourages in this verse is hearing God’s Word.
Romans 10:7 - So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. Gifts of faith are often given to those who discipline themselves to hear the Word of God.
1 Timothy 4:13 - Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Here Paul is instructing Timothy to make provision for the people to hear the Word of God by reading it to them.
Reading God’s Word
The EFC’s Canadian Bible Engagement Study published in 2014, reports that less than 5% of Canadians read the Bible every day and only 14% report reading the Bible at least once per month.
Jesus often asked questions about people’s understanding of the Scriptures, sometimes beginning with the words “have you not read…?” (Matthew 19:4, Mark 12:10). His assumption is that those claiming to be the people of God would have read the Word of God. And a case could be made that this question implies a familiarity with the whole Word of God.
Since “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), shouldn’t we read it?
In Revelation 1:3, God promises a blessing to those who read and heed His Word. But only those who discipline themselves to do so will receive the blessing.
We must draw on God’s endless store of grace from day to day as we need it, not from time to time.
Two practical suggestions are: First, make the time every day to read God’s Word. The time will never be available or convenient, so we must make it a priority. It is a matter of discipline and motivation. Second, use some sort of reading plan. A google search for Bible reading plans will yield 109,000,000 results. Pick one and stick to it.
Studying God’s Word
If reading the Bible can be compared to cruising the width of a clear, sparkling lake in a motorboat, studying God’s Word is like slowly crossing the same lake in a glass-bottomed boat. The motorboat crossing provides an overview of the lake and a speedy, passing view of its depths. The glass-bottomed boat of study, however, takes you under the surface of Scripture for an unhurried look of clarity and detail that is normally missed by those who simply read the text.
Ezra 7:10 - For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra disciplined himself to study God’s Word.
Acts 17:11 - Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
According to the late RC Sproul, we fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, or because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy. If you are new to the concept of studying God’s Word, I would suggest that you visit www.mission119.org and begin to study it there.
Memorizing God’s Word
There is probably not a Christian anywhere who would disagree that Scripture memorization is a good thing to do. But when asked to memorize Scripture, most of these same people will look at you like you have two heads. They associate all memorization with the memory efforts required of them in school. It was work, and most of it was uninteresting and of limited value. Frequently heard, also, is the excuse of a bad memory. But what if I offered you a thousand dollars for every verse you could memorize in the next week. How would your attitude toward Scripture memorization change? Would it improve?
Think about this: any financial reward would be minimal when compared to the accumulating value of the treasure of God’s Word deposited into your mind. When the Word is stored in your mind, it is available to the Holy Spirit to bring to your attention when you need it most. That’s why the author of Psalm 119 wrote, “I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (verse 11).
There is much more that can be said about Scripture memorization and perhaps we will tackle that as a separate blog post at some later date. Stay tuned for that.
Next time, however, we will look at meditating on Scripture and applying the Word of God.
What do you do to make sure your Bible intake is adequate? How much is adequate?
Leave us a comment and let us know.