Answering The "Why-Question" of Bible Reading
Why do we have the Bible at all?
Simply put, the Bible is a gift from our great Triune God. It has been written and preserved for us so that we might come to know and love Christ. In its pages our heavenly Father condescends to communicate with us thereby demonstrating His generosity and love. Having been inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Bible offers life, joy, and fullness to our Christian experience. In all of these things the Bible makes the true God known to us – the God in whom our salvation rests. Therefore, the Bible exists so that we might come to know God and by knowing Him, love and trust Him more and more.
This clears things up, right?
What?!?!? There are still some of you who don't read the Bible? Let me guess the top three reasons why you don't and offer you a few loving pastoral responses.
Reason #1: You don't feel like you have enough time to read the Bible.
Loving Pastoral Response: You aren't telling the truth.
A) 60 seconds in every minute
B) 60 minutes in every hour
C) 24 hours in every day
D) 365 days in every year
E) 10 years in every decade
My point is that in every moment that passes, one human being has had the exact same amount of time as any other human being. There are not the “busy people” who are only allotted 45 seconds per minute, and the regular people who have the standard 60 second allotment. We are all 60 second per minute people. The guy who reads the Bible through 12 times per year (yes, I really know of someone like that) and the person who gets burned out after only 12 chapters all experience the future at the exact same pace.
To put it another way, how we use time reveals what we truly value. As an example, consider the values of M.C. Hammer. How did he make use of his time? By publicly advocating that all of life should stop for something called "Hammer Time."
Reason #2: You were under the impression that Bible reading was about you.
Loving Pastoral Response: It isn’t.
Hmmm.... What a disappointment!
In these circumstances you have been left to conclude (though you wouldn't dare say it aloud for fear someone might think that you're unspiritual) that the Bible is more or less a mystery and that the only portions of it that are really helpful are those handful of passages that offer you:
A) Nuggets of wisdom for daily living.
B) Stories to allegorize and/or moralize without having to think very hard.
C) Proverbs reminiscent of something you once read in a "Chicken Soup For the Soul" book.
This approach can become very, very frustrating - and rightly so! You must resist the temptation of approaching the Bible as a moral how-to guide. To begin with begin with, this approach misses the whole point of the Bible, but more importantly you must see that approaching the Bible in this way indicates a very uncomfortable truth about yourself.
The fact is, sin has turned you into an egomaniac.... Yes! It's true for you and it's true for me too. As a matter of fact we have become so self-centered that we can even open the pages of God's Word thinking that it is a book primarily about (....get ready for this one....) us. But the Bible isn’t primarily about us. The Bible is a book about God. It is about His redemptive activity and His desire to rescue the ruined race of Adam through the person and work of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
In other words, the Bible ultimately exists to show us the glory and beauty of Jesus. Reading the Bible with our eyes on Him allows us to move our gaze from ourselves to our Savior. We must read the Bible and allow Christ to conquer our hearts day-in, and day-out and only then can we stop obsessing over ourselves and start obsessing over Him.
Reason #3: You were trying to read the Bible as a favor to God.
Loving Pastoral Response: You don't have any favors to offer Him.
If you’re like me you feel a kind of nagging guilt. Somewhere inside of you a voice is saying, “If you really cared about God then you would be reading the Bible more faithfully.” Eventually you succumb to the nagging guilt, reasoning with yourself, “Oh yes! If only I had stayed the course how much more satisfied I would feel about my spiritual vitality. If I had only persevered through that vast section of Leviticus that goes on and on about rashes, and hairs and priests, I would now be resting comfortably in my maturity as a Christian!"
Ah… but you see, you’ve given yourself away!
You’ve admitted that you believe you’re doing God a favor by reading His word. Yes! And the crushing guilt you feel when you miss your Bible reading is your heart telling you that God is frowning on you. On the other hand the satisfaction and contentment you feel after completing your day’s reading (assuming you occasionally do) is your heart telling you that God is just tickled pink with your deep spirituality. You are so convinced of this that you go off to work or school with the kind of smug confidence that encourages you to insert things into conversations like: “While I was thumbing through Song of Solomon early this morning I had this profound thought….”
What is the solution to this approach?
Just this – you must more fully recognize that God is not living in your favor. If you are a Christian, you are living in His. We call this favor, "grace" and we must intentionally live in the knowledge of it. You must remind yourself that as a Christian you are eternally loved and accepted NOT because of the disciplines of your daily devotional life BUT because of Jesus. Christ alone is the reason that sinful people can approach God at all… this is not only the very heart the Christian faith but also the reality which should permeate every aspect of the individual Christian life – including the way he/she approaches their Bible-reading.
As Christians we must virulently resist the Devil when he tempts us to think that God’s love for His people is either diminished or increased due to the regularity with which they read their Bibles. This is Satan's subtle way of cheapening what God has given His people in Christ.
While it is true that we ought not neglect regular, daily Bible reading, we must keep in mind that neglecting our Bibles is not a matter of inviting God’s wrath as much as it is failing to take advantage of one of His greatest blessings. The Bible is, after all, not a project that we must complete before death. It is a gift to delight in while we live.
Here’s what you know: You need to read your Bible regularly.
Here’s what you now know: Why.
Please prayerfully assess these things with glad hearts and an renewed enthusiasm to read His Word and thereby see more of Him.
Oh... and by the way, if you want to start reading the Bible through here's a helpful plan.