I am not usually much on surveys and statistics, but one stat that has remained consistent for over a decade is how little professing Christians in America (including pastors) read the Scripture. Barna’s 2020 report on The State of the Church, released in March 2020, stated that 14 percent of professing Christians claim (and in my experience, most overstate what they do, not understate) to read the Scripture daily.
A few years ago, I was reading A Concise Guide to Reading the New Testament: A Canonical Introduction by David R. Nienhuis. In the introduction, he states that after teaching undergraduates and seminarians the Bible for many years, he has concluded that “most of them have been trained to be Bible quoters, not Bible readers.” After teaching in a seminary setting for seventeen years, his assertion rang true. And I’ve taught in one of the world’s most conservative and theologically robust seminaries.
Often, the Bible is used to proof text arguments on theological topics or cultural issues. The Scripture is also referred to as inspiration and motivation for daily Christian living. But the Bible is emphatically not an encyclopedia, textbook, or self-help motivational guide. The Bible is the Word of God that tells the story of the Kingdom of God centering on Jesus, Lord of all. In the Scripture alone, we learn the true story of the world. God governs all by His authoritative Word.
While the Bible does not speak directly and specifically to every situation the believer faces, it does speak to every situation the believer faces. For instance, the Bible will not tell you directly whether you should take the accounting job in Akron or the management job in Atlanta. Nevertheless, the Scripture will help you examine your motivations, attitude, reasoning, and longings, which are more essential factors in your decision than the specifics to which Scripture does not speak directly.
No portion of your life and thinking should be Bible-free. As God’s people, we are accountable to Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word in every aspect of our lives. One problem is that we often approach the Bible in a self-centered way as if it exists to help us win arguments or answer questions on topics we are interested in. The Bible is meant to transform you, not simply help you in a way you have predetermined. In other words, the Bible makes you wise as you internalize its story.
The Scripture’s message is to form and shape us into a living reflection of Christ, the One who is the center and goal of the biblical story. We pour over, pray over, and meditate on the Scripture because, in so doing, we are learning our own story. The Bible’s story is meant to captivate our minds, hearts, emotions, and imaginations. We begin to have our cultural and ethical reasoning formed by being biblically-soaked. This viewpoint produces different results than forming cultural and ethical opinions and then going to the Bible to proof text our perspectives.
When we start with God and His story, knowing that by His sovereign grace, His story has become our story. Our eyes, ears, touch, smell, and taste are made new because the internalized Scripture changes us from the inside out, mainly in ways we don’t even perceive at the time and never expected. The Spirit of God exposes, strengthens, and matures us through the Word of God coming alive in the totality of our being.
I urge you to become Bible readers, not merely Bible quoters. But not simply Bible readers but also Bible hearers (the Bible is meant to be heard), Bible memorizers, and Bible meditators. Charles Spurgeon once said of John Bunyan, “Prick him anywhere, and you will find his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him.” May the same be true of each of us.