138. Biblical Literacy

            I sometimes ask my adult Sunday School or youth group classes: “How many of you read your Bibles this week?” To those who answer positively, I follow up with; “What did you read and what did you learn?” My hope is that these questions will furnish answers that take us a while to discuss – after all, it’s their personal reading during the week which usually makes the most impact on their lives, not the Sunday morning sermon. Often, however, they don’t have much to say, especially the younger folks. A survey taken by Christianity Today, a while back, showed that only 45 percent who regularly attend church read their Bible more than once a week and over 40 percent who attend occasionally only once or twice a month.

            This, of course, has been a familiar topic for some time. But since the Bible is God’s written Word, and furnishes an essential part of the growing believer’s life, this tendency is unfortunate – which leads to our first question:

Why do a lot of Christians seldom read their Bibles?

1.    A lot of Christians seldom read their Bibles because we’re more attracted to novelty

How many of us read the same book over and over again? Once is usually enough. The first time you read the Bible, it’s full of surprises. The tenth time – not so much. We already know most of the stories and have the gist of the main teaching (or at least think we do). So why learn what we already know?

2.    A lot of Christians seldom read their Bibles because the Bible seems boring

Can I be candid? The Bible is often boring compared to the latest media; which is created to grab and hold our attention right away and keep holding it. The media is novel, it’s clever and you can get an entertainment fix without much effort. A comfortable chair and a passive mind is often all it takes. The Bible, on the other hand, is an ancient book, which, while it does have some fascinating stories in it, requires more work to understand, isn’t always entertaining, and, again, quickly becomes predictable. And it’s also boring sometimes for the next reason

3.    A lot of Christians seldom read their Bible because they’re not excited about what it teaches

A lot of what the Bible teaches is counter-cultural; it goes against the spirit and activities of our modern world. If we’ve learned to “love” the world (1 John 2:15); to become attached to its philosophies and values, the Bible can be convicting, irrelevant, or even infuriating. It’s out of touch with much of what we truly value if we’ve grown worldly.

4.    A lot of Christians seldom read their Bible because they’re so busy

We exist in a cultural bee-hive, always buzzing; constantly in motion – our lives packed with activities. We’re presented with a thousand options and only time to engage in a handful. Unless the Bible is in that handful, it’s hard to get to. We’d like to read it but . . .

5.    A lot of Christians seldom read their Bible because they refuse to allot prime time

Worthwhile Scripture contemplation requires sufficient energy and attention. If it’s done when we’re exhausted or distracted, it’s hard to enjoy or to get much out of our reading. In other words, it works best when we’re at our best. It also works best when we’re less likely to be distracted. For many of us (not all) this time is first thing in the morning when it’s quieter and we’re well-rested. This also helps set the tone for the day. For you night owls, it may be different. That’s fine.

6.     A lot of Christians seldom read their Bible because they’re not actively applying it

The Bible’s more than a history book. It’s filled with wisdom for today. Learning how to take it from the page to the heart to the life is an art aided by the Holy Spirit. Once you discover the power and sweetness of its application, though, it becomes more interesting. You find yourself growing; gaining victory and joy.

How can I become a committed student of the Word?

1.    I become a committed student of the Word by becoming a committed friend of “the Word”

We don’t worship the Bible. We worship “The Word”, who is Jesus, Son of God. The Bible is just one of God’s ways of leading us into a love relationship with Him. If following Christ is the greatest mission of our lives, then we’re drawn to soak up His love letter – the Bible. It’s one of our best ways of knowing and walking with our best Friend. And a deep relationship with Him blows the pleasures of this world away.

2.    I become a committed student of the Word by making a firm, regular time commitment to read and study it

Now, don’t be legalistic about this. For some of you, the same time is just not open (maybe you work a swing shift or have a crabby baby). The point, though, is that you’ve committed to reading the Bible every day if possible, and at a certain time if possible. This is a done deal, not a fresh choice to be re-decided every day. If it’s doesn’t become a habit, it probably won’t happen.

3.    I become a committed student of the Word by putting some effort into my reading and study of it

If you’re simply popping a quick, Bible pill and then heading out the door, you’ll get some benefit, but not much. It takes a bit of time and effort to gain depth and quality in your reading, usually at least fifteen minutes or more. It takes that long to even get concentrated.

4.    I become a committed student of the Word by slowing down

This is a critical choice. Many of Scriptures richest treasures are only found when we slow down, relax, and meditate on a verse or a few verses at a time. The book is deep, and it takes time to get to its depths. While you may choose to read larger portions, take time to focus on smaller parts of those sections; to meditate and pray over them. This, by the way, does bring greater novelty since we discover new truths or feel a deeper impact from them.

5.    I become a committed student of the Word by seeking to obey it

Again, application is the whole point; not just receiving a history or theology lesson. After you’ve figured out what Scripture is saying to you, try to find out why it’s saying it and how to use it on Monday and the rest of the week. James tells us “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves, do what it says. . .” (James 1:22)

6.    I become a committed student of the Word by cultivating new tastes

The Bible is actually a rich, satisfying book, but we have to develop a taste for it. It’s like trying to learn to eat more vegetables and less chocolate (which I haven’t mastered yet, by the way). It’s a much better spiritual food, but that sort of taste has to be acquired over time and practice. So dig in!