This last weekend Tom & I conducted a retreat for a local church. We started by asking participants about the pressures in their lives and the busyness that consumes so much of our time. We also surveyed the group to see how much time people spent in prayer and scripture study. Not surprisingly, most people spent less than 20 minutes per day praying. What did surprise me however was to hear that most of the participants had not opened the Bible in the past 24 hours. Few had read the scriptures in the last week.
The popularity of my recent series Tools for Prayer made me realize how desperately many of us crave that deeper sense of the presence of God that we connect to when we pray. But the results of this simple survey this weekend made me realize that many of us also need help in reading the scriptures. We don’t spend much time in the word of God because we really do not know why and so I thought that I would start a new series this week on tools for reading the scriptures.
The first question that comes to mind is: Why should we read the scriptures regularly?
There are many reasons to read the scriptures regularly and I am sure that my list here is nowhere near exhaustive:
- To gain knowledge: For many people reading the scriptures is an intellectual pursuit that increases our knowledge of God, and of what it means to be a follower of Christ. This was the first way that I encountered scripture reading. When I first became a Christian I used to read through the Bible each year, seeking to increase my knowledge of the ways of God. It was a wonderful and enriching experience but I soon started to realize that intellectual knowledge was not the only reason to read the scriptures.
- To deepen our intimacy with God: Reading scripture each morning has been a part of my life for many years and it has become one of the ways in which I draw close to God. However it is not in the reading of large chunks of scripture that I most often find that intimacy of relationship. It is usually when I sit and meditate on a single verse, savouring its words in a place of silence and quiet reflection.
- To bring us to repentance & forgiveness: JOHN 8:31-32 says: Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” God wants all of us to be transformed not just in our thoughts but in our actions and in our ways of life. We don’t just read scripture in order to increase our knowledge. Reading of scripture often exposes the dark and hidden places within us where we need to be transformed.
- To help us learn what the good life of God looks like. Jesus says to us: I am the way, the truth and the life. And again in 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 Paul says: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. The fabric of life as it is meant to be lived is written into the scriptures. We see it especially in the life of Jesus – not just what he says but every action is representative of the world as God intended it to be. Without the scriptures to give us a clear vision of that world we are easily distracted by other visions that bind us rather than liberating us.
- To learn what pleases the heart of God so that our own hopes and dreams become what God desires. This has become a growing purpose of reading the scriptures for me. I want the desires of my heart to be the same as those that stir the heart of God, but I know this will not happen unless I constantly read about the things that God desires. The gospels in particular inspire me with this vision.
- To prepare us for life in the kingdom of God. When I travel I always like to read books about the culture and customs of the country I am heading for. The Bible is like a study in the culture of the kingdom of God. Jesus came to show us what God’s eternal world, which we call the kingdom of God is really like – a place of mutual care, justice for all, freedom from oppress, abundance, peace and joy. And that is just a start.
As I mentioned at the beginning this is not a comprehensive list and if you would like to add other suggestions for why you read the Bible please leave a comment