“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we as Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. ‘My God,’ you will say, ‘if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How will I ever get on in the world?’” Soren Kierkegaard
Some people read the Bible like it’s a travelogue of places they never expect to visit. Hobbyist traveloguers read just for the pleasure of knowing about exotic locations, but have no intention of making the trek there or exploring it in person. No harm, no foul. But the way you read a travel book transforms when you’re planning a trip for a certain destination. If you’re like me you’ll study about all the sites you intend to actually visit – how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to see.
It seems to me that many evangelicals study the Bible so they can be right about things. You know, right about God, salvation, heaven, hell – all the important things to be righter than the Catholics and other liberal brands of Christendom.
Don’t get me wrong, believing right things about all the right things is important, but it’s no replacement for living the right way. They say that the former leads to the latter, and in a perfect world I couldn’t agree more. Right doctrine should always lead to right doing. Problem is, we don’t live in that perfect world yet, and it’s entirely possible to know what’s right and not actually have the will to do it. I’m not saying that doctrinal study of the Bible has no merit, but that its merit reaches beyond winning debates about Supralapsarianism with fellow seminary grads. The only debate I care to win is the one I’m always having with myself about whether or not I’m going to do the will of God!
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.” Winston Churchill
I also think that a lot of people read the Bible defensively, which is probably more the fault of us preachers who teach defensively. We treat and teach Christians like they are always on the precipice of being deceived by some contemporary false teaching. Many ministries are all about protecting our spiritually frail brothers and sisters from teetering into the crocodile-filled moat of deceptive teaching, which straddles both sides of the narrow path. They have to read the Bible everyday and listen intently to our sermons – mostly listen to our sermons – in order to avoid being swept up by the latest cult.
Of course, there’s the perennial possibility of losing our footing and being doctrinally snared by the deceiver. And of course, knowing the Word is the primary key to avoiding deception. There’s no argument here against that reality. I’m just saying that a purely defensive approach to Bible study is lopsided. Jesus said he’d build his Church and hell’s gates wouldn’t prevail against it. To me, that sounds more like us carrying ball and hell on the defense.
Read it for marching orders instead of merely for comfort and safety
“Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” Soren Kierkegaard
I’ve never been much of a daily devotional book reader, but I began reading a very popular one that a friend had given me. For a month or so I was quite impressed with it, that is, until I began to realize that the themes everyday all surrounded one thing, my comfort and safety in the tender care of Jesus. Especially in times of great difficulty – and I’ve had a few – I’m so glad to be reminded of how close he is to the brokenhearted. But there has to be more to our Christian disposition than our neediness and frailty.
Don’t get me wrong, I like feeling comfortable and safe as much as the next guy, but comfort and safety are overrated. We’re not saved for safety or converted for comfort, but for dangerous adventure. If we’re bored with our Christianity it’s probably because we’ve lost our sense of mission and adventure, and our Bible reading is simple survival till Jesus comes.
Instead of the thrill of a lifetime, a guy was bored by the theme park ride he’d waited in line for, for over an hour. He didn’t experience any vertical arcs or any twisting, turning, or spinning through water or fire. “Why would anyone pay for such a ride?” he thought. When he disembarked, he realized he had gotten in the wrong line for the wrong ride! This wasn’t the one that he’d heard so much about, the one that his friends dared him to chance. He had gotten on the kiddie ride, designed for children, not adults!
So many believers in Jesus have boarded the wrong ride, one made for kids – a little entertaining, but not the least bit breathtaking. I use the term “believers” instead of “followers,” because if they were actually following him they’d be experiencing the chilling ride of their lives, screaming to God with delight and desperation for help.
There are entire devotional books written for readers looking to survive another day of pointless living. Promise after reassuring promise is listed each day of the year to bolster the barely surviving believer. It’s comforting to know that there are 366 “fear nots” in Scripture, one for everyday of the year including Leap Year. But there’s more. Have you ever thought about why God would so often tell us not to fear? I think he must’ve assumed that, rather than be afraid of our own shadows, we would embark on challenging missions in his name.
The Bible was written by brave, self-sacrificing, God followers to people whose spirit was similar. To read it without boredom we have to read it with the kind of nervous faith that inspired them.
Tell us what it is that keeps you reading the Word?