How well do you know the Bible? Do you attend a church with Biblical teaching? Do you read books about the Bible? Watch a Christian TV show? Perhaps you’re part of a small group, a “home group.” Some groups discuss the previous weekend’s sermon; others may read a book together and discuss that. When is the last time you cracked open a Bible and read it for yourself?We live in a culture rich in Christian resources. It’s all too easy to let someone else do the hard work of reading and interpreting a book written thousands of years ago, while you simply absorb their predigested facts. Learning from Biblical scholars is helpful, but if that’s all you do, you’re shortchanging yourself.
(This is one reason I don’t depend solely on The Message for my Bible reading. I love how Eugene H. Peterson rewrites each passage, but it is his interpretation. When it comes to study, I want the most accurate translation I can find.)
The Bible isn’t just any book. It’s described in Hebrews 4:12 as “living and active.” When a believer reads the Bible, the Holy Spirit can point out specific passages, highlighting them just for us. I can read the same words over and over, across decades, and realize something new each time. It’s one way God speaks directly to me, in this situation, right now. You just can’t get that secondhand.
For example, I’ve noticed that when I have unconfessed sin in my life, every time I open the Bible the verse I read applies to that specific issue. I can’t escape. It’s the Holy Spirit lovingly pursuing me until I relent and repent. And then all the verses I read have to do with forgiveness and compassion! It doesn’t even matter where I crack the book. It’s truly uncanny.
Knowing the Bible well allows God to bring passages to mind, even when we’re not sitting with the book open in our lap. We can be driving, hiking, talking with friends, buying milk, and God will use His word to speak to us. It’s not the only way He speaks, but it’s one He uses often.
There’s another advantage, one described in Acts 17:11—
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it. They went and looked it up themselves. That’s wise counsel, no matter how Biblical your church is, or how learned your pastor. You’ve likely heard that the best way to identify a counterfeit $20 bill is to be really, really familiar with the real ones. Well, the best way to spot something that isn’t Biblical is to be really, really familiar with the Bible.
We are part of an excellent church, and 99.9% of the teaching we receive there is right on. I’m constantly challenged by some radical statement, and when I run to my Bible software to see if what I just heard could really be true—it always is. But last Sunday, one of the associate pastors said something that just felt… wrong. When I looked it up, I discovered that in his passion to care for people, he’d said something that actually goes against Scripture. My sense of wrongness was right on.
Survey after survey shows that people who claim to be Christians often have no idea what the Bible actually says. Although approximately 70% of Americans describe themselves as Christian, only 37% report that they read the Bible at least once a week. Think of what a travesty this is. God—the God who created the universe, who loves us enough to suffer and die for us—wrote us a love letter, and we don’t bother to read it.