3 Reasons to Read Your Bible

You don’t hear many sermons these days on Deuteronomy. It often gets filed away just ahead of Leviticus (and miles behind Philippians). But at the end of Deuteronomy, as Moses finishes his farewell speech to Israel, he makes three remarkable claims about the nature of Scripture.

1. Read the Bible as if your life depended on it (Deut. 30:15–18).

Because it does. Moses presents the people with a very clear choice: submission to the Word brings blessing; departure from the Word—or ignorance of it—brings cursing.

Jesus extended this imagery to his teaching as well. “Whoever hears these words of mine and does them,” he said, “will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). And whoever ignores his words is like the fool building his house on the sand (Matt. 7:26). On the outside, the houses look the same, but when the storms come, one collapses while the other survives.

Many people have lives that fare just fine in good weather. But when the storms of tragedy come, as inevitably they will, only the life built on the rock of Christ’s word will stand.

Our problem generally isn’t that we think the Bible is unimportant. It’s that we don’t do anything about it. For instance, if I offered you—a Christian—$500,000 to never touch the Bible again, you would probably refuse that deal. But think about that. You’ve just identified this as an asset worth over $500K. Is there any other ½ million dollar asset you treat so carelessly?

Evangelicals will often staunchly defend the “inerrancy” and “infallibility” of the Bible—as we should. But understanding the importance of God’s word won’t do you any good by itself. You’ve got to learn it, to obey it, to saturate your life in it.

2. Read the Bible because God hasn’t hidden what he wants you to know (Deut. 30:11–14).

In Deut 30:11, Moses says, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.” That’s not a very common contemporary opinion of the Bible. A lot of people feel like they can’t possibly hope to understand the Bible: there are so many competing interpretations, so many strange stories. And here’s a pastoral confession: I get it. There are still times when I read the Bible and it strikes me as odd and confusing.

Other people point out that we are so culturally bound that we can’t even hope to get at the real meaning of the Bible. All we do is inevitably use it to affirm our own biases.[1]

But that’s not how the Bible talks about itself. Yes, we need to be careful that we’re not using the Bible to justify our prejudices or preferences (tragically, Christians have done that for years). But Moses says that “the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” The core, essential elements of what you need to know are accessible and clear, ready for you to grasp and obey.

Jesus was asked a lot of questions during his earthly ministry, and not once did he ever say, “You know, I get why you’re confused. The Old Testament is just so unclear.” No, he repeatedly peppered his opponents with the question, “Haven’t you read?” suggesting that if they had just known their Scriptures better, they wouldn’t have been making the mistakes they were making.[2]

We won’t be able to understand everything. We’ll still have questions. And that’s fine. But what we need to know for life is plain.  The problem isn’t so much that there are parts of the Bible we can’t understand, but that we won’t obey the parts we do understand.

3. Don’t just read the Bible; encounter the Person within the Bible (30:19–20).

Right at the end of this sermon, Moses’ language takes a surprising turn. He goes from talking about the Word as Israel’s life to talking about “the Lord” as their life. He stops saying, “Hold fast to the Word” and switches to, “Hold fast to him.”

Moses is hinting that we would need something more than merely a book to follow. He points to a greater hope than our ability to obey—God himself, who will become our life and salvation. The primary purpose of Scripture isn’t to give us a list of tasks to perform for God, but to tell us about an offer of grace from God.

The primary purpose of the Scriptures is—and always has been—to present Jesus. So don’t read it to gain favor with God. Read it because you have found favor with him. Don’t read it as a how-to manual to improve your life. Read it as the story of how he has redeemed your life. The abundant life isn’t found by learning divine secrets, but by knowing him.

Peter Kreeft said that studying the Bible is like staring into a keyhole and suddenly having someone stare back at you. The Word is living and active, so don’t just read the Bible. Let it read you. Experience in it the living, moving Son of God.

Choose life . . . and act on it

Like the people of Israel, we have a plain choice before us—life or death. For many of us, it’s not a matter of good intentions, but of good habit. So at the Summit, we’ve started using the “One Year Bible Reading Plan” to give people a place to start. (Click here for more or follow @ReadtheBibleRDU on Twitter.) I go through this plan personally every morning, and would encourage you to join me.

You certainly don’t need to follow our reading plan. You don’t need to read the Bible exactly how I do. But you need to start somewhere. Do you believe that this Book is life to you? Then act on it: choose life by opening up that Book today.

 

[1] See, for example, Stanley Hauerwas in Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America or Matthew Paul Turner’s approach to our ability to understand the Bible in America’s God.

[2] See John MacArthur sermon on Matthew 16:16–18, and Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word, 65.

 

Originally posted at: http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2014/10/3-reasons-to-read-your-bible.html