Summary: The Bible is screaming to be read not just to inform us but to form us. It can change our lives if we'll just let it.


Isaac Butterworth

October 31, 2010

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

I didn’t always go to church; in fact, I didn’t start attending anywhere regularly until I was in the ninth grade. But I wasn’t exactly a stranger to church. Occasionally, this friend or that one would invite me to go to Sunday School.

I remember one time -- I must have been in about the fourth grade -- this kid at school asked me to go with him. He said I should bring my Bible, which didn’t seem to me to be an unreasonable request. The only problem was, I wasn’t even sure I had a Bible. So I asked my mother about it. She said we did, but she wasn’t sure where it was. We searched around for it, and when we found it, I could see that it was in pretty sorry shape. It was not an expensive Bible, and so it hadn’t weathered our treatment of it very well. The pages were yellowed and somewhat brittle, and the cover, which I think was actually paper, was made to look like leather. And it was in disrepair. The binding had come loose in places, and, on the whole, this particular volume of the Good Book looked like it needed to be on life support!

But that’s the Bible we had, and it’s the one I took. I remember sitting in the small circle of fourth-grade boys, all uncomfortably dressed in their Sunday best. Whenever the teacher asked us to look something up in our Bibles, I had to be careful with mine. It required very delicate handling. And still, every time I opened it, a small piece of it seemed to fall to the floor at my feet. By the time the hour was over, I had quite a little pile of holy clutter beneath my chair! I still find myself hoping that no one else noticed.

As you can tell, the Bible did not play a very big role in my childhood. Our family had a Bible, but we seldom opened it or read it.

As you can imagine, that has changed. I now own several Bibles, and I find my nose in one at least every day. But with all my familiarity with the Scriptures, there is still the chance that they will have as little impact on my life as they did when I was a fourth grader.

Think about it: The Bible is available to us in multiple English translations and in almost countless editions. Why, you and I can go to just about any store that sells books, and there will shelves and shelves of Bibles. There’ll be the old King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New International Version, and who knows what all. You can get Bibles in large print, in compact size, with or without marginal helps. You can get study Bibles, devotional Bibles, specialty Bibles, Bibles for moms, for dads, for students, for recovering alcoholics, for just about any life station you can think of. And, you know what? You don’t even have to go to the store. You can get the Bible free on the internet.

But the fact remains. Even with the Bible’s accessibility, even with its availability, there is still the chance that it will have little impact on our lives.

Why is that? You know what I think? I think it’s because we read the Bible with the wrong goal in mind. We read the Bible like we read any other book. We read it for information. But the Bible is screaming to be read not just to inform us but to form us! So often, we come at the Bible and try to master it. And what we should be seeking is to let it master us! We fill our heads with its knowledge, but we don’t fill our lives with its power! We can name its characters, but we fail to let it develop our character. We take notes, but we don’t take note. We read it, but we avoid being read by it. We interpret it, but we don’t want it to interpret us. We exalt it, but we don’t embody it. We have it, but it doesn’t have us.

So, is there a way to read the Bible with a different goal in mind? Is there a way to read it for life change? Can we read it not simply to be informed but to be formed by its message?

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