Summary: Why should we read the Bible and why should we read it regularly?
I wonder how many of you are old enough to remember a TV show called the Greatest American Hero. It was about an ordinary guy who encounters aliens who’ve decided that earth is in such a bad way it needs saving. So they send him a belt that gives him super powers. They also give him a set of instructions for using the belt but somehow he manages to lose them; and so he blunders from one adventure to another, never really working out how to control these new super powers. Well I think that’s something of a parable of many Christians who’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit, have been brought into the people of God, but they don’t really know how to live from then on, because they’ve forgotten to read the instruction manual. It’s not that they’ve lost the instructions but they’ve never read the details. In some cases they’ve never had their own copy of the instructions or the one they have isn’t readable. I visited an older parishioner a few years ago and was discussing some theological question they had but when I asked if they had a Bible we could look at, the only one in the house was the King James Version. Now I know the language is beautiful, or so they say, but when you’re trying to understand what something means it’s very hard to do when the language is so foreign to you, when words have changed so much in 400 years. But at least they had a Bible and read it regularly.
Well, let me ask you,
Does it matter if I read my Bible regularly?
Would you be any worse off if you only read the Bible here on a Sunday?
It’s almost as if Paul knew we’d ask that sort of question when he wrote to Timothy. He certainly seemed to have a good idea what life would be like in the 21st century. Listen to what we just read in 2 Tim 4:3-4: “3For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” That’s not a bad description of the times we live in, is it: people not wanting to hear the truth of the gospel but instead turning to myths and forms of spirituality that seem more palatable and that put less demand on their moral life? People wanting to set their own standards of behaviour rather than following those that God has prescribed. So they turn to new age gurus or even Christian ministers who’ve shaped their theology to meet current cultural norms. I discovered on Friday that there’s a new term for this– it’s called Progressive Christianity. Apparently if you throw out all the central beliefs of Christianity you’ve progressed!
But the problem is, truth matters. As much as people would suggest that all truth is relative there are some things that don’t change just because we don’t like them. One of the reasons we need to know our Bibles well is so that we’ll understand the world from the point of view of the one who created it, so we can follow the maker’s instructions. If we want to follow the truth then we need to know the one who is the Truth. And the way we get to know him is to read what he’s revealed to us.
The letter to the Hebrews begins with these words: “1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” God has been revealing himself to us for thousands of years, first through the prophets of the Old Testament and most clearly through Jesus Christ. So if you want to know what God is like - and what he likes - you need to read his word.
I was thinking about this last week as we were listening to George talking about speaking the Gospel. Paul actually mentions this in 2 Tim 3:15 where he points out how the Scriptures that Timothy has known from childhood are able to instruct us for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Just think how valuable it is to know God’s word well when you’re answering people’s questions about your faith. I don’t mean remembering memory verses, though that probably doesn’t hurt, but simply knowing God’s word well enough that you can think through the issues that people present. For example if someone asks you why being a member of a church is important what would you tell them? Well, you could tell them that God had told us not to give up gathering together because we need to encourage one another to remain faithful and to do good works and to love one another, especially when times are tough (Heb 10:24-25). Or you could tell them that God has put us in Churches so we can show other people what a difference it makes when we’re all following Christ. (Eph 3:9-10) That’s just a minor example where knowing God’s word well can help us in everyday conversations with non-Christians.