Sue was a very bright five-year-old. She loved to show what she knew. So when the pastor visited Sue’s home, she was quick to point to a big family Bible on the table. “I know everything that’s in the Bible,” she happily said. When the minister asked, “Tell me, what’s in the Bible.” Sue quickly answered, “some hair from when I was a baby, three pressed flowers, a picture of daddy when he was in the Army, and some Sunday School pictures I colored.”
Sue did know everything between the covers of the family Bible, but there was so much more for her to discover—and that’s true for all of us. Baptists, among others, are people of the book, people who believe that knowledge of God’s Word is an important, even necessary, part of the Christian life. So, we encourage people to read the Bible. We study and teach the Word. We preach it. Often we pray the Word, using God-given words to express our thoughts and needs, and desires. For all of that, does the Bible affect our everyday lives?
Recently in The State of the Bible 2020, the American Bible
Society and the Barna Group published some research on people and the Bible. The researchers asked questions about how folks got their biblical “input.” Did they read the Bible or listen to it (or both)? Was there a regular time when people focused on the Bible? Most importantly, among people who spend time with scripture, how does the Bible influence them in terms of their relationship with God and with others. In short, how does engaging with scripture (consistent interaction with the Bible) shape people’s choices and relationships?
Probably if you are reading this blog, you are a person who reads or listens to the Bible regularly, perhaps daily. So this blog isn’t simply a plug for “we ought to read the Bible.” It is to encourage you (and me) to let scripture engage us: speak to us, hold our attention, influence our thinking, invite us to a closer walk with the Lord.
The first step in letting the Bible speak to us is asking the Holy Spirit to give life to the Word He inspired. So often when I catch myself reading the Bible as words on the page or as information, I recognize that I hadn’t asked for the Spirit to speak. We can study the Bible without the Holy Spirit, but the study will be fruitless without the Spirit. We cannot experience the awe or the joy or the excitement that scripture can bring unless the Spirit gives it life. And this often takes time. Dashing through a chapter of James or reading three or four psalms in order to get the Bible reading done for the day may seem necessary, but the Spirit has been known to take His time drawing truth from the Word.
The second step in letting the Bible engage us is to look within ourselves to see if and when and how scripture influences our decisions, attitudes, and relationships with others. To do that sort of self-examination we need to grow in our understanding of God’s nature, character, and purposes. We can “camp on” the two great commandments and should reflect on them often. But who is “the Lord your God”? Do we know what it means to love Him? How could we love one whom we scarcely know? Do we understand what “whole life” living is? Has scripture given us understanding of this one called “God”?
Every advertiser, every media offering, every would-be leader wants to influence you and me. Each day is a tug-of-war between this or that wanting to sway us, push us, pull us. To counter this, God has revealed in His Word not just some of the specifics of how we are to think and to act but also the foundational truths that can engage us. He has revealed who He is.
If the pollster contacted you or me and asked these sorts of questions, how would we answer?
- What difference does the Bible make in your life?
- What influence does the Bible have on your choices and decisions?
- What influence does the Bible have on your relationships with folks around you?
The Bible is not just another self-help book. Reading it daily is not a way to get a pat on the back from God. The Bible is one of God’s great instruments to change us and to change the way we live.
1 The researchers asked more questions. You can read the questions and the results of the research posted online in the State of the Bible 2020.