This past week I had an enlightening conversation with a friend who reminded me that a lot of believers have probably never read the entire Bible. (This, sadly, forces me to admit that I still look at other people through the lens of my own life and interests instead of seeking out their stories.)
I took a poll on Instagram and it was split almost 50-50 with people having read and not read the whole Bible. The vast majority of people who had not read it all wanted to though. The feedback overwhelmingly went the route of falling behind on a reading plan and getting discouraged. (Also, I shared some things that help me in reading the whole Bible and saved them in highlights under, you guessed it, “whole Bible.”)
Reading the Bible is not a race. I’d like to take a microphone and announce it to the world. I’d like to interrupt conversations among believers and point this out. I’d like to stick a bookmark into your Bible that reminds you of that every single time you read. Reading the Bible is not a race. It’s not a competition. It’s not a time to feel bad that you don’t know more than you do or that someone else knows more than you. You will never know it all. No one will.
Reading the whole Bible is how we know who God is and what He is up to in the world (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, 2 Peter 3:18). Reading the Bible is part of how we are transformed into the image of our Savior (2 Corinthians 3:18). Reading the Bible is how we are equipped to take our part in the kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can get up and hold the very words of God in our hands. We can read them whenever we want. This is a gift.
Reading the whole Bible protects us from error. Many people say many things that aren’t in the Bible. Often, we believe things that aren’t in the Bible. How do we find the truth? By reading the whole Bible. Satan is the father of lies; there is no truth in him (John 8:44). He is the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9). We are warned against this deception in 2 Corinthians 11:3. The only way to resist error is to know the truth (John 8:31-32, Ephesians 6:14). We don’t do it more because we tell some lies about reading the Bible.
We tell this story that reading the Bible makes us feel warm and cozy; we tuck a little rabbit foot into our pockets to rub it when we are sad. That is not a true story. Most often, reading the Bible challenges us. The Bible points out our sin. The Bible tells us story after story of humans who have fallen short of the mark. The Bible forces us to acknowledge that our lives do not live up to the story of faith we’ve aligned ourselves with and we have to make a choice of how to proceed. We don’t read our Bible to feel good, although it can be comforting.
We also like to say that reading the Bible is easy. Just flip it open, read it, and then slap it on life. No. Reading the Bible with understanding takes work. We are reading an ancient text that crosses cultural and language barriers. We read our Bible not for something for today (although we may get that) but to add another layer to our understanding, to reshape our viewpoints and outlooks.
That means we read Leviticus. The good news is that we have great resources in 2018; there are podcasts and videos and commentaries. Leviticus tells us about Jesus. That means we read Jeremiah. Did you know there is actually a story in Jeremiah? That means we read prophecy that Daniel himself didn’t understand (Daniel 8:27, 12:8) and ancient Hebrew poetry and narrative written with parts intentionally left out so that we have to think about the stories.
We read and tell and think about the stories until they become part of the way we think. Until they sink into our hearts and come out our mouths. Until our very beings are transformed with the knowledge of who God is and who we are in Christ.
Then we move. We cannot actually do this reading and absorbing and changing without it fundamentally shifting how we live. It moves from our heads to our hearts to our hands and feet. It’s a gift but the outworking of the gift shows in what we do. If our theology, our study of God, doesn’t change how we act it is nothing.
I don’t say any of this to guilt you about not reading the Bible more or not having read the whole thing or not knowing more theology. Often we simply don’t think it’s important for us. We plan to leave that to pastors or missionaries or seminary professors instead of realizing that we are all called into ministry. We don’t realize that it’s mothers and fathers and plumbers and teachers and doctors who see people that need Jesus or need to know Jesus better all day, every day. People in noticeable positions, no matter how much we need them and love them, can only do a small part of the work that needs to be done.
All I want to do is stir up your appetite for the Word. If you want your appetite for the Word to grow, you have to feed it. Let’s become a Bible literate people.