Have you ever helped someone learn how to read? It is an exciting journey, but it is a long one. A child does not wake up one morning and decide, “Today I will learn how to read.” Instead, it takes them weeks or months to develop basic phonics skills before they even begin to sound out written words, much less sentences or paragraphs. We would never dream of saying to a three-year-old, “Why can’t you read yet? We have been working on the alphabet since last week!” We understand that it takes a lot of time, effort, and repetition, so we take things one step at a time and celebrate each little milestone along the way. Developing biblical literacy is a lot like learning how to read. It is a process. And sometimes it feels like we are doing the same thing over and over again. But, believe it or not, that is the way it should be.
The Law of Moses was the first written scripture to ever exist. When God gave this special communication to his people, he was very clear about how they were to treat it. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” God wants us to take scripture seriously! The Pharisees—the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day—would write the law on tiny pieces of paper and literally tie them to their foreheads or tuck them into chinks in the wall. But they missed the point. God wants His Word to be stored in our minds and in our hearts. This article discusses three basic ways to help us carry scripture with us wherever we go.
Make Scripture a Part of Your Daily Routine
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 makes it clear that Scripture should be woven into the fabric of our every day lives. Sadly, we humans tend to have a short memory when it comes to God’s goodness—we are so quick to forget all that He has done for us. Thus, the best way to remember is to go over the same stories again and again and again. After all, it is completely normal for a mother to sing the alphabet song hundreds of times before her child has it memorized. Psalm 1:2 tells us that the righteous person meditates on God’s word “day and night.” How can we follow this pattern today? A few ideas are: (1) reading the Bible right when you get up in the morning and/or right before you go to sleep at night; (2) reading the Bible before or after mealtimes; (3) having regular family devotions; (4) posting sticky notes with Bible verses on your kitchen cabinets or bathroom mirror; (5) creating art out of Bible verses; (6) and listening to the Bible in the car. Whatever strategy you choose, repetition is key! Developing one or two of these daily habits will strengthen your biblical literacy immensely.
Find a Church That Preaches the Bible
No part of the Christian walk is completely private. God created us to learn and grow in a community in all areas of life—including biblical literacy! Ever since God gave the law for the first time, God’s people have made a habit of reading it out loud together. When they failed to do so, they forgot God, fell away from following His commands, and endured judgment as a result. Nehemiah 8:1-8 describes one instance of the law being read (remember, the books of law—the Torah—was the Israelite’s Bible). God’s people had been in captivity for seventy years as punishment for forsaking God and His Word. Finally, a small group had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. They understood that knowing God’s law was crucial to their success, so they gathered together to listen. A scribe named Ezra read from the Book of the Law all morning long, and explained it so everyone could understand. “And the ears of all the people were attentive” (8:3).
In the New Testament, the tradition of coming together to hear and discuss the Bible continued. God’s people were not defined by ethnicity anymore. Instead, anyone who believed in Jesus was welcomed into God’s family, whether they were Jews or Gentiles. But God’s law was, and is still, of utmost importance. Acts 2:42-47 describes life in the early church. The first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (2:42) and went to the temple “day by day” (2:46). Just like the Israelites in Nehemiah 8, they gathered together where the Scriptures were being read (the temple) and they listened to someone explain the Scriptures to them (the Apostles). Christians of today would do well to follow in their footsteps! It is absolutely vital to find a church with pastors and teachers who read God’s Word often and let that direct their sermons.
Use Scripture to Fight Temptation
As Christians, we face temptation on a moment-by-moment basis. Our life is a journey of becoming more and more like Christ; but until we reach heaven, we will always struggle with sin. God, however, has promised never to give us a temptation that we cannot overcome—He will always provide a “way of escape” (1st Corinthians 10:13). And the Bible is one of the greatest weapons He has given us to combat temptation. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Biblical literacy and victory over sin are directly connected! Jesus Himself used the Bible to fight temptation when He was face to face with Satan. In fact, He quoted scripture every single time the devil tested Him (Matthew 4:1-11). So, when we use the Bible to help us struggle against our sins, we are in good company. As a practical example, someone who often becomes angry might memorize several verses about anger and quote them to himself/herself when he/she feels his/her temper rising. When you do this, you are turning Satan’s tactic on its head and using even temptation to increase your knowledge of God!
Conclusion: Sweeter Than Honey
The journey to biblical literacy is not a quick one. But it is not supposed to be. It is a path of discovery, just like learning to read. The more we practice, the more skillful we become. And the more skillful we become, the more we begin to love the Word and love the God who gave it to us. That, after all, is the goal of biblical literacy. We do not read the Bible merely because it is an interesting book or because it has good advice. We read it because it helps us know the One who made us; it helps us love the One who first loved us; it helps us remember and rejoice in all that God has done for us.
The Bible gives us a glimpse of God Himself! Psalm 19:7-11 is a beautiful tribute to God’s words. God’s words are perfect and sure, right and pure, clean and true, righteous and eternal. They revive us and make us wise. They give us joy and open our eyes. “More to be desire are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb…In keeping them there is great reward” (19:10-11). The process of developing biblical literacy may be slow. But we can rejoice with every baby step forward, because every moment we spend reading the Bible is 100% worth the effort!