It’s the beginning of the year! And you have probably heard in church, on social media, or podcasts that it’s time to start reading the Bible again.
For some people, the thought of reading the entire Bible is overwhelming. Doing it in a year sounds impossible. Or maybe you wonder why you personally should invest time and energy in reading the Bible daily. That’s what pastors and theologians do, right? You’re just an average Joe or Jane. What can possibly benefit you from reading the Bible for yourself?
A sad truth is that the Bible is more accessible than any time in history, yet fewer people are making the commitment to read God’s Word and learn. As someone who has read the Bible but sometimes struggled with it, I would like to point out a few simple reasons why reading the Bible matters – even for the average Christian – and why it’s an important habit to form.
To know God
When we read the Bible, it is not just full of wise words from people of old. It is the actual words of God that he has given us so we can know who he is. Too many Christians approach the Bible with a “What about me?” attitude. The Bible is first and foremost a signpost for us to learn about God and his attributes. Think about the amazing truth of this! God, who created everything, wants to know you personally and wants you to know him personally! He’s inviting you to worship and grow closer to him. Consider the words of James: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). We cannot know about God if we never spend time learning about him. He has given us his word to do just that.
To know how to live
Although the Bible is much more than a to-do list of qualities to pursue, it does instruct us on how we are to live and conduct ourselves. Because we are born sinful, the way we should live does not always come naturally. Paul wrestles with this in Romans 7. He admits that he does what he hates and not the good he wants to (Romans 7:15-20). We will not naturally make good choices or live according to God’s will without knowing and following his instructions in the Bible. Things like loving others above ourselves, choosing joy, being patient and forgiving; these are all things the Bible tells us to do that we don’t do naturally. The Bible also tells us what sin is. This is becoming increasingly important as the world calls more and more sinful behavior normal and acceptable. To live in a biblical framework, we must know and call sin what it is. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us that we are called to be different from the world, not conformed to what it wants us to be. Through renewing our mind with Scripture, we are transformed into who God would have us to be (Romans 12:2).
To know the gospel and grow in Christ
We would not know about God’s saving grace and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us if not for the Bible. Once we are saved, we embark on the long road of sanctification where the Bible is the foundation to our growth in Christ. . If we are not reading the Bible and learning about God and following his instruction on how to live, we will remain an infant in our Christian life. Psalm 119 takes 176 verses to extol the virtues of knowing, meditating on, remembering, and pursuing God’s Word. Think about these verses: “Let your steadfast love comfort me, according to your promise to your servant” (v.76). “Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live” (v.144). “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (v.160). “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (v.165).
To know how to navigate this world
I touched on this earlier but as the world moves farther from biblical truth and worshipping God, it is so important that we know what the Bible says for ourselves. People – even “Bible” or religious teachers – are leading people astray from the truth of the gospel. They cover the truth about sin and our need for a savior in politically correct terms. They make us feel good about ourselves without God. They present half-truths of what the Bible says and follow what is culturally acceptable. If we aren’t mining the depths of God’s Word for ourselves, we will easily fall prey to their lies. Knowing and living the Bible means taking a stand for truth, and often it’s not the popular choice. But it is a necessary action.
Consider what a privilege we have in the Bible! For much of history, Bibles were out of reach from the common person and only trained ministers could read the original languages of the Bible, let alone own a copy! Once the Bible was translated into English, there was still a large slice of the population who couldn’t read for themselves and depended on the preacher to tell them what God said in Scripture. Now that we have the Bible in the language of our choice, we have the ability to not only own a copy of God’s Word, but read it for ourselves. In closing, let’s look at 2Timothy 3:16-17. Paul is sending instructions to Timothy to stand firm in his faith and not give in to those who would deceive him. Paul ends this section by reminding Timothy what Scripture (is and why it is important. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If we believe that the Bible is God breathed and profitable for all ofr life, thenwe believe that the Bible will prepare us for what we face daily. Why then would we ever NOT read it? It should be a joy and delight to open God’s Word each day and meet with him, so we can discover who he is, what he would have us do, and how we can live godly lives in this world.
This is why reading and studying the Bible for ourselves is so important! It’s not a checkmark on a to-do list so we feel better about ourselves. It’s about growth and worship and praise to our God.