Would you recognize spiritual malarkey if you heard it? How would you know? When an anti-Christian throws out the “shellfish and blended fabrics” argument, do you have a response?
Let me relate a quick story.
I work for a “Christian” company—it’s not very Christian. It once was, but not so much anymore. During the company devotion time, the speakers espouse something more akin to Eastern mysticism than historical Christian faith. I spend that time reading my Bible (recently finishing writing the book of Proverbs). As expected, one of my co-workers asked me what I was reading. After I explained what I was reading, my coworker remarked:
“I’ve never read the Bible. I don’t even own one.”
What’s astounding to me about this statement is that it came from the mouth of a “professing” Christian. I put professing in quotes because beyond saying it, there’s very little in their worldview that aligns with the historic Christian faith.
Over the next few weeks, I would probe my co-worker about blatantly unbiblical things said during the devotion time. Guess what? Unfortunately, though not surprising, the lies went unnoticed.
Until recently, the Bible was a precious commodity. Before the advent of the printing press, you could only get a Bible by copying it by hand or paying a scribe to copy it for you. This was an expensive and painstaking process. The Bible also required an education. Most couldn’t read and even if they could, the Bible wouldn’t have even been in their language. We wouldn’t even have the Bible in English (or any other language) if it had not been for the Reformation.
Today, the Bible is an app download away. A search for “Bible app” on iTunes yields over eight thousand results, each app coming equipped with multiple features and translations. It’s not hard to get a Bible in the twenty-first century. How many do you have in your own home? Chances are, you have multiple. As I write this article from my recliner on my iPad, besides the ESV and Logos apps installed on my iPad and iPhone, I can see six printed Bibles. In my library, I have more, including Greek and Hebrew. My computer has Logos installed on it and there are countless Bible websites to visit.
The Bible is everywhere.
And yet, as Spurgeon said,
There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers.
This is a problem. In a previous article, I wrote about the discipline and benefits of writing Scripture. That was a suggestion. Reading your Bible, on the other hand, is not a suggestion. Both the Old and New Testament give clear direction that God has given his word to his people to be read, understood, believed, and obeyed. For a while, I struggled with getting into a regular pattern of reading the Word, so I’d like to pass on some direction and big lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
Don’t be discouraged.
Jesus loves you, Christian. It is right that our neglect of the text should trouble us but don’t let that stop you. Pray. Repent. Press forward. Jesus died for your neglect of the text. Thank God for Grace!
Consider getting a new Bible.
Sometimes, you need something new to start something new. If you’re new to the Bible, consider getting a good study bible like the ESV Study Bible or the Reformation Study Bible.
Use an actual translation.
This may go without saying, but use a Bible that was actually translated from the Greek and Hebrew—and is reputable. Don’t use a paraphrase!
Use a good translation.
Not all Bible translations are created equal. Use one that an Orthodox, reputable teacher recommends. Pick one that is actually in the language you speak. (I appreciate the KJV, but no one speaks that way anymore.) Also, shy away from anything that changes the text to suit an agenda (for example, gender inclusivity Bibles have led to some horrible translations of key texts). I recommend the ESV or the NASB.
Use one translation.
One of the goals of daily reading is to get familiar with the text. Over time, you will start to memorize it—that is, you start to “hide it in your heart.” Unless a reading is unclear, stick with one good translation.
Use one Bible.
Get familiar with your sword. Learn where to find texts, not just by chapter and verse, but by the actual page.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
The Bible is huge, even with modern printing methods. (Have you ever seen an antique Bible? You can do physical exercise with it!) There is a lot to read and a lot to learn, and it can be overwhelming at first. As you progress, obscure passages will become clearer, and well-known passages will take on deeper, richer meaning as you see how the sixty-six books weave together to make one consistent revelation.
The Bible is not a chore.
Reading the Bible is not something to check off your daily to-do list. God’s word isn’t Plato’s Republic—something read, but not really understood. God gave us his Word so we can know him more, not to check off our read list.
Find a reading plan that works for you.
There is no one size fits all plan. We are used to reading books from left to right, cover to cover. While you can do that with the Bible, remember that the order of the books is not inspired. The Jewish order of the Old Testament, for example, is different than what we are used to. Most people get bogged down somewhere between Numbers and Judges. I’m not suggesting that you randomly flip through the Bible every day—don’t do that. That’s a bad idea. I’m suggesting a plan that breaks up your reading into two or more parallel sections. For the past few years, I’ve been using the Horner Bible Reading System. It breaks up the Bible into ten sections—one chapter of each section a day. It has worked well for me.
Every once in awhile, take a break.
When you find yourself going through the motions, take a break. I don’t mean stop being in God’s word, I mean change it up. Maybe study a book, and then go back to your reading. Recently, I took a break and wrote out the book of Proverbs. I plan to do this with other books of the Bible at least once a year. I suggest you adopt the same strategy.
Remember why you’re doing this.
The Bible is the breathed out words of God and it fits in your hands. The Bible is God’s gift to his people, to you and he’s given it to you for your good.
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.
Read through Ephesians 6—The sword of the spirit, the Word, is your only weapon in our struggle against this present darkness. And the rest of the armor? The breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, shield of faith, the shoes of the gospel? How do we know what these things are? Scripture.
This is God’s will for your life, Christian. God has given you his word so that you can be complete and equipped for every good work. I want to encourage you: If you are in a regular pattern of reading, keep it up! If you have never read the Bible, I would urge you to start today. Think about what you’ve read through the day and ask God to show you how to apply his word to your everyday life. Commit to this today to better know God and live for him.
Calvinist Coulson -Phil is a confessing member in the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA) and holds a Bachelor of Theology. He and his wife are quietly saving the world while shepherding their three children. Follow him on Twitter at @XpCoulson.