Our pastor challenged the congregation to read through the entire Bible: “Read the whole book. And when you finish, read it again.” Frustrated by the daunting pace of trying to read the entire Bible in one year, I received encouragement from a wise older brother: “Don’t try to race through. The main thing is, read some Scripture every day, and just keep on reading.” Reading through the Bible took me a little over two years.
I can’t express the euphoria I felt when I finished the last verse of Revelation. Yes! I had read every word that God had written to me! Did I remember it all? No. Did I fully understand everything I had read? No. Did I glean from Scripture all God had to teach me? Absolutely not. Which is why I immediately started over again, back at Genesis 1:1. You know what I discovered on my second read through the Bible? And the third? This Book just gets better and better.
In Knowing God, J.I. Packer gives two reasons we should be reading the Word of God. First, we should be reading and believing and obeying God’s Word because He told us to. We are His creation, subjects in His kingdom, and it is our duty to obey His command to know Him by knowing His Word.
Second, we should be reading and believing and obeying God’s Word because it is true. Psalm 119:160 says: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (English Standard Version) Jesus prays for His disciples, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Scripture tells us the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. As Packer puts it, Scripture is “the index of reality.”
God’s law “gives us a working definition of true humanity. It shows us what man was made to be, and teaches us how to be truly human, and warns us against moral self-destruction,” writes Packer. Just as our physical bodies need nourishment, so our souls are created to be fed and strengthened through worship, truthfulness, self-control, and the like. By refusing the good spiritual food served in Scripture, we not only become de-humanized: we become miserable. Packer writes, “We are only living truly human lives just so far as we are laboring to keep God’s commandments; no further.”
God’s law is true. His promises are true, also. Herein lies the great strength and solace of the Christian. Throughout Scripture, God speaks promises that still stand today. Knowing God’s promises and meditating on them empowers Christians to live by God’s promises.
Packer concludes: “What is a Christian? …he is a man who acknowledges and lives under the word of God.” A Christian is one who knows the God of Scripture as Father, and Jesus Christ as Savior. He lives a life of obedience to God’s commands, strengthened by God’s promises. God’s Word – because it reveals God Himself – is the Christian’s very life. Does that describe you, Christian Reader?
God’s Word is the life of the individual believer, but what is it to the corporate body, the church? Look at Acts 6:7: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” The church was being persecuted and its members dispersed, yet it continued to grow. Why? Because “the word of God continued to increase.”
In Acts 13, we find Paul and Barnabas preaching to the church in Antioch. The culture was against them. The established religion was against them. What happened? “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” (Act 13:48-49, emphasis added)
Today, many are saddened by decreasing church attendance and by the moral decline rampant in society and in the church. Satan seems to have a stranglehold not only on our culture, but on the church itself. While numerous programs have been developed to reach the unsaved and to encourage professing Christians to live godly lives, I think we often miss the obvious. We want a three-step program for salvation, and another for sanctification. God gives His children and His church something infinitely better – His Word. Read it. Believe it. Live it. Learn to love the God who wrote it.