With a brand new calendar hanging on the wall, I'm guessing that some of you have resolved to read through the Bible this year. I'm currently half-way through a two-year reading plan. Whether you read the Bible in one year or in two or three, the important thing is to READ your Bible. If you haven't read the entire Bible, why not get started today?
About mid-February, the writing group at Grace is going to begin a new series of articles on understanding Scripture. In preparation for this new series, one of the books we are reading is R.C. Sproul's Knowing Scripture. If you're nervous about digging into Scripture, I recommend this little book - it will encourage you and give you some wise, practical guidelines to help make the most of your time in God's Word.
Early in his book, Dr. Sproul mentions two common reasons Christians are not more diligent in their study of God's Word. One, we believe the lie that only super-educated, professionally-trained theologians can read and understand Scripture. Thus, we leave the business of studying Scripture to the "experts" and trust them to tell us what God says.
In a history lesson years ago with my young children, we learned that the expression "hocus pocus" actually comes from the Latin mass. Roman Catholic priests, you see, recited the mass in Latin, which most lay people did not understand. Hoc est meum corpum ("This is my body") - the "magic" words the priest spoke to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ - was shortened by the lay folk into hocus pocus and became a general formula for performing other "magic" tricks. It was all strange and mystical and beyond the ability of the average church member to truly understand.
Maybe that sounds silly to you today - but I, too, have been guilty of buying into the "hocus pocus" lie. For a long time, I simply would not read the book of Revelation. Why? I had somewhere picked up the idea that it was so complicated and mysterious that I could not possibly understand anything in it without the tutelage of an expert. Just recently, I read an advertisement for a seminar in my area, announcing that an end-times expert was going to be in town for a week to unravel the knotty mysteries of Revelation and explain exactly what God was telling us.
No, I did not attend that seminar. Thankfully, several years ago a pastor challenged me with these words: "Read your Bible, Camille. This is not rocket science. Just read it. You'll be amazed at how much you'll understand." And so I began reading. Started in Genesis and read straight through to the end. I have to admit that I felt a bit nervous when I turned to the first page of Revelation, but I plowed ahead anyway. You know what I found? No helicopters or army tanks or any of that nonsense - No, instead I found beautiful encouragement. A reminder that God is sovereign over all the affairs of men, from the beginning to the very end; that God loves and preserves His people, the church; that Christ is beautiful and powerful and sufficient. In short, I discovered that God was saying in the book of Revelation very much what He had begun saying way back in Genesis. Same God, same message, and no "hocus pocus." It made me sad that I had waited so long to read this beautiful book of the Bible.
Did I understand everything I read that first time through the Bible? Absolutely not. Will I ever understand it all? Not in this life. But you know what? I understood a lot, and I learned even more. God desires to make Himself known to His people, and He has chosen to reveal Himself through the written word - through Scripture. He initiates communication, and He knows how to communicate effectively to those He has created. He doesn't write to us in some unintelligible gobble-di-gook that can only be untangled by professors and magicians.
I'm not saying here that there is no value in sitting under the instruction of trained theologians. Indeed, God appoints teaching elders for that specific purpose - to teach and feed and grow the flock. What I am saying is that not being an expert is no excuse for not reading your Bible. The Bible is the very word of God, and these words are your life! Read your Bible!
The second reason Dr. Sproul gives for our negligence of Scripture is laziness. Ever since the fall, every aspect of our work in this life has become toil...and we hate toil. Why is it so much easier to read Amy Tan or Nicholas Sparks or William Shakespeare than to read what God has written? Because we are sinners, and we are hostile to God. The world is full of thistles and thorns, distractions and obstacles to our fruitful study of God's Word.
Well, if the bottom line is simply that I'm hostile to God and that I refuse to study His Word due to my own rebellion or laziness, what's to be done? First, admit the truth: "God, I just don't find Your Word interesting. I have other things I'd rather do with my time. When it comes to reading Scripture, yes, I am lazy." Acknowledge the truth...then, repent and ask God to give you a hunger for the Bible. That's a prayer that you know He will answer, because He wants to speak to you through His Word.
The sovereign God of creation wants to tell you how much He loves you. He has written you a letter. Go read it. Even if you don't understand rocket science.
7 hours ago