The Bible. The great book of Western civilization. The fountain of truth for God’s people. The source of all growth as Christians. Its influence can hardly be overstated. So how I can read the Bible, embrace its truth, and then forget everything I ever read in less than an hour?
First, it all depends on how and why we read the Bible. The Pharisees were good, moral, hard-working folks who would fit right into most churches today. They tithed and prayed regularly. They read the Bible backwards and forwards. Yet they found a way to kill Jesus. This should make us pause. Can we read the Bible and just miss God? I think it happens all the time.
Second, we often read the Bible like we would read a travel brochure to an exotic place, like New Zealand. We are intrigued by the pictures. But we soon put the brochure down and go back to our daily lives. It was just too unrealistic and disconnected from our present experience. I think we can take in the Bible like this, especially the stories. Interesting history, but a present reality? It just doesn’t seem possible.
Third, we often read the Bible with only our minds. If we were asked to expound what we believe from the Bible, we could do it, but it would sound like a test answer. But tragically, that’s not what we really believe. What we really believe is hidden in our hearts, in our fears and sadnesses, in our joys and questions, in our dreams and worries. If we are unaware or afraid of our hearts, there is simply no way we can read the Bible so that it speaks into them.
I have been guilty of all three of these reasons. Even as a seminary trained man who spent hours in the Greek and Hebrew, it often became concepts to learn, not a gateway into a transformed existence. It’s not that I didn’t desire that. It’s just that I didn’t know how to get there. My Bible reading wasn’t working.
Ultimately, there is only one reason to read the Bible, the reason it was given to us. It is to bring us into the presence of the living Father, so that we hear him and become one with him. It is to bond to him so that we live and move and have our being in the Father’s love. It’s how Jesus read the Bible. It’s how we can also.