Why should I continue to read the Bible?
After all, as a pastor, I know the Scriptures better than most people. I know the stories, the timelines, the backgrounds and most of the interpretations of difficult passages. I can cite references at will; most of the time I can give the book and nearly every chapter. I’ve memorized key passages – both individual verses and whole sections. I can fit the pieces together chronologically and theologically. I can read them in the languages in which they were originally penned. A person would find it difficult to cite a passage that I didn’t recognize or wasn’t very familiar with. So why should I spend time (outside of preparing to teach) reading what I already know?
Simple. Because I want to live.
I don’t mean that by the very act of reading the Scriptures, or becoming familiar with their content, or even by obeying the commands in them, I gain God’s favor or earn admission points to heaven. Jesus Himself corrected that notion when he rebuked the religious leaders of His day: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:39-40)
Besides correcting what the Scriptures are not (an end to themselves), Jesus indicated what they were and still are (a roadmap to Him and to life).
The Bible often describes my life as a “walk” (22 times in Paul’s letter alone). My life is a journey that’s going someplace. Along the way, I will find myself faced with forks in the road, read confusing signposts, and sometimes be forced to turn back to take another path that will lead in a different direction. The Bible is my compass showing me where "north" is; it is my map giving me a "God’s-eye view" of my life. With it I can better determine where I am and where I need to be.
Further, the Scriptures are God’s primary tool to transform my mind (Romans 12:2) so I think differently, see things from Heaven’s perspective and value things as God does. They not only give me guidance, they tell me who I am, where I came from and where I’m going. They remind me what matters; and as importantly, what doesn’t. They even describe God to me, and through them I hear His voice.
Especially in this culture, the world’s voice and values are a constant din, assaulting my ears and mind, trying to shape and mold my mind. Advertisements repeatedly assault my senses; television dramas test my convictions and boundaries; music and lyrics become the background to life, not so subtly digging tracks for my thoughts. All this happens every day, everywhere I turn. My eyes and ears are the gateways to my mind and heart; who or what is meant to guard them? God has not left us defenseless: the Holy Spirit using God’s Word stands at the entrypoints of my life. When I read the Scriptures and expose myself to its truth, I place in the Spirit’s hands the weapons to defend my heart and mind.
Among all these rambling thoughts, I know that everytime I read the Scriptures, I see Jesus. I’m reminded that the Story is His, it’s about Him, it points to Him and finds its consummation in Him. And my love for Him and desire to know Him better is strengthened as I read, re-read, and remember.
Jesus said it simply, quoting a passage in Deuteronomy while under duress as he was tempted by Satan: ”It is written, ‘A person does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Do I need to read and digest the Scriptures? Must I review what I already know, what I can easily recount? Must I think deeply, spend at least a few moments daily, ponder continually the Scriptures? Only if I want to live this life as God intended.
This morning I opened to one of the Psalms I’ve read so many times, and read, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made" (Psalm 145:8-9), and I was glad.
The Scriptures are waiting. For you.