This new year as you pick up or renew the habit of Bible reading I would like to remind you that there are 3 ways to read the Bible. And I should insist here that it is a very good idea that you have a regular habit of Bible reading. That is a big question and we dealt with this recently, You can listen to it here.
It is likely that we will go back and forth between these 3 different types of Bible reading at different points in our lives. And yet 2 of these approaches are problematic. And when I say that there are “3 ways” I am not talking about methods. There are many more than three ways to read through this big book, and others have given some good suggestions for this. No, I am thinking more of the motives of our heart. Why are we reading? Why are we disciplining ourselves to have a quiet time every day? And what are wehoping to accomplish?
First, we can read the Bible because that is what our tribe does. We can read the Bible to impress people that we are doing the right thing. All of us want to be respected, and one powerful temptation is to use our acts of righteousness as a way to get an ego boost from our friends and family. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew chapter 6 in connection to prayer, fasting, and giving money. This approach to life and discipline affects other areas as well. People go to the gym and diet for the same reasons, so they post pictures on Instagram and win the esteem of others. In case you are wondering, this is NOT a good motive for reading the Bible.
Second, we can read the Bible in an attempt to build a resume before God. It is a constant temptation to relate to God by keeping score. It is easy to ask the wrong question: What do I need to do in order to get what I want from God? We can follow a reading calendar, memorize the right verses, and faithfully write in our journals because we think that this will satisfy God and lead to a life of prosperity. In my experience #1 and #2 are often connected. If we are working up a resume for God, it is almost impossible not to parade it around to friends. The other irony in this approach is that if we are paying attention to what the Bible says while we are reading we will very quickly crumple up our resumes and throw them in the fire.
The third way to read the Bible is to altogether different. It is not an attempt to impress either God or people. It is an awareness that in scripture God reveals himself and calls us near to him. When we read the great story of redemption in scripture we are seeing God unveil himself in human history. We are experiencing him unfold who he is and what he has done. And God does this with the greatest clarity in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Reason #1 and #2 can easily lead to pride, weariness, and burnout. But when we regularly approach the Bible as a way to draw near to God, something else will happen. I would like to challenge you to renew the habit of Bible reading, not because that is what good Christians do, or because you want to negotiate with God. I want to encourage you to read the Bible this year as a way to gain the most valuable thing possible. Read scripture in order to know and be known by God.