3 Bible Reading Fails

If there is any topic that I am passionate about, it’s the Bible. I love to study the Scriptures because I find the Bible to be the most fascinating book on earth. I mean, we believe that it is the literal word of the God who created everything in existence. How can that not be endlessly exhilarating!

Given the important nature of the Bible, there is often a significant push to get people to read it, and we formulate numerous strategies for doing so. We create study Bibles to help us understand it better without having to crack open a commentary or consult a clergyman. We develop mobile apps to make reading convenient and accessible. We urge finding at least five minutes a day, hoping that something will stick to the soul. We desperately resolve to read it all when January rolls around, only to quit with a shameful whisper to ourselves that Leviticus makes no sense.

To be clear, none of those things are bad ideas, but with a great deal of focus upon getting people to simply read the Bible, we should also ask whether there is a right or wrong way to do so.

Well, jumping straight to the heart of the matter, we can easily read the Bible in an unbiblical fashion. In order to avoid this, let us look at some ways that we can fail at reading the Bible.

1. We Fail to See the Point

I would be willing to guess that lack of comprehension is one of the main reasons that many Christians find it difficult to read the Bible. To be fair, it is quite difficult to enjoy something when we know very little of what it’s about. Luckily, the Bible gives us a fairly simple answer as to what the entire point of it is: Jesus.

In John 5, Jesus finds himself speaking with a large crowd of Jews. During this discussion, Jesus tells them,

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.[1]

Jesus knew that He was speaking to group of people that highly valued the Bible. They believed it to be the Word of God. They believed, as Jesus said, that they could find the path to eternal life in the Scriptures. On the surface, they appeared very orthodox.

But Jesus claimed that they missed the entire point.

They failed to see what the Bible is all about. They failed to see Jesus in the Scriptures, so they failed to correctly read the Bible. Jesus states, in no uncertain terms, that the Bible is about Him. By bearing witness to Christ, all of Scripture points toward Christ. Jesus Christ is the end and aim of the Bible. It is entirely about Him.

If the entire Bible is meant to point to Jesus as God and savior, their failure to see Jesus as such meant they failed to truly understand the Scriptures. Being the Word of God, the Bible is supposed to reveal God to us, to teach us about His will and character. Yet God was standing before them in the flesh, and they failed to recognize Him. They missed what the Bible was actually saying because they were too focused upon obtaining eternal life, which is a more subtle form of self-focus. They were so concerned about finding their path to heaven that they missed the focal point of heaven itself standing before them.

Likewise, far too many people approach the Bible as a self-help guide or as though the whole thing is a book of proverbs with nuggets of wisdom for everyday life. Though the Bible is certainly helpful and provides wisdom for life, the overall point of the Scriptures is Jesus. When we read the Bible, the first and most important question that we should ask is: How does this point to Jesus, or what does it reveal about Him? We must approach the Scriptures as being Jesus-focused, not self-focused.

2. We Fail to Remember Its Value

Common sense tells us that we will not waste time upon things that are not considered valuable. Even when we binge watch Netflix or YouTube, we do so because we esteem the entertainment highly—even if we later look upon that time as being wasted. We give our time to that which we treasure.

I think, therefore, it is fair to say that our time given to reading the Word correlates highly with how we view its worth. If we give it little of our time, we value it little. If it receives much of our time, we then revere it much.

But how much should we value the Scriptures?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 provides for us with this statement on Scripture:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture comes from the breath of God. This means that God has spoken all Scripture, and it is the Word of God because He said it. The value of the Bible, therefore, falls upon the worth of God because words bear the weight of the one that speaks them.

Let us then consider God briefly. In Genesis, we are told that God created everything by speaking it into existence. Atoms, kangaroos, and quasars all came into being by the power of His word. That is our introduction to God. He says, “Let there be”, and there is. At the sheer authority of His voice, nothing becomes something. In fact, the immense majesty of God’s being is so vast that there exists a word it: holy. God’s holiness means that He is completely unique, unlike anyone or anything in existence. He is distinct and set apart. There is no one like Him.

And this God chose to speak to us. We do not need to wish for God to speak to us because He already has. The same God whose words created the universe inspired the prophets of old to write His words down for our benefit. If that does not tell us the value of the Scriptures, nothing will. The Bible is the Word of God. Do you remember that when you read it? Do we cling to them as being “the words of eternal life”?[2]

3. We Fail to Memorize and Meditate Upon It

This is certainly the odd man out on this list. It is fairly easy to understand how the Bible is all about Jesus and how much we should value it as the Word of God, but are memorization and meditation really that important? I believe that the biblical answer is yes. Therefore, let us view a few Scriptures concerning memorization and meditation upon the Bible:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (Deuteronomy 11:18)

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

The emphasis of the above Scriptures is certainly upon the memorization and meditation of the Word. The call to memorize is implicit but clearly understood. Storing the Word in our hearts can only be done by willfully committing the Scriptures to memory. Likewise, we are only able to meditate upon the Bible day and night if we have it stored in our minds for 24/7 access.

The Bible’s urge for meditation is a different animal. Though meditation upon the Word is more blatantly stated, it is far less understood, in general. Often a discussion of meditation conjures up mental images of Buddhism or some other form of non-Christian religious practice, and few ever imagine that Christians should meditate. This is likely because most people view mediation as a means of introspection or self-realization, but this is not so with biblical meditation. Christian meditation seeks primarily to understand and ponder the Scriptures. Meditating on the Bible is to let its words roll around in your mind, thinking about the truths that it contains. I would argue that meditating (or thinking deeply, to put it another way) upon the Bible is crucial to our reading of the Scriptures. Reading the Bible without meditating on what was read is like chewing a piece of gum twice before spitting it out—much of its value is wasted because we do not give it sufficient time.

The End of the Matter

I am certainly not saying that these are the only ways that we can read the Bible incorrectly. Surely there are many men and women who could point out plenty of things that I missed. My point, however, is not to be all encompassing; rather, it is to help us (myself included) read the Scriptures as they are meant to be read. We do both God and ourselves injustice when we do not strive to understand His Word. May we be able to cry out with the psalmist, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.”[3] If we have a longing to know God more, we will long to know His Word more as well.

[1] John 5:39-40

[2] John 5:68

[3] Psalm 42:1

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