Originally published on Medium, 15 February 2019
We are at the time of the year when gym memberships soar and everyone becomes aware of the need to adopt a healthier diet — maybe due to the excesses of Christmas. Smart decisions for a healthier body. But what about the soul?
We live, in the western world, in a current church environment where discipleship (the ongoing journey of mundane apprenticeship with Jesus that leads us to become more like Him) — is a challenge. Even in the vibrant, healthier churches, the ghost of consumerism stalks us with a fierce determination. Our gatherings are often opportunities for another experience that gets reviewed according to how it best met our needs or ‘likes’.
While the subject is very extensive to tackle in a blog — at the heart of my concern is our Biblical illiteracy & our attitude towards Scripture. Without conducting a well-researched survey — I am pretty convinced that most of us struggle to maintain a healthy habit of daily Bible reading. If we do, it often becomes a legalistic ‘tick the box/job done’ instead of truly meditating on it. Because of the advent of living in a socially networked and wired world — we have become increasingly distracted — with a false sense of living busier lives. We seldom read the Word of God and almost never memorize it. A vast majority of Western believers attend one service a week with a sermon/talk/message of 30–35 minutes — and that, for many, is their only engagement with God’s word. Which leaves us with a problem…
We might say — what’s the big deal? Why is this such a problem? In 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul gives a brilliant summary of the benefits of reading, meditating, knowing and being led by the Scriptures: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.’
- the Bible is important because we believe that it is God’s Word
- the Bible helps us to discern truth from error — in the age of ‘fake news’
- the Bible helps us to see where we go wrong & how we can get things right
- the Bible inspires and empowers us to live good lives
Jesus tells a great story (parable) in Matthew 13 about a sower who scatters seed that has differing outcomes. God’s word is often like a seed that is sowed into our hearts and perhaps we can learn from Jesus how to provide the best growth environment for it to grow and bring fruit:
- don’t harden your heart! That can often happen as we become cynical or apathetic about God’s grace shown to us and we lose the wonder of His wonderful character and deeds. Don’t let that happen. Fight it with prayer and worship, reminding yourself of who He is! God wants to speak to me through His Word!
- don’t let the thieves of distraction (Netflix, social media), disorganization and discouragement rob you of your dedication and attention to reading, meditating and living by God’s word. Fight it by prioritizing and exercising grace-driven self-discipline out of a conviction that this is so good for you!
Here are some practical suggestions to refresh or restart our engagement with God’s Word:
- Start with the New Testament, the Psalms, then the Old Testament. Read 3 chapters a day on each weekday and 5 at the weekend — that way you can cover the whole of the Bible in a year. While some passages will be more beneficial than others — reading all of the Bible will help you get the big picture and discover many new things.
- Maybe try to keep a notebook where you can jot something down. Apply the head, heart and hands principle — highlighting how the passage you just read affects your thinking, feelings and actions.
- Give yourself plenty of grace and prayerfully rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal to us His word and help us to apply it in our day to day lives.