Saturday, January 27, 2007

Read Your Bible!

In the final paragraph of my last post I originally included a long diatribe on the power of God's word to transform our lives. I realized I was digressing, so I decided to make it a separate post altogether. So here's the long digression, including some of the text from my previous post:

"The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, fully equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16
God's Word is POWERFUL. If you devote yourself to reading it with understanding, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, it WILL change you! You WILL become more like Jesus! Hebrews 4 even says that God's word is ALIVE! I know prolonged, concentrated exposure to Truth will change me; and I desperately need to change. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you've got to get yourself together spiritually BEFORE you can begin to read your Bible regularly. In fact, it's impossible to get it together spiritually apart from God's word. So go ahead and start reading. Don't think, "I can't read my Bible today because I've sinned so much. I'll feel like a hypocrite after what I've done." DON'T THINK THAT WAY!

But doesn't sin ruin my intimacy with God? Yes. It's hard to open the Bible after you've sinned because reading the Bible brings you into the presence of God; and we are ashamed to be in the presence of God dirty. The Bible exposes us. It is good to feel unholy in the presence of a holy God. (Isaiah 6!) His presence drives us to repentance. It brings us into agreement with him about our sin: that we have done it, and that it offends and grieves him. Then he sweetly forgives our sins because of Jesus, who has already paid for them.

Don't make this mistake: Don't begin thinking that your good performance is the ground of your acceptance with God. Pastor John Piper once said, "You do more to offend God on your best day than will be done to you in your whole life." You see, your clear conscience doesn't mean sin is absent. The sin is not gone; you just can't see it. God reveals it to us bit-by-bit as we live our lives. He is patient with us. Therefore, the apparent absence of sin is not the ground of our acceptance with God.

Do you measure your acceptance with God by whether you've performed well today? Remember: God doesn't accept you because of the good things you do, nor does he refuse to accept you because of the bad things you do. You are accepted because of what Christ alone has done. He has obeyed perfectly for you, and absorbed the penalty of sin for you. You are accepted with God if you are united to Christ by faith. The Father treats those who are in Christ just like he treats Christ himself!

These truths are meant to give us courage to fight sin: We are accepted. We may approach the throne of grace with boldness. He is not reluctant. He forgives gladly when we've sinned miserably. So go ahead and open your Bible! Enjoy God's presence and truth! Ask him to convict you of your badness as you read. He will do it, not to condemn you and make you feel rotten, but to sanctify you and give you hope. Conviction is the good news that God is keeping his promise to make us like Jesus. "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." I'm counting on it.


Greaci said...

Preach it, brother! Wow, Josh, I needed to read that. I have been "going to start reading my Bible all the way through" since the beginning of the year, but... You fill in the blank:). Thank you for the encouragement to read. You might check out "My Upward Testimony" on my blog, I feel like what you wrote speaks directly to my problem.

I pray for you guys often. I hope that your transition is going smoothly and that God is meeting all of your needs and even giving you the desires of your hearts!

Josh said...

There is a balance between quantity and quality. We have to read the Bible fast and slow. In large portions and small passages. Quantity is important, but not at the expense of quality. Reading smaller portions with understanding will enable you to eventually read larger portions with understanding, because you'll bring a lot of prior knowledge to your reading. You'll have a feel for the terrain, the major themes and characters, etc. So don't beat yourself up over quantity. Maybe try the Quiet Time Diary's three-month schedule for reading the NT. Right now I'm doing that plus the daily Quiet Time passage. I don't always get to do all of it though. On those days I read the QT passage plus a Psalm and/or Proverb.