Reading is a critical component of the spiritual life
June 21, 2016
The people of God (Old Covenant and New Covenant) have been known throughout history as “people of the book”. Living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God is what drove their reading of the Word. But today, people are reading less. In 2013, the Pew Research Center found that 76% of all adults read a book in the previous twelve months and 50% of all adults read less than five books in the previous year.
I’m an avid reader and have been for all of my life! I read more than fifty books a year. Some are books related to spiritual development, theological issues, biographies, history, and some are purely for entertainment — action, adventure, suspense, and historical novels. Reading the Bible is an every day practice.
Sadly, that lack of reading is predominant in the Church as well as in the culture at large. In a recent article based on research by LifeWay Research, only 45% of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40% of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. And almost 20% of churchgoers say they never read the Bible— essentially the same number who read it every day. We are experiencing an unprecedented level of biblical illiteracy.
How can we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and not know what’s contained in the Scriptures?
Let me throw down a claim: It is impossible to be a fully devoted Jesus follower and biblically illiterate. My challenge to you is that you fall in love with the Word of God — Jesus is, after all, the Word in flesh! And it was His instruction that we are to live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Jesus is the living Word. He was the fullness of God in bodily form and He came to live and dwell among us, first as a man…now in Spirit and in Truth.
There is a discipline involved in living by the Word.
First, it must be read. Set aside time every day for digging into the Word of God. Is it five minutes? Ten minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour? Yes! Look…you have to start somewhere. If you haven’t developed the habit of studying the Word of God on a daily basis, start with five or ten minutes. As you read it…contemplate it and ask several key questions:
- Who wrote it?
- Who were they writing it to?
- What is the message that was being conveyed to the reader?
- What of this has application for my life today?
Second, the Word must be meditated on. In other words, think about it throughout your day. Focus in on a key verse or verses. Write them out. Memorize them. Say them out loud.
Third, prayer is a key component of living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Pray for God to speak to you through His Word. Jesus promised that He was sending the Holy Spirit for this purpose!
Fourth, learn how to study the Word. Utilize tools, books written by others that can lead you in your studies. Here’s a few recommendations for getting started.
- How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, by Gordon Fee.
- How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour, by Gordon Fee.
- Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.
- How to Keep a Spiritual Journal, by Ronald Klug.
Fifth, get into a Bible study group. The LifeWay Research that I mentioned earlier in the message revealed that people who are involved in a Bible Study group are much more likely to read their Bible regularly than people who are not involved in a Bible Study group. In fact, people who attend a Bible Study group are more than twice as likely to read their Bible regularly.
We’re called to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We’re called to live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Here’s a challenge for this summer:
- Get involved in a Bible Study group.
- Set aside time each day to read and study the Word of God. Just do it! Challenge yourself to set aside at least ten minutes each day (preferably thirty). Get your Bible, a notebook, a highlighter, and a pen. Or…if you’re like me…do it digitally…but do it!
- Read at least one additional book each month that will help you develop and grow in your spiritual life.
There have been numerous articles published over the past year or two challenging whether reading the Bible in a digital form is less effective than reading a physical Bible. It reminds me of the debate over whether or not the King James Version is the only option for those who are spiritual. I guess in the first century there were debates over reading a scroll versus reading a codex. I love reading. I prefer to read digital books and I prefer to study the Bible in my Bible program, Logos. On my small notebook computer I have over 5,000 digital books, reference works, encyclopedias, dictionaries, commentaries, books on theological issues, books on spiritual development and growth. I can carry it with me wherever I go and I have access to all of it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In my office I have numerous bookshelves filled with over 2,500 books. Sometimes I read my Bible and other books on my cell phone or a Kindle reader. If you prefer a physical book, then by all means read it in a traditional form. If you, like me, prefer a digital book, then by all means, read it digitally! The issue, to me, is not the form that I use, but whether or not I actually do it!