Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why Reading the Bible Doesn't Work For You

For years pastors have pounded on people to read their Bible and pray, which is great advice - perhaps the best advice you'll ever get. But it always comes off like "eat your vegetables and floss your teeth." Both are things you know you should do, but few actually look forward to it.

In the future, I'll address prayer, but for now let's talk about why the Bible isn't working for you.

You Don't Do What it Says
When I talk to some Christians, I am amazed sometimes how little thought they give to what the Bible says. I'm not talking about the little nuances of Scripture, but the big, obvious stuff like forgiveness. I don't have the time to recount all the places in scripture that directly point to both the benefits and the need for us to forgive other people. Jesus preached about it in the sermon on the Mount, he told parables on forgiveness, and instructed a disciple to forgive someone not just seven times in one day, but 7 times 70. Here's the point, if Scripture is coming at you at all angles telling you to forgive, but yet you don't forgive, reading more Scripture doesn't seem to help because your heart is hard to its truth. What you have done is built up a "resistance" to scripture. Months and years of not doing what it says leads to layers and layers of pessimism, skepticism, guilt, shame, anger, pain, and legalistic attitudes toward scripture that encases your heart. Outside a work of the Spirit, truth has a hard time making it where it needs to go - not the head, but the heart. If you want Scripture to work for you, you have to do what it says. Who hires a high priced lawyer and ignores the counsel? Who goes to the doctor and throws away the prescription? Friends, we have a gift from God that is a "lamp unto our feet". It is priceless advice, yet even more a love letter from the throne of grace, the lover of our soul and the creator of the universe.

You Only Listen to Part of It
Many people find that Scripture doesn't work for them because they only listen to part of it. This is closely related to the first reason. This happens when you bend Scripture around your worldview. If you are from an Eastern culture or you're a conservative Western, you embrace verses that support the family and speak out against moral failure like sexual immoratlity. However, the idea of "turning the other cheek" can almost sound preposterous. "Eye for an eye" you say. If you are liberal in your worldview, you love the "turn the other cheek" stuff and tolerance, but "no sex out of marriage? How regressive!" When you listen to all of what scripture says, you find that it attacks all worldviews that are counter to the Kingdom of God. And when you realize that, you find that Scripture provides a source of wisdom like none other and you begin to crave what it says.

Your Flesh Resists It
Galatians 5 says that what is flesh is opposed to what is spirit. Your flesh resists the reading of Scripture, but your spirit cries out for it. Your flesh would rather watch TV, mess around in the yard or play golf. It is important, therefore, to strengthen your spirit and not your flesh. Don't starve the spirit in your life. Feed what your spirit craves. But know that you are in a battle with your flesh who will fight you on reading scripture. Don't give in!

Terry Virgo has some great Bible insight on his website. Link.