It of course goes without saying that a staple of the Christian life is daily Bible reading, study and meditation. It is a no-brainer that this is an absolute core activity of anyone who calls himself a follower of Jesus Christ. Prayer and fellowship are obviously other non-negotiables in the normal Christian life.
We are clearly told in Scripture about the importance of the Word of God, and our need to get saturated with and immersed in it. Psalm 119 is your classic text about the importance of God’s word. Let me cite just a few of the many verses from this great Psalm:
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
43 Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
57 You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
89 Your word, LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
114 You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
We are told to ‘study to show ourselves approved’ (2 Timothy 2:15), and we are commanded to be ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12:2). This happens as we study and meditate on God’s Word. Indeed, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
In the light of all this, it is obvious that the regular reading and study of the Bible is of overwhelming importance. Yet tragically I suspect that many Christians do not do this. Far too many believers are likely not reading the Word of God on a daily basis, and many would never have even read through the entire Bible just once.
Thus we have appalling biblical illiteracy amongst believers today. That in part explains why so much of the church is anaemic, carnal, compromised and ineffective. So how can we turn all this around? Here I must draw your attention to something which falls in the good news/bad news category.
The Bible Society Australia has launched a plan to help encourage believers to read. Here is how their scheme has been presented: “A chef, an Army General, an Olympic swimmer, a race car driver, a TV and radio presenter. That’s the line up Bible Society Australia has got for you to read the Bible with this April.
“Daily Bible, which provides a short Bible passage, a question about the reading and suggested further reading in your inbox every morning, has become a part of the morning routine for thousands of Christians across Australia after the success of Bible Society’s Live Light in 25 Words Bible reading campaign in October last year. Nearly 4,000 Christians are currently receiving the Bible in their inbox each morning.
“‘The feedback we received from the 25 words campaign was so positive–people wanted to continue getting a verse, or a few verses from the Bible via email every day. It’s a nice prompt to read God’s Word. It doesn’t take too long, but it can renew your mind and your focus on Christ at the start of each new day,’ said Chris Melville, Bible Society’s campaign manager.
“Each month, Daily Bible emails have a different theme or book of the Bible to explore. In March, the emails unpacked the Easter story, demonstrating its continued relevance no matter where you are in the world, with short video messages from over 26 different countries, a Bible verse and a question to think about.
“In April, subscribers will read the Bible with well known Aussie Christians each week, who’ve put together short devotions for Bible Society. You’ll read the Bible with:
-Kate Bracks, winner of Masterchef 2011
-Andrew Fisher, race car driver with Jesus Racing
-General David Hurley, Chief of the Australian Defence Force
-Leigh Hatcher, Sky News Presenter and Host of Open House on Sydney’s 103.2FM
-Elka Whalan, Olympic swimmer and media personality.”
So how should we view all this? On the one hand it is of course a good thing: any plan or program to get believers to read the Word of God, and to read it more, is a good thing. Thus we must thank the BSA for initiating this.
But of course there is also a major downside here. If we really need such gimmicks to get believers to read their Bibles, we are in very bad shape indeed as a church. One might as well use gimmicks to get folks to eat or breathe. These are activities which we should be doing as a matter of course – indeed, as a matter of life and death.
We cannot live without eating and breathing, so no schemes should be needed to do it. But spiritually speaking we cannot live without the Word of God and its regular intake. So the very fact that we need programs and incentives to read shows how far down the gurgler so much of the Australian church is today.
In fact, if busy believers need little snippets of Scripture to be sent to them, that is quite telling as well. They at least might as well get a Bible app for their phones, so they can read much bigger portions of Scripture. Sure, life is real busy nowadays, but if we do not have time to read a few chapters a day, every day, then we are far too busy.
And as I keep saying, if you simply read around three chapters a day, you will get through the entire Bible in a year. If people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ cannot find the time or the desire to read three chapters a day, then we can rightly question if they are genuine disciples of Christ.
Well done to BSA for trying to get believers into Scripture, but not so well done to believers who give Scripture such a cold shoulder.