Tragically there are so many believers today who say or think the following: “If only God would just speak to me”. Of course the simple truth is this: he already has. He has spoken to us clearly and sufficiently in his Word. But another great tragedy of modern Christendom is the fact that most Christians do not read the Bible, so they miss out big time.
The daily reading of the Word is as essential for Christian growth as the daily eating of food is essential for physical growth. But so many believers deprive themselves of this essential spiritual nourishment. We cannot grow spiritually – and in fact we will go backwards – if we do not daily feed on his Word.
If we just open the book and read, God can speak to us in so many powerful and vital ways. As but one quick example: this short phrase jumped out at me this morning in my daily reading: “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong” (Exodus 23:2). What a terrific word. If all Christians simply committed to keeping this one commandment, our societies could be radically transformed.
Daily we get such gems when we read and study the Word of God. Yet countless believers are dying spiritually because they refuse to do this most basic and essential of Christian disciplines. Yet it is hardly onerous: as I have said so often before: a mere ten minutes a day or so will allow you to read three chapters of Scripture, meaning you can read through the entire Bible in a year.
Thus if you began with Genesis 1 on January 1, you would just now be reading about the amazing work of God with Israel and the Exodus, and the giving of the Ten Commandments. All this biblical history is vital for any Christian today, but we deprive ourselves of it if we ignore Scripture.
Indeed, the passage I just shared above can be applied here: “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong [by refusing to read God’s Word].” We sin against our Lord when we refuse to read what he has given to us. And when we do not read it, we become more prone to other sins. As we find in Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Thus the old saying certainly is correct: “Sin will keep you from this book, and this book will keep you from sin.” Believers today have no excuse in this area. But as I say, biblical illiteracy is rampant, even among so-called Bible believing Christians.
I am not alone in such concerns. Al Mohler has just recently penned a piece on this very same topic, and it is well worth quoting from at length. He begins:
While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home – biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.
Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm.
He offers more alarming data on this, and continues:
The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America’s Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows.
How can a generation be biblically shaped in its understanding of human sexuality when it believes Sodom and Gomorrah to be a married couple? No wonder Christians show a growing tendency to compromise on the issue of homosexuality. Many who identify themselves as Christians are similarly confused about the Gospel itself. An individual who believes that “God helps those who help themselves” will find salvation by grace and justification by faith to be alien concepts.
Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.
Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?
He concludes with these words:
Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.
Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy – or too distracted – to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans – Christians included – will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.
So how should we respond? It should be obvious: if we have not been regularly reading and studying the Word of God, our first response must be to repent. We have sinned against God and others by refusing to avail ourselves of his precious Word. Then we must commit to get back to the Bible.
And if you can spend hours a day on TV or playing stupid Facebook games, but cannot find the time to read the Word, then you are likely not even a disciple of Christ, and you need to get saved. It is that simple. And that imperative.