I will confine my comments within the boundaries of the continental United States. In this country, there is no excuse for anyone to not own a Bible. Many do. Even though the courts have tried to extinguish it, especially via the school system, it flourishes. This precious book can be purchased in several translations, with different helps and in various sizes (even in font)—and the list goes on. It can also be obtained absolutely free of charge, no strings attached.
Even though the list of families who do not own a Bible is growing longer, its popularity does not diminish. The result, however, is that thousands of children are growing up today who are totally unfamiliar with the Bible, and we are reaping the whirlwind from the crop we have sown. God help us.
My point, though, is directed to those who claim the name of Christ and thereby call themselves Christians. There are four concerns I see: (1) a Christian without a Bible; (2) a Christian with a Bible, but who does not read it; (3) a Christian who reads the Bible, but does not study it; and finally, (4) a Christian who studies the Bible, but will not forsake his/her preconceived opinions.
(1) Christians without Bibles
When I see a Christian without a Bible, I am either (a) saddened or (b) perplexed.
(a) I am saddened when children of God do not have the means to hear what their Lord says. Is it really possible in this country for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to not have the wherewithal to obtain a Bible? Not likely,, but yes, it is possible. There are a few who just cannot afford a Bible, and do not realize that there are sources who will give them a free Bible. Then again, maybe sometimes pride stands in the way, so they do not ask. The Gideons, for example, are well known for distributing Bibles without charge. Many churches would be more than happy to give anyone who wants a Bible a free one. Maybe we need to be more aware of our brothers and sisters in the Lord who need help in this area, and simply provide them, personally, a free Bible.
(b) It puzzles me when I see those who own a Bible not bother to have one with them when the church assembles in worship. In their defense, I do need to point out that considering some of the humanistic dribble that comes from the pulpits these days, I cannot blame them. However, this is when I would be looking for another church family to worship with. Sometimes though, you have some “meat and potatoes” coming from the pulpit, and it is discouraging to the speaker when he looks out over the congregation and sees so many sitting on their hands with that far-off look in their eyes. That would be like going to class at school and leaving your textbooks home. How do you think that would fly?
(2) A Christian with a Bible, but Who Will Not Read It
Oddly enough, these good folks sometimes have all the answers—based on their preconceived opinions, of course. This is the crowd that so often will quote a line and tell you that it is in the Bible, when it is not, such as:
1. The eyes are the window to the soul.
2. The family that prays together stays together.
3. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
4. A fool and his money are soon parted.
5. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
6. God helps those who help themselves.
7. Money is the root of all evil.
8. To thine own self be true.
The first five are good quotes, but that is all they are: just quotes from other sources, not the Bible. The last three are not true, and are not from the Bible. There are many others. Look them up. Here is another one, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Is it from the Bible? No, it actually goes back to an essay written in 1709 called “An Essay on Criticism” by Alexander Pope. Albert Einstein expanded on this quote by saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”
Need I say more about Christians with a Bible, but who will not read them?
(3) Christians Who Read the Bible, but Will Not Study It
There is a difference?! Absolutely!
Now some of these dear saints are “kissing cousins” with Christians who have Bibles, but don’t read them. They are just casual readers of the Bible, the once-in-a-great while crowd. These are the good folks who let their ignorance show like a woman’s slip hanging below her dress. How do they do this? It usually happens when they open their mouths. They perch on the edge of their seats just waiting to straighten you out when you err—or at least when they think you do.
Others in this group do read their Bible as often as possible, possibly at least a little every day, but sadly, they do not take the extra time to really study what they are reading. They are on the right track, and are to be admired. They obviously love our Lord and want to hear, via His Word, what He is saying to them. They short-change themselves, however, by not digging deeper into the rich soil of God’s Word. Oh, the treasure He has for us, as the Holy Spirit guides our paths to the deeper things He reveals.
The big, big difference between reading the Bible and truly studying the Bible (guided by the Holy Spirit) is “work.” It takes a lot of hard work to study the Bible. No one can obtain salvation by working for it, but work must be applied as a Christian studying God’s Word. God is not going to funnel it into our ears. He expects us to dig for His nuggets. We dig. He guides. I suppose God looks at it this way: “If they are not interested enough in me to apply themselves, then I am not going to reward them for laziness.”
It is understood that some people are just not able to do more than read the Scriptures. Their reasons are many, and they are legitimate. I applaud them. The Lord will reward them mightily.
Others, though, could go beyond reading, but they won’t. What we actually do is a strong indication of our real priorities. We make time for what we want to do, right? Why can’t we make time to study God’s Word? Obviously, many don’t want to.
(4) Christians Who Study the Bible, but Will Not Forsake their Preconceived Opinions
I discovered almost fifty years ago that the Holy Spirit works much better with a mind that is open to His leadership than one that is closed to instruction. In other words, to learn, keep an open mind and let the Holy Spirit lead you. I have tried to follow this procedure, and still do so. I have changed my mind on some things because I allowed God to direct me to the truth. I have not changed my mind on other things for the same reason. I remain neutral on a couple of issues for now.
More often than not, people’s preconceived opinions are from some of these sources:
o Their own denominations (or the like)
o Family opinions
o Things heard from others over the years
o False teaching from the pulpit (a big one)
o Their own reasoning (what they think is fair or the way it should be, etc.)
We all should be more like the Bereans, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Could it be that these upstarts from Berea actually double-checked the apostle Paul and his associate Silas by searching the Scriptures? Any Bible teacher worth his salt would encourage people to do so. I am sure Paul did.
Look folks, God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). So what gives us the right to say to God, “I think it should be this way or that way”? Just who do we think we are?
I will never forget noticing as a child of about twelve or fourteen that respected religious leaders may have totally different views on the same subject. About that same time, a friend told me that I “belonged” to a certain denomination because of my parents. He was right. He concluded that I was heavily influenced by my parents, my local church, and my denomination. Now nothing is wrong with that, but it was then that I determined not to be influenced by the thinking of others to the point of being “herd bound.” (“Herd bound”: When all in the herd follow each other in the stampede over the cliff to their doom.) Therefore, I determined to be my own man, so to speak, not shaped by the opinions of others or the error of my own thought, but by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Why should I get my biblical training secondhand from others’ opinions when I could get it straight from the Source? Is that to say I would always be right? Absolutely not! (No fault of God’s though.) But at least I would be better off than letting others determine what I believe.
For those in this category, if you would just allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in your study, even away from what you may have once held dearly, you just might relax and enjoy life. Otherwise, you will continue to be like a pond with no flowing water…stagnant and stinky.
Those with stubborn opinions are not the same as those with beliefs that are Holy-Spirit-led conclusions. Just make sure that they are Holy-Spirit-led conclusions, though, and not stubborn opinions.
The intent in Bible study for all Christians should be to grow as close as possible to the one and only God who saved us and to learn His will for us. The intent is never just to obtain knowledge, but to obtain knowledge that makes us more like Jesus in the lives we live every day.
Some just want to argue about what they know or think they know. Knowledge is not something you flaunt. One who is Christ-like does not throw knowledge in the face of others and then try to induce an argument. We share what Jesus wants us to pass on to others and then leave it there. The rest is between the person or persons we shared it with and the Lord.
May we always recall that the Bible isn’t just a book. It is a book that contains the Holy Word of God Almighty, written down for our benefit. It is the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Don’t demean it by arguing over it. When we learn it and apply it as He intends, we will honor it and share the Good News within, without trying to cram it down someone’s throat, because we think we are smarter than everyone else. When we honor it, we will grow. When we argue over it, our immaturity shows.
So: (1) Read a translation you can understand; (2) Pray each time for the Holy Spirit’s guidance (“not my opinion Lord, but yours”); (3) Let it speak to you personally; (4) Obey what it says; and (5) Learn of Him and share Him.