Take Up Your Bible And Read

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“Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!” (“Take up and read; take up and read”). These are the words of St. Augustine recounting his conversion in his most popular work, Confessions, where, in a state of weeping and brokenness of heart, he hears a voice echoing from the neighbouring house to pick up his Bible and read. Augustine would recount how, upon reading Paul’s words in Romans 13:14-15, “instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”[1]

This event was pivotal in Augustine’s conversion to Christ, as is the preached word in the conversion of sinners. The believer is born of the Word of God (Jas. 1:18; 1Pet. 1:23) and sustained by the same Word. Moreover, Jesus said that the Word of God is the agent by which the on-going sanctification of the believer comes about (John 17:17). Perhaps one of the best statements of the indispensability of the Word of God in matters of faith and life for the Christian is found in the following passage which prefaces Gideon’s International Bibles:

The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. Here too, Heaven is opened and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

“No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word”, says Donald Whitney. “Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.” [2] As true as this is, yet how many Christians read the Word of God every day? How many have attempted to read all of it? A study that was conducted nearly three decades ago showed that less than two out of every ten professing born-again believers read their Bibles every day, and–even more depressing–another one in four had never read the Bible before the time of the study. [3] What might your response be if you were to partake in a similar survey today?

Read Your Bible Every Day

In Secondary School, the Scripture Union (SU) had a motto which said, “read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow”. From this was coined the sub-motto which is captured in the acronym, NBNB, “No Bible, No Breakfast!” It was customary at the time for any fellow member of the SU you met to ask, “what did you have for breakfast today?” to which you were expected to share a summary of what you learned from your Bible during your morning devotion or “quiet time” as it was termed back then. Recognising the importance of Bible intake to the spiritual growth of a Christian, a great deal of emphasis was placed on daily personal Bible study and sharing what one gleaned from God’s word with others.

Regrettably, this discipline is fast dying out among professing Christians today. It has been remarked that the biggest dust storm in history would occur if all the church members who were neglecting their bibles dusted them all off at the same time! “Oh, but very few people use hard-back or leather-cover Bibles these days”, chuckled someone. Therein lies the greatest irony. Today, more than ever before, the Bible is perhaps more accessible than it has ever been in the history of the Christian church. We have it readily available on our phones, tablets, and computers, yet we read so little of it! We carry our phones literally everywhere, we have Bible apps installed on our phones, yet we would rather spend hours in a day browsing social media than turn to our Bibles. Our lethargy to God’s word is truly lamentable—and this accounts largely for the superficial Christianity that is so prevalent in the Church today.

That we need to read our Bibles every day is quite indisputable. John Blanchard, in his book “How to Enjoy your Bible” is very convicting in putting it across this way:

Surely we only have to be realistic and honest with ourselves to know how regularly we need to turn to the Bible. How often do we face problems, temptation and pressure? Every day! Then how often do we need instruction, guidance and greater encouragement? Every day! To catch all these felt needs up into an even greater issue, how often do we need to see God’s face, hear his voice, feel his touch, know his power? The answer to all these questions is the same: every day! As the American evangelist D. L. Moody put it, “A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.”[4]

Read All of Your Bible

The question remains: why do we read so little of our Bibles? The answer, in my honest opinion, is simply that we lack the resolve. Tape recordings of the entire Bible are readily available today from most bookshops in various versions. These have shown that the Bible can be read through in only 71 hours [5]. Fifteen minutes of reading a day is enough for one to get through the 1,189 chapters of the Bible in less than a year; five minutes a day is enough to complete the Bible in less than three years.

“But”, says someone, “I don’t want to read the Bible like a storybook. I want to take my time and study it.” That’s a fair point. However, I fear that this pretext has been the undoing of many a Christian in never reading their Bibles from cover to cover. Bruce Ware, in his online article “Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading” shares how much Christians stand to benefit if we trained ourselves to read the Bible in two different forms: in a fast-paced manner, and in a slow-paced reading. Fast-paced reading, says Bruce, is necessary if we are to cover the whole of the Scriptures at some kind of regular interval. Reading through the Bible is done at this pace. Slow-paced reading, on the other hand, allows us to “soak in and glory in the beauty and texture of so many passages of Scripture.” This is the pace at which in-depth study and memorisation of Scripture are done.

“But is it necessary to read through the entire Bible?” asks another. The answer is an emphatic yes! If we believe that the entire Bible is the inspired word of God (2Tim. 3:16), then we would do well to read all of it, from cover to cover. Jesus certainly would have expected us to read all of it when he said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Will you discipline yourself to read it? There are several Bible reading and study plan options worth considering. These will help you stay focused and consistent in your daily Bible intake.

Let me conclude with these words from King Josiah.

And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. (2Chron. 34:31).

My prayer is that King Josiah’s resolve in the verse above will be ours in 2018. So, take up your Bible and read!

Notes:
1. Aurelius Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine, translated by Edward Pusey. Vol. VII, Part 1. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001. http://www.bartleby.com/7/1/, Book Eight, Chapter 12, Paragraphs 27-28.
2. Donald S. Whitney, in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, NavPress, Colorado Springs, 1991, page 28.
3. Bookstore Journal, as quoted in Discipleship Journal, issue 52, page 10
4. John Blanchard, How to Enjoy Your Bible, Colchester, England: Evangelical Press, 1984, page 22.
5. Donald S. Whitney, in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, page 33

 

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