Monday, June 29, 2015

Eating My Words

If you are a regular reader here, perhaps you remember that it was just six months ago I wrote a post about not reading the Bible through in a year. I had planned to spend this year reading the Gospels thoroughly. The truth is, I haven't gotten past Matthew 5. I could probably spend the rest of my days studying the Sermon on the Mount and still find there's something new to discover. This method has taught me much about being a follower of Christ.  I've been making copious notes from all the cross-references and a fantastic commentary.  It's been good.

Then a friend of mine linked to an old blog post written by Douglas Wilson, "As Somebody Somewhere Said". As I read, one particular sentence stood out. Wilson writes, "The only way to learn the Bible the way you should is to read and reread it."

As an all-or-nothing type of gal, I immediately starting thinking, What, give up my slow and methodical approach? I didn't want to do that. But I couldn't get away from the truth that I don't know the Bible as a whole the way that I should. I finally decided there is room for both in-depth study and reading Scripture in its entirety. So I'm taking Wilson's advice and beginning with the New Testament. Since I'm sticking with my plan to study Gospels carefully, I started with Acts.

I admit I'm having to squelch the desire to pull out my commentary to read along; however, I didn't have to read very far in Acts before I knew I'd made a wise decision. Over and over again I've been struck by the ability of Peter, Philip, Paul, and Stephen to give in-depth accounts of the Scriptures. Could I do that?  Shamefully, the answer is no. Sadly, I'm not alone. Even among those in Reformed circles who declare their great love for the accurate and systematic teaching of God's Word.

We live in a time of unprecedented access to the Word. There is a translation, type, and form of the Bible to fit everyone's needs. And for all that, our culture is still biblically illiterate, in a time that biblical literacy could not be more important. We have this treasure in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:5-7), yet it's often reduced it to a list of buzz words and catch phrases that fit on tee shirts and church signs. This watering down has dulled the sharp, two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). Instead of allowing it to pierce the thoughts and intentions of our hearts, we wield it as a blunt instrument to numb ourselves and others to the real, deep pain of sin. We pick out the verses we like and slap them over our wounds, leaving our souls to fester in our ignorance.

My husband and I have been discussing how the Lord uses people to draw unbelievers to Him. Can He use a tee shirt? Of course. He can use anything He wants. But we must be guard against sentimentalizing the Gospel to the point that it becomes culturally-acceptable kitsch. We may plant seeds by posting, tweeting, or wearing a verse but if we can't properly open the Scripture in explanation, we're overlooking the call to water (1 Cor. 3:5-7). Peter exhorts us to always be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

You may consider this a retraction of sorts. Do I intend to read the Bible through in a year? No, but I do intend to read it through using Wilson's suggested method, however long it takes. It's time to rip off the bandages and cleanse my sin-sick soul with the whole counsel of the Word.

1 comment:

  1. I highly value reading the Bible through for many reasons, mainly because it keeps me balanced and because it is all inspired. But I don't try to do it in a year any more because it seemed too rushed, and I didn't feel I could slow down and ponder because I had to get my "assignment" done. So now I go at my own pace. But I also like to "camp out" sometimes in one book for a more in-depth study, and it's hard to know how to coordinate general reading of a larger amount with a deeper study of a smaller among. In one church we attended, the pastor preached expositionally, slowly, and carefully through whole books at a time, so I felt comfortable with my reading plan. Since we moved away, we haven't found pastors that preach that way, so I've felt a need for more personal in-depth study. I often slow down when I get to the shorter epistles and read one over and over again several times before moving on. They're so short, it's easy to breeze through them, but they're too rich and meaty to do that. Otherwise sometimes I take a break from general reading to do a more in-depth study and then come back to it.