I recently had the opportunity to speak to InterVarsity students at Portland State University. I spoke about the relationship between spiritual formation and the Bible. It was a pretty big topic so I had to hone it in as much as I could.
As my first pass, I boiled it down to this: We must learn the story of God, and live the story of God.
Then I shared three unhelpful things we do (that prevent us from learning and living the story) and then three helpful things we can do.
So for the next six weeks, I’m devoting Sunday to expanding on my six points. The first three weeks will be the unhelpful things. The next three will be the helpful things.
Again, this is my first pass. I am pretty sure I am missing some important points. But let’s dive in anyway.
How Not To Learn or Live the Story of God: Don’t Read the Bible
This one got a laugh when I spoke.
But seriously, how can you learn the story if you never read the source of the story?
I don’t want to guilt trip people here. I know very well what it is like to make some commitment to “read my Bible more” and then quit when things get tough. I have even said that Leviticus is where Bible reading plans go to die.
If the church gave a dollar to World Vision for every “read my Bible more” pledge that went sour, poverty would probably be totally eradicated.
So what stops us? Why DON’T we read the Bible? I am going to skip right over the “lazy” option and go for some deeper reasons.
Its Not a Page Turner.
Reading the Bible isn’t like reading Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Lord of The Rings, or . . . Twilight. It doesn’t keep you glued to your seat. Chapters don’t end with cliffhangers.
Many people who’s primary reading, if they read at all, consists of entertaining adventure fiction are going to have a difficult time with the Bible. It just doesn’t read like a modern novel.
It’s Hard to Understand
People who lived 2-3 thousand years ago thought differently than we do. They had different ways of communicating. They used different literary techniques with different images and metaphors and references.
It’s hard to know what do do with a lot of the things we read in the Bible. And rather than working through those things, we find it much easier to just give up.
We Don’t Like What We Read
You don’t have to go far before you will find something that will grate against your sensibilities. Something in there is going to offend you.
Something in there is going to suggest that you do something you would never want to do in a million years.
What This Means
I want to say, as compassionately as I can, that I understand why people don’t want to read the Bible. I have felt every one of these things. I’ve been there.
But if this is our general posture towards the Bible, it will never shape us. We will never learn the story and will never live it.
Because we will spend all our time trying to convince the Bible that it needs to be something its not.
“You need to be more entertaining, easier to understand, and pleasant. And if you don’t shape up, I’m out.”
Have you ever given up on a decision to read the Bible more? Why?
Part 2: The Teacher’s Edition of Life
Part 3: Don’t Read the Bible Alone
Part 4: Train Yourself to Read the Bible
Part 5: Context, Context, Context!
Part 6: The Word With Friends