For the word of God is living and active…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
There is no way to be a disciple of Jesus Christ while having only a mild or moderate interest in the Bible.
Think about the things Jesus said about the Word of God. He said “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He linked Scripture to God’s omnipotence when He corrected the Sadducees who were trying to spring a doctrinal trap on Him with, “you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). He taught that the entirety of what we call the Old Testament had one ultimate purpose…to “bear witness about me” (John 5:39). Every time He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness He responded with “It is written…” (Matthew 4:1-10). When asked what is the most important thing a person should know about God (Matthew 22:35-40), He quoted the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which welds together God and His Word. Perhaps of supreme significance is that His self-awareness of His identity was tied directly to Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14).
What about the apostles? After Christ’s ascension did they toss aside God’s Word in favor of their personal experiences with Jesus? Absolutely not! The first Christian sermon by an apostle was preached on Pentecost by Peter (Acts 2:14-36). He began with a citation from the prophet Joel and went on to quote two different psalms (16 and 110). When he and John went into the temple in Acts 3 to pray and they healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, he explained that what had and what was taking place is what “God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets…” (Acts 3:18). Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 is both a synopsis and an interpretation of the Pentateuch. Paul told Timothy that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16) and to the Corinthians, he wrote that the narratives in the Old Testament “were written for our admonition… (1 Corinthians 10:11). And the author of Hebrews in chapter three prefaces a quote from Psalm 95 in (verses 8-11) with “as the Holy Spirit says”!
Let me repeat: there is no way to be a disciple of Jesus Christ while having only a mild or moderate interest in the Bible.
A 2019 study by Barna titled “State of the Bible 2019: Trends in Engagement” reveals that a paltry 5% of Americans are “Bible Centered” while a whopping 48% of Americans are “Bible Disengaged.” The former are those who believe the Bible is transforming them while the latter believe it has “minimal impact on their lives.” As we saw above, having a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ does not supplant personally engaging the Scripture. Few people on earth have had a more personal relationship with Jesus than the apostles and yet they continued to read, pray, and utilize the Scripture to better grasp their theological understanding of God and grapple with the Great Commission as it played out in their daily lives!
Having been a preacher/pastor for more than three decades I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard churchgoers say, “I don’t know much about the Bible, but…” They extol their ignorance as if it were a trophy. Churchgoers who are willing to tout their unfamiliarity with Scripture are like people who “earned” their doctorate from an online diploma mill by sending a big check who nonetheless proudly frame and display their phony degree.
There is a reason why John called Jesus “the Word” (John 1:1-4; 14). To be unfamiliar with the written Word of God is to be unfamiliar with the incarnate Word of God. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). And where do we find His words?
In the first few sentences of the Revelation we read,
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near (Revelation 1:3).
Interesting that the blessing is promised to the one who reads aloud and those who hear those spoken words.
Paul instructed Timothy to seek God’s approval by “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). He told the Christians in Rome that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The longest chapter in the entire Bible (which also doubles as the longest song in the Bible’s hymnbook) is Psalm 119 which is exclusively about the Word of God.
The Bible may be the most purchased book of all time but if we grasp what Barna’s research is revealing we can see that it is being used as a talisman. You have heard it said that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than living in a garage makes you a car. Likewise, purchasing a Bible and carrying it around from time to time doesn’t mean you have a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ any more than wearing your favorite team’s sports jersey means you actually play for that team. Jesus isn’t looking for fans. He’s looking for disciples and specifically those who are “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded…” (Matthew 28:20).
This blog started with a passage from Hebrews that says that God’s Word “is living and active.” It then says that the Word “discern[s] the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is probably why so many people rarely open their Bibles. When you do, you find out very quickly that it (He) is reading you as much as you are reading it (Him). That is usually rather uncomfortable.
Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? (Luke 24:32)
One last time: there is no way to be a disciple of Jesus Christ while having only a mild or moderate interest in the Bible.