by Tim Herwaldt
|Where does the Bible rank on your list of reading priorities? Most of us probably read from many sources every day. Some of us still read printed newspapers. Many read magazines, books, internet articles. There are things to read about innumerable topics: Fishing, politics, history, cooking, woodworking, sports, theology, and on and on. Whatever your preferences for reading material, I’d like to suggest that almost every one of us would do well to replace some of what we usually read with a little more time reading the Bible.|
There are many Biblical reasons we could draw from to support this notion, but I’d like to use one of the shortest verses in the Bible as my inspiration for urging that we consider this. John 17 records for us the prayer that Jesus prayed on the night that he was betrayed. Among the things he prays for is that the Father would continue to keep his followers, even as he, Jesus, prepares to finish his ministry on earth and return to his Father in heaven. He prays in ways that should be a great encouragement to us.
In verse 9 he says that he is not praying for everyone but very particularly for those who belong to him: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
In verse 11 he prays that the Father would keep them, and prays that they’d be unified: “…keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
In verse 15 he prays that the Father would keep them from the evil one: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
Especially encouraging is verse 20 where he prays for us, those who would believe in later generations, long after that of the original 12 disciples: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
So where does the idea that we should be reading the Bible more faithfully come from? Tucked into the heart of this prayer is verse 17 which says, “ Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
We understand that sanctification is the process of growing in holiness and that this is the Lord’s desire for all of his people. The fact that this is his desire for us is spelled out very clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:3a where Paul instructs these believers this way: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” So, God’s will for us is that we grow in holiness, and by pairing this notion with the one presented in John 17:17, we can see that reading and growing in our understanding of God’s word is an integral part of this process. If we see this as a scriptural mandate for us, then it should motivate us to make Bible reading a regular and important part of our lives. A once a week “fill up” on Sundays is not sufficient. We need to be reading in a way that increases both the breadth and the depth of our knowledge of the word of God.
It’s good for us to bear in mind that each of us will find certain parts of scripture easier to read or more attractive to us than other parts. Paul’s word to Timothy is a good reminder that all of scripture is important for us as followers of Jesus Christ. In 2 Timothy 3:15-17 he assures his younger brother in the faith like this: “ and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The “sacred writings” that Paul references here are the scriptures we know as the Old Testament today, and they, like the New Testament are breathed out by God and profitable for us.
If reading scripture regularly and meaningfully has proven to be difficult for you to maintain, I’d like to suggest that you pray that God would give you a heart that reflects the heart of the author of Psalm 119. In verses 97-104 he proclaims his love for the word of God and describes some of its benefits for him…
“Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.“
Pray faithfully and regularly that the Lord would increase in your heart a love for his word that would encourage you to grow in being regularly immersed in his word. You can confidently pray a prayer like this because you are asking him to help you love his priorities for you. And as you pray this kind of prayer, pick up your Bible and read!