Weekly Devotional Oct. 10–14
Why do we study the Bible?
This week’s devotional is brought to you by Christina Gould:
When is the last time you read your Bible?
Now depending on your answer to that question you are probably feeling one of two ways about yourself: You’re either feeling slightly guilty because it’s been a while since you’ve really sat down to take in the Word of God because you’d much rather sleep in a little longer, or get started studying for your organic chemistry II exam, or watch 3 hours of SNL videos to kill time or literally anything else. Or you’re feeling pretty smug because you had an hour long “quiet time” not only this morning, but every morning this week, and you’ve been praying for your personal holiness and the salvation of the unreached and you even dared to pray that really holy and dangerous prayer asking God to give you more patience. If you’re the former, then you quickly remind yourself of the grace you have through Christ and that it’s legalistic to tell yourself you need read the Bible all the time anyway. And if you’re the latter, you might try and humble yourself a little bit, but come on — I mean you’re doing pretty good at this whole Christianity thing aren’t you?
But truthfully, both of these responses are incredibly sinful because both responses are self-exalting and both responses are God-belittling. To see how this is true, it is important to pose another important but often unasked question:
Just why do we read the Bible anyway?
No really. I’m serious. Why do we read the Bible? What is the purpose of “Bible study”?
Is it to understand the Bible? I mean it’s kind of a confusing book, but it’s clearly super important, and so maybe we read the Bible so that we can better understand it and know how to teach it to others so we can apply it like a roadmap to our lives?
No, no I’ve got it. We read our Bibles in the morning because our day is just kind of “off” without it, right? I mean, I know I’m not going to have the mental capacity or the patience with people or the energy I need to get through my day unless I read that Bible. I’m a better person because of it.
Or kind of along the same lines, maybe it just feels good to wake up in the morning, enjoy some vanilla hazelnut coffee from Einstein’s, open up to Psalms 139:14, and read about how awesome God thinks I am. But if we’re being honest, we spend more time journaling about how awesome God thinks we are, than actually searching the scriptures.
Or maybe you think if you have your time with God every day, things will go better for you. God will bless you for spending time with Him — He owes that to us.
I went to a church service one summer in Texas where the pastor literally stood up and said, “And you know, the good Lord will bless you this week because you took time to honor Him this morning.” Oh yeah! You’re welcome God! I decided to grace you with my presence for 1 hour out of my 168 this week. And like the older of the Prodigal sons we say, “So go ahead and give me what’s mine, thank you very much.”
And yet, how many of us subconsciously think that we should have a better day because we read our Bibles?
Did anybody notice that none of those reasons had anything to do with God and everything to do with ourselves? People, we are in extreme danger of turning “time with God” into time with ourselves.
“Okay, okay,” you might be thinking, “So the Bible isn’t about me or my life or my days or whatever, it’s about God, I get that, I understand that.” To which I would say, “Yes!” and again I would ask, “So why do we read our Bibles?” Because I think there is one more reason that can really trip us up.
If we read our Bibles to understand God, we have committed the worst idolatry.
Too many of us have turned the Bible into a textbook about understanding God as if He were a subject to be studied or a problem to be solved rather than three Persons to be known and a God to be worshipped.
And if you think you actually comprehend and understand the infinite nature of God or that whole trinity thing, you actually know nothing. You don’t know the Lord and there’s no wonder you’re bored with the imaginary friend you’ve been calling “god” — a god you made up, a god you can understand, a god you can control and a god that doesn’t offend — who is comprised of a bunch of characteristics you decided you liked.
Earlier I said feeling smug about having really good and consistent quiet times is both self-glorifying and God-belittling. This is because smugness can in no way reflect a heart of worship.
I’ve got news for you: if your worship of God leaves you with more joy in your own goodness than it does joy and awe in the Creator of the Cosmos who mercifully calls you child, it isn’t worship — not worship of God anyway.
Because who gets the glory in that scenario? You do. And that’s not worship of God, that’s worship of self.
True worship points to the object of its affection and says, “Look how wonderful HE is.”
Think of the idols you worship in your life: Worship doesn’t say, “Man this money/approval from man/food/sex/alcohol/drugs/success really sucks and isn’t worth anything, but look at me I’m going to begrudgingly sacrifice to get more of it anyway.” No, worship says, “Wow this money/approval from man/food/sex/alcohol/drugs/success is really awesome and I will easily and gladly do whatever I can to get more of it!”
By definition, we like what we worship. And yet, how many of us actually like God?
We treat time with Him like an obligation, we are bored and friends, you cannot worship God if you find Him boring.
We think the Israelites are so foolish for crafting that infamous golden calf, yet we are guilty of the same treachery every day that we trade in the glory of the one true God for the easy-to-maneuver and manipulate version of god we’ve made up in our minds. A god that we have created, who is boring and not worth our fear and a god who is like a sad old man at a nursing home waiting pitifully for us to drop in and grace him with 30 minutes of our time.
C.S. Lewis describes the tragedy of this phenomenon with worship and desire and boredom in his essay The Weight of Glory.
“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition [and Netflix, ice cream, porn, approval of others, money, etc.] when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
So why don’t we read the Bible? We are too busy making mud pies. We are too busy gorging ourselves on gummy worms and Smarties, not even realizing that a feast of a beautiful medium-rare filet mignon wrapped in sizzling bacon with warm creamy mashed potatoes on the side and a heaping helping of Cookies N’ Cream Blue Bell for dessert is offered to us. In short, we are numbed by Netflix, drugs, porn, sex, alcohol, approval of others and money — resulting in us being far too easily pleased.
We can’t see the real overwhelming goodness of God’s glory. God is both Judge and Justifier. Both Creator and Redeemer. Both Lion and Lamb. Both Wrathful and Merciful. Righteous yet Gracious. Conqueror but Servant. Three but One. God is a Father to call Dad, a Savior to call Friend, a Spirit to call Sustainer — They are three persons. He is one God. The God of the universe decided to write a book to us — the wretched adulteresses His Son died to redeem — and His Spirit adopted as children so that He might be glorified and we might love Him.
I’m sorry, what?
Are you telling me we get to engage in personal and intimate relationships with the very God who will be praised by every tongue, tribe, nation, race and nationality? By every animal, plant, mountain, planet, star, and black hole?
The reason we don’t enjoy our Bibles is because we do not recognize the treasure trove that is before us.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:44 that the Kingdom of God is a like a treasure hidden in a field that — when a man found it — goes in joy goes and sells all he has and buys that field. He doesn’t think, “Meh this is alright but I think I’ll just head back to my dorm and keep watching Netflix,” nor does he say, “Yeah check out how awesome I am because I realize how valuable this treasure is.” No. He sees the value of the treasure and in joy runs out to do whatever necessary to acquire it.
Whichever category we fall into; we all have the same problem: we cannot see God’s glory. This is because as the Bible describes, we are lovers of blindness and in dire need of grace upon grace. That is the gospel.
You and I were so dead in our trespasses that we couldn’t even see God as glorious to begin with. Justification before God is not possible apart from the grace given to us by the gift bought and paid for by Christ’s death and resurrection. But we often forget we are still in need of grace day by day because upon conversion, the Holy Spirit begins the work of sanctification (the process of becoming more and more like Christ as we love Him and the Father and the Spirit more and more as we see more and more of their glory and beauty) which is not possible apart from the very work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, eyes and ears as He shows us more and more of their glory.
So, if you’re in that former category, the category that hasn’t picked up their Bible in weeks because you just don’t find God glorious, then join with me in prayer that the Father would — through His Spirit — open our eyes to the grace we have in Christ and the restored relationship we have with the God-head. That His Spirit would open our eyes to the undeniable glory of God that is made manifest in the scriptures so we might know Him better.
If you’re in that latter category, the one that feels smug due to the personal holiness you may or may not have achieved, please join with me in prayer that the Spirit would help us forget ourselves in our relationship with Him. That we would be so in love with the God of the cosmos that we would not be hindered by thoughts of ourselves and our “awesomeness”, but instead we would see the love we have for God as a gift from Himself. A gift that’s a result of the Spirit’s work in our hearts made effective by the complete work of Christ on the cross.
And together we all pray, like Moses, “Please show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18)