Friday, July 19, 2013

Life-changing or Time Wasting?

Would you be surprised to learn that only 31% of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. That number shrinks to a mere 10% if we're only asking people who claim no religious affiliation. In addition to that, 19% of Americans feel the Bible is nothing more than a compilation of myths and legends.

What do you think? Do you believe the Bible is the literal word of God or a collection of myths and legends? Does it make any difference whether or not you believe the Bible is “God-breathed” as long as you believe in God? Is there anything inherently special about the Bible? Is it possible to read the Bible, all the way through, and not be changed by what you’ve read?

Exhibit 1:
“The prince of Grenada, an heir to the Spanish crown, was sentenced to life in solitary confinement in Madrid's ancient prison. The dreadful, dirty, and dreary nature of the place earned it the name, ‘The Place of the Skull.’ Everyone knew that once you were in, you would never come out alive. The prince was given one book to read the entire time: the Bible.
With only one book to read, he read it hundreds and hundreds of times. The book became his constant companion. After 33 years of imprisonment, he died. When they came to clean out his cell, they found some notes he had written using nails to mark the soft stone of the prison walls. The notations were of this sort: Psalm 118:8 is the middle verse of the Bible; Ezra 7:21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except the letter J; the ninth verse of the eighth chapter of Esther is the longest verse in the Bible; no word or name more than six syllables can be found in the Bible.
“This individual spent 33 years of his life studying what some have described as the greatest book of all time. Yet he could only glean trivia. From all we know, he never made any religious or spiritual commitment to Christ. He simply became an expert at Bible trivia.”[1]

Exhibit 2:
“A Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he'd ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran.
“The believer responded, ‘No, I haven't, but I'm sure it would be interesting. Why don't we read both together, once a week, alternating books?’ The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he became a believer in Jesus.
“One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and shouted at the long-time believer, ‘You deceived me!’
“‘What are you talking about?’ the believer asked.
“The new believer opened his Bible and said, ‘I've been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!’ He grinned. ‘You knew all along that the Bible contained God's power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!’
“‘And now you'll hate me for life?’ queried the believer.
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘but it was an unfair contest.’”[2]
What made the difference between the responses of these two men? One was saved and one just collected trivia. (Although I’m not convince that the prince of Grenada wasn’t changed by reading the Bible for 33 years. It’s just that nobody got the chance to talk to him about it. Maybe the odd trivia was just an intellectual activity to fill some of the crushing monotony of 33 years in prison.)

We hear so often about people who don’t have any experience with God who just start reading the Bible and are brought into a relationship with Jesus. I guess I really didn’t think of folks who read the Bible and were left unchanged.  That worries me a little because that means that it is possible for me to read my Bible and remain unchanged as well. How can I make sure that we have a life changing experience while reading the Bible is life-changing and not a waste of time?

Well a Tyndale House study found that regular Bible readers, on the whole, describe themselves as "at peace," "happy," and "full of joy" more often that people who said they never read the Bible.
That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to just be happier, I want to spend eternity with Jesus my Savior!
Well, first of all, just Bible reading isn’t enough, I have to study, and study without prayer asking for the leading of the Holy Spirit won’t do me much good either.
“Superficial study of the word of God can not [sic] meet the claims it has upon us, nor furnish us with the benefit that is promised. We should seek to learn the full meaning of the words of truth, and to drink deep the spirit of the holy oracles. To read daily a certain number of chapters, or to commit to memory a stipulated amount of Scripture, without careful thought as to the meaning of the text, will profit but little. To study one passage until its significance is clear to the mind, and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. We can not [sic] obtain wisdom from the word of God without giving earnest and prayerful attention to its study.
You must dig in the mine of truth till you find its greatest treasure, and by comparing scripture with scripture you may find the true meaning of the text.
“... In searching for Heaven-revealed truths, the Spirit of God is brought into close connection with the sincere searcher of the Scriptures. … No study is better to give energy to the mind, to strengthen the intellect, than the study of the word of God. No other book is so potent in elevating the thoughts, in giving vigor to the faculties, as is the Bible, which contains the most ennobling truths. If God’s word were studied as it should be, we would see breadth of mind, stability of purpose, nobility of character, such as are rarely seen in these times. ( E.G. White, Signs of the Times, September 26, 1895)
Well, I don't know about you, but I'm ready to "dig in the mine of truth" for God's greatest treasure.
Dig in!

[1] Leonard Sweet, Your Church in Today's Fluid Culture (Group Publishing, 1999), p. 59
[2] Floyd Schneider, Evangelism for the Fainthearted (Kregel, 2000

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