In Sunday’s sermon I suggested that Christians often talk about the Bible from memory. This came up because my assigned topic for the week was the birth of Christ. We hear the story of Christ’s birth so much each Christmas that I estimate that most regularly attending church members would have no problem listing at least 80% of all the significant elements of the story.
However, if we adopt the attitude that “we’ve already read it one hundred times”, or “we already know the story”, we reduce the likelihood that we’ll read it again. Instead, we’ll rely on a summary version stored in our memory banks.
What we may not realise is that when we rely upon our memory of a story, we’ve effectively taken God’s word and turn it into a collection of information that we either know or don’t know. In most cases as we tell the story of Jesus’ birth from memory we’ll tell a story that describes main events, but misses the divine wording. So we know that that angels praised God before the shepherds, but we forget the exact words they used.
When we rely upon our memory of the story, it’s going to be extremely difficult to differentiate between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Does that matter? Well, it did to Matthew and Luke. They each included and excluded material for a reason, but we’ll never come to consider the reason if we rely on our recollection of the story.
It’s important to read the Bible, even those parts we already know. Too often we read Scripture as though we’re preparing for a test: an eternal Bible Bowl.
We read to find answers.
We read to accumulate knowledge.
We read because we’re told we should.
We read to find that verse to win that argument.
While each of these reading motivations have their place, it’s not the type of reading the Bible itself envisages.
The Bible is not merely information.
The Bible is not a collection of facts.
The Bible is not an answer book.
The Bible is not a history book.
Hebrews 4:12 vividly describes the dynamic function of God’s Word, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” That sure doesn’t sound like preparing for a quiz, does it?
Perhaps the language of God’s word penetrating and dividing soul and spirit sounds threatening. Yet, as we mature in Christ, we come to long for Him to mold us into his image. To reveal our weaknesses and utilise our strengths. This doesn’t mean the process is easy or comfortable, but we recognise that it’s for our benefit.
God intends us to read the Bible not just for information, but to shine a light on our lives and examine our relationship with God.
God intends for us to read Scripture without demanding answers to our questions, but allowing God to scrutinise us with His questions.
God intends for us to read His Word allowing His Spirit to guide our thoughts and hearts as we read.
When we rely on our memory to summarise a passage of Scripture or describe an event, we eliminate the possibility that a particular word or phrase of Scripture will speak to us. We will find ourselves forever stuck with our previously developed wording, meaning and significance, which limits our capacity for spiritual growth.
Spending time In God’s word, is the same as spending time with God. Sadly, we don’t always make these meetings because we’re not always looking for a Bible that is “alive and active“. And we don’t always welcome a God who’s “alive and active” in our lives.
Where do you meet with God?
[Just after I posted this blog, a friend shared this video with me. It’s a perfect match, and Bill Hybels does a great job of presenting a different, but important, perspective on this topic.]