All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69).
Bart Ehrman is an atheist, but he’s a scholar of the New Testament and he teaches courses on Christianity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has a little exercise he likes to do with his introductory students, and it’s something I would like to run with you right now.
Question 1: Do you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, that God caused the Bible to be written so that he can tell humanity about himself?
Question 2: Have you read the Bible? Not just bits and pieces, but the whole Bible.
Now, if you answered question 1 with a yes (which I think I can safely assume, since I’m writing to you Chi Alpha leaders), and if you answered question 2 with a no, there is something majorly important here. And it boils down to this:
You believe that God wrote a book. And you haven’t read it?
Some people have an easy time reading the Bible. Some people just automatically take a lot of joy about reading it. Day in and day out, they read the Bible. They love it.
For others, though, reading the Bible is a chore.
I think those of us in the latter group (because it totally can be a chore for me, too. Being a pastor doesn’t change what you find interesting or easy to read) were probably raised Christian. This is a hunch; I don’t have statistical data to back it up. It’s a trend I’ve noticed in the people around me. I could be way off base.
But it seems to me that the majority of us who have a hard time reading the Bible consistently, who don’t always eagerly desire to read God’s Word, were raised around the Bible.
There are probably a number of reasons for it. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say—perhaps a lot of us don’t find it easy to give the Bible its proper respect and attention because we were just raised with the Bible always being around. It doesn’t seem that special in your mind.
Another could be childhood association. I know that, for me, church was boring as a kid. When someone started reading the Bible, I knew the sermon was about to start and it was time to take a nap (or, to keep myself from fidgeting, doing origami). The Bible was presented as dry and dusty, not flowing with living water. And for me, at least, that’s been a hard mentality to shake. The impressions you make as a kid are often the hardest impressions to change because they’re so deeply ingrained into your worldview.
But whatever your reasons, you have to get over them.
There’s no way around it. You just have to get over it.
Do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word, God revealing himself to you? If you really believe that, why wouldn’t you want to read it?
But let’s face it; the Bible isn’t always the most interesting literature to read. Or the easiest. Take for example genealogies. That’s drier than plain white toast, if you’re just reading the words. So let’s look at a few ways you can help yourself.
1. What translation are you using? Some translations are more academic than others. Some are drier than others.
You probably shouldn’t try using the King James Version for your daily reading, since King James English isn’t your English. You’re reading something in a foreign language that’s close enough for you to understand (for the most part. Word meanings have changed over the past 500 years, and some are completely gone), but that doesn’t mean it’s not exhausting to read. So find a translation that you find easy to read.
Some easy-to-read translations would be the Message, the New Living Translation and the New International Version.
2. Now that you have a translation that you can read without getting stressed out and watching Netflix for three hours to decompress, try picturing what you’re reading. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re reading about and try to experience it from their perspective.
If you’re reading Luke 1:26-38, put yourself in Mary’s position. You’re a teenage girl (Mary was probably a teenager at the time) engaged to a man your family has gotten to know. One night, an angel visits you and gives you a weird greeting, then tells you that God is going to make you pregnant—not by your future husband after you’re married, but by the Holy Spirit before you’re married. And not only that, your child will be the Messiah everyone’s been waiting for and a bunch of people in the area is starting to claim to be.
How do you feel? What are you thinking? Try to experience it from Mary’s perspective. Then do the same from Gabriel’s perspective. And then try it from God’s perspective—what does God feel when he looks at Mary?
Do this whenever you read a passage. God will always be one of the characters involved, by the way, so always try to experience it from God’s perspective, too. Doing this helps the Bible to come alive. It helps you switch from just reading the words of the Bible to experiencing the Bible.
3. Do some homework on your passage. Don’t be afraid to look stuff up. This can help even with those dreaded genealogies—who exactly were all those people? You can find out a lot that will make the Bible more real to you.
Those are just three small things you can do. Try them out!
Read what God wrote you!