Why Christians Don't Read the Bible1
Wait a minute! I thought all Christians read their Bibles. Aren't we "people of the Book"? Isn't it "the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible" for us? If only that were true. More and more professing Christians are not reading their Bibles in a context where there are literally multitudes of Bibles at their fingertips on their smart phone. We can read it or listen to it anytime of the day or night and we ignore it. There are people overseas who still have no Bible, they are starving for the Word of God, and here we are with a proverbial refrigerator full and we walk away. We are starving too. Biblical illiteracy amongst Christians is at an all-time high. Ouch. What are the reasons for this and how might we stem the tide?
First, the reasons. There are many, but here are six that I think are most prominent:
They have had a falling out with another Christian or they are actively engaged in strife with another Christian and they know that the Bible is going to instruct them to make that right. They know what Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15-17 say about reconciling with those you have hurt and those who have hurt you and they are ignoring that because it's too painful to address. Maybe they really like disliking the other person. Living in unity and peace with them would really throw them off kilter.
They once read something in the Bible that they didn't understand and they have drawing conclusions based on a misunderstanding and they don't want to delve into it anymore. What they forget is that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give them understanding. "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13) That same idea was reiterated in the epistles (Phil. 3:15). “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:16)
They are convicted of sit in their life and their feeling the weight but they keep running away. They are harboring or coddling sin in their life and they know that God is displeased. The Holy Spirit has convicted them of this but they continue to persist in the sin dangerously. Their heart is getting hardened and they don't even know it. So the further they go the less they feel the conviction. This is what is known as their hearts becoming calloused to the truth. They are well on their way to a seared conscience.
They really don't think that highly of the Bible and in fact they look down upon it. They think it is an old book that is not relevant for today. They would never put it into words but they live as if they are above the Bible not under its authority. They do not want to stoop to condescend to read it. They think they already know it all. They are the ones that will tell you "I already read that" or "I've already heard a sermon on that topic" and dismiss any kind of repetition or review of sound biblical teaching. They act as if hearing something once has settled it forever. They don't love or treasure the Word. They don't know their deep need to hear from God every day from His Word.
Many Christians have been brought up on baby food. They have received out of context topical teaching. They haven't ever read through the whole Bible. All they have are isolated ideas and they don't have a solid grasp of biblical doctrine nor do they have the full counsel of God. They are also afraid of what they might read and be called by God to do. They don't want to put their big boy pants on and grow up and face the music of a life out of control. It's like when you're out of shape and you know you need to exercise and eat right and get enough rest. But ice cream tastes so good and the TV is always on and you're so tired by the end of the day. At some point we need to grow up. Paul said it well in Ephesians chapter 4:11-16. Here's a sample: “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph. 4:14)
Sometimes we are just lazy. And we forget to do the things that we know are very important to do. Sometimes we neglect things to the point where we almost forget that they are important to us and that we once benefit greatly from them. So sometimes we need to be shaken up a bit and moved out of our comfort zone. I hope that this article is doing just that in your life.
You could probably think of many more things and if I took more time so could I. This is a dire situation.
Now, what can we do about it? How can we stem the tide of rising biblical illiteracy?
God is God and in his sovereignty and gracious good pleasure he leads us back on the narrow path. In his providence he leads us in kindness to repentance. Do this and live. In God's strength practice the following six things:
1. Repent of any and all sin that you can think of. Throw yourself on the mercy of God. Explain to him everything that is on your heart, knowing that he loves and forgives you. He knows you better than yourself and he brought you to this moment. There is forgiveness in Christ. Believer, based on your faith in Christ alone, trusting in the shed blood and the finished work of Christ on the cross you are secure forever in him. 1 John 1:6-10.
2. Refuse to continue to believe lies. Some of the very reasons that you went away from the Word are the very things that show you how much you need the Word. Deception is just that. So be wary and don't believe everything you think. Ask trusted Christian friends to help you with your perspective.
3. Remember something of what you read and try to put it into practice right away. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in the lives of the people of God for the glory of God. As you seek to be a doer of the Word God will honor that desire.
4. Relish the Word as you let it sink deep into your soul. As Psalm 19 tells us the Word of God is sweet to our souls. It is powerful, it is effective, it is absolute truth. 1 Thess. 2:13 says the Word does it's work in us who believe. That happens as the Holy Spirit applies it to our hearts. Receive the Word as dry ground receives water.
5. Recruit some like-minded friends who can keep you accountable and keep you on track. And you can help them too. We need each other in the body of Christ. We need to practice the one another's with one another.
6. Rest in and be blown away by the abundant mercy, grace, and love of God directed toward you in Christ. What I hope you will see clearly as you get back into the word is that God is always the same and he is always good, right, just, loving, and holy. He wants you to come to him daily to know him. Reading the Bible is not about learning facts, it is about knowing God. The Bible will preach the gospel to you over and over again. You want to be awestruck at the grace of God in Christ. It will lead you to love Jesus crucified, risen, and coming again.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)