Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part IV: Wanting to Read Your Bible
1 Timothy 4:8
December 27, 2009
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (Title slide up)
This is the time of the year some of us make New Year’s Resolutions. Most resolutions are about physical health: exercise, diet, quit smoking. I want to run a half marathon.
Q How about your spiritual health?
NIV 1 Timothy 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
Physical training is great, but very limited, because it only last you a lifetime. Spiritual training lasts eternity.
Here’s a NYR: Read the entire Bible with the rest of the church. Remember the study that said reading the Bible 4x a week greatly reduces succumbing to temptation? How about 6x a week?
· In this last sermon before we start reading (on Friday!) I want to both motivate you to read with us and to equip you.
I am excited for this new series, reading and studying the entire Bible together as a church. I am personally looking forward to how much better I will know and understand the Bible, and (most importantly) have my life changed.
· My personal agenda: To discover the “Gospel of Joy.”
I believe that God is everything we really want, and when we pursue God and his glory and righteousness, we are our happiest and most fulfilled. I think we will find this as a key theme.
Jesus found your word more nourishing than bread (and he was speaking of the OT). Help us desire your life giving Word, help us as a church grow in depth and holiness through this series.
From “have to” to “want to”
Q What if I told you that at the end of this sermon, you will be highly motivated to read the Bible? Would you believe me?
You shouldn’t. The most important “trick” to reading Bible is wanting to. I could find powerful external motivations (violence, shame), but they would not bring lasting change.
But if that offer of a magic trick to want to read the Bible caught your interest, there is hope – you already want to.
· The challenge is wanting it more than the other things.
The Gospel of Joy
I said earlier (and many times before), God is everything we really want and pursuing God brings us our greatest joy. All the joys of this world are at their best reflections of his glory and at worst distractions.
· This means that whenever God calls us to do anything, it will (in the end) bring us greater joy.
This is important starting point because if knowing and obeying God is the surest path to true joy, then the Bible only reliable and authoritative means of finding joy.
· Are there times it takes work? Sure, but is there anything worthwhile that doesn’t?
A lot of us exercise; I don’t always enjoy it per se, but I love the results. I love feeling better, and more alert. Yet, ultimately I exercise because I want to, not necessarily when I step on the treadmill, but overall I want to.
The problem is we are inclined to trade our lesser desires for our greater desires – when I get to the gym, my lesser desire is to go to hot tub and call that a work out. My greater desire is to be healthy.
· It’s “instant gratification” vrs. “DELAYED gratification.”
If there’s a trick to wanting to read the Bible it’s to ask God to help you focus on your greater desires – to know and enjoy him, then trusting God that the Bible will get you there.
What’s stopping us?
So if we really do want to know God and read the Bible, the bigger question is: What’s stopping us? Here are four common reasons I think we don’t read our Bible regularly.
1. I don’t have a plan.
For some folks (such as me), not having a plan is a huge issue. If I go to the gym without a plan, I wander around and am unproductive. Likewise, reading “a little here and there” is relatively ineffective.
· The Bible was meant to be read in context, not verses.
You will be given a specific passage to read each day, except Sunday (in the bulletin). Then on Sunday I will preach through a topic or passage from the previous week.
· Perhaps we can have some online discussion going.
By reading together, we will motivate each other. It’s positive peer pressure. I ran a 10k last month because Cecil kept on pushing me to run a race, and I have almost forgiven him.
2. I don’t have enough time.
If I were to take a survey, this would be the #1 reason we don’t read our Bible. Let’s think about this for a minute: We will be reading through the Bible at the pace of 1-2 pages a day.
That works out to 5-10 minutes (at an average pace). Add to that a couple of minutes to pray (the first key step), and 5-10 to study, you are looking about 20 minutes.
This is where the greater/lesser desire thing comes in. Think through your current daily routine:
Q Is every twenty minutes you spend more important to you than pursuing your greatest joy?
Q Do you want to do everything in that schedule more than reading your Bible?
If you are anything like me, there are wasted pockets throughout the day, of things that really aren’t that important to me.
· Take a minute and think of some of the times when you could carve out 20 minutes and write out three possible times.
If you are married, I want you and your spouse to agree on a way you can make this work for each other. If you are not married, then just do it!
BTW: If you get off schedule, don’t worry and don’t try to catch up – just pick up on the new day’s reading. Every 4-6 weeks someone else will preach and you will have a break to catch up.
3. It will be too boring.
Whether or not you’ll admit it, all of us are worried about being bored. If this were a Tom Clancy or Steven King novel, 20 minutes a day would be easy!
The reason we are reading together and preaching through the Bible is because it’s full of riches (even in the long list of names), even if some of the riches require more digging.
When the elders decided to do this series, I was a little worried too (you just have to read, I have stand up here and preach), but then I began to map out the series and became excited because the wealth of topic I get to preach on.
· So it won’t be boring, though there may be some passages that don’t grab you as much as other.
The sermons will help you see these themes, and also help you find them on your own.
4. It will be too confusing.
I think a reason we think the Bible is boring is because we don’t understand it.
Last week I was reading an article on the Green River Killer, and in the comments someone stated that he was just doing what the Bible commanded (killing prostitutes).
Q How do we respond to that?
Q Does the Bible prohibit tattoos? Can women speak in church?
There are a host of things that we will come across as we read that won’t make sense. It is one of my big objectives from this series for this church to become hermeneutically astute.
Q What does that mean and why is it important?
It is best expressed in this verse:
2 Timothy 2:15 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Basically, I want to teach you how to correctly handle the truth and interpret the Bible. “Hermeneutics” is the study of how to interpret the Bible (based from when Jesus “explained” the OT.)
The need to interpret
Q Why do I need to learn how to interpret the Bible?
When I start talking about hermeneutics, exegesis, and Greek, there can be a fear that I’m taking the Bible out the hand of the common man and making it accessible only to scholars.
There’s a perspective that says, “Just pick up the Bible and read it. You don’t need any help, just you and the Holy Spirit.” I recently read one pastor bragging about not having a degree.
· At LIFE chapel: PhD.
I can appreciate this perspective, because it is a reaction to the arrogance of scholarship and the fact that many scholars have a very low view of Scripture.
But if is arrogant to look down on those who don’t have a degree in Biblical studies, then it is also arrogant to look down on and ignore those who do have a degree.
· Some brag they don’t need a commentary, but that means, “I’m the only person the Spirit has spoken to.”
· We short change ourselves if we ignore scholarship (DPL: Thanksgiving).
But the real reason we need to learn to interpret rather than just “pick up and read” is because we are already interpreting, it’s just a question of whether we are good interpreters.
Whenever we read a passage, we make a decision about what it means, but are we correct? Three examples:
1. When read “cross” we think “U” but it was actually “T”.
2. A pastor preached 1 Kings 14:10 means real men pee standing up (he’s the one who bragged about not having a degree).
3. Charles Russell saw “firstborn over creation” (Col. 1:15) means Jesus is not God, and founded “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
So as we preach through the Bible, I will be teaching you to be good interpreters. That doesn’t mean I will teach you to agree with me, but to dig for yourself.
Goal of good interpretation
Here is the goal of good interpretation: To find the clear meaning to the original audience. When Paul, Moses, or Luke wrote, what were they meaning to convey?
In this series, we will learn to go from “what does it mean to me” to “what does it mean (exegesis) and how does it apply to me (hermeneutics)?”
· This is a very short explanation, so my Tuesday Community Group will be a workshop on this.
Here are four basic tools you will need for this journey:
1. 2-3 good translations.
2. A good study Bible
As we worship, I want each of you to seriously consider joining us as we read through the Bible, making a promise to God to set aside 20 minutes each day to know him better.
Q & A