Our immersion into Scripture must go beyond merely growing in knowledge.
Reading and studying the Bible are good. Time in God’s Word is never wasted.
Even Satan knows the Bible. He knows it so well that he will quote it and attempt to use it to destroy our faith by distorting it. (Remember the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4?)
Why Should We Know the Bible?
So if even an enemy of God can know the Bible well, how is our knowledge of the Bible different? Why should we read and study God’s word?
To grow in our knowledge of the Bible is to grow in our knowledge of Jesus.
Among many other reasons, our primary goal as we open this Book is to know Jesus Christ – it’s about a relationship. The Bible is God’s Word to us. It’s how we understand who He is, what He loves, what He hates, how He works.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
We all long for intimacy in relationships. Especially as women, we desire to be understood, to be known, to be loved.
If someone tells me they know, understand, or love me, but continually do or say things that hurt me, it’s hard for me to believe their words.
Charles H. Spurgeon said:
“A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him, they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree, the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.
Reading and studying the Bible alone are not expressions of love for God. We are called to more than that.
Reading and Doing Are Two Different Things
In James 1:21, we are exhorted to “receive with meekness the implanted word“. To receive God’s Word with meekness is to accept it with a heart of humility.
James challenged us in James 1:22 to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
If we just hear (or read) God’s Word, but don’t do it, we are deceived! How are we deceived? James explains it like this:
“But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1:22-25 NLT)
He goes further in chapter 2:
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?… Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless… You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this… How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:14-20 NLT)
In the same way that saying “I love you” and showing your love are two different things, reading and studying the Bible is different than truly believing it and living it out.
Jesus told us exactly how we can show Him we love Him in John 14:15. He said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.”
Let me be clear: Salvation is by faith alone, through grace alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Our good works do not earn us favor with God. He doesn’t love us more or less based on what we do (or don’t do). All of the good and righteous things we could ever do would never be enough to save ourselves from God’s righteous judgment (Isaiah 64:6). Our good standing with God has nothing to do with us. It is only because of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Our works, our actions, how we live our lives is our response to this incredible gift of grace we’ve received from Jesus Christ. We show Him we love Him, we show Him that we’ve humbly received His gift of grace, we show Him we “receive His Word with meekness” by living according to His will (which we learn and come to know and understand through our reading and studying of the Bible).
Jesus simplified this in Matthew 22:36-40 when His disciples asked Him what the greatest commandment is. What’s the most important thing for us to do as followers of Christ? He said,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Loving others is the main way we love Jesus.
Called to Go
The familiar story of Mary and Martha shows us a tender picture of how much Jesus loves spending time with us. He loves it when we sit at His feet, listening to what He has to say to us. He loves that we want to be still and learn from Him. He wants us to take that time. And, in fact, we need that time. God’s Word teaches us and empowers us to live according to God’s Word.
But if we spend all our time in our “prayer closets” with our Bible open in our laps, how will the Kingdom of God grow? We are called to know Jesus, but we are also called to share Him.
I’ve shared before the humbling story of when God convicted me of spiritual immaturity even as I was fighting for greater depth and consistency in my personal Bible reading. Reading and meditating on 1 Corinthians 13 doesn’t mean a whole lot if I’m yelling at my kids at the same time.
After teaching His disciples everything they needed to know and developing intimate relationship with them, Jesus commissioned them (and us) to go.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples…. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
In a society that values productivity, it’s easy to get caught up in a system of measuring spiritual success by the check marks filling our Bible reading plans or the consistency in our colorfully updated habit trackers. We scour the internet, saving pins and liking posts that show us color-coded Bibles and teach us a new study method or prayer acronym.
Our spiritual self-evaluation becomes more about quantity over quality. God gently reminds me that my Bible reading plan or study methods are less important to Him than what I’m doing with what I’m learning.
Rather than asking, “Am I studying well?”, I find myself asking questions like:
- Am I living faithfully according to what I’m learning from God’s Word?
- Is my heart being transformed through my time in His Word, or am I studying for knowledge alone?
- Am I growing closer to Christ and in my awe of who He is?
- How is my Bible reading impacting my life?
- How does it change me?
- How is it affecting the way I live, the decisions I make, what I watch, read, and listen to?
- How is it affecting my relationships?
Stay in the Word. Continue to faithfully read it and diligently study it. But become a doer, not a “reader” only. Let God’s Word deepen your relationship with Him, increase your love of Christ, transform who you are and how you live. In the process, God will be glorified in you by your love for others.
My Prayer for You
Father, the fact that You desire a personal relationship with us is unfathomable. Thank You for loving us first – even in our sinful state – so that we could learn to love You. We do this so imperfectly. And yet, You even provided for that when You sent us Your Spirit to help us. Thank You!
You’ve given us Your Word as the means by which we get to know You, to deepen our relationship with You. Open our eyes to see what You want to show us in our Bibles today. Soften our hearts to receive the Truth that is sharper than a double-edged sword. Give us understanding to apply what we learn.
And as we abide in Your Word, may our hearts be transformed from the inside out. May Your Word shape our thoughts and our words and our actions, and may we become faithful bearers of Truth to those around us. May they know we are Yours because of our love.
Be glorified in us. Amen!