Saturday, January 05, 2008

Personal Bible Reading and Study

Christianity is not a spectator sport. However, while few would disagree with this statement we struggle to produce authentic Christian disciples who understand the importance of bringing all areas of life under the authority of Jesus Christ. New Covenant Christianity is far more than singing songs and listening to sermons. It is a commitment to follow Jesus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Following Jesus means applying his word to our lives. It means living in such a way that his name is praised and people see the wonder of his salvation.

I do not know what Christianity is like in other places around the globe but I do know that here, in North America, we are too susceptible to whoever makes the most noise or has the most money. Sometimes I am amazed at the ideas that gain a hearing in Christian circles, ideas that have a whiff of biblical truth about them but which predominately reflect the particular hangups and sins of their promoters. While it is true that gullibility is bound up in the human heart, Christian maturity should weaken its influence. But sadly too frequently those with the biggest mouths dominate the evangelical scene or those who are too foolish to see their own foolishness dogmatically take it upon themselves to show others how to live.

The antidote is more reflection on the Scriptures without the aid of your favorite study Bible or preacher's sermons or sermon notes. There is a place for these aids but only after we have encountered the word directly. God has given teaching gifts to the church and we should avail ourselves of them but we also have an anointing from the Holy One and we know the truth (1 John 2:18). There is a tension here and a balance to be maintained. Too much reliance on the writings of others can result in a priesthood of experts who bend our minds in the direction they want us to travel before we have had a chance to let the word speak to us personally. On the other hand, our personal interaction with Scripture must be aware of what others are saying and guided by the wisdom of those who have gone before us as they have let Scripture interpret Scripture. Where this balance is maintained our orthodoxy will be fresh and vibrant and much more likely to impact the way we live day by day. Where is is not, we merely reproduce unthinking and largely useless clones.

The abundance of Christian material available to us today is staggering and only increases each year. We should thank God for these resources. But they do not relieve us of the responsibility to read the Bible ourselves and to interact with it. Those who learn to do so will see what others miss and there will be a power to their approach that shows they have been feeding on fresh "manna" and not another's old table scraps. This year we should determine to read the Bible first and foremost and only then take advantage of the wealth of other resources at our disposal.

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