The Bible can be bad for you.
Will I get in trouble for saying that? Because I mean it. It might be safer for your soul to read 50 Shades than the four gospels. Because bad things can happen when you pick up the Good Book.
Why do I say that? Because too often we treat the Bible like breakfast. At breakfast, you can wolf down your eggs and toast like Joey Chestnut at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (YouTube that if you need a visual!). Pound your morning smoothie without coming up for air, and you will be just fine. Your body will digest your barely chewed breakfast and absorb the nutrients it needs.
But the Bible is not like that. The Bible is more like a conversation. Real conversations, the ones that bring two people closer together as friends or lovers, do not happen by osmosis. If I’m in my wife’s presence but am plunking away at my email, we are not growing closer together. In fact, the opposite might be true. I might assume I’m putting that “date your wife” principle into practice, but just being present is not the point.
No, real connection requires real time and real attention, chewing on expressed feelings, asking clarifying questions, and seeking to know someone at the level of the heart.
Think of that when you listen to Jesus’ brother James talk about the Bible: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves” (James 1:22). James is commanding us to not just go to church, not just podcast another sermon, not just read our Bibles. Why not? Because that kind of behavior deceives us. We think we’re getting closer to God, but we’re not, no more than Mr. Phone Face is getting closer to his wife even though he’s sitting in the same booth as her.
To be honest, I do this all the time. All. The. Time. I know reading my Bible is massively important, so I try to do it daily. But how often do I end my Bible time completely unmoved, completely unchanged, completely unaware of what I just read? Or unaware of the glorious One who wrote it? Or unaware of the stunning grace he gives me?
So what is the alternative? James continues, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25). The blessed (aka “spiritually happy”) person “looks intently” into the Word. That phrase in Greek is the same one used when Mary was at Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning and she stooped down to look intently inside. Mary wasn’t checking the tomb like we check the mailbox. She was wrapping her mind around its meaning.
What would that look like for you? I’d love for you to comment and share how you do more than just listen to/read the Word. For me, it normally means summarizing each phrase. Writing the names of three people who could really use this truth today. Challenging my mind to apply a truth to my work life, friendships, church family, marriage, parenting, etc.
When I “look intently” into the Bible in this way, I see something life-changing, the crucified and risen Jesus who is with me in this very moment! I see how insanely practical and timeless this book is. Most important, I see how unbelievably loving God is to people like us.
So before our next “quiet time,” let’s remember why we take time in the first place. Because the One who wants this conversation with us is the key to our happiness, joy, and peace. The God who wrote this book so many years ago wants to talk with us today, to guide us today, to forgive us today, to empower us today, and to equip us for every good work during this workweek.
Do you believe that? If so, you’re ready to read. This time, the Good Book will actually be good for you.
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.
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