Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why Every Christian Should Read the Entire Bible

One of the first things I was taught as a new Christian was to read my Bible everyday, and to read through it once a year. It required discipline, but the Spirit-created hunger and joy in me overpowered any obstacles that got in the way. Having like-minded friends helped a lot, too.

I had been a believer for almost two years when I helped my Christian friend start an informal Bible study in our very Catholic school. Sometimes we read excerpts from the sermons of great preachers like Spurgeon or Whitfield. At other times, we taught what we learned from personal study.
Whatever I did was because I wanted to tell people about the God who changed my life, and I knew that the only way to do that was by helping them to understand God's Word.

My point for mentioning all this is just to illustrate the fact that reading through the Bible was instrumental to my growth in maturity and ministry. The same rule applies to all Christians. We need to eat the food our Heavenly Father has prepared for us.

Having A Balanced Diet

Higher Rock Christian Church, my spiritual family, aims for a "wholly Scriptural ministry." We believe, preach, and teach the Bible as God-breathed, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness.

Yet, after nine years in my church's Youth Ministry, I've realized that many of our people, including the youth, don't maintain a balanced spiritual diet.

What do I mean? I'm guessing we all learned in elementary that a balanced diet requires a variety of foods because there is no food that contains all different nutrients that our bodies need to thrive.

Just as there are different kinds of food, there are also different kinds of books of Scripture. Of course, the most basic division is between New and Old Testaments. This isn't just a category of convenience. The two Testaments are distinguished by the most important event in history: the coming of Jesus Christ. That has major theological implications that affect how we read either of the two Testaments.

Then, of course, each of the Testaments is actually a collection of books -- 39 in the OT and 27 in the NT. Each book was put there by God for our benefit. There is no part of the Bible that we can do without, and that goes for even the most obscure passages like the latter part of Daniel and Revelation.
So, if we want to be strong, healthy, mature believers, we need to make sure that we're nourished by "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Mat 4:4)

What Is God Doing?

We also need to read all of Scripture because it's really the only way to appreciate what Christianity is all about. The Bible isn't just a collection of stand-alone verses and inspirational sayings, like pearls strung together in no particular order. It has a story with a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion.

Sadly, many evangelical churches think about the Bible and Christianity in only individualistic terms. For them, the gospel is about what Christ has done for you. Now, that sounds like a very appealing statement, right? Plus, it's half true. But think about the implications of shifting the focus of the gospel away from God to the sinner. "You" are the point of Christianity. "You" are the reason Christ did what He did. God does what He does in the world for "you".

Such an individualistic, man-centered twist on the gospel has accommodated other man-centered messages like the "prosperity gospel," "name-it-and-claim-it" theology, and leadership and discipleship methods that are really the world's philosophies repackaged for an audience who will swallow up anything as long as its spoken in 'Christianese.'

How can we guard our minds from individualistic, me-centered thinking about the gospel? By thinking deeply about the cross, and what it tells us about God and His purposes for believers. And how do we do that? By familiarizing ourselves more and more with all of God's word. Because all of Scripture leads to Christ. And the more Scripture we understand, the more we bring to the table whenever we meditate over, talk about, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Big Picture: the History of Redemption

My favorite illustration for this is a jigsaw puzzle. Say, you have a 1000-piece puzzle and you want to put it together as fast as you possibly can. What would be the best way to do it? Start at the edges and then work your way inward. The edge pieces are the most easy to identify and put together. Once you have the outline of the puzzle, filling in the rest becomes much easier.

In a similar way, we need to understand the "big picture" of the Bible, what theologians call "redemptive history." Or in other words, the story of why God made the world and where this is all going. Understanding this gives us two advantages.
  • It guides our interpretation of the individual parts of Scripture. We learn to ask questions like, "How is Isaiah relevant to Christians today," or "Why did Jesus do the things He did," or "Why did the apostle Paul say that?" The answers to those questions should always be informed by the "big picture".
  • It protects us from wild, off-the-mark interpretations of verses and passages of Scripture. There are so many of these flying around today, and many sincere Christians are mistaking these false teachings as biblical truth. But those who are well-versed in all of Scripture are much less likely to be deceived.
May this article stir you to devote yourself to knowing all of God's word -- Old and New Testaments.

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