Our greatest protection against deception comes not from letting some trusted person read the Bible for us and tell us what it says, nor from cherry picking the Word of God so that we thoroughly know snippets of Scripture but not others. Although I believe our gracious Lord will compensate for those who are truly incapable of reading the entire Bible, the protection we need comes from reading every book of the Bible from cover to cover many times. |
Impressive intellectual familiarity with Scripture is not a cure-all for spiritual blindness. The theologians and spiritual leaders who rejected their Messiah when he walked this planet are tragic proof of that. As critically important as it is to know the Word of God, it is even more important to know the heart of God. It is only by knowing Godís heart that we have any chance of consistently interpreting his Word correctly, or discerning when a supposed extra-biblical word is really from God (More on this Ė short). Nevertheless, when spiritual factors are added to the mix, extensive Bible knowledge is invaluable, God-given protection.
Our dilemma is that we want others to do the work and tell us their findings. No matter how good the teacher, the result is inevitably Ė and usually dangerously Ė selective. There is simply no substitute for reading the Bible ourselves. Even among avid Bible readers, the parts of the Bible we most need are often those we have not underlined. We have a disturbing tendency to latch on to Scriptures that give us a temporary buzz, rather than those that clash with our biases and preconceptions or those that convict us or help us become more Christlike by exposing our weaknesses.
Citing many Scriptures on a single theme can be of immense value in bringing a particular biblical truth into focus. I am passionate about this, almost to the point of addiction. Despite my obsession, however, I am duty-bound to confess that this practice carries with it the very real danger of distorting Godís revelation by neglecting other equally important truths.
Have you seen a topical Bible where people can look up any subject that interests them and read all the Scriptures related to that subject? It is a useful Bible aid but there is a vitally important reason why Godís Word was written as it is and not in that form.
I love collecting lots of Scriptures and making a strong case but that never proves Iím accurately portraying either the heart of God nor the balance he wants you to have. It might happen to be an emphasis I need but your unique mix of strengths, weaknesses and needs is likely to be quite different. Consider this Scripture, for example:
Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise Ė the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
In the height of the charismatic movement, the first half of this passage was cited literally thousands of times, but the second half Ė still talking about sacrifices that delight the heart of God Ė was almost never mentioned. It is hard not to overemphasize the importance of praise but do you suppose the first half is literally a thousand times more important to God than the remainder of the passage? In this case, the needed balance is next door. Sometimes it is blocks away. Frequently, however, by the way the Bible crams diverse truths close to each other, God has done his utmost to keep us from missing vital truths and checks and balances.
Samuel, Kings and Chronicles were each artificially divided into two to keep them a convenient scroll-length size. Beyond putting the two halves next to each other, however, the order in which the books appear in the Bible is a human convention, along with chapter and verse divisions. The order in our modern Christian Old Testament even differs from that of the Jewish Bible. Other than a few possible exceptions (perhaps parts of Psalms and Proverbs, for example), however, the way material is ordered within a book is as inspired as the words themselves and deserves to be honored by reading it that way, at least some of the time.
My dilemma is that other than leaving it to you to read the entire Bible for yourself, I have no option but provide mere selections of Scripture. I might manage to point out some things in the Bible you have missed, but anything less than reading the entire Bible yourself carries with it the very real dangers I have just warned against.
Practical side note: Although it is best to read each book of the Bible from beginning to end I donít recommend reading the books in the order that they appear in our English Bibles because similar books are grouped together. That means, for example, that you will read all the Gospels together and not see them again until you have completed the entire Bible. Perhaps you are different but, for me, a little variety stimulates my interest. I keep track of what books Iíve read by ticking them off in the front of the Bible where the books are listed.
Do Your Own Bible Readingby