One of the biggest challenges in ministry today is the reality that TV, social media, and the news are discipling people faster and more effectively than the church. What we determine to be true, what shapes our worldview, and what stirs up our emotions seem to be social media feeds, the latest headlines, and Netfix shows more than Scripture. How do you compete when hours upon hours are given to screens full of worldly information fed to us in addictive ways, and perhaps only mere minutes are given to those thin pages containing the life transforming truth of God?
Studies have shown the root of the problem – Biblical literacy is not trending in the right direction. Christians, God’s people, are more informed about a political perspective than a biblical perspective, are more fascinated about celebrity culture than biblical role models, are more convicted about social edict than biblical truths.
Veritas, please hear these next words with as much urgency, concern, and care as possible. WE NEED TO KNOW OUR BIBLES! NOT ONLY KNOW OUR BIBLES BUT BE SHAPED BY GOD THROUGH OUR BIBLES.
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” That means that we meet God in his Word to be trained by God. We need to stop trying to be good Christians and instead start training to be good Christians. And training is not easy. It takes devotion and effort to seek understanding of what God has given to us in his word. We need to keep at it like training at a gym. Devote ourselves, like the Psalmist who proclaims, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Ps. 119:15-16). That is an expression of commitment. Like a boxer telling his trainer, “I will show up each day and work my butt off. I’m committed to this!” Do we have that same devotion to be trained by God through his Word?
I love walking into a coffee shop or breakfast dive in our community and seeing Veritas people sitting together with their Bibles open. Our hope is to see more and more of that. To be people of the Word. People that know our Bibles and are shaped by our Bibles. To help you pursue this, let me give you four training tips: Frequency, Action, Simplicity, and Persistence.
Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night.” Just like going to the gym and getting in shape calls for some new habits, so does being trained by God through his Word. When you go to the gym, you can’t expect results just by showing up once a week and continuing to eat candy bars all day. In the same way, being trained by God through his Word means no more taking in bad stuff (walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the way of sinners, sitting in the seat of scoffers) and a frequency of taking in the good stuff. Being trained by God will involve both saying no to some stuff, and yes more frequently to His Word.
For frequency, determine a schedule. Write out a routine. For example, four days a week, in the morning for a half hour. If you don’t determine your routine it is not going to happen. Put it in your schedule and make it frequent.
There is a difference between just reading the Bible and reading the Bible to be shaped by it. We should approach our Bibles looking to be corrected, encouraged, and challenged. As followers of Christ, when we read our Bibles we are not just taking in information, we are receiving orders. James commands us to not just be hearers of the word, but doers of the word (James 1:22). When you read, ask yourself, “So what? What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to feel?” Part of training is putting what we read into action. No matter how big or small, walk away from each time in the Word with an action step.
When it comes to being shaped by God through his Word, don’t make it more complicated than it is. Read, apply, repeat. Sometimes getting started in a routine of reading God’s Word can be intimidating. We are not sure where to begin or how to go about it. Here is a simple acronym that I use that might help guide your time in the word: R.E.A.D.
R. stands for read. Read the section of scripture you have scheduled for that day.
E. stands for explain. After you read, explain what is being said in your own words.
A. stands for ask. How is this passage of scripture directing me to pray? Prayer is an important part of Bible reading. Is this passage directing me to thank God, to ask for help, to confess and ask for forgiveness?
D. stands for do. What response is this section of scripture calling for?
Read. Explain. Ask. Do. Use these as headings in a journal by writing down the section of scripture you’re reading under Read, then write out your explanation of what you read in your own words under Explain. Write out the prayer that was shaped by what you just read under Ask. And then write out what action step you are going to take under Do. Think of it like a training routine.
A lot of times when someone wants to get in shape, they go from doing nothing to committing to get up at 5a every morning to train for a marathon, and usually that ends poorly. Don’t get discouraged because you’re struggling to understand, or you’re not having deeply profound moments every time, or you’re not seeing the changes you want to see as quickly as you want to see them. Stay at it. Change happens over time, but this training program works.
When Paul said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable…” what he is saying is: this works. Like someone giving a personal testimony, having been through it themselves and have seen the results, Paul is saying this is profitable, it pays off.
Veritas, one of our values is Bible: We believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. Therefore we place a high value on bringing all of life under the loving authority of God’s Word. And our hope is that we would know our Bibles, but more than just know, we hope that we would be people actually trained by God through his Word to be more Christ like in our world.