I finally broke down and bought a new Bible this week. The two Bibles that I have relied on this last year have both started to fall apart. One has its cover missing and because the paper is so thin a number of pages are ripped and parts of others are missing. My old faithful Revised Standard Version that I have had since University now has pages taped in, the cover is about to fall off and there are so many notes jammed into the margins I can no longer make heads or tails out of them. Don’t get me wrong these Bibles aren’t in the condition they are because of all my studying; they are just wearing out from years of use and a bit of abuse.
I’ve started the tedious chore of transferring notes from my old RSV into the new NIV Bible. I bought the New International Version Bible because it is designed with wide margins for note taking and was on sale because not a great many people are not interested in writing notes in their Bibles.
I have to say I was a bit shocked at the lack of Biblical reference material at the Christian bookstore. There were almost no commentaries and Theology books were absent as well. What did proliferate, however, was shelf after shelf of Christian fiction. And it seems, at least from the pictures on the covers, that Christians have a deep interest in reading about young women who dress like the Amish. The store also had a good display of Christian music and a large collection of so called Christian DVD’s that covered every topic from paying down your debts to Christian action movies. You could also buy get well cards, birthday cards and a card for just about every other occasion you could think of and they all had Christian themes. Next to the cards were display cases full of jewelry and mementos promoting Christian themes through cute catchy phrases.
I’m not writing this as a dig at the store because it’s a business and the owners know what their customers buy and they exist to supply that customer base the product they want. But, what I’m asking is what has become of the Christian community that we are no longer clamoring for Biblical tools to give us a deeper understanding into the Bible? Is it possible that Christians are developing their theology from Christian fiction, music CD’s, and movies like, The Son of God and Noah? Remember, when millions of Christians were introduced to some strange speculations masquerading as historical truth in the Da Vinci Code? I still know people whose view of Jesus is tainted by that movie.
If we don’t spend time growing spiritually and deepening our understanding of Scriptural truth we will be open to believe lies. I have the privilege of belonging to two Bible study groups where people take the study of Scripture seriously and as a result know their Bibles well. We show up each week because we want to learn more and more about the Bible from each other and figure out ways to make it practical in our own lives and in the lives of others. I know I have said it a half dozen times in this blog but I will say it again, if you don’t belong to a study group you owe it to yourself to find one. And if you can’t find a group see if you can’t persuade a couple of friends into studying with you.
We are living in a time when militant atheism is on the rise. They are not content to live and let live but make it their journey in life to undermine and belittle Christianity at every opportunity. And I will be brutally honest with you, we Christians make it easy for them to ridicule and mock our faith because we are willfully unprepared to counter their accusations and propaganda. While we are sitting home reading feel good romances disguised as Christian fiction modern secularism is undercutting the authority and teachings of historical Christianity throughout the nation.
Christians can no longer rely upon our culture to sustain and educate the populace about God. Christianity is being driven from the school system, Universities, all government institutions and most private enterprises. And Christian television, with few exceptions, is a joke. Most of these programs do little more than give ammunition to atheists to point out the foolishness of Christian teachings. If you are going to grow spiritually you must open up your Bible and study. Reading through the books of the Bible is helpful but it is not studying Scripture. Let me say once again that you can study and grow through personal devotions, but you can accelerate that growth when you join a Bible study group because you have input regarding the texts from many different sources.
I can’t encourage you enough to spend more and more time studying your Bible and then sharing your findings with others. Paul, writing to his young co-worker Timothy, encouraged him to study the word of God. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul is reminding Timothy that it is one thing to know the Scripture and quite another to present it honestly and without manipulating it for theological or personal reasons. To be able to handle the word of truth rightly is our high calling. And if you are like me who doesn’t remember everything he reads, then buy a good Bible with nice wide margins.