Why read? Why am I committed to reading? For one, words matter. They matter to me and they mattered to Jesus and Paul too. I think words and reading should matter to you too.
Jesus apparently read or at least retained what He heard as a kid. He listened to the teachers and asked them questions and “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Lk. 2:47). So, words mattered to Jesus and especially God’s words.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He fought off the temptation by quoting Scripture (Matt. 4). Jesus clearly knew the Scriptures. He quoted from Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 13, verse 16, and chapter 8 verse 3.
Jesus read in the in the synagogue (Lk. 4:16) as was the custom on the Sabbath (Acts 15:21).
Paul in Romans 3:10-18 quotes from ten different passages. And he did it from memory. It is unlikely that he would have looked up those passages in a nearby scroll. He certainly didn’t look it up in a concordance in the back of his Bible. No. He would have read those passages and memorized them. Scripture, however, was apparently not the only thing that Paul read and could quote. He also quoted popular poets (Acts 17:28).
Paul was in prison in Rome and he was writing his dear friend Timothy. He asked Timothy for a few items. First, we see he wants him to come before winter (2 Tim. 4:21) and bring his coat. Second, we see the importance of reading along with warmth, Paul wants his books and parchments too (2 Tim. 4:13).
Reading was important for the Apostle Paul.
You should too
Reading allows us to learn and glean from people in places and times we otherwise wouldn’t. Reading can facilitate wisdom. C.S. Lewis talks about the importance of prioritizing time-tested books.
I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Lewis said. I think our first priority should be the reading of Scripture. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and the most translated book of all time. And Scripture gives us “the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).
So, read books but especially read the Bible. Reading is important because God had revealed Himself and His will through revelation.
How to read more?
The number one advice I have is to prioritize reading. And deprioritize other lesser things, like social media. If reading is important, make sure it’s important in practice. Also, check out my advice “10 Ways to Read More Books in 2021.”
Read. Jesus and Paul the Apostle did.
 It’s important that we realize that the tempter also knows Scripture. In Matthew 4:6 the tempter quotes from Psalm 91:11 and 12 to try to cause Jesus to sin.
*Photo by Seven Shooter
We all listen to something.
We all listen to something. Or we all get our idea of what we should do, be, and care about from somewhere. Whether Cosmo Magazine, the Wishbone app, Ask.fm, whatever you watch on Netflix, or whatever is said on Snapchat through BuzzFeed.
Should we listen to Taylor Swift, Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, and DJ Khaled and receive “truth” from them? Or what about YouTube and Vine stars, Shawn Mendes, Tyler Oakley, Miranda Sings, Logan Paul, Jenna Marbles, and Hannah Hart?
Where is truth to be found? Popular and charismatic leaders?! Bernie Sanders? Barak Obama? Donald Trump? Joe Biden?
What about Adolf Hitler? Well, we automatically say no to some of those people especially Hitler. But that wasn’t always the case. Hitler was a gifted leader that actually brought what looked to some people like really good change.
But what do we know about Hitler? He was a moral monster. And he was fallible. That is, he was not perfect. And the thing is, neither is Cosmo Magazine, or Kanye, or Trump, or… whoever or whatever.
Yet, we’ve seen that we all listen to something/someone. We all get guidance for what we should do, how we should live, who we should be, from somewhere. But what that thing is that gives us guidance is super important.
Let’s take Hitler and Nazi Germany as our example again. Remember Hitler Youth? What were they taught? And I am not necessarily just talking about formal education. I am talking about what was the cultural air they breathed in? What did they believe and why?
They believed, or it would seem most of them believed, that the Nazi vision was their vision, their great dream, and destination. Was the Nazi vision, however, the correct vision, the correct hope?
I think and hope we would all clearly agree that they were wrong. And what happened as a result? Mass death, pain, and destruction. Essentially they got bad directions and arrived at a living hell.
Where we get our vision for life and prospering is important. Very important.
Where we get our “directions” is extremely important. And it is extremely important that those directions are correct directions. If not we will be led astray in innumerable ways.
[[Can I just say as an aside that we must fight against the temptation of geographical or chronological snobbery. America and the 2000s does not have the market on truth. We cannot use ourselves as the infallible measure of truth, can we? If so, couldn’t we justify anything we do in light of the fact that after all we’re right, we know what’s right? Couldn’t we end up a lot like Hitler and Nazi Germany? Our location on the planet and our time in history does not mean we have arrived, it does not equal truth. If we think it does then we are setting ourselves up for something bad.]]
How do we know how to think about sex and pornography and why do some of us desire to look at it so much and yet feel dirty, weird, or guilty after we do? What explains that? What about aspirations? What we should do in life? What about the point of life? What’s it all about? What about… and a thousand other things? We’re getting these answers somewhere, or trying to, but is it the right place? Is whatever we’re listening to giving us the correct answers?
We all know it’s important to get the correct answers to our questions, right? We know that from any test we’ve ever taken at school. Well, when it comes to life’s big fundamental questions, likes some of the ones we just looked at, it’s like twenty-thousand times more important that we get the correct answer. Failing a test at school, so to speak, does not at all compare to failing life.
So, why do we need a foundation? Well, first, let’s look at what a foundation is. The foundation, what a house sits on, is typically concrete. A foundation makes the house solid. It keeps it from moving.
Actually, the old farmhouse that I grew up in does not have a concrete foundation. It has cinderblocks on one side of the house and like two metal braces.
The house has shifted over the years. You can tell especially by looking at the doorframes and hallways.
The house was not built on something solid, it does not have a good foundation so it is liable to collapse.
Do you see the connection? It’s the same way with our lives. We need a solid foundation to build on. We need something sturdy that won’t shift with time. We need truth.
[[Did you know that even before the Fall, before the world was plunged into all sorts of chaos because of sin, we still needed instructions from God? God talked to humans before the Fall and told them a few things. Did they listen? No. And what happened? The Fall. The fall of everything… It is vital that we have guidance. That is innate within us since the beginning. Yet, we also see it’s vital we get it from the right source]]
Scripture is our foundation. Why? Because it is the truth.
Scripture all over the place claims to be the truth but it also shows itself to be the truth. Jesus who historically verifiably rose from the dead believed in the infallible Word of God and He said that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to guide us in all truth. That’s just what we see in the rest of the New Testament. And Peter said that the Apostle Paul’s writings were Scripture.
Plus, if God hasn’t spoken then truth is relative. We make our own truth. You make yours, I make mine. Basically, then, there is no truth. Adolf Hitler was not wrong. He was just wrong to us. However, we innately know that there is right and wrong. That is because there is a God that made the universe and He has written the law on our hearts.
The law on our hearts, our conscience, however, is not very specific. It teaches us that it is typically wrong to kill. It teaches us a few restrictions like don’t kill and don’t torture dolphins for fun. But it leaves other things out, like positive things we should do. Our conscious doesn’t tell us what to live for or what is absolutely right and wrong…
That’s partly why Scripture is so priceless. The Bible repeatedly says that it is worth more than gold, even much fine gold. And it is! So, let’s look at a brief theology of the Bible…
The Word is True (Ps. 19:7, 9; 119:142, 160; Jn. 17:17)
God’s Word comes from God, the highest authority. The one who knows because He is all-wise. We have His words. And we need His words.
God’s Word corresponds to reality. It tells us what is real. It is true to life. True to the way of life and the way things work. Thus, it makes sense that it is correct.
The Bible is true and so it gives factual and accurate records of events. It is true to reality. It tells us about the world, and us in the world. Truth is not relative. There are things that are right and wrong for all people at all places at all times
C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Bible is true in that it explains reality to us. It accurately tells us why the world is the way it is. The Bible gives us the proper lens by which to see the world. The Bible gives us a worldview that corresponds with reality.
God’s Word is true and it is also eternal. It does not end. It does not stop being the truth. Everything else we read will pass away. Facebook, blogs, Twitter, cnn.com, espn.com, textbooks, novels, the Washington Post. One day the last Facebook status ever will be posted and Snapchat will end. But the Word of God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).
The Word is Enlightening (Ps. 119:44-45, 105, 130; Prov. 6:23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
God’s Word directs us how to live. It is a lamp to our feet. Without God’s Word we would be in darkness. We would not know where to go…
God, as we have said, has all-wisdom. He knows how the world operates and was meant to operate. Thus, if He tells us things we should do and things we should not do it makes sense for us to listen to Him. He knows! God’s word is a light because without it we are blind.
The Word is Shaping (Ps. 119:9, 11, 165; Is. 55:11; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12)
Because the Word is true and brings light and direction to our lives we see it shapes us and our lives. It shapes the way we live and think about things. It also convicts us. As 2 Timothy 3:17 says, “It makes us equipped for every good work.”
“The Word God breathes goes forth from Him and does not return to Him empty. It accomplishes all that He sends it out to do” (Is. 55:11).
“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of every man’s heart” (Heb. 4:12).
The Word is Precious (Ps. 19:10-11; 119:72, 127)
The Bible, God’s truth, is precious because without it we are lost. We could have all the money and gold in the world but not understand how to think about money or gold, how to use money and gold. The Bible is precious because it tells us about the world that is beyond the 70ish years that we have here.
The Word is Life-giving (Ps. 119:144; Matt. 4:4)
Without the Word we die. That is what the Bible says. What does that mean?
It means we need the Bible to live. We need God’s life-giving truth every day. It is not something that we can do without.
To this day, man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). The Bible is not a map you pull out every so often to see if you’re still on track. The Bible is our oxygen tank and we are scuba-divers. We need God’s Word to live. What God breathes out, we need to breathe in.
The psalmist said, “Give me understanding that I may live.” The word of God is serious. It’s a matter of life and death.
The Word is Saving (Rom. 10:17; James 1:21-22)
The word helps us persevere. It sanctifies us and ensures we don’t fall away. But for it to have that effect on us we can’t just hear the word, we have to be doers of it. The Bible helps us to continue in the faith so that we do not fall away and prove that we were never truly in Christ.
Remember that children’s song “Jesus Loves Me”? That song is actually quite profound and amazing. How do we know that Jesus loves us? It’s because “the Bible tells me so.” Without the Bible we are lost. Lost in every way. The Bible is our foundation.
What are you listening to?
If we have the New Testament why do we need the Old Testament?
- All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), not just the texts we like to read.
- All the promises of God find their answer in Jesus so it is important that we understand what the promises are (2 Cor. 1:20).
- When Paul preached to the Ephesian church he preached the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and the whole counsel of God points us to Jesus (Lk. 24:27).
- When Stephen preached in Acts chapter seven he preached the Old Testament (see also the other sermons recorded in the New Testament) which demonstrates the vital importance of the Old Testament.
- The things in the Old Testament serve to instruct us and set an example for us (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11).
- When Paul ministered to churches one of his ministries was proving that Jesus was the Promised One, the Christ (Acts 9:22). Paul demonstrated the amazing truth that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah by teaching the Old Testament. We see this all through Acts (Acts 9:22; 13:16ff; 16:13; 17:3, 17; 18:4-5, 19; 19:8ff; 24:25; 26:6, 22-26; 28:23, 31 cf. 18:28). We too must understand what it means that Jesus is the Messiah and that will require learning from the Old Testament.
- Much of the New Testament assumes knowledge of the Old Testament.
- Scripture is so good we need as much of it as we can get, Old Testament or New. Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7), true (Ps. 19:9), pure (Ps. 19:8), a light (Ps. 119:105,130), a sword (Eph. 6:17), a hammer (Jer. 23:29). It is better than gold (Ps. 19:10; 119:72) and we need it to live (Ps. 119:144). Scripture gives joy (Ps. 119:111; Jer. 15:16), makes wise (Ps. 19:7), guards (Ps. 119:9), guides (Ps. 73:24; 119:105), sanctifies (Ps. 119:9, 11).
Read and study the Old Testament along with the New. 🙂
The average American spends 50 minutes of their time each day on Facebook’s platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger). That is one-sixteenth of the average American’s waking time.
Facebook, the web, ESPN, and news networks are built to engage and grab us (except perhaps CSPAN). There is a lot riding on whether or not we spend five or fifty minutes on Facebook. There is a lot invested to make us scroll, click, share… There are people fighting for our fascination and time. There are specialists employed and there are algorithms designed to grab our attention.
Of course, I am not the social media police, this is not 1984 or Fahrenheit 451. You can be on social media. I am. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Messenger… However, let’s consider the way we plan to spend our time in 2017.
D.A. Carson has said,
“The challenge [to reading Scripture] has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness… The sheer pace of life… The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive—we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture.”
“Give me understanding that I may live” (Ps. 119:144) grabbed me as I was reading through Psalm 119 today. It’s pleading. It’s serious. It’s a matter of life and death. But is it? I mean, is it for me?
Well, very often it’s not for me. I don’t care. Or not like I should.
Very often I don’t even really seek understanding. I seek a checked box. However, let me tell you, that is not life giving. Yet, I am not sure I am willing to say it’s legalism either.
I know God’s word is important as a lamp to my feet (Ps. 119:105), I know it is important to keep me from sin (v. 9, 11, 165), yet it is often not “the joy of my heart” (v. 111) as it should be. Sadly, I don’t aways concur with the statement “give me understanding that I may live” (v. 144). I don’t normally rise before dawn to meditate on Scripture (cf. v.147, 148).
LORD, help me to seek You with my whole heart (v. 2). I am, or was, willing to wake up at 4am to study for tests in college so why does Your word not hold that kind of sway? Apparently that test had more gold (v. 72) and life in it than Your word. God, I admit I am fickle. I need Your help.
LORD, open my eyes that I would see the awesome truths contained in Your word (v. 18). Please make me understand Your law (v. 27) and help me not to waste my time on worthless things (v. 37) like excessive TV and the endless social media feed.