A life of ministry has shown me that, when it comes to the Bible, there are two groups of people residing in churches. These two groups are at opposite ends from each other, but I think they are equally perilous.
The first group are those who are content to nibble on God’s Word. We should feed ourselves regularly—daily!—on Scripture, but these individuals are content to sample God’s Word by attending church or a Bible study group every few weeks. If they treated their physical bodies like they treat their spiritual lives, a doctor would declare them anemic and malnourished. They don’t even realize just how starved their souls are.
The second group are those who don’t want to do anything but study the Bible. It may surprise you that I view this group as equally perilous, so let me explain.
I lead a great team of folks who produce the Bible study curriculum Bible Studies for Life. This curriculum is Bible study with a strong focus on discipleship. It looks at the everyday issues we face in life and approaches them from a biblical perspective. Granted, this approach may not be for everybody, but I’m always taken aback by those who say, “Oh, no, that’s not for me. I just want to study the Bible.” What Bible Studies for Life offers is Bible study with an emphasis on application to our lives, but when these people say they just want to study the Bible, they just want to learn Bible facts, discover the deep nuggets in Scripture, explore the archaeology and history, and go deep on doctrine.
All those things are good. In fact, I love doing that type of Bible study! But I can’t stop there—and neither should you. The Bible may be a collection of ancient documents, but these documents were inspired by God and the timeless truths contained therein are just that: timeless. God’s Word has incredible relevance and application for us today.
I keep encountering people who love to dig into the Greek and Hebrew, discuss doctrines, and study the historical background of passages… BUT THAT IS ALL THEY WANT TO DO.
That may help them nail the Bible categories on Jeopardy, but I fear what they will hear from God when they stand before Him one day. “What did you do with My Word?”
What’s the point of reading the Bible if you don’t do anything more than fill your head with facts?
We are held accountable for what we do with the light we have. If you’re exposed to the light of Christ through His Word, but you don’t do anything with it, watch out. It’s a perilous position to place yourself, to know truth and doctrine from Scripture, but never let it transform your life.
Years ago, I struck up a conversation with a man in a Christian bookstore. It did not take long for my young adult mind to be knocked over with this man’s knowledge of the Bible. He knew all sorts about the Bible. Yet as we talked, I discovered he did not go to church nor was he involved with any ministry. Here was a man who knew what God’s Word says, but he made no effort to put it into practice, to serve in the church, or build up the kingdom of God.
It’s a dangerous thing to embrace the powerful Word of God for no other reason than to fill one’s intellect. In his book, Jesus, Author of Our Faith: 12 Messages from the Book of Hebrews, A. W. Tozer remarked on a statement made by the British preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones. Tozer wrote: “It is perilously close to being sinful for any person to learn doctrine for doctrine’s sake.”
By all means, learn doctrine! Learn the Bible’s history. But don’t just learn it; learn from it. As you read and study, continually and prayerfully ask, “God, how do you want to use this truth in my life? How do you want me to live it out?”
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Do more than be informed. Be transformed.
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