A Bible That’s Falling Apart Usually Belongs To A Person Who’s Not
“Spiritual growth” is one of those fuzzy, nebulous things that many wish they could experience, but few are sure how it happens.
But it’s not really all that mysterious. Paul tells his young friend and apprentice Timothy, “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (2 Tim.3:14), and in that one sentence are three stepping stones to spiritual growth: First, you have to learn spiritual truths, then you have to become convinced of their durability and solidity (i.e. that they are worth trusting), and finally you continue living them out.
When Paul refers to Timothy’s learning, the context of the verse makes it clear that what Timothy has learned is the Word of God. He was taught the “sacred writings” as a child (vs.15; cf. 1:5), then Paul reminds Timothy of the great value of “all scripture” (vs.16).
So the first stepping stone in growing up spiritually: You have to learn the Word of God.
The Book just won’t do any good sitting on your shelf. It’s got to get in your head and in your heart.
It used to be, not all that long ago really, that the Bible was a prominent part of life in America. It was taught in all our schools. And everyone who went to church on Sunday also attended Sunday School classes before church to go deeper into learning about the Bible. Even those who didn’t go to church knew its stories and main teachings. The average child could have paired David with Goliath, and Jonah with the great fish, and Noah with the flood. Today they can’t.
“Either this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” ~ John Bunyan
Honestly, I don’t quite understand biblical illiteracy. People are strange. If someone claims they saw Mary appear on a mountainside in France, people by the thousands will flock there to get close to God. If someone sees Jesus in the clouds, like they did in Argentina recently, near revival breaks out. If someone sees Jesus in a piece of toast, the world will go nuts for awhile, thinking that God has spoken.
But when God thought to give the world a gift to reveal himself to us and to show his great love for us, he didn’t leave us with a monument, or etch his face on a mountain (or a piece of toast), or shout at us from the heavens. It’s actually brilliant what he did. Because what he did is lasting, and is accessible to everyone, and can be understood by everyone who makes half an effort.
God put his words, his thoughts, and his ideas in a book, that anyone can hold in their hands. He wrote us a love-letter. But hardly anyone knows it, or cares to know it.
What’s interesting is that even secular observers have noticed this and many are alarmed by it. A few years ago, TIME magazine had a cover story which read: “Why We Should Teach The Bible In Public School (But Very, Very Carefully).” The article quoted a Boston University Religious Department chair who said: “Knowledge of the Bible is essential to being a full-fledged, well-rounded citizen…An entire generation of Americans is growing up almost entirely ignorant of the most influential book in world history, unable to understand the 1,300 biblical allusions in Shakespeare, the scriptural oratory of President Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. or even the prominence of the Bible in popular films such as “Pulp Fiction” and “The Matrix”.”
He’s right. How can schools ignore at least talking about this book – that remains the world’s #1 bestseller year after year – with its students? The Bible has had such a profound impact on our culture, and on the world, that to be ignorant of its contents, its stories, and its teaching automatically makes you a poorer, weaker human being.
If I were a teacher I’d want my students to know of Abraham and Sarah going in faith to a strange land, so my kids can learn that there is so much more to life than just being comfortable and secure. That good things happen when you stretch yourself and take leaps of faith.
If I were a teacher I’d want my students to hear the story of the Good Samaritan. If you want to put a dent in bullying, then put that story into kids’ heads.
I’d want them to hear the story of David and Goliath. Talk about your self-esteem booster. Here’s David, the runt of the litter, the smallest of his brothers, overlooked by everyone, who ends up showing courage that no one else will.
I’d want my kids to know the Ten Commandments, for them to become aware that they are not a law unto themselves, that they are accountable for how they live. To be ignorant of this information leaves you without a moral vocabulary that can help guide and protect your life.
Sadly, this ignorance doesn’t stop at the church doors though. Study after study of evangelical churches (the so-called “Bible-believing” ones) demonstrates an appalling lack of knowledge of what the Bible actually says.
Spiritual growth starts right here. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” Paul wrote to the Colossians. The Puritan author John Bunyan who wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress” said, “Either this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”
So what are you waiting for, my friend?. Get reading. And keep reading. You gotta walk before you can run. So learn, learn, and learn some more. The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to a person that isn’t.” May that be said of your Bible one day.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. He’s just released his latest book, “Living Under The Cross: A 40-Day Devotional Journey”. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.