Just over a month ago, a TGC Africa contributor asked what impact social media is having on Bible reading. Far from simply stealing our time, the article argued that social media’s emphasis on quantity over quality makes us shallow readers. Because social media does not demand deep engagement or reflection, to some degree, we have become incapable of those things when we read our Bibles. In this article I want to suggest another reason we are slow to set time aside to study the Bible: our expectations are too low. We do not come to our Bible reading expectant—let alone excited.
Why are we slow to set time aside to study the Bible? Our expectations are too low!
God Is Speaking To You
The worst aspect of this low expectation is that it reveals we do not believe we are encountering God when we read the Bible. As Gerald Bray writes in God Is Love, “Scripture is the language of God’s love for his people, and if it does not speak to the soul, then it is not doing what we ought to expect from the Word of God.”
Christian, when you read your Bible remember that you are being addressed by God. Bray goes on, “We treasure his words…because we sense his presence in them.” Behind the Bible is the divine speaker, inviting us to know him. If this was my expectation when I pick up my Bible then chances are I would devote more time to reading it.
4 Expectations for Bible Reading In 2 Timothy
In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read this. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…
The word “profitable” can also mean ‘useful.’ Since the Bible, or “Scripture” is useful, or profitable, we can approach our reading with certain expectations. This passage lists four of them.
Below I will consider each of those in turn. Then I will turn each into a question that we might ask when we read the Bible.
1. Teaching: Your Mind Will Be Shaped
When we read our Bibles we should expect it to inform our thinking
Too often we treat Bible verses the same way we do motivational quotes. We cherry-pick inspiring verses. This view of the Bible says that God’s Word is fit for fridge magnets and social media but unable to inform our beliefs. Through the Bible God shapes our minds. The next time you are meditating on a passage of Scripture, one of the questions to ask is this: what can I learn from God and about him, what is he teaching me?
2. Reproof: Your Beliefs Will Be Challenged
Secondly, in the Bible God reproves readers. Though the word used here is rare, it is widely agreed that it carries the idea of challenging false doctrine or beliefs. This would make it the negative side of the previous point. The Bible is profitable for building up true theology while it also tears down wrong beliefs.
In his Word God reproves us, correcting false theology and error. All too often we find what we want to in the Bible. We use familiar and favourite texts to reinforce long held beliefs. Instead, when we read the Bible we should ask: does this portion of the Bible challenge or correct erroneous ideas that I hold?
3. Correction: Your Behaviour Will Be Challenged
Thirdly, like any loving parent, God’s speech corrects behaviour. The Bible disciplines. This makes it the negative of the final expectation (below). The Bible is given to us by God not only to shape our beliefs, but also how we live, speak, work, rest, and treat others. God’s Word should inform our actions. This is often done through teaching us theological truth. But, since it is included in a list where that idea has already been mentioned, we can assume this refers to morality and ethics. The Bible teaches us how to honour Christ in all of life.
Like any loving parent, God’s speech corrects behaviour. The Bible disciplines
When we listen to God’s Word it will result in repentance, putting off what God calls sin. For example, in James 2 we read, “Do not be partial” (2:1). God calls out discrimination, exhorting Christians to repent of racism and classism, among other things. Thus, the next time you are reading your Bible, reflect on how God is challenging your behaviour. Let God’s definition of sin shape your life. As we read so often, ask what sinful behaviour and patterns God is commanding you to ‘put off.’
4. Training In Righteousness: How to Actively Live For Christ
Finally, we are told that Scripture positively shapes our behaviour, training us in righteousness. Through our encounter with the Bible we should expect God to make us into those who please him.
God does not only desire that we refrain from sin… He calls us to practical and positive expressions of our faith
The previous point moves us to ask what we should stop. This word should make us ask: what should I start? Where is my Christian life, obedience, and love deficient? For God does not only desire that we refrain from sin, hearing and accepting his correction. He calls us to practical and positive expressions of our faith.
I know for myself this is often the hardest application to make. Not because we struggle to understand what God demands, but because we do! God calls us to express our faith through righteous action.
Expectations Reset: 4 Questions To Ask In Your Bible Reading:
- How is my theology (what I believe) positively informed by this truth?
- What errors in my theology (in my beliefs) are corrected by this passage?
- What sins in my life is God challenging?
- How can I positively respond in obedience to God as a result of this text?