If you say that you are reformed, then I challenge you to live like it. I challenge you… to study the Bible for yourself!
In the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church did not want “ordinary” people to have access to a Bible, because it taught that ordinary people could not be trusted to understand the Bible for themselves. But I think that this belief is still alive and well today—not (just) in the Roman Catholic Church: But among us, in Reformed churches. We have, I think, an over-reliance on having other people study the Bible for us, and tell us what it means.
Our devotions usually follow one of two patterns: 1) We open the Bible, read it, and close it. Nothing else. Or, 2) We open the Bible, read it, and then, read someone else’s pre-made devotion on it (or we answer someone else’s pre-made questions, based on their pre-made conclusions). Still no heavy lifting for us. Now there is a time and a place, for this. Devotionals are a blessing and can be helpful. But I wonder if we haven’t become so reliant on them that we ourselves think just as the Pope used to say about us: “I can’t study the Bible for myself.” If that’s the case, then we might as well chain it back up to the pulpit, as it used to be.
If we’re Reformed, then let’s go and put the Bible first. Let’s go right to the source. Let’s read it, study it, and meditate upon it. Let’s linger more often, with just the Bible open before us. I’d love to give a Bible study, on how to Study the Bible! I’d love to preach myself out of work.
If you use a devotional for your devotions, I don’t want to discourage you in that. But I want to challenge you in this: Try, perhaps once a week, (to begin), to do your devotions without a devotional. Study the Bible on your own. And here’s really brief practical help for how to start: Ask three questions of the verse or passage you read. Just three:
- WHAT do I need to know.
- WHY do I need to know it? And,
- Where’s Jesus Christ?
So, for example, let’s take John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” WHAT do I need to know? That God sent His Son, to save sinners, to eternal life. WHY do I need to KNOW it? Because I’m a sinner! And I’m going to perish. UNLESS(!): I believe in Jesus. And where’s Jesus? Well, this one’s obvious. He’s the Savior here. When God “gave” Him, He gave Him to the cross, to die in the place of sinners like me. Three simple questions.
And then sit, and linger with them. Let it all role around in your mind, and think on it (like this): “Oh yes, I confess: I am a sinner. But there is a Savior! Thank God for sending His Son. Oh, help me believe in Him! Do I believe? Yes, I believe! And then there’s: Eternal life! What will that be like!” And you spend 5-10 minutes like that, in your morning devotion, and you go off to school or work with that, ON your mind, and IN your heart.
Trust the Word of God, and it’s power, that God will speak to you, through it. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Now it won’t always go easy. Not if we’re just beginning to learn how to do this, but more so: It won’t go easy because of our own sinful hearts will tell us God’s Word is boring, and the devil will also try his hardest to stop it. It won’t always go easy. But in my personal experience, my walk with the Lord is never closer, and my joy in the Christian life is never greater, then when I’m in God’s Word. And God’s Word is in me. When I have wrestled with what it means, and meditated on it means for me.
Now this doesn’t mean that we all find our own truth in God’s Word. No, the Reformation also produced the confessions of the Church, to guide us in our interpretation of Scripture. But they translated God’s Word into the common, up to date language, (as Martin Luther said, “As a mother talks to her children in the kitchen”), and they gave it to the people.
So I challenge us to be Reformed. Take the Bibles that they have given to us (and for a number of them, given their lives, to give to us), and let’s read them for ourselves.