Reading Christianly (Part Two)
My good friend Ken Boa says that the goal of the Christian life is to become progressively conformed to the image of Christ. To do this we must learn to love God completely, others compassionately and ourselves correctly. Doing this brings glory to God. Different writers, speakers and churches have expressed this in different words. They've talked about the inward, outward and upward focus. They've talked about growing in intimacy with God, community with other Christians and influence with the world. They've used five Gs or five Ms or different shapes and colors. It all comes down to the same thing: Love God and Love People.
So, if the goal for Christians is to learn how to better appreciate, appropriate and reciprocate love -- to be better lovers of God and others -- then why do we read anything at all? Why do we read the Bible? Why do we read devotional materials? Why do we listen to sermons? Why do we watch television shows and movies?
Certainly, there are times when we simply want to check out, put our brains in park and watch Bugs Bunny thwart the best efforts of Elmer Fudd. Sometimes mindless spectacle is just what the doctor ordered.
That's not what I'm after here. There are important books to be read and important movies to watch. There are funny jokes to be told, but there are also important speeches to hear.
But there is a way to read, a way to watch and a way to listen that must be unique to those who have signed up to follow and become transformed from within into the likeness of Jesus.
Yesterday, at The Bridge Church, we gave away about 300 Bibles. People signed up to read three chapters a day and get through the whole Bible in 2008. We even created a blog to help folks. I think it's a good idea to read the Bible on a regular basis. But it can also be a hindrance to our spiritual formation if we read the Bible the wrong way.
Honestly, some of the meanest people I've ever met in my life know a lot of Bible verses and have read the Good Book cover to cover. Certainly, the Pharisees in Jesus' day were familiar with the Scriptures, but they had little love for God and even less love for people. They engaged in spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting, but they didn't do them to bring glory to God. They were interested in bringing glory to themselves.
Clearly, there is a way to read or give or pray that brings glory to God, and there is a way that does not.
So, today's question is simply this: How should one read the Bible in order bring glory to God and maximize spiritual formation?