I’m two months into my new role as Bible and reference publisher for LifeWay, where I have the privilege of stewarding a Bible translation and producing resources that assist people in reading and understanding God’s Word.
But there’s a scary part to my job, a spiritual element that I cannot shake off.
It hit me recently while I was reviewing study notes for The Spurgeon Study Bible, which will release next fall. Jeremiah 8:8 says, “How can you claim, ‘We are wise; the law of the LORD is with us’?” And Spurgeon comments:
Bible Societies may go on printing Bibles by the millions, but as long as people do not obey what is taught in the Bible, the work of the printing press, like that of the copyist, will be in vain.
We need more than the letter of the Word, valuable as that is. We need to know, in spirit and in truth, what the Spirit teaches through the letter, and also to practice it. God grant that even our Bibles may not rise up in judgment against us!
Surveys show that 88 percent of American households own a Bible. In fact, there are an average of 4.7 Bibles per household. Yet only 37 percent read the Bible once a week or more.
Into this Bible-packed environment come the Bible societies and publishers who pump millions of additional Bibles out of printing presses, where they sit for a while on retail shelves before being purchased and transported to our homes and offices, where (sadly) they often stay closed and cramped on different shelves.
Count how many Bibles you have in your house. Better yet, count how many translations can you consult on your smartphone!
We have easier access to the Word of God than any other generation in history, yet those of us who have Bibles may fail to regularly read them, and those of us who do read the Bible may fail to put God’s Word into practice.
Spurgeon’s warning lands hard on my heart. I’m surrounded by bookshelves filled with all types of Bibles. What if those Bibles could talk? What if they spoke of how often they were consulted, or how often they were obeyed? God grant that even our Bibles may not rise up in judgment against us! Spurgeon cried.
In Psalm 19, when King David spoke of God’s Word, he used words that express joy, delight, and desirability. Reading your Bible shouldn’t feel like a chore, not if you’ve developed the taste for it. The psalmist wants to eat this book. He compares it to honey that is sweet and tasty. Even the warnings he finds tasty—you know, those sections of the Bible that say, “Repent or die!” The psalmist has learned to love even the parts of the Bible that strike him the wrong way.
If you come to the Bible and all you like are the verses that inspire you but not the chapters that confront and strike terror in you, then you have a coffee mug Christianity. You have a God who will just affirm you as you are, not change you into what he wants you to be. The psalmist has learned to love, even when it’s painful, that process of transformation.
So, as we encounter Jesus in the pages of this book, let’s watch how our habits change and our desires change. Let’s read this book, both individually and in community, because here is where God reveals himself to us, tells us the story of his Son, and makes us new.
Study Bibles may be terrific aids in understanding, but only if they result in obedience. More head knowledge is not the goal; heart change matters most. We need more than the letter of the Word, Spurgeon says. We need to be immersed in the Bible, illuminated by the Spirit, and intentional about following God’s commands.