Three Tips for Stirring Up Your Love for the Bible

3 Tips for Stirring Up Your Love for the BIble

I was sitting at a lunch table with some acquaintances. Acquaintances, not friends. I admit we sat there for a while staring at our food and waiting for the awkwardness to subside.

Kind of like me and my Bible sometimes, I’m sad to say.

But then, at that lunch table, I happened to mention a little something called “soccer.” I’ve never seen people light up so quickly, or go from conversational zero to 60 in such a short time.

The problem is that I don’t care much for soccer.

Please don’t hate me; I recognize that the fault lies with me and my narrow hegemonic American athletic chauvinism. I’ve enjoyed a few Lionel Messi highlight videos in my time; but a game where you can’t use your God-given hands, where a high score is 4-3, where “flopping” is encouraged—it just doesn’t seem right to me, and no amount of cultural re-education, including my presence in the beautiful land of Germany during the 2006 World Cup, has been able to dislodge this sensibility. Pile on, lovers of the beautiful game. I know I deserve it. Tell me how wrong I am in the comments. Just don’t fake an emotional injury.

I must say, however, that at that table the interest in soccer was so strong that I couldn’t help but be kind of interested, too. Out of the abundance of their hearts their mouths spoke (Matt 12:34), and some of their excitement spilled onto me. I found myself plying them with soccer questions despite my prejudices. And they were impressively ready with answers.

Soccer-fan passion for the Word of God

Can the same thing happen with the Bible? How can you get so excited about the Bible that you can’t help but make other people excited, too, even those deeply prejudiced against it? How do you turn your own boring Bible reading (admit it, we’ve all been there) into something enriching and engrossing?

In classic rhetorical fashion, I will offer three biblical answers.

Get a new heart

Theologically speaking, a heart for the Bible starts with repentance from sin and faith in Christ’s death and resurrection (Mark 1:15; 1 Cor. 15:1–6). It starts with God making you a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Scripture will not fill your heart until you get a new one. I constantly go back to the new covenant promise of Ezekiel 36:

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

When the Bible walks into the room, a heart of stone doesn’t beat any faster. It doesn’t beat at all—not about God’s words, anyway. A heart of stone responds to Scripture the way I respond to telemarketing recordings promising me easy approval on a business loan: “Click!”

But a heart of flesh is responsive to God’s words. When the Bible comes into its field of vision, it beats faster. It starts to get full, and then out come words of praise, appreciation, thanksgiving, even exegesis and exposition.

I didn’t get independently excited about the Bible until I was a teenager. I say “independently” not to denigrate the AWANA badges that had previously motivated me to learn verses as a child, but to thank the Lord that (only by his grace) I eventually put away those childish things. I don’t remember that putting-away being a “choice,” exactly. I couldn’t say then why I gradually began to take personal interest in the words of Jesus, Moses, Paul, and David. Looking back, however, I believe God performed a spiritual heart transplant.

That’s step one—though to call it that sounds glib. This isn’t really a step at all; it’s a new birth one cannot perform on one’s self. As Jesus says in John 3, we are “born of the Spirit,” a birth which often comes with complications. Nonetheless, it’s “step” one because there’s no true love for God’s words without it.

Get good teaching

Famous evangelical scholar J.I. Packer had a conversion experience as a college student but spent the first six weeks of his Christian life reading the Bible the way he used to read it before his conversion, as a collection of fallible but valuable human thoughts inspired by experiences with the divine.

I was assuming that though the substance of the Scripture was certainly true and we believed [it] . . . . But I took it for granted that educated people nowadays don’t believe every jot and tittle.

His study was still enriching, he says, but it lacked an essential spark.

But then he heard a sermon. It wasn’t even, he said, particularly great. But it had a major impact on young James Imel Packer:

I think it was the reverence with which this curious old gentleman had handled Revelation 13. Not what he made of it, but it’s the way that he squared up to the text—squeezing wisdom out of individual verses and phrases and studying the texts in the context and flow of the argument. . . . Something had triggered in me unawares. The Bible makes an impact on me which assures me that it is the Word of God pure. And being so it is bound to be all true and all trustworthy because God is. I think that is the way to say it—it’s what Calvin called the witness of the Holy Spirit which I’d been enjoying for those six weeks but hadn’t got around to verbalizing (pg. 2).

I had an analogous experience. The first time I remember hearing truly deep and rich Bible teaching as a teenager, I was hooked. I remember literally sitting on the edge of my pew and being shocked when the hour-long sermons were finished. I was being fed; that’s what shepherds are supposed to do for sheep. And my excitement about the Bible grew as I was helped to see its depth and its relevance by a gifted individual. Christ gave us “shepherds and teachers,” Paul explained to the Ephesians,

. . .to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

If you want to be more excited about the Bible, don’t neglect the gift God has given you: go to a church where the shepherds and teachers do all these things through the Word. A good preacher will teach you how to read your Bible well almost by osmosis; a good preacher will model good reading for you.

Study for yourself

But the most exciting insights I have had into Scripture have often come from my own study. Not because I think more highly of my own ideas than of other people’s, but because we all tend to value the things we paid a lot for.

And insights from Scripture really are worth a great deal, no matter how much you pay for them.

If you want get to excited about the Bible, I recommend that you focus on the text of Scripture before reading the works of gifted teachers. I’m not contradicting what I just said in point two; I’m saying that your own study should reflect where the real authority lies: in Scripture, not in people.

No matter your skill level, you can and must work hard to understand what God is saying, while relying on the Holy Spirit who breathed out the Word, and making judicious use of the means he has put at our disposal. I do not believe we are so bound by our human perspectives that finding the meaning of Scripture is a fruitless task. As Mark D. Thompson says in his excellent book A Clear and Present Word, scriptural clarity is often “hard-won.” But it is available.

I’m haunted and encouraged by Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “Have you not read . . .?” (Matt 22:31). He expected them both to have read and understood their Bibles—in a day, most archaeologists agree, in which there was no Bible software. Jesus’ expectation doesn’t necessarily imply ability, but it does imply responsibility—one I’m motivated to take up.

I have found that motivation for Bible study is circular: You can’t get excited about the Bible until you do some serious study in it. You can’t do serious study unless your excitement about Scripture motivates you to do so. Sometimes my circle breaks down. I don’t maintain a constant excitement (or study) level. I get tired. I get sick. I get busy. I drift. But because I have a new heart, good teachers, and the continuing grace of God, I can never stop trying to enter the circle again. In my best moments, all I can say for myself is that I “hunger and thirst for righteousness” as Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount. And I have a promise from that same sermon: I will be filled. Filled to the brim. My cup runneth over. I’m privileged, I’m excited, to study the Bible.

As the annual day of resolutions and high hopes for Bible reading nears, what are you going to do to stir up your love of the Bible? Let me know in the comments.

mark ward
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. He is the author of multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption.

Comments

  1. I am finishing my MDiv by August 2016. This is a course of study I began since I began to understand that I was being called to something greater in 1996, and finally understanding God's Call to Ministry in July 1997. Between the Army and college it has taken me 19 years to get this far. I will break 20 years before I finish. I am now retired and disabled from service, but still planning to volunteer in ministry. This degree has lead me closer to the words of scripture than I ever thought possible. I need to know more, and it is a devouring hunger.

    I was not raised in any one church environment, and I do not have verses memorized, and the Lord knows that my headaches, and TBI and PTSD, would keep some from memory if I did. Now, however, as a gift from the Lord Almighty alone, the Word of God flows from me when He speaks through me, leaving me exhausted, and remembering only portions of the work, but I just return to learn more.

    I challenge others to hunger for more. Strive deeply enough to take classes in the books of the Bible, audit a college course, or just try a seminar. You will find that the Bible releases its secrets slowly, but they are so fulfilling. Every bit of the Bible is connected to Christ, and every section is connected to His work upon the Earth, both in His first coming, and His return.

    Read well, be blessed, and may the Lord open your eyes, ears, and mind to the Word of the Lord.

  2. Hello Dr. Ward! Thank you for your inspirational post to help us renew a sense of excitement for God’s Word…I do admit, like you mentioned, that there are times when I am out of that “cycle”. You asked us to comment with ideas that help get back to that glorious place of desiring to read God’s Word with enthusiasm (when sometimes we feel no enthusiasm). The biggest stumbling block for me when I have lost my “routine” for reading/studying the Word, is “where to begin again”…Do I start with a character study, or exegetical study, or simply just “read”, or do I begin a brand new reading schedule (if so, which one…there are so many to choose from!), or perhaps create a personalized one, or do I want to follow a pattern such as what Howard Hendricks teaches, etc. etc.? Sometimes I give myself paralysis by analysis of options! So, what I have found that best overcomes such paralysis and tackles my sloppy approach to God’s Word is decide one day what I will begin the next day. That way, I have the entire day to think about how I will begin my renewed and refreshed approach. I spend that day giving myself “pep talks”. “Just do it” I tell myself. “Just pick one and do it”. I begin small…to wet the whistle so to speak, and I find that it doesn’t take long before I’m wishing I cleared more time. For me, that first step is usually figuring out which book of the Bible I have read the least and I begin there. God’s Spirit has a fascinating way of drawing me in once I take that first step back to action. And from that least-read biblical book, the HS will guide me to either exegete or do a word study or make a chart which adds to new enthusiasm! That is how I create a brand new cycle of which you spoke. Of course, we all know that prayer, church and small groups can rekindle as well, right? :) Thanks Dr. Ward for your “jump-start” words and inspiriations! Blessings to you and your ministry,
    A. Cool

    • Paralysis by analysis, that is so, me!
      Wanting to get it right (perfect) prevents me from just choosing to take the baby step of opening the Bible and reading it.
      Like I said in a previous reply to another comment; the daily choice of reading it today will turn into a huge step of daily walking consistently. But for today, I choose to pick up my Bible and read it.
      Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Burkhard Zimmermann says:

    Dear Mark,

    thanks very much for your encouraging post. We often are focused on how we can get rid of desires that lead us in wrong directions or even to fall, but the more our desire to dig in God’s word growth, the better he can protect us from falling in temptation. Interesting that you use the example of soccer. Especially for me as I am German and had a father with desires like: Studying the bible, playing and singing to worship, spending time with the family, watching soccer and making photos. Guess what I inherited all, but watching soccer – what a blessing.

    As IT professional I am used to analyze and constantly need to learn about new technology, but through God’s grace I am today far more interested to learn from Jesus and to understand more from his beautiful word. I am so happy that there is so much material accessible today and free lessons from universities and teachers from all different denominations.

    As deacon who is involved in preaching and counseling, but also just from my experience as a follower of Christ I can just repeat: Get a new heart, Get good teaching, Study for yourself!
    There is nothing the body of Christ needs more than this.
    Men of God, thank you so much and be blessed!

    Burkhard.

  4. Interesting about soccer – millions of people pour their intensity and energy into it, and will remember immense numbers of details, recognise hundreds of players, know all the rules, and cannot remember anything else – but what respect have they for the people who choose to focus all their attention and time on the KJV? Both are intellectual activities. Do I feel superior? No. All I know is that, for me, if God is not in the conversation, then it’s not worth having. It’s empty.
    The Bible, for me, is the only exciting and stimulating thing. All else has no colour.

  5. Thank you! Good words.

  6. " Just don’t fake an emotional injury." <sneezed my coffee> :-)

  7. Frank Payne says:

    I learned years ago that in order to have a heart for the Word, I had to stay in the Word. Therefore, I have a reading plan that takes me through the Bible every year. That is my starting point. From there I branch out into prayer, trusting the HS will keep my heart tender to where my reading plan is only a check list.
    From there, my wife and I have decided we would feed together where others are feeding. Thus, for the last 12 years we have been doing in depth book studies with the same group and still have not completed the Bible.
    Then there is involvement in adult Sunday school. From all those activities I constantly find subjects I wish to pursue more thoroughly, but alas, there is that little problem with time.
    What has worked for me the most is the concept of baby steps. Just start, and stay faithful doing a little and keep adding to it.

    • For all of the secular world’s confident pronouncements that interest in the Bible would die out, it hasn’t come to pass, has it? I love reading comments like this.

    • I could not agree more!
      The daily choice to just do it actually turns into a huge step which then leads to walking it out consistently.
      Today, I choose to just do it.
      Thanks!

  8. Surely our love for God must precede our love of God's Word?
    You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)
    And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27 (ESV)
    If we love God, we will naturally love God's Word (and of course the Son), we will also love everything that belongs to God: His people, His creation, etc.

    • I do love Him. I do love His Word.
      But there is a very real battle to not read it. My flesh is weak. The enemy of our faith does not want any of us to read the Word.
      For me, at least at this time in life; I have to choose daily to take up the Word and read it. There are days I fail. I am working on perfecting the daily choice. Praying it will one day lead to a consistent walking of daily reading.
      For today, I am choosing to just do it. Asking Him to bless my reading and my choice.
      Thanks for your words.

  9. Just include me in your prayers to be consistent in studying my Bible

  10. Indeed, a good blog post is one which stays in the mind for days! Thanks again for your memorable post! While reading “Theocratic Kingdom, Vol. II” by George Peters (suggested reading by my Seminary professor), I came across a marvelous quote that reminds me how the “revealing of a mystery” can entice one back to the word of God :) Augustine is quoted “How accessible is the language of Scripture, although few can penetrate into its depths. What it contains, open to all, it utters like an intimate friend, to the heart of learned and unlearned alike. And what it conceals in mysteries it does not present in lofty language, which the sluggish and untaught mind dare not approach…but invites all in simple speech whom it nourishes not only by manifest truth, but excites by concealed truth–the same truth being sometimes more manifest, sometimes more concealed.” Augustine Epis. 137 to Volusiannus, sec. 18. Quoted by Dr. Neander, p. 214, Mem. of Ch. Life. Quoted by George Peters, Theocratic Kingdom Volume II, page i)

  11. Mark Reynolds says:

    Great article and comments. I struggle most of the time to stay focused. I started a few months ago to read the bible from the beginning. I got Logos 6 and some of the MEd courses. I thing this has helped but still trying to get to know the software more. I know better understanding will come with time and experience. May God Bless all of us. Continue always in prayer.

  12. A comment from 11/12/2015 said “Surely our love for God must precede our love of God’s Word?”… I ask…why? sometimes the ‘word’ is all that is ever presented… in homes, in schools, in churches even… surely the issue lies in how the Word is understood… God is often shown as not ‘loving’ at all… think Soddam & Gommarah, (correct spelling optional). Reading the Word, I think, will either convince you, or send you away… loving God is not the easiest thing in the world to do (for me)… but God’s Word says it is the right path… Loving God and loving God’s Word are not mutually inclusive… one can lead to the other… so both should be pursued.

  13. Love this! thank you for your honesty.

  14. I failed to say what I will do differently in 2016. I start a Hebrew class in a couple of weeks. Very excited for that. Usually I put myself in a position where I HAVE to study–like facilitating a bible study or teaching sunday school, currently doing both.

    • I do the same. That’s great. Studying for the benefit of others motivates me.

      I was just talking tonight at a church New Year’s get-together with someone who is studying Hebrew. I recommended the Learning to Use Biblical Hebrew in Logos 6 Mobile Ed course. I have not watched all the videos, but I did a heavy skim, I read the intro material, I looked carefully at the scope and sequence, and I know the guys who did the videos. I’m excited about their approach.

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