Marry the Bible
I was preparing for the Genesis 24 sermon last month when I came across these paragraphs from John Piper back in 1982. They are perhaps all the more relevant today, a generation later, and especially so here on the first Sunday of a new year:
Satan devotes himself 168 hours a week trying to deceive you and fill your mind with junk. He has seen to it that you are surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture whose mood, and entertainment, and advertising, and recreation, and politics are shot through with lies about what you should feel and think and do.
Do you think that in this atmosphere you can maintain a vigorous, powerful, free, renewed mind with a ten-minute glance at God’s book once a day? The reason there are church people who are basically secular like everyone else except with a religious veneer is that they devote 99% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of the world and 1% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of God’s word.
If you want to bring forth the will of God in your life like a mother brings forth a child, you must marry the Bible. For some of you, it is a stranger that you greet on the way to work but never have over for a relaxed evening of conversation, and seldom invite along to spend significant time with you on vacation. Do not, then, be surprised if you are ill-equipped to read the trajectories of God’s will for your own life.
Perhaps a week into 2018, you already have your New Year’s resolutions all buttoned down, and you’re making fine progress, but if you’re looking for just one fresh spiritual focus for the new year, I offer this exhortation: *Marry the Bible this year*.
God Himself Comes First
Without downplaying prayer or fellowship or witness in the least, I say start with the Bible because hearing God’s voice in his word is the most fundamental of his ongoing “means of grace” for our Christian lives. Having his ear (in prayer) and belonging to his body (in the church) are equally essential, but they don’t play the same fundamental role, because the Christian life is not a symmetrical partnership between man and God.
God’s word comes first, because God comes first. He acts first. We did not create the world or ourselves. And we do not initiate the Christian life; he does. First he speaks, and then we respond in prayer. First he speaks, and his word creates a people called the church.
Marry the Bible this year, and it’s only a matter of time before God’s word lights a fire in you to respond in prayer. Marry the Bible this year, and you won’t long keep to yourself, but will soon feel compelled to lock arms with others as his word not only feeds you, but gives you bread to share, with baskets left over.
More Than a Reading Plan
A daily “quiet time” or “time alone with God” is a great place to start. But when I say “marry the Bible,” I’m saying don’t be content to just dip in in the morning, important as that is.
Perhaps it might include regularly hearing the Bible read. Hit play on the treadmill or in the car or while doing chores. Hearing engages us in a way that reading does not, and vice versa.
And marrying the Bible in 2018 will include, in some form, hearing God’s voice through faithful teachers. God gives his church pastors and teachers for our equipping and upbuilding (Ephesians 4:11–12). Come to worship each Sunday ready to receive God’s word as it is faithfully taught, and midweek in community group and life group, and avail yourself of the remarkable riches pouring out today from faithful Christian publishers, along with the growing number of substantive, well-written articles online. Listen to podcasts that build and help your faith, or watch videos, like those at the Bible Project. And seek to engage in faith-building, soul-nourishing conversations in the life of the church.
Cities Church, let’s marry the Bible in 2018, and beyond. Ten minutes a day is a good start, but let’s not be content with the minimum. Let’s increasingly saturate our lives with his word, and learn to be channels of his word to each other.
Prayer of Confession
Father, we confess our folly in thinking that feeding on your word in the past might be sufficient food for today or tomorrow. We often have thought minimally about accessing your word instead of about marrying your word.
We have indeed had our minds filled with junk through the mood and entertainment and advertising and recreation and politics of our society. We have been content with 10-minute glances, or no glance at all, when we should have wanted so much more. Too often have you been a stranger to us rather than the one with whom we want to spend a relaxed evening.
We repent of acting as if you and your words matter so little. And we ask that you would change us, not just at the level of our wills, but at the level of our hearts, to love to hear you speak, to enjoy feasting on your words, to long to strengthen our souls in truth. And Father, forgive us now, we pray, as we confess our individual sins to you in this moment of silence . . .
Father, how amazing that you have stooped to speak to us in human words. You have revealed yourself to us in the Bible, and how foolish are we to ignore, neglect, and minimize your very words of grace to us. Make us a church married to your words, and fill us with the spiritual life and joy you impart to us through the Bible. And then put words in our own mouths and make our meal all the more filling as we pass it around to share with others. Make the dominoes of change in our lives fall as your word comes into its central, initiating, energizing place in our souls. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.