In this series, Dr. Dane Ortlund, Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway, answers readers’ questions about the Bible. If you have a question for Dane, simply leave it as a comment at the bottom of this post.
Q: What’s the point of reading the Bible every day?
We publish a lot of different Bibles at Crossway these days—Bibles with elaborate reference systems, Bibles with all the headings and verse numbers stripped out, devotional Bibles, a Psalter, wide-margin editions, and many others.
What do we expect people to do with the Bibles we publish? Why do we hope people pull a Bible off the shelf each day?
After all—let’s be brutally honest for a moment—do we really feel a need for the Bible? Between Twitter, Oprah, our acountant, and Sunday morning sermons, there’s already a flood of counsel washing into our lives.
What’s the Point?
So why read the Bible? And why every day? Dozens of reasons could be mentioned. Here are a few of the most important: daily Bible reading is how we calm down, tank up, get wisdom, go deep, get busy, and commune with God.
1. Calm down. Each day we roll out of bed and, as C. S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, “all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.” One reason we read the Bible is so that we are not subject to living the day out of haste but rather out of calm. We remember the shortness of life, the eternality of heaven, and the abundance of a gospel from which no sin or failure is excluded. The promises of Scripture are like an asthmatic’s inhaler, enabling us to slow down and take a deep breath.
2. Tank up. Reading Scripture is like eating food. We have to do it regularly, it tastes good to taste buds that are alive, and it nourishes us for the day. Bible reading is stored energy, stockpiled emotional and psychological capital. We stay afloat throughout the day by making moment-by-moment withdrawals from that vast reservoir.
3. Get wisdom. By nature we are fools. Over time we can shed folly and become wise. We will not do it on our own. And we will not do it by downloading all the cleverness of the world’s best self-help gurus into our minds. We need a word from heaven, from beyond. The Bible is the world’s great self-corrective. Each day it tweaks our lives and prompts fresh mid-course corrections. Wisdom flourishes.
4. Go deep. Daily Bible reading deepens us theologically. On the one hand, the demons are excellent theologians (James 2:19). They would ace our seminaries’ doctrine exams. So it isn’t enough to have right doctrine. But it is certainly necessary. Defective doctrine means a defective view of God, and to the degree our view of God is defective, to that degree the ceiling lowers on our potential for joy, comfort, and above all enjoying the gospel of grace. One reason we read the Bible is to deepen our minds. To sharpen the contours of our vision of God. To think more accurately about all that matters most.
5. Get busy. We also read the Bible to be told what to do. It’s not the main thing we read the Bible for. But we do find ourselves stirred to take action in concrete ways. Sometimes the text commands action directly. Other times it doesn’t, but at the least, indirectly, a text will mess with us, change us a little bit, alter our outlook, and thus impel us forward in some new step of practical obedience externally because we have been changed a tiny bit internally.
6. Commune with God. This is the umbrella category that includes all the rest. This is the point. Reading the Bible is a personal experience—“person-al,” one person to another. What other book do we read, conscious of the author interacting with us as we do so? Daily Bible reading requires routine and structure, but it is not mechanical—just as a body requires a bony skeleton, but it is not the skeleton that gives it life. We do with the Bible what the Psalms guide us in doing—adore God, thank him, complain to him, wrestle with him, express perplexity to him, and all the rest.
So what might this actually look like?
To be sure, it would be simplistic to conceive of every person’s time in Scripture as looking the same. Just as there are different but equally valid ways to exercise, so too there are different but equally valid ways to read the Bible. But what is nonnegotiable is that we must be doing so with faithful regularity in order to be healthy.
I have found morning time, first thing, to be best for reading the Bible. The house is quiet. A day’s worth of activity and anxiety has not built up. My mind is as blank as it will be all day and my body is as lethargic as it will be all day, making me well suited for unhurried reflection on the text. At times in the past I’ve tried spending time in the Word in the evening, but my mind is racing from the day’s events, and I find it extremely difficult to slow down and chew on the text in a meditative way. Coffee and Scripture first thing in the morning has become a daily ritual that I dearly love and need. Experiment with what works best for you.
Reading through the Bible in a year may be a good idea, especially if you are newer to Christianity. For myself, I’ve found slower, unhurried reflection and meditation on very small portions of Scripture to be best at this stage, with four young kids in the house and a small window of time for quiet solitude each morning.
Remember Your Mortality
And bear in mind that you’ll be dead soon. Will you come to the winter of your life and wish you had checked your mutual funds more often? Or slept in more? Or read more blog posts? Probably not.
But we will not regret one moment of time spent in the Bible. Make it your lifelong friend. Invest. Built it into your life. Become deeper, a more solid human being, over many years of Bible reading.
Do you have a question about the Bible? Leave it as a comment and we’ll try to answer it in a future post!
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway. He is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (August 2014), and serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible study series. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their four kids in Wheaton.