Aside from the youngest ones here, probably most of us are familiar with the acronym WWJD. But for those not so familiar let me enlighten you. WWJD was made popular in the 1990s, and is an abbreviation that appeared on bracelets and many other knick-knack type items. It was used as a visible reminder to Christians to remember to always ask themselves—“What would Jesus Do?”
In other words, when life’s decisions confront us, we should stop and think of what Jesus would do if he were in that same situation?
This idea is not necessarily bad, as we should be striving to live and act as a true disciple of Christ, and asking this may be good to assist us in keeping in line. Dave has been preaching through Ephesians on the Christian walk, so we know this. However, that is not what we are discussing today. Today, I am not asking what would Jesus do. Actually, I am not really going to discuss Jesus at all today for the most part. So what do I mean by WWJD? Well, we will get there eventually. First, I want to discuss some issues of history to lead up to it.
When we look back and study church history, there are pivotal times we could point to when issues and controversies had come to a head and councils were called so that doctrines could be examined, and changes in thinking could be made. There were many church councils that convened to examine and decide upon doctrinal issues. Especially in the early centuries of church history when doctrines were being fleshed out and codified.
Then for the next thousand or so years of church history to follow, mainly under the Roman Catholic church era, there were like another dozen or so councils called to deal with issues as they arose. Then there of course is the Reformation period, when some theologians within the Roman Catholic Church felt that the Church had strayed from the path of the truth of Scriptures, so they raised their voice in an effort to challenge the church to get it back on course. This was the normal practice of doing things to assist in reformation.
This type of periodic challenge is rarely a bad thing. It is very simple in church life and theology for people to learn something, begin to apply it, and then shortly down the road a situation comes up that requires the practice to be tweaked a little. A little further down the road, something else comes up and things gets tweaked again. The teaching is taught to others who go out, and they later come up with an issue and they tweak things, and then later others give it a little tweak too. Then all of the tweaked doctrines come together and get merged or tweaked a little bit more for the sake of unity.
After a few decades of this going on, it is easy to see how the original doctrine with its biblical foundation can get blurred and become something quite different from when it started. Over the years, this is how a lot of church traditions are solidified. This is what had obviously happened after more than a thousand years of the church’s activity in the early years. So when some of the teachers like Martin Luther came forward and questioned the church’s tradition, it caused quite a stir. They raised questions because simply wanted to right the ship and get it back on course, not start a new denomination.
Of course, if you know the history there, you know how things turned out with that situation. But out of that whole situation, a rally-cry of sorts was produced from the Protestant Reformation system. Unfortunately, it is one that many seem to forget to apply even today. That is, the idea that the church is reformed and always reforming. Now, this phrase can and has been misused by some to imply that truth is always changing, and that newer is probably better. That is a misuse in understanding this phrase. As blogger Jeff Landis commented on the subject of his support for this phrase in the past:
But as the years went on I discovered that those who espoused the idea of “always reforming” were often reforming the wrong things. Their idea of reformation was to change the meaning of biblical texts and the theological understanding of the church. Too often it seemed to me, their idea of reforming the church was to modernize the theology of the church to better conform to the current standards of culture and society. So, reforming churches reformed their view of Scripture (no longer inerrant) and their view of the roles of men and women in the church. Then they changed their views of sexual sin and determined some sexual sin was to be tolerated because society concluded the person was made with a bent for such sin. What was being reformed was the clear teaching of Scripture!
That is not the type of “reforming” that we are speaking of here. So ignoring that misuse of the idea, let us look quickly at what we should get from this. Regarding this phrase, one unnamed American Vision writer states:
This simple principle is one that is most often forgotten in modern discussions about theology, where a surefire way to end a disagreement is to pull out something written by Luther, Calvin, or even Spurgeon and show that they said much the same thing. Although the Reformers themselves were quite emphatic that they were not the final word (hence the "always reforming"), contemporary Christianity seems to be convinced that dead theologians should be the authoritative standard of interpretation. (http://americanvision.org/907/always-reformed-always-reforming)
The point is, church tradition, or ancient teachings do not always equate to Scriptural truth. Nor should church tradition that came about because of a controversy over tradition, like that of the Reformation period. They are almost always helpful, but they simply portray where that person was in their working out of theology at the time they wrote or said what they said. These things are not authoritative in the sense that Scripture is, and are never perfect in its comprehension of a topic.
On the other hand, private interpretation of Scripture is likewise not a system of absolute truth. While many claim to be led by the Spirit, and thus consider their understanding of Scripture to be accurate, this is rarely the case. All we end up with is a bunch of self-led professors of their truth, causing more and more confusion and division. Scripture does not come to us in a vacuum awaiting each individual to dig in and apply it as we wish. It is not a book of words and phrases that we must arrange and interpret to fit our situations - yet so many treat it as just that.
Many Christians treat the Scripture as a book of sayings that can be pulled out and applied to them in their current situation as needed, and squeezed to fit their desired scenario. Rarely is the context, historical setting and audience relevance ever taken into consideration these days. The average church goer not only tends to ignore such underlying ideas, but many church leaders are ignorant in these areas too, and they lead their flocks astray more and more week after week. But, what they teach then becomes law to their congregation, and that law becomes their tradition.
Those who dig deeper and understand the story of Scripture better do see the importance of understanding the culture, historical settings, etc. that surrounded the writings, and use that information to form a more proper understanding of Scripture. Once you begin to see the whole story as it unfolds and ties together, the Bible becomes a whole new amazing world of discovery. But in order to see that, you must read and be familiar with the story.
As I was writing this, I started getting a kind of déją vu feeling with the thoughts I was putting down on paper. Then it hit me that much of this topic was touched upon in my 2013 conference lecture “Restoring the Authority of Scripture.” As I looked back to recall what I said, I realized the history portion of that lecture is mainly what I was rehashing here—so for those who heard that, I am sorry for the repeat.
The key point I am making here is that, for most all of these issues and councils, they were all called together with the intent of pitting tradition against Scripture to set things back on the path of truth based on the Scriptures. It was seeking to get back into the Scriptures to strip out any tradition that had built up, and set things right again.
Now, when we go back further, to the Old Testament times, we find that for centuries, the Hebrew Scriptures were revered, studied, memorized, and applied to every area of life by those seeking a better understanding of Yahweh. Many followers knew these Scriptures inside and out. As some of us have learned, the Hebrew culture had a much stronger value on the memorized word over the written word. So they not only had the Scriptures, they memorized them. In most cases they had too, since mass producing of the Scriptures was not so easily accomplished.
Maybe they did not always adhere to them or apply them correctly, but they honored them and studied them thoroughly. At various times, traditions would grow in importance and lead people astray, and a reformation of thought and practice would come about to repair things for a time. Often times it took the condemnation of a prophet or a judgment from Yahweh to bring about these repairs. While it happened time and time again, one thing was a constant—the revealed law and Scriptures were the central point they returned to. Yahweh was always telling his people to remember, remember, remember. The truth was there, they just had to remember it and follow it.
One of the ways he instructed them to remember it, was to of course read or hear it often. Let us go back in early Hebrew history and take a glimpse at this. In Deuteronomy 17 we find the instructions that every future King of the nation was to follow—which was read earlier:
And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV)
Then later in the same book, chapter 31, as the people are about to cross over into the promised land, we are told:
Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, "At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 31:9-13 ESV)
Well, as the story goes, we find over time that these practices of writing and reading the law did not occur as they should, and we find throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles that time and time again the kings did evil in the sight of the Lord. In 2 Kings 17 we are told of many of the things the nations of Israel and Judah did, revealing just how far they had strayed from what they should have been doing. We are told they:
And in response to these things, we are told:
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only. Judah also did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD and made them commit great sin. (2 Kings 17:18-21 ESV)
Then if you track the history of the kings of Israel, it is one king after another that “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” So it would seem that obviously there was no longer the practice of the kings writing and reading the law, nor to the people every seven years.
The history of Judah is different, and becomes a hit or miss of kings that do good and those that do evil. In the books of Kings we are often told how this one did evil in the sight of the Lord, and how this one did what was right. Some kings we are not told their spiritual state at all, just some of their activities. But let’s jump to a time in Judah’s history to the time of Hezekiah. Prior to Hezekiah we have quite a few kings that either did evil, or we are not specifically told much about them. But in in 2 Kings 18 we come to Hezekiah and are told:
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. (2 Kings 18:1-7 ESV)
So, we discover that he came to office and cleaned house, doing many good things. And we are told there was none like him either before him or after him in Judah. So we know things were bad prior to him, and that this is a high time of revival in Judah’s history. We can assume therefore that the laws were being read and honored during his lifetime. Many of his acts can be read throughout 2 Kings 18, 19, and 20. Then at the end of chapter 20 we find him passing away and his son Manasseh begins to reign. Sadly though, we are told:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:1-2 ESV)
So, after a great time of revival, the very next generation turned right around and went back to evil. We are told Manasseh returned to doing the following:
When it came to obeying the word of the Lord given to those before Manasseh and his people, 21:9 tells us:
But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:9 ESV)
We are told in 2 Chronicles of how God brought Manasseh under judgment, and how he seemingly repents and the Lord restores him. In return Manasseh puts some changes in place, taking away idols and foreign gods, restoring the altars in the house of the Lord, and commanding Judah to return to serving the Lord. Then after 55 years of Manasseh, he died, and his son Amon began to reign. And while we saw Manasseh turning things around, his son Amon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 21:21 tells us:
He walked in all the way in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them. He abandoned the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD. (2 Kings 21:21-22 ESV)
2 Chronicles 33 also relates his reign, stating it as:
And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served them. And he did not humble himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself, but this Amon incurred guilt more and more. (2 Chronicles 33:22-23 ESV)
So the things he father had started fixing in his later years, Amon turned around and restored and actually pushed things even further. However, Amon only reigned two years before his servants conspired against him and put him to death.
Then Josiah, his eight-year-old begin to reign. Now note, while we are initially told that Josiah did was right in the eyes of the Lord, we must pay attention to the fact that it was not until a full eight years into his reign that he first began changing things—at least in his own life:
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. (2 Chronicles 34:3 ESV)
So some conclude that most likely the first twelve years of his reign were not much different than his father Amon’s reign had been. Matthew Henry states:
I fear, however, that in the beginning of his reign things went much as they had done in his father's time, because, being a child, he must have left the management of them to others; so that it was not till his twelfth year, which goes far in the number of his years, that the reformation began. (Matthew Henry Commentary)
And so eight years into his reign, at 16 years old, he begins a personal spiritual reformation, and then four years later—twelve years into his reign - at age twenty, what do we find him doing? He begins to:
It appears all of these actions took place over the next six years, for we are then told in 34:8:
Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah…to repair the house of the LORD his God. (2 Chronicles 34:8 ESV)
So work is begun to restore that house of Lord, and things were being done, and items shifted around, Josiah instructs Hilkiah the high priest to take money from the house of the Lord in order to pay for the supplies for the repair. And then we are told in 34:14:
While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses. (2 Chronicles 34:14 ESV)
So, what can we assume at this point? Obviously the practice of copying and reading the law had not been in place up to this time even in Josiah’s reign, and the laws of God had been all but forgotten and buried in the house of the Lord. The house of the Lord, which for at least the 55 years of Manassah reigning, and the two of his son Amon, and possibly even the first eight to twelve years of Josiah, had been abused with idolatry, so obviously the law would have been buried and ignored. And we are given no hint that the practice of reading the law was in practice during the prior eighteen years of Josiah’s reign either.
So, once they found and read the book, what did Josiah do?
And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. (2 Chronicles 34:19 ESV)
Then he immediate began to take action, as we are told in the next verses:
And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, "Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book." (2 Chronicles 34:20-21 ESV)
So, while things have been going well with Josiah’s reforms up unto this point, he realizes that neither he nor his fathers have been keeping the full word of the Lord, and so he determines to make further changes, and so we are told he:
Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 34:29-33 ESV)
And now I wish to leave the story of Josiah and look at some application. It is that time of the year, and as usual, we wish to extend to everyone the Berean Bible challenge.
As Christians, we could look at these stories and apply attributes of them to our personal spiritual walks. So, going back, we found in Leviticus 17 that the kings were commanded to copy the law and read it all the days of his life. We read that they were to read the law in order that he would:
So, are there any of these listed traits that we feel should be despised by us today, and that we should not seek in our own lives today? These were traits that the kings would get from staying in God’s law all the days of their lives. How much more could WE gain by staying within the even larger amount of Scripture that we have in our possession?
Now, some Christians have actually, at one time or another, read the entire Bible through at least once. Maybe it was not all in a short period of time, maybe it was drawn out of years of reading some here and there, but they can say they have read it all at least. It is probably truer today though that most church goers have never read the Scriptures through in their entirety even once.
I guess it is understandable and hard though, because, you know, they have to take the time to sit down and copy the entire Scriptures just so they can have a copy to read, and that can be hard to find the time to do, right? Or, maybe it is because today’s American church is so persecuted, and it is so hard to get a copy of the Bible, and it is risky to own one. With so many people dying to get a copy of the Scriptures, it makes it hard for people to have them to read. Yeah, that must be why it is not read as much.
No, none of those types of reasons will do, at least not in many countries. And for those countries that do have to go through life-threatening situations to acquire a copy of even part of the Scriptures, we have seen videos and read the stories of how they cherish what they have. We have them in abundance but do not cherish them at all usually. In America we do not even have to go out and buy a copy of the Bible, it is free online in so many different versions and languages, and there are so many free commentaries, study aids, teaching aids, etc. So what excuse is there for us today?
I like how Matthew Henry puts it—and he did not even have the abundance of availability as we have today:
We may hence take occasion to bless God that we have plenty of Bibles, and that they are, or may be, in all hands - that the book of the law and gospel is not lost, is not scarce - that, in this sense, the word of the Lord is not precious. Bibles are jewels, but, thanks be to God, they are not rarities. The fountain of the waters of life is not a spring shut up or a fountain sealed, but the streams of it, in all places, make glad the city of our God. What a great deal shall we have to answer for if the great things of God's law, being thus made common, should be accounted by us as strange things! (Matthew Henry Commentary on 2 Chronicles 34:14-28)
He hits on a good point here. Bible are so freely available in most places that to most people, it is no longer precious. It is not rare, and people do not have to copy them to make a personal copy, and so we end up taking them for granted. Obviously in Josiah’s day, he did not have copies of the law laying around everywhere, and he wasn’t just leaving it on the shelf and ignoring it like many do today. And what happened when they found it and read it to him? He tore his clothes.
He was so distraught over what they had been missing, the laws they were ignorant of and living contrary to. Once he became aware of the problem though, he immediately began seeking how to rectify the situation. This should help motivate us to desire to read as often as possible. What if there are things within the Scriptures that we are ignorant of and living contrary to? Would we respond in like manner if we read God’s word and found some area of our lifestyle to be at odds with what we ascertain as the proper Christian lifestyle? Again, wise words from Matthew Henry:
We may hence learn, whenever we read or hear the word of God, to affect our hearts with it, and to get them possessed with a holy fear of that wrath of God which is there revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, as Josiah's tender heart was. When he heard the words of the law he rent his clothes, and God was well pleased with his doing so. Were the things contained in the scripture new to us, as they were here to Josiah, surely they would make deeper impressions upon us than commonly they do; but they are not the less weighty, and therefore should not be the less considered by us, for their being well known. Rend the heart therefore, not the garments. (Matthew Henry Commentary on 2 Chronicles 34:14-28)
For today’s Christians, my first question is just how many today can seriously claim the Scriptures as “well known” to them? What does that even look like today? There are many who have well known verses in their head. But many people mishandle the Scripture simply because they do not really know it. Do Christians make it a practice to stay within the word frequently in order to know what it even says about our lifestyles? I would almost dare to say that the things contained in the scripture are pretty much new to many professing Christians. So many people have multiple copies, and yet know so little of the actual full story contained within.
Over the years instead, they pick up favorite verses, phrases, terms etc. and use them as if they are in and of themselves truth of scripture being properly applied. Using the Scripture out of context to make points not being made by Scripture, is a very common practice these days. All of these misapplications can be done away with if people would just read the entirety of Scripture, in its context, and more frequently. Learning the whole story of Scripture, and not just a bunch of pet-verses found in them, is what is needed.
We should never be content with what we currently know or think we understand. We should never be content with a reading schedule that finds us only occasionally in God’s Word. We should strive to be like the kings of old, where we read it “all the days of our lives.”
Another of the great councils in church history took place in the early 1600s, and the end result was the Westminster Confession of Faith, used to this day by the Reformed churches. This large statement of faith holds the Scripture in the high and supreme place it should be in a Christian’s life:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (Westminster Confession of Faith, I.VI)
So the question is, how can these good doctrines be deduced from Scripture by Christians, if Christians are not frequently reading Scripture? And while most everyone would speak out against openly adding to the Scripture, few even flinch at the idea of traditions that go above and beyond the scope of Scripture. Tradition is king for most. They believe what they are taught because that is just always the way things have been, and they get no further than that often. When a new odd sounding doctrine comes up, they dismiss it as wrong, but not because they can seriously refute it from Scripture, but usually because “it goes against what I was taught.”
As we briefly touched on, tradition always rears its ugly head over time, and as it does, it tends to become law and so binding that most people never question it. And traditions grow and distort, until the truth is so hidden or obscured that it is no longer really truth.
As culture changes, so do thoughts and beliefs of many Christians. As these beliefs change, they become the new tradition, and tend to move further and further from truth. As mentioned earlier, this is not the kind of reforming church that we are wanting to see. So many Christians just believe what they were taught, rarely do they test things against the Scriptures, and traditions continue to change and conform to the world around us. In the end, it has made the truth of Scripture of no affect in the lives of most church goers.
Can you imagine what churches would be like if every single person who sat in the pew week after week were daily reading their Bible—and doing so in a way that takes them through the Scriptures in their entirety? Can you imagine a world where every profession Christian truly knew their Bible thoroughly? Can you imagine the amount of crazy teaching that would not be tolerated, and the impact Christians would have on the surrounding culture?
Prior to the Reformation, the ruling church did not allow the common man to have the Scriptures in their hands. One of the benefits that came after the reformation, was that the Scriptures were put into the common tongue and given to the people. This offered a sort of accountability against the church becoming abusing in their traditions and unscriptural teachings. Since then, the church has grown greatly in many ways. But as always, given enough time, new traditions come in. The church that was always reformed and always reforming, has become stagnant and filled with new traditions because of a lack of Scriptural knowledge. Sadly, the church has the Scriptures still, but rarely use them properly any longer.
Scripture reading is important. And every year you get a message from this pulpit encouraging you to get a set yearly plan, and get someone to hold you accountable to sticking to it, so that you can read through the entirety of Scripture yearly. It takes about 15 minutes a day to do so—so the time element is no excuse.
It is not just a book that we should read once, get a feel for the general story, and then put to the side and use only as a reference book when some text is needed to satisfy us in some way. It is a life-long instruction manual of sorts, filled with words and stories that can continue to change our lives the more we learn.
I am sure you have heard people say things like “every time I read the Scriptures I see something new I hadn’t seen before.” I know I used to hear that all of the time, and honestly in past decades never really gave it much credibility. Well, since I have been consistently reading through each year these past few years, I will admit I was wrong.
Let me tell you a little embarrassing story about, uh, this friend of mine, let’s just call him Henry. Henry was an avid reader and studier of many deep theological issues over the past twenty-five plus years of his life. He kind of prided myself on knowing a little bit of something, and felt he had a pretty good grasp on the whole story of Scripture. He studied many theological issues, doctrinal controversies, church history, presuppositional apologetics, and all kinds of teachings with intelligent sounding words to make things sound deep and important. He listened to hundreds of hours of sermons, he attended church regularly, and he did occasionally read the Scriptures.
But in the past few years, each year that I—uh, I mean Henry—has stuck to reading through the Scripture regularly and consistently, he has picked up and connected points on things that he thought he knew but it turns out he was quite clueless on. It is true that the more you read, the more you will discover those “oh wow” moments while reading—as things you may have thought you understood will continue to take on new life and make much more sense. As pieces of the story become more familiar, points within the overarching story start to become more clearly connected and understood.
People may think re-reading the same book over and over would be boring, but there are so many things that seem new the more they are read. Plus, some people will re-read various literary pieces multiple times, and still get newer understanding out of simple fiction pieces. How much more should the Bible be read by those who call it their Lord’s revealed words?
So, if you have become one of the comfortable Christians who have the book on the shelf but not in front of your eyes frequently - pull it down, dust it off and read it. If you have been listening to this pulpit for any real length of time, you have been encouraged frequently to get into a reading plan and read the Bible through yearly. Maybe you feel you have heard so much of it preached over years of church attendance, that you are fine. My friend Henry felt that way too—but that is just a self-inflicted lie masquerading as a reason to be lazy and not do it.
Having God’s word, but ignoring it, is like having it hidden and all but forgotten in one of the rooms of your spiritual house? If you feel your spiritual life might be just going through the motions and surviving in a sort of auto-pilot dominated by your tradition of religion, it is time to make the commitment to read. Do not be content to live like the early years of King Josiah, by simply following the herd and sticking with tradition and ignoring the personal growth you’ll receive with Bible reading. He had the book, didn’t know it, and when he found it, he acted upon it.
You have the book, and you know it. The next step is to read it and take action. So, when you think of that Bible you have in your hand or on your shelf, as yourself—“What would Josiah do?” While asking “What would Jesus do?” may be helpful in making decisions in your daily walk—that can only truly even begin to be comprehended if you are truly and deeply aware of Him and his story in order to make such decisions. A better question to ask yourself first is, “What would Josiah do?”
Having a book from God - What would Josiah do? He would read it.
Having and reading a book from God - What would Josiah do? He would tear his clothes after realizing just how far off the mark things have gotten.
Having and reading a book from God that make you realize how bad things have gotten in life - What would Josiah do? He would begin applying those teachings to life to reform practices and theology in life. He would evaluate the traditions in life that were against the book of the law, and would adjust appropriately.
Too many Christians sit around feeling sorry for themselves, saying they do not feel as though God is there for them, and that he seems absent in their lives. Some simply think God is a big God concerned with the big things of the world, and that the little things in their life are not part of that consideration. Much of this mentality can be brushed away when you see his concern for the little things throughout his Word.
The bottom line is—if you are a person people who claims to love and worship God and His son, who claims to be a part of his people, and who claim to want a better life in Him, yet do not stay consistently within His Word, then you are part of the problem with Christianity in the world today. Harsh words I know. But in this day and age, there is no real excuse for not staying in the word, and failure to do so makes you one of those people who is most likely walking around living and speaking Scripture in a manner out of line with what Scripture actually teaches. You becomes more of a liability for the name of Christianity, and the message just continues to be obscured.
The truth is there, we just have to read it so as to remember it and follow it—and once is not enough. Pull out the Word, read it and “rend your heart, not your garments,” and let it bring revival to your soul each and every year as you join the challenge to pick a reading plan and read through the Scriptures entirely in a year.