My very first Bible is thirty years old and buried deep in my bookshelf. It rarely gets read. It’s tattered, and loose pages hang out—pity the poor books of Galatians and Hebrews! Passages are marked in red, blue, black and even green ink due to multiple readings. Illegible scrawls lie written between columns. With the simple blackening of two letters, the original cover, Holy Bible—With Helps, has been modified to read Holy Bible—it Helps.
Why does this particular Bible generate so much emotion for me? Because, shortly after coming to faith, it was a doorway through which I learned about God. It contained the explanations for my many questions: Does God really care? Who is Jesus? Why do I screw up so often? How can I be forgiven? What is the purpose of my life?
Wow. No wonder I was drawn to its pages. Within a few days after becoming a Christian, I had read the New Testament and jumped into the Old Testament (I’ll admit to getting bogged down a bit in Leviticus). Through the encouragement of others, I began to memorize full chapters—Romans 8, Psalm 51, Hebrews 12, Matthew 5–7, 1 Corinthians 12 and others.
Society tells us that Scripture is mythical, irrelevant and stuffy. How wrong! For those of us who have been captured by its gripping narratives, winsome poetry and stinging epistles, we know better. We have experienced its capacity, in combination with the Christian community, spiritual disciplines and service, to change our lives. As the Psalmist notes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is water in a dry land.
Scripture has been an InterVarsity core commitment for over six decades. Nearly every retreat I attend—whether student- or staff-focused—commences with an inductive Bible study. Even our Urbana missions conference, with up to 20,000 attendees, integrates small-group Scripture study into its daily format.
This emphasis is wholly consonant with our three key documents: “We believe in the unique divine inspiration, entire trustworthiness and authority of the Bible” (Doctrinal Statement); “We grow in love for . . . God’s Word” (Purpose Statement); and “We encounter the living God through Scripture and are transformed by the Holy Spirit as we read, study, teach and obey God’s Word” (Core Commitments).
During my two decades of working with students, I have discovered that consistent Scripture reading is the best predictor of personal spiritual growth. When we meditate and obey God’s Word, we are gradually molded into the people God wants us to be. Stated negatively, failure to regularly digest Scripture is a recipe for spiritual disaster. I can recount several students who, having failed to observe steady quiet times, have drifted from the faith.
The apostle Paul wisely observed, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). All three of these uses—teaching, reproof/correction and training—are widely utilized in InterVarsity. First, small-group Bible studies serve both to draw pre-Christians and to instruct believers. Second, Scripture holds us mutually accountable to God’s standard of holiness. Finally, the Bible is used to train us, mold us and push us to service in the world.
A Dirty Bible
My prayer is that your Bible, like mine, becomes ratty, battered and falling apart. There is no virtue in having a clean Bible. To the contrary, I pray that God’s Word becomes increasingly “clean” in your heart and “dirty” in your hands.
Let Scripture sink in deeply. Meditate on it. Commit yourself to daily study. With the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, it will transform your life.
Find more theological Bible studies and doctrinal resources at Theology and Faith.
(from Student Leadership Journal, vol. 15:3)