"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." - John 5:39,40
Those are strong words from Jesus and they cut me to the quick when I was reading and praying a few days ago. He was addressing a group of Jews who were seeking his death because He was claiming equality with God. He defended Himself against them by outlining the precise nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son (John 5:19-30) and then went on to show that not only does He declare His own deity, but that it was testified to by John the Baptist, His own works, God the Father and by the Scriptures.
He then went on to accuse them of having wasted their time in study, because, though they looked closely at the Scriptures, memorized them and wrote about them, they had missed the point of the Scriptures.
The Scriptures are not and end in themselves; they are a means to an end. They are intended to teach us about God so we can know Him better and what He requires of us. We must never merely study the Word, it must be applied by the Holy Spirit for it teach us and transform us. Put another way, reading and studying the Bible should make us different people than we would be otherwise. "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." James 1:23-25
The Bible is not a book like other books, it is true in a way that other books are not and, though a physical and temporal object, it points beyond itself to the spiritual and the eternal. Such is my sinfulness however, that I so frequently confuse the means of God’s blessing with the blessing itself. Having times of worship. Going to church. Having a "witness". Tithing. Reading the Bible. How often I elevate the created thing to the level of the Creator, or mistake engaging in an activity for engaging with God. Any such attitude, or action, diminishes my view of God and undermines His sovereignty. Is God sovereign in my salvation or is the Bible? Is God sovereign in sanctifying me or are my own efforts and plans?
I encourage all Christians to have a structured approach to practicing various spiritual disciplines, but lately I have let those disciplines (that are intended by God to conform me to Himself) obscure Him. When I read the words of Christ transcribed above, I stopped reading and dropped to my knees in prayer and repentance. May I never have any gods before God, for "the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." Deut 4:39