Are you reading the Bible to make yourself holier, to earn God’s love? Are you afraid God loves you less on days you don’t read the Bible?
Remember He Already Loves You
I used to think that regularly reading my Bible would make me a better Christian. It didn’t happen often, but I felt a bit of pride when I remembered to read a chapter of Scripture before bed at night. “This is what Christians do,” I would say to myself while quickly skimming a random psalm before turning out the light. This practice would make me better, I was sure. Holier. Wiser. More loved. Isn’t this what Bible reading is supposed to do?
When it Comes to Love, You Can’t Beat the Gospel
I spent many years trying and failing to read my Bible consistently before I realized I was doing it to earn God’s favor. I thought I could wring more love from Him if He knew I was reading my Bible more. On the flip side, I was afraid He loved me less on the days I didn’t read my Bible. This poor motivation propelled me through many cycles of starts and stops. I waffled between pride and guilt all the time. It wasn’t until I entered a prolonged season of suffering that I realized I didn’t really understand God’s character at all. I needed to read the Bible to know Him, not convince Him to love me more. His love was already certain.
God’s love for me was displayed at the cross where Jesus died in my place for my sins (Rom. 5:6-8). His love is strong because it doesn’t hinge upon me but on His faithful character (1 John 4:10,19). His love is evident in His forgiveness of my sins (1 John 1:9). His love is obvious in that He is committed to sanctifying me (see Phil. 1:6, Rom. 8: 29-30). His love is secure in the gift of the Spirit who is the guarantee of my eternal inheritance with God in heaven (Eph. 1:13-14). You just can’t beat the gospel when it comes to love. I can’t do anything to better my stance before God who has already given me the righteousness of Christ. No, I didn’t need to read my Bible to convince God to love me more. I needed to read it to remember He loved me already.
No Empty Word But Our Very Life
I don’t fight with the starts and stops of spiritual disciplines as much these days. My days are built around prayer and studying the Word because the season of trials I endured a few years ago revealed that there is no other place to go to for comfort, truth, and correction. Like Peter asked Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The words of the Lord will always be the answer to my sin, grief, anxieties, and fears.
When we build our life around regularly opening our Bibles and seeking the Lord in prayer, we are acknowledging that we believe that God’s Word is no empty word for us but our very life (Deut. 32:47). His Word is powerful, true, and relevant. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, so it is an act of both loving obedience and comforting joy to train ourselves to default to the Scriptures on a regular basis. It is no empty word for it is God’s very revelation of Himself to us.
Being in the Word each day isn’t about earning the title of God’s favorite daughter. It’s not about earning anything. It’s about saturating our lives with the truths of Scripture so we can rest in the work of Jesus at the cross. It’s about unloading our anxious hearts before the Lord and letting His Word direct our thoughts. It’s opening our Bibles and saying, “Who are You, Lord? Help me to see you rightly. Expose my sin. Help me repent and walk in holiness.” The fight to live life connected to the Scriptures is not done to be loved by God but because we already are.
Glenna Marshall is married to her pastor, William, and lives in rural Southeast Missouri where she tries to keep up with her two energetic sons. Glenna is the author of The Promise is His Presence: Why God is Always Enough (P&R, 8/1/19). You can connect with her at glennamarshall.com where she writes about suffering, biblical literacy, and God’s faithfulness.