By R.T. Kendall
Member, First Baptist Church, Hendersonville
A melancholy fact: Most Christians do not have a Bible reading plan. Most Christians do not read their Bibles regularly. And some church leaders do not read their Bibles. I happen to know more than I care to reveal about how many famous Christians and leaders have not read the Bible through at all.
Bethan Lloyd-Jones, wife of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, made a gripping observation about C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, a brilliant satire that includes among other things how the devil tempts new Christians. She lamented that one huge thing Lewis left out was how the devil wants to keep people from reading their Bibles. I agree; it would have been so helpful had Lewis put that in.
I am convinced that the devil will do anything to keep people from reading their Bibles.
Has the devil succeeded with you? How much do you read your Bible?
I had a trauma while on vacation recently; perhaps trauma is too strong a word. When I turned to read my Bible, lo and behold, I had not packed it or my diary (which includes my prayer list). I was sobered. I never leave home without my Bible, but somehow I let that happen. The thought of not getting to read my Bible for three or four days was almost horrifying. I thought: What do people do who don’t have their Bibles?
Then I remembered a church I had heard about while in Singapore, a church where people are not encouraged to read their Bibles — at home or at church — but only wait for God to give a “revelation” — like a vision or a rhema word of knowledge. The thought of reading the Bible or hearing an expository sermon is not on their radar screen.
Once we give up the conviction that the Bible is the only infallible Word of God, we open ourselves to a strange world that may include the Holy Spirit but also, if not equally, the realm of the demonic. Do not be surprised: Satan “masquerades” as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14). The devil will work overtime to keep Christians from reading the Bible. He would love for you to close it and just wait on God.
The Bible, however, was not given to replace the miraculous or even revelation, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones — my chief mentor — used to say, but “to correct abuses.” Too many people don’t know their Bibles well enough to know what the Word of God says — and what the abuses might be. The Bible is the final and ultimate revelation of truth; no vision, word of knowledge, or insight will ever contradict what the Bible has said. The first test of any vision or prophetic word is to run it by Scripture. If it is not upheld by the infallible Word of God, reject it no matter how much you may respect the person who gives you a word.
I am grateful in particular for two things in my life. First, my parents taught me to read my Bible daily. The thought of not reading at least a chapter a day in the Bible was out of the question. Second, Martyn Lloyd-Jones introduced me to Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan many years ago. As a result, I think I can say I have read the entire Bible through some 40 times and the New Testament 80 times. A Bible reading plan “keeps you in the Word,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones used to say to me.
I urge you to go online and find a one-year Bible reading plan. I urge you to begin today in this plan and never, never stop.
The very thought that the devil does not want you to do this should galvanize every true Christian to fall on their knees — to pray more and read the Bible more.
Read the Bible — logos, Holy Scripture — and you will be thrilled to discover how often God gives you a rhema word. A rhema word basically means the unfolding of God’s will when He speaks directly to you. But I can predict: Chase after a rhema word all the time and you will probably receive nothing from God; chase after Holy Scripture and He will give you rhema words whenever you need such.
While I have said little here about personal prayer time, I do stress time with God. Children spell love T-I-M-E. How much time do you spend in prayer? I recommend 30 minutes a day for every layman; 60 minutes a day (minimum) for every church leader. The average church leader in Britain and the U.S. spends just a few minutes a day in quiet time. And you wonder why the church is powerless?
The Bible is the Holy Spirit’s greatest product. He wrote it (II Timothy 3:15; II Peter 1:21). If you want to get on good terms with the Holy Spirit, then read His Word! You will never be sorry. Also, you will never be the same again.
— Kendall was senior minister of Westminister Chapel in London from 1977 to 2002.