The devil is a liar (John 8:44). He lies about God (He’s not there; doesn’t care). He lies about Jesus (He never lived; still in the grave). He lies about you (insignificant; in control). He lies about the Bible.
The bible is too big to bother
Most Bibles are over 1,000 pages, which can be intimidating. Those pages contain
- 66 books (double the 30 in most personal libraries);
- 1,189 chapters (more than all the verses of all 305 Beatles’ songs combined);
- 31,102 verses (24,866 more than the Quran);
- 773,746 words (more than the 717,020 in the first five Harry Potter books combined).
Yet the Bible is about the same size as most books on a library shelf. Unless it is a tabletop or large print edition, it easily fits in a backpack or purse.
Most read the equivalent of the Bible each year. The average American reads four books a year plus 3,000 forms/notices, 100 newspapers/RSS feeds, and 36 magazines/blogs.
The Bible fits with modern reading habits. Many spread reading over different formats, including e-books and audiobooks. The Bible is available in these formats. Many read in small doses. The Bible is divided into books, chapters, and verses. Thirty-four of its books can be read in less than 45 minutes; 29 in under 20; 17 in under twelve; and, five in five minutes or less. Its 32 longer books are divided into chapters that average only 26 verses.
Since the Bible is too big to be mastered in one reading (it takes 70 hours to read all of it), the solution is to read a little at a time, for the rest of life. The “sum” of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:160), so one should add a little knowledge each day (2 Peter 1:5).
Start by reading the foundational chapters in Genesis 1-12 and the early chapter of Exodus 1-20. Then move on to the story of Jesus’ life as told in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. These narratives will give you the background to understand Acts. This will equip you to be better able to understand the teaching given in the rest of the New Testament.
One can read at whatever pace fits his/her learning style. Here is one plan:
- Listen 12 minutes/day, for 12 months to complete the whole Bible in a year.
- Four chapters/day finishes Bible in 298 days.
- Nine chapters/day finishes New Testament in 29 days.
- Three chapters/day finishes Old Testament in 310 days.
- If you are ambitious, read twelve chapters a day (three OT and nine NT) and finish the whole Bible once a year and the New Testament once a month.
The Bible is too old to matter
Some pass judgment on the Bible as an outdated document with superstitious bias. Atheist John Loftus wrote, “Let’s just face it. The Bible and the people who produced it were barbaric and superstitious. The only redeeming qualities about the Bible or the Christian tradition are those things that civilized people agree with them about, and hence they are irrelevant to modern scientifically literate people.” Ian McKellen said, “I have often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying that it is fiction.”
Others see the Bible as an old map. If you were driving your grandfather’s old pickup truck and found a map under the seat, you would not use it on a vacation to Florida. If it was printed before 1960, then it would not even have most interstate highways. Some see the Bible like that. The Old Testament is about 3,000 years old; the New Testament about 2,000. The world has changed since Moses parted the Red Sea, David took down Goliath, and Jesus died on the cross. How could a book written before computers, moon-landings, terrorism, automobiles, evolutionary theory, airplanes, nuclear bombs, and cloning still be relevant?
The French philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778) boasted that the Bible would soon disappear from public life. Abraham Lincoln said, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.” In the 1960s liberal theologians said God was dead. Voltaire thought it irrelevant in the eighteenth century. Lincoln thought it relevant in the nineteenth. Loftus, McKellen, and the theologians thought it obsolete in the twentieth.
In the twenty-first century, the Bible is still around, the God-is-dead movement died, and the influence of Voltaire, Loftus, and McClellan is small in comparison to Lincoln and the Bible.
Why is the Bible still relevant? Because God wrote it (2 Peter 1:20–21). It was written in ancient times, but the ever-present I AM designed it for all generations (Matthew 24:35; Exodus 3:14). It is “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). It gives man all he needs in every generation till the end of time (2 Timothy 3:16–17; Revelation 22:18–19).
Its continual freshness is evidence of its inspiration. Truth does not change. It reads the same today as it did yesterday, and as it will tomorrow. Without God behind it, the Bible surely would have become hopelessly obsolete long ago. Yet it has not. If the earth is still here two thousand years from now, current science books will be antiquated, but the Bible will still be in use. “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
All of God’s works are timeless. The food God created thousands of years ago still satisfies today. Air still goes in and out of our lungs twenty times a minute. Sexual intercourse still makes babies (Genesis 4:1). Fire still keeps man warm and water still quenches thirst. Likewise, the Bible is the soul’s food (Matthew 4:4); what air is to lungs Scripture is to souls (Psalm 119:97); its message keeps us warm and satisfied (Jeremiah 23:29). It is the only weapon Satan fears (Matthew 4:1–11), the only remedy for sin’s disease (Psalm 103:3), and the only map to heaven’s treasure (John 14:6).
The Bible is relevant because it works. Its message fills the void in every heart, regardless of status (2 Timothy 3:17). Its power changes lives and translates people from the power of darkness (Romans 1:16; 12:1–2; Colossians 1:13). In a world full of anger, anxiety, discord, and disillusionment, the Bible’s message of hope, peace, respect, and forgiveness resonates.
the bible is too boring to enjoy
An old man finished a history book. He disliked it so much that he taped a note to it, saying: “In case of famine eat this book, it’s full of baloney. In case of flood; stand on this book, it’s dry.” Some see the Bible like that—a boring list of names, a dry laundry list of church rules, a bunch of thou-shalt-nots.
To the contrary, God stocked His library with something for all tastes. It has biography, narrative, letters, poetry, history, and prophecy. Those who like
- romance, should read Ruth.
- adventure, have the story of Jonah.
- wise sayings, can delve into Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and James.
- conflict, war, and conquest, should read Joshua, Judges, and 1 Chronicles.
- scandal and suspense enjoy the stories of David/Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) and Ananias/Sapphira (Acts 5).
- feel-good-stories are inspired by reading that a murderer became a leader (Exodus 1–3), a prostitute the ancestor of the Savior (Joshua 2; Matthew 1), a dishonest tax collector a generous host (Luke 19), an introvert an instructor (1 Timothy 1), and a callous religious zealot a self-sacrificing gospel preacher (Acts 9, 22, 26).
- underdogs thrill to read of a barren woman becoming the mother of a famous child (Genesis 21); cowardly fishermen becoming spokesmen for reformation (Matthew 26; Acts 2); and people with pronounced disadvantages becoming God’s messengers (Acts 4:12–13). While Bible characters are not whitewashed, they often receive second chances.
The bible is too confusing to care
Looked at as a whole, the Bible can feel like a massive jigsaw puzzle. Not knowing where to start, some fail to launch and others soon crash.
Since “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), His word is not hard to understand. It was not written for the intellectually elite or the highly educated. The common people heard Jesus gladly while He was here (Mark 12:37), and common people find no trouble enjoying His words today.
Since the Bible is written on a fourth-grade level, the past generation’s farmers, merchants, shopkeepers, railroad workers, and factory employees had no problem deciphering Scripture although they generally had less education than people today.
If one were putting together a puzzle, she would look at the picture on the box and assemble the edge pieces first. Then she would find colors that match and straight lines that connect. Then she could fit the remaining pieces fairly easily. Studying Scripture is like this. It helps to get the overall picture first and then the easy-to-grasp-parts. After that, it is easier to follow the message from book to book, chapter to chapter, and verse to verse. Do not get bogged down with names and places. Those can come later. Just get the meaning.
The overall message is simple. The Bible has one
- villain—Satan. He comes early (Genesis 3), often (Matthew 4; 1 Peter 5:8), and late (Revelation 20).
- problem—sin. It starts with Adam and Eve and is on every page.
- hero—the Savior Jesus Christ. He is featured in the 89 chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (John 20:30–31). The whole Bible is about Him: He is coming (Old Testament); He is here (Matthew–John); He is coming back (Acts–Revelation).
- purpose—salvation. The Bible is not just for learning or even for living. It is for saving (Acts 2:21, 38, 41; 4:12; 16:30–34).
Beginning readers can start with easily understood verses: “God is love” (1 John 4:8); “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8); “sin separates” (Isaiah 59:2); “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23); “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37); “whoever believes in Him should not perish” (John 3:16); “repent, and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38); “the gift of God is eternal life” (Roman 6:23); “love one another” (1 John 3:11); “teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19); “be faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10); and “enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Next, begin reading the New Testament. Write down things you learn in each chapter and questions you have. In time, you will find answers to the questions (often in a subsequent reading). Think about what you learn. Live by it. Follow this by reading the Old Testament.
Do not believe Satan’s lies about the Bible. His goal is to keep you away from it—unimpressed, uninformed, unconverted. Someone said, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”