How to Read the Bible to Transform Attitudes

Adopting the Mind of Christ

Why should we lead others in reading Scripture? What difference does it make? In this four-part series, we explore the Bible Cause: the transformative stages of leading others in Scripture engagement—1. Introducing others to Jesus 2. Restoring a secure identity 3. Transforming our attitude 4. Changing our behaviors.

A rising star in a leading company, Darcy was on the fast track for a successful business career. Then she started reading the Bible.

It was a new church in her area that got her hooked. The leaders treated the Bible like a living thing. They found its humor. They didn’t shy away from tough questions. Darcy’s active mind had a new playground. She got involved in a church drama group that devised scenes based on the preaching texts. Even the rehearsals were exciting, engaging—What’s the essence of this chapter? How can we present it? The sacred book she had rejected as a young teen now bristled with meaning. And it changed her life.

Darcy quit her job to go to seminary. After her graduation, she served a few struggling churches. This entailed a major downsizing, but there were now far more important things in her life than money or power. Through the Bible, God was calling her to invest in others, to pursue her divine calling, to share God’s Word.

A New Attitude

In this series of blog posts, we are exploring the Bible Cause. Quite simply, why should people read the Bible? What difference does it make? Already we’ve seen how it introduces people to Jesus. It also gives us a sense of identity as people created in God’s image, but fallible, and recipients of forgiveness.

Our identity leads to a new attitude—or rather a collection of Christ-like, Bible-driven attitudes. These modes of thinking often radically change people’s lives, as with Darcy. In other cases, they become a kind of operating system, humming along under the day-to-day activities of Bible-believers.

The apostle Paul described this dynamic in Romans 12:2. “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.” The rest of that chapter refers to several specific attitudes and how they play out in the Christian’s life.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you should,” says the very next verse (Romans 12:3). Biblical humility is not self-esteem sabotage, but an essential quality for Christ-like behavior. Scripture routinely calls us to put other people first (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:3-4).

Love is our primary calling—not sappy romanticism, but a rough-hewn commitment to what’s best for others. We show kindness but also patience. We offer forgiveness when we’re wronged. Do Bible-believers always act with love? No, we often require forbearance and forgiveness from others. But the more we bathe in the truths of Scripture, the more we understand love. “We love, because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

The Bible also describes the reality of delayed blessing, and so we respond with patient hope, knowing that our greatest rewards will come in God’s future kingdom. There may be suffering in this world—in fact, we can expect it. Our joy is based not on our current circumstances, but on our hope in the Lord. This recognition leads us to a wiser outlook on life. We don’t need to complain when things go wrong, because we don’t expect an easy life. The Bible gives us a longer view, showing us an amazing eternity ahead.

Frequent Interaction with Scripture

All too often, in the heated discourse of our culture—especially in our digital world—we find the loudest proponents of Christianity displaying the opposite of these attitudes. They seem to be proud, hateful, and impatient. And while we struggle to be patient with them, we can’t help but wonder: Are they reading the Bible at all?

Maybe they aren’t.

The annual State of the Bible research consistently shows that just over half of “practicing Christians” read the Bible more than once a week outside of a church service. Another study says only one in five churchgoers reflects on Scripture daily (Move, p. 19). But imagine what might happen if our churches were packed with people fully engaged with the Scriptures, reading it four, five, seven times a week. How would that transform the attitudes in these congregations? Would we find humility instead of pride, welcome instead of rejection, patient hope instead of constant complaint?

To be sure, many people in our churches are showing sacrificial love and a Christ-like spirit. Some churches are serving the Lord with diligence, wisdom, and creativity. But why not more? Would more frequent interaction with Scripture reboot attitudes within the church, leading to greater fellowship, service, and outreach? Would it change the way we appear to our neighbors?

Spiritual Growth through Scripture

A dozen years ago, leaders at Willow Creek Community Church were asking questions like this. They launched an impressive research project, not only in their own congregation but in many others, too. The REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey aimed to get solid data on spiritual growth. Understanding that there are some immeasurable aspects of the Christian life, they also knew that the Lord affects people in very visible ways as well. What could they learn about how Christians grew closer to Christ? Were there particular methods that helped people more than others?

They got a very clear answer.

“Hands down. No contest. When it comes to spiritual growth,” they reported, “nothing beats the Bible” (Move, 167).

The REVEAL study explored prayer, journaling, serving, tithing, sharing the faith, and interaction with other believers. These were all positive factors, but none of them matched the importance of reflection on Scripture—which had more than twice the impact of any other factor. “If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives” (Move, 19).

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Randy Petersen
Randy Petersen

Randy Petersen is Director of Scripture Engagement Content for American Bible Society. Writer of more than sixty books and hundreds of church curriculum lessons, he has also served churches as a Bible teacher, small-groups coordinator, drama director, preaching consultant and softball pitcher.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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