Why Challenge People to Read the Bible?

Introducing Others to Jesus

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.

Derek wasn’t sure what he believed about God. Kicked out of Catholic school for misbehavior, he knew a few things about the Bible, but he wasn’t very interested. As a teenager, he ran away from home every weekend, partying pretty hard. Drugs continued to be an important part of his life as he grew into adulthood. He had little room for faith, church or the Bible.

But then he met Patti. She was beautiful, inside and out, with a spiritual quality that Derek admired but couldn’t quite figure out. Besides that, he was amazed that Patti enjoyed spending time with him. Since she went to church every Sunday, he went, too.

Yet week after week, listening to the preacher, he would carry on arguments in his own mind. How could any reasonable person believe in these ancient stories? Doesn’t science disprove all of that? Even as he mentally resisted, this troubled young man was socially connecting with the church, playing on a softball team, even going on a mission trip to help build an orphanage.

The Challenge to Read

Then the pastor issued a challenge from the pulpit: If you don’t know what you believe about Jesus, read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Don’t choose your response to Jesus before you find out who he really is.

Derek took that dare. Downloading a Bible app the pastor recommended, he began reading every day, not sure whether he was looking for faith or loopholes. But when he slacked off for a few days, that internal voice started picking at his pride. You can’t even follow through on this?

In response, he doubled down, intensifying the challenge. I’ll show that know-it-all preacher! I’ll read the whole Bible in the next year, and then I’ll see everything that’s wrong with it!

It was a strange journey. He balked at Old Testament stories of God’s judgment. Why is God so tough? He questioned the many miracles of the Bible. This couldn’t really happen! But eventually he began to evaluate his own life in the light of Scripture. If this book is true, then I’m in big trouble.

“The Bible brought me to salvation,” Derek says now. “It defined my life. It showed me what my purpose is, what humanity’s purpose is, what sin is.”

He had already been trying to kick his drug habit. Now he had new power to help him stay clean. It also became clear to him that his relationship with Patti was not honoring God as it should. They broke up. Derek became passionate about the Scriptures, joining Bible study groups, listening to Bible preachers on the radio, and devouring devotional books.

It has now been a few years since the pastor issued that Bible-reading challenge, and Derek’s life has been transformed. “I’ve hardly gone a day without reading the Bible,” he says. “My day revolves around it.” He now leads three Bible study groups, including one at a facility for addiction recovery, and he keeps seeking new knowledge about Scripture, now exploring biblical archaeology. The call of Jesus to sell possessions and give to the poor is providing the latest challenge for Derek, who doesn’t have a whole lot of disposable income to begin with. “I’m finding a whole new world through the Word.”

Encountering the Power of God’s Word

The Bible changes lives. That’s a point of faith for Christians. We quickly cite verses about the power of God’s Word. It will not return “void,” but will accomplish God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:11, KJV). It is “useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living” (2 Timothy 3:16). “Sharper than any double-edged sword,” it “judges the desires and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

But what does all of that really mean? Exactly how does the Bible achieve these things? In blunt terms, what difference does the Bible make, and how do we know that it’s “working”? Can we measure these results in individual lives, and what effect might they have on families, churches, and society in general? Could we possibly prove to a skeptical world that Bible reading is beneficial to a community, perhaps to a whole nation?

There are several ways the Bible wields its power, and we’ll trace more of them in future articles. But at the top of any list of what the Bible accomplishes, we must put the fact that it introduces people to Jesus. We saw this in Derek’s story. The words of the Bible weren’t some magical incantation that transformed him, but those words told him about Jesus, and the transformation came from his newfound relationship with Christ. This is a common story.

Jesus himself challenged the Bible experts of his day, saying, “You study the Scriptures, because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And these very Scriptures speak about me!” (John 5:39). Clearly, he was talking about the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. There, he said, they could find the message about him. Many other New Testament passages expound on that theme.

The Bible is about Jesus. And while there are life lessons to be learned and various inspirational messages to be gathered, Jesus is at the center of this collection of writings. We learn about the culture into which Jesus came, we hear the longings of a people, we build a vocabulary for the message that goes forth at his arrival. We connect with his life and teachings, we consider the implications of his death and resurrection, and we celebrate his ultimate reign over all.

And at the heart of all of that, like Derek, we get to know this Jesus as our redeemer. And that changes everything.

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Randy Petersen
Randy Petersen

Randy Petersen is a free-lance writer and former 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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