Picture it. You’ve made time for devotions. Envision your room, your chair, and (perhaps) your beverage. Now, what book is in front of you?
More Than a Preference
You have a lot of options. You could listen to any one of a million sermons. You could grab a devotional book or a study guide or a book on a biblical topic. You could even pick up a commentary.
None of these resources are inherently bad, but they all have one thing in common. They put distance between you and God’s word.
The desire to use an extra-biblical resource is understandable. If you view your devotions primarily as a relaxing way to begin or end your day, you’ll think devotions should be easy. And since reading (or hearing) someone else’s interpretation requires less effort than discovering one yourself, it’s simple to see why many people prefer these materials.
Reading a devotional work or listening to a sermon can stimulate your spirit. But this is not the same as reading and studying the Bible for yourself. You need to hear directly from the mouth of God.
Perhaps two analogies will help.
Jim is supposed to read Crime and Punishment for his high school English class, but he plays sports with his friends instead. When it’s time to consider the book in class, Jim relies on the plot summary he read online. During the discussion, Jim is able to talk about a few important themes of the book.
But when his teacher asks him pointedly about the book’s impact on him, Jim freezes. He cannot recall any of the powerful scenes or locate any of the moving prose, because he doesn’t know the work itself. He only knows this book through a filter.
Even when filters are reliable and thorough, they don’t offer a genuine interaction with the author.
In the middle of the afternoon, Sarah knocks on her brother Mark’s door. “Mom wants you to clean up your room before dinner.”
Mark puts his folded laundry in his dresser, makes his bed, and recycles the papers on his floor. Then he returns to his comic books.
At the dinner table, Mark learns that his mother wanted much more than a little straightening. She wanted him to dust the furniture, vacuum the carpet, and clean the windows. She wanted a deep clean.
Sarah wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t clear. And Mark didn’t ask Sarah or his mother for clarification.
In this scenario, the messenger softened the blow, and as a consequence, Mark fell short of obedience.
Your Father is Speaking
Portions of the Bible are impossible to envision without a personal encounter with God’s word.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:15–16)
…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17)
In the Bible, God has told us about himself. He has given his requirements, his promises, and his plan to save his people. He has shared the good news about the Savior of the world, his son Jesus. And he has described what his people should believe and do as they tell the whole world about him.
The Bible is lovingly and wonderfully given by God to his people for their good and the good of the world. You might prefer to read a different book, but when you meet with God, yearn for his voice. Don’t turn away from your heavenly father.