Biblical Literacy Through a Renewed Mind | August 30th, 2023
Have you ever tried learning a new language? I took a few years of Spanish in high school but because I never practiced speaking it much after graduating, I have forgotten most of it. Friends of mine who speak Spanish fluently know the language very well. They can read it, write it, think it, and even dream in it!
There are 3.3 billion people in the world who are bilingual with 43% of the world’s population speaking two or more languages. Makes me want to polish up on my Spanish!
On the other end of the spectrum, as of 2023 there are 21% of adults in the U.S. who are illiterate meaning they do not know how to read or write the language(s) they speak.
Biblical Illiteracy is Increasing
There is another form of illiteracy that is becoming more and more evident in our world. It’s called biblical illiteracy. This refers to personally reading and properly understanding God’s Word to be able to walk in obedience, grow in godliness, and communicate its teachings to others.
According to Lifeway Research, U.S. adults who are engaged with Scripture (consistently interacting with the Bible) are becoming increasingly rare. In the past year, nearly 26 million Americans decreased or completely stopped engaging with Scripture.
Since 2018, 47 – 49% of American adults have been identified as using the Bible three or more times a year. This year (2023) revealed a 10% decrease to 39% which is the lowest in the 13-year history of the study.
It is certainly not because there is a lack of access to Bibles. Nine out of ten homes in the U.S. have at least one Bible and the average American owns three or more. In addition, our technology provides immediate access to download the Bible for free on all of our devices. There is no excuse for us to not read and know the Bible! Despite the ease of access to God’s Word, fewer people are actually reading it, studying it, and living by it.
We are Shaped by Scripture
When we become a follower of Christ, we don’t stay the same. Over time, we are changed in the way we think, feel, and act to be more like Him through a renewed mind. God reveals His character to us in His Word so we know what it looks like to be godly. We are shaped by Scripture. The more we read and study it, the more we grow and become transformed into His image.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
God has given us His Word for us to delight in. His laws are written for our protection, guidance, encouragement, and to give us godly wisdom and knowledge, overflowing joy, eternal hope, and so much more.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4
One of the greatest benefits of being literate in God’s Word is that we can distinguish truth from error which is especially important in the world in which we live. We are bombarded with lies and false teaching that deceptively sound like truth.
“Live Your Truth”
One common phrase often heard in our culture today is “Live your truth.” If we are not in the Word, we might think this is a great piece of advice. But once we study what God has to say about it, we come to realize this message ignores the teachings of the Bible.
“Live your truth” implies that each of us has our own truth deep within us. Your truth is different than my truth. However, that’s not what the Bible teaches. There is only THE truth, Jesus Christ – the Word who became flesh so He could take the penalty for our sin on the cross to be able to offer us eternal life by His grace through our faith in Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. John 17:17
The “Live your truth” mindset is about accepting yourself with all of your ungodliness and sinful behavior because that is who you are. Why should you be anything else? This mentality excuses sin as simply being a natural part of you and how you choose to express yourself and people just need to learn to accept it.
I’ve seen so many women walking around with very little left to the imagination, shockingly immodest in the way they dress yet completely unashamed. It’s all about them “living their truth” because it might give them attention, help them feel empowered, or be accepted by others. “My body, my rights,” they say. God’s Word tells us that we are not our own. Jesus paid the highest price for us through His shed blood, so it is our privilege to honor God in everything we do including how we dress.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Truth is not subjective. It cannot be shaped into a customized form, tailor-made to suit our self-pleasing desires. Truth must perfectly line up with what Scripture tells us and if it contradicts God’s Word, it is not truth.
Because of this, the Bible is problematic for many to fully embrace. It is both powerful and convicting. No one wants to be told they are a sinner in need of a Savior. If our actions, attitudes, or words bring dishonor to God, we justifiably and deservedly should feel ashamed. But it is hard for us as prideful people to accept shame, especially in the “Don’t shame me!” culture we live in. So we continue to harden our hearts and go on believing that the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, the Victor over our sin and shame, is foolishness.
For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Foolishness to the World
In April of 2018, GQ magazine put out a list of 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read. It was not at all surprising to see the Bible on that list. Here is what they wrote:
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.
God’s Word tells us that those who have not been renewed in their mind by the Word of God through the Holy Spirit have no other way of obtaining knowledge except by their natural understanding. Things that have to be spiritually discerned are pure foolishness to them. In fact, they are so far from understanding that they completely despise those things!
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Nourished with God’s Word
The Bible is not only for reading, but it is also for studying and meditating so we can apply it to the way we live as God works in us to make us more like Him. If we just read a verse here and there such as our verse-of-the-day that pops up on our computer screen, it’s like having a little taste of food without getting any nutritional value from it. We need to spend time not only tasting it but chewing it slowly and savoring the flavor to glean all we can from it to shape and transform our life.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8
A raw vegan influencer on social media who followed a heavily restrictive diet stated, “For the last four years, my diet has been only fruits, sunflower seed sprouts, fruit smoothies and juices.” Sadly, her body did not receive enough nutrients needed from a balanced diet and she died a few weeks ago of ‘starvation and exhaustion.’
Scripture talks about something similar when it comes to our relationship to God’s Word. Just as we are physical beings made to eat a healthy, balanced diet so we can have energy and vitality, we are also spiritual beings designed to live off of “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
If we neglect reading and studying the Bible, we become spiritually malnourished. To live life to the fullest with the passion and zeal God intended for us to have, we must know His Word. As we gain wisdom and understanding, we learn how to walk in obedience. He tells us we will be blessed for it!
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:13-15
Be a Gold Digger
Studying the Bible is a lot like mining for gold. A dear friend and I work out together three times a week at our local fitness center. In between exercises, we share the latest nuggets we’ve discovered in God’s Word that we can use to teach, encourage, and even correct each other. We both love to spend time digging deep for wisdom during our daily quiet time with the Lord and it is always so rewarding, especially having someone to share it with! We now humorously call each other “gold digger.” Maybe we’ll put it on a t-shirt some day so we can have the opportunity to tell others what it means!
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It takes discipline to read the Bible. If you lack the motivation, ask God to give you a desire to read His Word. Find a time that works best for you and then make that time a priority in your schedule to spend time with the Lord. The more you read and study, the more your desire will increase to learn and know God. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to help us comprehend Scripture as well. If you’re not sure where to start, there are many great Bible reading plans online.
It’s also helpful to find a friend to hold you accountable and share what you are learning. Small group Bible studies are perfect for that. Sharing and comparing biblical understanding with others helps us learn and grow in our knowledge and faith.
The Bible is not some dusty, old antiquated book with no relevance for us today. It is powerful, convicting, and able to completely transform us from the inside out. It was written for us to know God intimately and hear His voice speaking to us through Scripture. When we neglect reading the Bible and become biblically illiterate, we miss out on the joy of knowing God and the relationship He deeply desires to have with each one of us because of His love for us.
Some of us may never master a second language, but there is nothing more gratifying than becoming literate in the Word of God through a renewed mind that can spiritually discern its many life-changing treasures of wisdom.
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