Life-changing or Time Wasting?

Would you be surprised to learn that only 31% of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. That number shrinks to a mere 10% if we’re only asking people who claim no religious affiliation. In addition to that, 19% of Americans feel the Bible is nothing more than a compilation of myths and legends.

Image © Krieg Barrie from

What do you think? Do you believe the Bible is the literal word of God or a collection of myths and legends? Does it make any difference whether or not you believe the Bible is “God-breathed” as long as you believe in God? Is there anything inherently special about the Bible? Is it possible to read the Bible, all the way through, and not be changed by what you’ve read?

Exhibit 1:

“The prince of Grenada, an heir to the Spanish crown, was sentenced to life in solitary confinement in Madrid’s ancient prison. The dreadful, dirty, and dreary nature of the place earned it the name, ‘The Place of the Skull.’ Everyone knew that once you were in, you would never come out alive. The prince was given one book to read the entire time: the Bible. With only one book to read, he read it hundreds and hundreds of times. The book became his constant companion. After 33 years of imprisonment, he died. When they came to clean out his cell, they found some notes he had written using nails to mark the soft stone of the prison walls. The notations were of this sort: Psalm 118:8 is the middle verse of the Bible; Ezra 7:21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except the letter J; the ninth verse of the eighth chapter of Esther is the longest verse in the Bible; no word or name more than six syllables can be found in the Bible. “This individual spent 33 years of his life studying what some have described as the greatest book of all time. Yet he could only glean trivia. From all we know, he never made any religious or spiritual commitment to Christ. He simply became an expert at Bible trivia.”1

Exhibit 2:

“A Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran.

“The believer responded, ‘No, I haven’t, but I’m sure it would be interesting. Why don’t we read both together, once a week, alternating books?’ The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he became a believer in Jesus.

“One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and shouted at the long-time believer, ‘You deceived me!’

“‘What are you talking about?’ the believer asked.

“The new believer opened his Bible and said, ‘I’ve been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!’ He grinned. ‘You knew all along that the Bible contained God’s power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!’

“‘And now you’ll hate me for life?’ queried the believer.

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘but it was an unfair contest.’”2

What made the difference between the responses of these two men? One was saved and one just collected trivia.

We hear so often about people who don’t have any experience with God and just start reading the Bible and are then brought into a relationship with Jesus. I guess I really didn’t think of folks who read the Bible and were left unchanged. That worries me a little because that means that it is possible for me to read my Bible and remain unchanged as well. How can I make sure that we have a life changing experience while reading the Bible is life-changing and not a waste of time?

A Tyndale House study found that regular Bible readers, on the whole, describe themselves as “at peace,” “happy,” and “full of joy” more often that people who said they never read the Bible.

That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to just be happier, I want to spend eternity with Jesus my Savior!

Apparently just Bible reading isn’t enough. I have to study, and study without  asking the Holy Spirit to guide my mind won’t do me much good either.

“Superficial study of the word of God can not meet the claims it has upon us, nor furnish us with the benefit that is promised. We should seek to learn the full meaning of the words of truth, and to drink deep the spirit of the holy oracles. To read daily a certain number of chapters, or to commit to memory a stipulated amount of Scripture, without careful thought as to the meaning of the text, will profit but little. To study one passage until its significance is clear to the mind, and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. We can not [sic] obtain wisdom from the word of God without giving earnest and prayerful attention to its study.
You must dig in the mine of truth till you find its greatest treasure, and by comparing scripture with scripture you may find the true meaning of the text.

“… In searching for Heaven-revealed truths, the Spirit of God is brought into close connection with the sincere searcher of the Scriptures. … No study is better to give energy to the mind, to strengthen the intellect, than the study of the word of God. No other book is so potent in elevating the thoughts, in giving vigor to the faculties, as is the Bible, which contains the most ennobling truths. If God’s word were studied as it should be, we would see breadth of mind, stability of purpose, nobility of character, such as are rarely seen in these times. ( Ellen White, Signs of the Times, September 26, 1895)

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to “dig in the mine of truth” for God’s greatest treasure.

Dig in!


  1. Leonard Sweet, Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture (Group Publishing, 1999), p. 59
  2. Floyd Schneider, Evangelism for the Fainthearted (Kregel, 2000)


Life-changing or Time Wasting? — 7 Comments

  1. I guess the outcome of reading the Bible depends mostly on the kind of heart a person has. Sort of like the soils in the parable (Mat 13:3-9).

      • Andrew, of course as a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe in predestination as some Christian groups do. To me the soils represent what happens under the four conditions presented and doesn't necessarily say that the conditions cannot change. In other words it is about the state of things in a moment of time.

        As a matter of trivial comment I can think of one more soil type, saline seep which is a condition that farmers in the north central and eastern sections of Montana are familiar with. That condition happens when salt percolates up to the surface which shows itself as a whitish soil color usually found in large patches. There aren't many plants that can tolerate that kind of soil so the ground is usually somewhat barren. Just a few sparse weeds live in it and in many cases not too stony either and the soil depth is usually sufficient as well. The only problem is that it basically tends to be poisonous even though some plants can actually thrive under that condition. I think that kind of soil also has a spiritual application.

  2. Lillianne, as I was reading your post I also received an instant message from a lady friend, complaining that all the men who were contacting her in a singles website were only after one thing-sex. She was disappointed no one was looking for a deep relationship, but only looking for a way to please themselves. I could not help but wonder if that may be the answer to your question of how people can read the Bible and never be led into a deep relationship with God. Is it because they are as shallow as the men my lady friend is talking about, and only looking for ways to gratify themselves, instead of how to have a lasting, meaningful relationship with God? I can see how the Bible would be useless to someone only looking for ways to gratify themselves, and would be offended by such things as "Pick up your cross daily and follow after me." That would not amuse the pleasure seeker.

    • I believe your point is "right on," William.

      We must come to the Bible with a mind ready to receive God's Word into our lives. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13), and we need to ask Him to do that in our lives, because He will not intrude if we do not ask. It is the agency of the Holy Spirit that makes the Word live in us. He who inspired the writing of the Bible in the first place will speak to us personally when we ask Him.

      I understand that studying the Bible for the wrong reasons and/or with the wrong attitude -- such as to "prove" our own agenda -- may actually do positive harm.

      Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be continually liable to wrest the Scriptures or to misinterpret them. There is much reading of the Bible that is without profit and in many cases is a positive injury. When the word of God is opened without reverence and without prayer; when the thoughts and affections are not fixed upon God or in harmony with His will, the mind is clouded with doubt; and in the very study of the Bible, skepticism strengthens. The enemy takes control of the thoughts, and he suggests interpretations that are not correct. (Ellen White, 5 Testimonies for the Church, p. 704)

  3. During my personal devotions (both mornings and evenings,) I read my Bible out loud after an out loud prayer. I noticed it puts me more "in the spirit" when feeding on the Word as opposed to when I read it silently after a silent prayer. It also guards my minds from day-dreaming; in other words, it increases your focus and concentration; thus, creating a perfect atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to do His thing!! I believe studying and praying in such a way is the formula for spiritual growth for today's generation that suffers from short attention spans that results from watching two-hour-long movies with special effects. I guess the enemy has his tools also (he ain’t gonna sit and just watch us idly as we march to our heavenly homes.) Hence why we should always guard our minds from the junk that’s in the mass media (that includes the News.) The Lord says in the Book of Isaiah (Isa. 33:15), “Stop your ears from hearing of bloodshed and shut your eyes from seeing evil.” The Creator/Owner of this Planet already has ministering angels to attend to the mayhem and violence that’s in the world. There is absolutely no reason for a Christian to tune into a secular channel to hear a “news” story that glorifies and sensationalizes the work of the enemy.

    Our diet also has a direct influence on our minds (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit-- 1 Corinthians 6:19.) We live in an age of abundance of food—at least here in the West—which is the epicenter of end-time prophecy. Over-eating, even of good quality food, is detrimental to one’s mental faculties—as the body has to re-direct blood from the brain to the stomach. There is a direct correlation between what (and how much) we eat and our spiritual well-being...hence also why the Bible mentions the simple diet of John the Baptist. The devil also knows that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

  4. I think "The Purpose of This Book" (John) is for all Bible also.

    Chapter 20:

    30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    1. These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God - purpose is only this. We can have much blessings also. Some peoples learn to read by Bible or some have great insights abotu science or other, but there is One ultimate Goal - To recieve Jesus.
    2. Word become ALIVE only if by believing you get (may have) life in his name.

    Jesus is life giver. He give life to Word, and to us.
    Like we are dead without His life power so the Bible is dead word also, if not quickened by Jesus Himself.
    So if we trie to find Jesus in Bible, He will show up to us and word will become Word to us.


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