Dan Hames asks Dane Ortlund whether Bible reading can really help Christians grow spiritually.
Welcome to another edition of UP, the Union Podcast. This week I’m joined by Dane Ortlund. Dane is the senior vice president of Bible publishing at Crossway. He joins me on the line from Wheaton, Illinois. Thanks so much for joining me, Dane. I’d like to ask a question about growth and the Bible. In the UK we have a children’s song which is sung by children all over the country, and it says “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow.” And I want to know, does that really work in the adult Christian life? Does reading the Bible actually help people grow?
Thanks Dan. It’s a great question. I think I would say yes it does work, and no it doesn’t work. And what I mean is, yes, daily reading and praying do nurture growth, just as daily eating, and talking to parents for a young kid, does nurture growth. I’m thinking of my 4-year-old Nathan for a minute here. He cannot grow by never eating, and never talking to us and listening to us. Deuteronomy 32, Moses says to the people right as they’re about to enter the Promised Land, that God’s word to them is “no empty word, but your very life.” Psalm 19 is the same thing.
So yes, reading the Bible and praying every day does produce growth. But, that doesn’t mean that Christian growth is a tidy formula: just put in Bible reading, praying for an extended amount of time, and out comes growth in a mechanical sort of way. We’re not car engines—just put in oil and fluid and out comes performance. We’re people, and we’re complex because we’re fallen people.
So Christian growth is not less than reading and praying regularly, but the religious elite in the gospels who so opposed Jesus read their Bibles and prayed fastidiously, and Jesus called them white-washed tombs, having dead men’s bones inside, and so on. So I would exhort our listeners, yes to read and to pray each day, oh yes, but to do so as cultivating communion, not as fulfilling duty. It’s more like chatting with a wife over a meal, than doing your homework.
So reading your Bible can help us to grow spiritually when you use it to cultivate communion with the Lord. Please tune in to hear more from Dane Ortlund on UP, the Union Podcast.
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