My recent posts are prompted by “thoughts” by Blaise Pascal. This particular post will connect a brief quote of Pascal’s to the importance of Bible reading. Most pastors after the Gutenberg press and Reformation have hoped that every person in the congregation they pastor would love to find Jesus in the scriptures as they read, listen to, memorize, or study scripture with others. I am no different. But why do we place such an emphasis on personally engaging the Bible? If a pastor’s sermons are good, isn’t that enough Bible for someone?
Pascal makes a comment that gets at the heart of the importance of personal study in the scriptures when he says, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.”
This is one of those statements I find profound precisely because it should be obvious yet it has little impact on our actual practices. A math teacher can teach me math, but only I can truly learn to add. When my understandings are connected heavily to someone else, I must find a way to apprehend addition myself, or it will be significantly less beneficial to me.
If one does not discover how to swim by swimming, Michael Phelps can only help so much. Walking comes through walking.
Every week I preach a sermon after studying a particular scripture in-depth, at least ideally. Often, I am getting the greatest benefit from my sermon, because I have to teach myself the scriptures before I teach the scriptures to others. If I “discover” the “reasons”, I am most likely to understand what I proclaim.
In the same way, I hope for all those that I care for and pastor that they would be able to discover in the scriptures the Word of God (Jesus) for themselves. I want this, because I know that if people are studying the scriptures themselves they are learning to comfort themselves with Christ, encourage others with Christ, and share Christ. In other words, growth in Christ is intimately linked with hearing Christ in scripture directly and personally.
As a preacher, I like listening to preachers and have learned a lot from so many of them. Yet the most long-lasting convictions I hold derived from personal study in the Bible. For example, in Galatians 3 I learned the purpose of the law, in John 17 I was amazed by Jesus’ mysterious hope for communion in and with us, in Philippians 3 I was moved by the compassion felt by the apostle Paul for those who do not love Jesus, and through Galatians 4:1-6 I understood that the Trinity is essential in understanding our salvation.