After years of pastoral ministry, and after meeting with dozens of men, here’s one lesson I have learned: Christian men know and feel that they should be reading the Bible. Generally speaking, we don’t need to be told that we need to read the Bible.
And yet most men, myself included, get lazy and lonely in their Bible reading, and end up burdened by guilt and shame. Other men, myself also included, get serious and strategic in their Bible reading, but end up burdened by pride and self-righteousness. How do we find the narrow path between avoiding Bible reading and boasting in it, between negligence and arrogance? How do we become the Psalm 1 man who “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2)?
As I look back at my own experience, the seasons of greatest love for God and others have corresponded with more than faithfully finishing a Bible reading plan. Not less than, but always more than. And that “more than” has included reading the word as a son, hearing the word as a brother with other men, and then speaking the word as a father.
Read His Word as Sons
Of the three, reading God’s word as a son is likely the most familiar paradigm. You know that the Bible is more than just checking a box. It is more like opening a box personally addressed to you. God is not communicating with you as his peer, his buddy, or as his enemy, but as his precious son. The Bible is God’s gift to his children.
The apostle John happily and purposefully clarifies that we aren’t just “called children of God” but that “we are” children of God (1 John 3:1). Being a son of God is both static and dynamic. In one sense, it never changes; it never becomes untrue. What a motivation to persevere in hearing from him each day! Yet, in another sense, being a son of God changes as it becomes more true — as we become more Son-like. How does this happen? Ultimately, the arrival of all that it means to be a son of God will occur upon “see[ing Jesus] as he is” when he arrives in glory (1 John 3:2). On that day, we won’t doubt or wonder anymore what it feels like to be a child of God. But even today, we can experience sonship more and more, as “everyone who thus hopes in [Jesus] purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
So, when we take the posture of a son when we read the Bible, we experience his word as a purifying gift, one we gladly receive from our heavenly Father. Our Father gave his sons his word that he might deliver us from being “conformed to this world” and to being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 12:2; 8:29).