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The Danger of Treating the Bible Like a Magic Book in Your Devotional Time


D.A. Carson, the Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is concerned about Christians who practice devotions out of a sense of duty or religion.

“There are Christians who have become so habituated to having their devotions that they feel all guilty and slimy if they don’t have their devotions.” And while it’s not bad to feel qualms about missing the occasional devotion time, we can get into a danger here.

Carson explains if devotional times have sort of a “magic overtone” where people feel God will only love them or show them favor if they read their Bibles, we have a problem. The danger is we can slip into a works or merit-based theology.

There are three benefits of reading the Bible Carson articulates:

1. We read the Bible to know God better—the Scripture gives us a picture of who God is and how he operates.
2. We learn to think God’s thoughts after him—we cherish what he cherishes, hate what he hates. This shapes our the minds and hearts.
3. It renews our mind—As we learn to think God’s thoughts after him, we can’t help but be transformed since we eventually become what we think.

Reading the Bible is even more than a mental exercise, though (as good as this mental exercise is for our lives). The experience of reading the Bible should also be a “spiritual meeting” where we are convicted of sin, learning to pray better and growing in grace. Finally, it should move us to share the word of God with others. This is where the rubber hits the road for personal devotions, so to speak.

Dr. Carson says there is no one ideal plan for reading the Bible, but over the long haul, everyone ought to be reading the entire Bible. We need to be intentional to set time aside to read and consider God’s word, so that we might receive “the whole counsel of God.”

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Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.