How important is the Bible?

Have you ever heard the phrase Bible Curious? Hold on, I’m about to tell you all about it.
The American Bible Society has published its new State of the Bible 2020 Report. And they have some interesting words to say about Americans and the Bible. Now before I tell you the conclusions of this ABS report, let me read some verses to you from Amos 8 in the Old Testament. Amos was a prophet and he spoke to God’s people. He basically told them that part of passive judgment of God was because they turned away from Him. Part of His passive judgment was that He gave them what the prophet called, “famine of the Word of God.”
Amos 8:11-12

Listen! The days are coming— this is the declaration of the Lord GOD— when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east, seeking the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.

One of the patterns of God’s passive judgment on His people is that when they turn away from His Word, when they neglect the revelation that He’s given to them, He actually pulls it back and makes it less accessible.

We’ve seen that over the course of the last few decades in the United States. I believe by the very fact that fewer and fewer churches give serious attention to the Word of God in their worship setting, in their teaching settings. I can’t tell you how many times somebody comes to our church for the very first time, a total stranger, a first-time guest, and they come to me after the service to shake my hand and introduce themselves. And they’ll say something like this, “Thank you for preaching from the Bible.”

Well, obviously as you would expect I don’t get out a lot on Sundays. And so, I don’t always know what’s happening in other churches. But over and over and over and over and over again what I’m hearing from people is that they are going from church to church to church and the Bible is a prop. The Bible is something that is waved around during a sermon. But nobody opens it up and dives deep into it to proclaim the revelation of God that has been preserved for us there.

As we’ve turned away from the Word of God, God has pulled back access to it. Fewer people teach the Word. Fewer people give meaty messages from the Word of God. It’s harder and harder to find the kind of meat, spiritual meat that authentic believers’ hunger for.

Well, let’s go back to the American Bible Society Report, the State of the Bible 2020. They tell us that the category of American adults that they call “Scripture Engaged” has continued to decline. That is, “people who use the Bible every single day.” That number has continued to decline over recent years. And that decline has continued in 2020. But I was encouraged to find that they attribute that decline, at least in 2020, to the responsibilities of particularly women, because of the shut downs. They say that statistically the people who are less involved in the Word are mothers who have had increased responsibilities during the lock down. This is partly because of job changes, partly because of school closings, increased time spent with caring for the children.

The reason I say that I’m encouraged by that is not that I want women to less connected to the Word of God. But it’s an explanation for why the daily use seems to be slightly declining. But what was encouraging from this report is their report that the overall use of the Word of God among American adults is on the increase. In fact, they call these daily users the Scripture Engaged. But the category that is most encouraging is this category of people who have not traditionally made use of the Word of God. They call these American adults Bible Curious. And the numbers of those who are Bible Curious are beginning to skyrocket. It shows that 68% of American adults, about 172,000,000 people, can now be considered Bible Curious. In other words, they want to learn more about scripture. More Americans are exploring the Word of God for the first time in June of 2020 than in any time in recent memory.

It says that the people who are most likely driven to turn to God’s Word, to see what they can discover there, and this isn’t a surprise, are people that have experienced the COVID-19 virus or people that have lost loved ones to this virus in this pandemic.

I find it encouraging that in a pandemic, that when people have been impacted by the crazy world that we now live in, they are making their way home to the book that they may heard about when they were just children attending Sunday School or going to summer vacation Bible school. They’re going back to the Word of God to see what they can discover.

In fact, the study says that 8 in 10 individuals who are hospitalized by COVID 19 said they were using the Bible more now than at any time before.

It’s interesting that the people that are using God’s Word, when they are seeking to be encouraged, they are turning to family members, prayer and meditation and the Bible for comfort. Those who are less engaged with the Word of God are seeking their comfort in food, TV binge watching, and prescription drugs as sources of comfort.

The bottom line is one of the results, one of the under-reported results of the 2020 pandemic, at least in America, is that this famine of the Word of God is being answered by a new level of interest in God’s Word. Adults are turning back to the Word of God or maybe to the Bible for the very first time in their lives seeking to discover what it is they need to hold on to. It seems like 2020 has shaken the foundations of everything that we thought we could trust, everything we can rely on, everything that we thought was unshakable. And so, they are looking for something that actually is unshakable.

It’s interesting, the majorities of respondents reported high to moderate stress levels related to this pandemic. Now that’s not news. That’s not a surprise to anybody. Stress levels are off the charts because of everything we have gone through in 2020. The combination of a disputed election, a global health pandemic… We can back even in the Spring. Did you ever stop to think that the murder hornets didn’t get their 15 minutes of fame? I mean, we heard about murder hornets and then they were gone because we had other things too big to handle. And it’s just been one headline after another that has assaulted us in the craziest year that I can remember.

And yet, with record levels of stress it says that those who are practicing Christians, who spend time engaged in the word of God are the least stressed demographic in America.

In fact, those that claim no religion at all, as you would expect, are the highest stressed demographic in America. The most common anxiety symptoms that they report among all groups with moderate and high stress, see if any of this sounds familiar, sleeplessness, loneliness, a sense of hopelessness about the future, and fear or anger about our circumstances.

Well, here’s the reality. The reason we find an almost unknown urge to go back to the Word of God is because there is something deep inside of us, something hard-wired into the way we were created that tells us, “this is the pathway to truth.” This is the key to finding a place to stand when everything around us seems to falling away.

The survey had one other statistic that I want share with you. It said that three-fourths of the adults in America, that is 77%, live in a household with a Bible and virtually all of those adults, 99% of those adults, have the Bible in a language they can read. Of the one-quarter, the 23% that do not own a Bible, nearly half of that number… even though they don’t own a physical copy of the Bible in their homes… 46% of those people say they have used the Bible on a smartphone app in the past year. And the numbers show strong agreement that they are curious about the Bible and that it seems to be helping them deal with world in which we live.

Folks, I’ve seen a famine of the Word of God in our generation as a sign of the passive judgment of God. And if there’s any good news coming out of this pandemic, if there’s any silver-lining we can find, it is the hint, it is the under-reported reality that the Bible in America is being re-discovered.
In the Acts 17 the Apostle Paul was kicked out of a city called Thessalonica. He was run out of town because of the opponents to his Christianity there. They forced him to leave. But he left Thessalonica and ended up in a town called Berea. As he goes to Berea it says that upon arrival they went into the synagogue of the Jews. The people here, meaning the people in Berea, were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica since “they received the Word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (11)

One of the problems in 2020 is we don’t have any trusted news source any longer. We don’t know who to trust. We have this sneaking suspicion that whether it’s FOX or CNN or MSNBC or this Twitter account or this social media account, that all of it is fake news. We can’t believe any of it. What do you do in a world where everything feels like fake news? Well, you can’t go to Snopes because Snopes has turned out to be as fake as any of the other news sources.

What can you do? We can become noble minded like the Bereans. And we can go to the Word of God. And we can find out what the Bible says. We can put ourselves into this Word on a daily basis. And we can discover truth. And once we have handle on a truth that is unshakeable, a truth that doesn’t move, now we finally have a standard by which we can evaluate to onslaught of information that comes at us every single day.

I have to tell you I’ve been looking for some good news. With the increased cases of COVID and the rising sense of panic that I feel in our nation right now, the uncertainties and the hostilities back and forth between people swirling around the election…. With everything that’s going on in America right now, I was looking for some good news. And I have to tell you, I’m hugely encouraged that we may come through this worst of all years with a revival of interest in the Word of God.

And here’s the good news. When a people turn away from God, He withdraws His Word and makes it harder to access. But when a people seek God’s Word, He tells us, “seek Me with all your heart and I will let you find Me.” If we make our way back to the Bible this famine of the Word of God will come to a close and we may just come out of 2020 with bright positive good news on the horizon. Because I think the Spirit of God through His Word is up to something. This is not only in the lives of His people but in the lives of people who have never given serious consideration to the gospel before. Make that your prayer. Pray that America is finding her way back to the Word of God. That the famine that we have experienced for a generation will come to a close. That 2020 will have as its lasting result, the push that brings us home to truth.

This is TruthCurrents.
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