As we talked about yesterday, we are gearing up for our twelfth and final national conference here in Minneapolis. It begins on Friday. Related to the theme of the conference, we have a question here I want to pose to you, Pastor John. Here it is, rather directly: “Pastor John, I rely on my pastor to study the Bible and tell me what it says. I don’t feel like I need to read the Bible because I’m listening to his preaching every week.” What would you say to a person who believes the Sunday sermon is enough Bible intake for their week?
I was a pastor, and I love it when people listen. I love it when people trust their pastors and when they are excited to hear him explain the Bible each week. Amen, amen. That is wonderful.
Are You Hungry?
But something is wrong here. I mean this is serious. Something is wrong here, because if the word of God is coming with power each week, it doesn’t just satisfy hunger — it creates hunger. I would have felt like a total failure if my people said, “Because of your preaching, we don’t read our Bibles.” I would think, “What have I done? I have given you food that is so uninteresting or boring or not having any portent or hope that you don’t even pick it up during the week.”
So, I am really puzzled what the mindset of this person is to say, “This sermon is all I need.” My question would be this, “Is it all you want? Why isn’t the meal on Sunday whetting your taste for more on Monday? Why not?” It seems to me like we have two issues here. One is, How much of the Bible do we need? And the other is, How much of the Bible do we want?
How Much We Want
So, let’s take the want question. Why would you only want one passage a week from the Bible? Why would you want that one and only passage a week to come through another person? To me that is like saying, “I am in love. My sweetheart writes me every day, and I would like to just read her letters once a week, and I think I would like somebody else to read them for me and give me a digest of what she said.” Are you kidding me? I was in love one time — the summer of 1967 when I was working as a water safety instructor. I smelled the envelopes for five minutes before I opened them. I am not going to give them to anybody else. I am very eager to go off every day with these lavender envelopes and smell the hands of my future wife.
“Why would you only want one glimpse a week of this beauty, one taste a week of this honey, one deposit a week of this silver in your bank, one letter from your lover?”
To only want to read one love letter a week when she is writing them every day is a sign that something is wrong. That is weird. Something is wrong with this person’s relationship with God.
But Paul says that he lives for Jesus who loved him and gave himself for him (see Galatians 2:20). That is true. Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life for us. God loves us so much that he gave his son for us. And the Bible is the word of this Jesus who loves us and this Father who loves us — about how they relate to us and what they are doing in the world. The whole Bible is an unparalleled love letter to the people of God. So the psalmist says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). It just wouldn’t make any sense for the psalmist to say, “I get a spoonful of honey on Sunday and that is plenty; I don’t want any on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday.” Instead, he says,
“My delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law I meditate day and night.” (see Psalm 1:2)
“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold.” (Psalm 19:10)
“If you seek it like silver and search for them as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:4)
So I would ask our listener — bless his or her heart — why would you only want one glimpse a week of this beauty, one taste a week of this honey, one deposit a week of this silver in your bank, one letter from your lover? What is going on? Wake up. Come on. Wake up to reality.
How Much We Need
And then I would shift and ask, What do you need? Is one meal a week all you need? Not just what do you want, but what do you need? Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4) — every one of them. That is how you live. You need to eat.
I think I can say this from experience, Tony, and from history and from the Bible: Every Christian needs more Bible, more spiritual food, than one meal a week — that doesn’t work physically or spiritually. Temptations are too relentless. Doubt is too frequent. Satan is too active. Tribulations are too heavy. Conflicts are too many. Emotions are too volatile. Perplexities are too difficult. Faith, hope, and love are too threatened to think I can deal with these all week long, simply from one word I got on Sunday. I can’t do it. And I don’t think anybody can.