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Kingdom Focused Bible Engagement

In many instances Bible engagement has been reduced to majoring on the bits of the Bible that speak to making the world a better place through social activism, the golden rule as it applies to living a decent life (cf. Matthew 7:12), or using the Scriptures to underpin religious duties and obligations. But Bible engagement is about something far bigger than cherry picking Bible verses to inform our good works, good morality, or good religion per se.

Bible engagement is counter cultural. For Bible engagement to truly happen, we can’t be double minded. We can’t serve two masters (cf. Matthew 6:24). Bible engagement begins when we turn away from our old way of life and invite Christ to give us new life. And it proceeds as we sever our loyalties to the world and give our total allegiance to Christ (cf. Luke 14:33).

When we connect with the Bible, everything should change. We cannot continue to think and do life as we’ve done it before. Bible engagement requires a new way of being and a new way of living. We must relinquishing all we have to follow Jesus (cf. Luke 14:25-27). And for that to happen, Bible engagement has to be kingdom focused.

So what does kingdom focused Bible engagement look like? Kingdom focused Bible engagement is giving our unreserved commitment to the King and His kingdom. It’s submitting fully to Christ’s reign over our lives. And it occurs as we continually respond to God’s Word in ways that indicate that Christ is working in and through us.

While kingdom focused Bible engagement is embodied in Christ, it also includes everyone who submits to His kingship (cf. Romans 5:10). Bible engagement should never be an exclusively private or internal affair. Yes, Bible engagement concerns me, but it’s more about us. That’s because the kingdom of God is about community – about Christ’s Word being embodied and manifested in the lives of all of His kingdom citizens.

This is the good news: Bible engagement is about being liberated and empowered. It’s entering the throne room, encountering the King, and embracing, sharing and enjoying the fullness of kingdom life (cf. John 10:10). But wait, there’s more! When we’ve finished being part of the kingdom that’s here, we get to be part of the kingdom to come (cf. 1 Timothy 6:19).

Now before we get too heavenly minded that we’re of no practical use, let’s not forget that kingdom focused Bible engagement, while eternity bound, has an earthly home. Bible engagement is about God’s future turning up in the present. Bible engagement was never meant to be esoteric. Bible engagement is for this world, but not of this world. The Bible engagement prayer is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10. And for this prayer to be apprehended, kingdom citizens must live out the Word in ways that bring honour and glory to the King.

This to simply say that Bible engagement is Jesus engagement, and Jesus engagement is kingdom engagement. The three go together. They’re distinct, but not separate. When we engage with the Bible, we should do so with the express purpose of engaging with Christ. And as we engage with Christ, we should do so with the express purpose of being kingdom focused.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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State of the Bible 2018

Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted by the Barna Group. It aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word and includes findings on Bible engagement, Bible impact, perceptions of the Bible, Bible penetration, Bible literacy, the Bible and technology, moral perceptions and social impact, fearfulness and hope for the future, experiences with trauma and charitable giving.

In essence this year’s findings in the State of the Bible 2018 Report revealed that the majority of Americans (57%) aspire to using the Bible more than they currently do. For information on the other findings, click here to download the whole report.

Here are some thoughts concerning the Bible Engagement component (Section 1) of the report:

The term “use the Bible” is common in the report. It’s a term that’s wrongly applied to Bible engagement. When we engage with the Bible we should never do so as if it’s a commodity/product that can be exploited. True Bible engagement isn’t something that we can control/manage. Nor is Bible engagement something that’s subordinated to our intellect. God is the master of what we read/hear, not us. “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). That is, the Bible reads us! So our approach, when reading/reflecting on the Word, should be one of humble listening.

Comparing the necessity of the Bible “in daily life” with “coffee, something sweet” and “social media” is off-base. It reduces Bible engagement to a popularity contest. And why would we do that? Bible engagement isn’t about how trendy or well-liked the Bible may or may not be. Our reading, drinking and eating preferences are a non-issue. The necessity in Bible engagement is whether people are, or are not, cultivating an intimate reciprocating relationship with Jesus Christ.

“The level of Bible use and desire for use” also seems to be an emphasis in the report that’s barking up the wrong tree. Reducing Bible engagement to how frequently we read/listen to the Bible is legalism. Legalism should never be the basis for measuring Bible engagement. The real measure of Bible engagement is an increase in compassion, patience, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, goodness, hope, peace, healing, faithfulness, worship, growth in Christ likeness, and love – not wishing we’d “used the Bible more often.”

Finally, it was a relief to see in the “Bible Curiosity” chapter that curiosity was aligned with both the Bible and Jesus. Unfortunately, the importance of “Bible curiosity” was reduced to simply knowing more about the Bible and Jesus. Satan knows an awful lot about the Bible and Jesus, but all his knowing hasn’t changed the fact that he’s the enemy of God. Bible engagement is much more than knowledge about God and His Word. The emphasis in Bible engagement shouldn’t be Bible knowledge. The stress in Bible engagement should be on severing our loyalties to the world and giving our total allegiance to Christ. Fergus Macdonald, Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, eloquently says, “Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5