By David Faust
I got a paper cut the other day. Nothing particularly unusual—except ironically I cut my hand while opening a box of bandages! Things turned out pretty well, actually. The remedy was at hand as soon as the hurt occurred.
Did you ever open the Bible expecting to find a bandage, and instead you discovered its cutting edge? You came expecting comfort and found conviction? You came seeking a soothing salve and instead found a sword? The Bible isn’t a collection of tame, safe-sounding platitudes. It’s edgy—”sharper than any doubled-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). It pokes, prods, and penetrates. And like a surgeon’s scalpel, it hurts in order to heal.
That’s why it sounds strange when Christians talk about “doing devotions”—as if Bible study could be reduced to a safe, controlled formula. I have never found any Bible verses that tell us to “do devotions.” Of course we should fill our minds with God’s Word and pray without ceasing. There’s great value in systematic Bible reading and prayer. Daily devotions nourish us with spiritual food. But while it’s good to “have devotions,” it’s even better to “be devoted.”
Late in King David’s life, he called together the leaders of Israel and exhorted them to be faithful to God. He said, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19). Then he turned to his son Solomon, the heir to the throne, and implored him, “Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9). The point wasn’t for Solomon to “do devotions” but to “be fully devoted.”
Notice how the New Testament uses the term. Members of the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Paul wrote, “Be devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12:10). He urged Timothy, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13), and he told Titus, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3:14).
How devoted are we? Walk into any Christian bookstore and you can find a wide variety of Bibles for sale, so many that it’s hard to decide which one to buy. (When is the last time you thanked God for the availability of his Word in your own language?) Yet with all our Bibles, America continues to stumble down the path toward biblical illiteracy. It isn’t enough just to own a Bible, even a thick one with lots of study helps. We need to read, absorb, and live it, letting the Word do its spiritual surgery in us.
Could there even be a danger in the proliferation of study Bibles? Why reflect on how a passage of Scripture applies to your life if someone else—a scholar, no less—has already done it for you? Our main concern shouldn’t be to “find a Bible that fits us,” but to fit ourselves to God’s will revealed in Scripture. The best Bible translation is one that translates it into action.
Devotion to God isn’t just something we do 15 minutes a day. It should be who and what we are 24 hours a day as we live on the sword of the Spirit’s cutting edge.