Tremendous strides have been made in the printing and publishing world since the Scriptures were written and published as one book. When the various books of the Bible were written by the men whom God moved, guided and illumined, they existed for a long time as bulky rolls of parchment. Thus in Nazareth Jesus could be given the book of Isaiah from which to read. But now in a very compact book containing all the books of the Scriptures the Bible may conveniently be carried in one hand. And thousands upon thousands of copies are distributed over the length and breadth of the earth. You will find one in well nigh every hotel room, motel room, hospital waiting room. And it is still considered to be the best seller of any book on the market.
Religious material (and often irreligious material passes under the name religious material) likewise is quickly and neatly printed, bound and sold over the counter or placed on the library shelf. Religious magazines in countless numbers are running off the presses every day. Pamphlets, tracts and brochures, likewise, run into the thousands upon thousands and appear in neat form and are set up with type that is easy on the eyes and requires the least amount of Strain for the eyes.
Means of transportation of the present day also have made tremendous strides in the way of progress compared to the things our forefathers accepted as the ultimate of travel facilities. Today we speed smoothly in cozy, warm automobiles, seated upon foam rubber seats, over level roads of concrete or asphalt pavement.
And yet we find today that there is less and less interest being shown in reading these religious magazines and to congregate for spiritual edification. Societies organized for the purpose of the study of God’s Word, for the searching of the Scriptures, for the instruction and spiritual upbuilding of the child of God are poorly attended. Usually a very small fraction of the membership of the congregation shows any interest in the study of God’s Word. A lecture or speech on a religious topic today draws only half of an auditorium’s capacity in distinction from the time when travel to and from such a lecture was much harder on the flesh.
This is not a healthy sign.
It does indicate that more and more we are approaching and living in those days of which the apostle speaks and which he calls perilous times that are coming when men shall be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, II Timothy 3:4b; We have in our churches a farm for the ordination of elders and deacons wherein the elders about to be ordained are told that “the apostle (in Acts 20) exhorteth (these elders) to watch diligently against the wolves which might come in the sheepfold of Christ; for the performance of which the elders are in duty bound diligently to search the Word of God, and continually be meditating on the mysteries of faith.” That is quite a different picture from the one we usually see today. And lest we quickly brush this aside and refer this to others since we are not in the office of elder in the church of God, let us remember that the elders are so exhorted that they may protect you, one of the sheep. Consider also that in this same epistle of Paul to Timothy and in the same chapter from which we quoted above, Paul writes, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” The man of God is not simply the man of God in Timothy but in every child of God. The Scriptures were not given; in other words, simply for Timothy’s sake that he might be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, but the man of God wherever he may be; every child of God. And these words were not preserved up till this day for none others than elders in the Church of Christ, but for all the people of God.
Or if you will, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 3:13, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and again in Hebrews 10:24, 25, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love: and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
These passages certainly refer to all the members in the congregations. And yet we fear that many of our, families have no actual study and discussion of the Word of God from the last service on one Sunday to the first service on the following Sabbath. O, there is a little reading at the table without any thought given to what is read without a pause to reflect upon what is read. There is no reflection afterward on what is read or study of the Scriptures to see more clearly what is meant by what is read. No actual instruction from the Word is sought, and more than even superficial contact with it there is not, except once or twice, for a short time on the Sabbath. And meanwhile the world and all that it contains crowds well nigh all thought of the spiritual out of our lives. Our magazines have to be read from cover to cover—except religious magazines—and we would not think of leaving our daily newspapers remain unread before we retire at night. How we hate to miss our daily newscast of the radio station of our choosing. We surely want to keep posted on material, earthly things, the things of the kingdom here below. We simply have to hear what prices are being paid for our commodities and read and analyze carefully the claims and counterclaims of the politicians of our Republican and Democratic parties. And we learn to be pretty shrewd, too, in our analysis of world affairs. With our great wisdom we are able to point out the folly of learned politicians and authorities over us: We usually have a solution for the problems which they cannot solve. And then, sometimes our knowledge of the Scriptures is as scanty and vague as the man who, in referring to the saints in the Old Testament, was able to say to us nothing more than “Jacob and those ether men.” Doctrine we avoid. Discussion of our confessions with their rich heritage of the truth we deem too deep for us. O, yes, but our minds are pretty sharp and keen when it comes to buying and selling, politics and business. But Jesus said, did He not, “Where your treasure is, there will you heart be also,” Matthew 6:21. Let us not call Him a liar. We have no interest in the study of His Word? We can find a million dozen reasons of the flesh why we ought not do so? Our answer to all this is; “Go tell Him that!” After all, it is before His judgment seat that we must appear and not before the bar of the whims and fancies of men. And can we honestly say that our heart is in the study of God’s Word and in the things spiritual when we so carefully and repeatedly avoid it? When our hearts are not in it, can we honestly say before Him that His Word is our treasure? We do the very minimum, we come in contact, with His Word no more than is absolutely necessary to avoid being an object of discipline by the church; and then we say that we hunger and thirst after God and after righteousness? Let us not deceive ourselves. For it is certain that we do not deceive God.
And the sad thing is that we are caught up in a vicious circle. Because we are not attracted to the Word of God as we ought; because we are not sufficiently strong to approve the things that are excellent, we stay away from the very thing that we need for improvement. And instead we turn to the world, its entertainment, its vain pleasures and treasures. The result is that we learn to love these things of the world and of the flesh so much better, and our craving for them grows so great that we become more and more strangers to the truth of God’s Word. And more and more we condone the things of the world and find fault with the doctrines of Scripture and with the limitations it imposes upon our walk of life. Instead of exhorting one another “lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” and instead of “provoking one another unto love and to good works” we forsake even, more “the assembling of ourselves together” and set an evil example for our brethren and, even worse, for our children, who are happy to sec such freedom and separation from the things of God’s kingdom.
It simply is a fact that little nourishment cannot make a strong man. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews likewise declares that some are dull of hearing because they do not have, by reason of use, their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
If we are to be spiritually sensitive we will need to live close to God’s Word. And the closer we live to it, the more we study it, and not simply thoughtlessly read it, the more spiritually sensitive we will become. With all the religious literature that can be gotten so easily we ought to be a people that reads and studies more rather than less than our forefathers. With our modern automobiles with their greater comfort and speed, we ought to be a people that would welcome the opportunities of gathering for an evening of edification when the things of God’s kingdom and of our salvation are treated in a lecture. Yet we find a growing tendency towards greater laxity in both.
To be sure, these are not required of us by the rulers in the church. We will not be put under discipline if only we show up in the services for divine worship on the Sabbath. That is not the point. The question never is whether we can satisfy the demands of men. The question always is whether we are doing that which God demands of us. The question always is whether we sincerely hunger and thirst after righteousness and after God and the knowledge of Him.
We firmly believe the words of Jesus, “Where your treasure is there-will your heart be also.” Do you say, But I do attend services on the Sabbath. I do read my Bible. Well, but do these not result in an increasing desire for more knowledge and the joy of its truth? And must we not judge how greatly you treasure the things spiritual by your activity in seeking them? A healthy child is always asking for food, and when your child begins to nibble a little bit and leave the food on the table untouched, you correctly conclude that he is getting Sick. How often do you leave untouched the truth and the things spiritual which God has made available for you? You say that you have good reasons? We say again, Go, tell Him, and be sure that your case is good and that He will say that you do indeed live in His fear.