When my wife and I moved to the Chicagoland area, we were committed to finding a church that clearly treasured Scripture. One Sunday, we visited a church farther away from where we lived and larger than what we felt would be comfortable. But when we were asked to stand for the reading of God’s Word, we were surrounded by a chorus of rustling Bible pages. Immediately, my wife and I knew we were home.
In a digital age where more information is created every year than all the rest of history combined, what is the value reading a physical book? While there are many good and helpful reasons to use a Bible on your phone or tablet, why should you read a printed and bound copy of Scripture? Here are three compelling reasons to open your personal Bible.
1. Sign of Authority
Some people live as if the Bible is beneath them, believing that God’s Word has no authority over their lives. Others believe tradition and science stand beside Scripture with equal authority. But Christians live under the authority of God’s Word. When Ezra read the book of the Law before Israel, the people stood reverently beneath the Word and received it as it was preached from the platform (Ezra 8:1-8). We live under the authority of the Bible, for it is from God, and in it God reveals himself to us.
After God spoke to Israel at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments were put in the Ark of the Covenant, and God’s presence hovered above the lid. The Ark became a symbol of God’s authority and presence in the midst of his people, for “from it God met with his people and spoke to them” (Exod. 25:16, 21). Just as the Ark carried God’s Word and presence with Israel wherever they went, carrying around a physical Bible communicates allegiance and obedience to Christ more than a phone or tablet ever could.
Whenever I do pastoral visits, I carry my Bible with me because it demonstrates that I am there to bring God’s Word to others. In various jobs, I have taken my Bible with me to work. Back in high school, I occasionally brought my Bible to read during lunch. There is something special about a child seeing his parent reading the Bible every morning. While we should not seek to parade our piety before others, bowing in reflection and prayer before God’s Word will make an impact those who are watching.
2. Personal Book
An old adage says: “A Bible that is falling apart often signifies a soul that is not.” God commanded kings in Israel to make their very own copy of Scripture to keep with them and “read in it all the days” of their lives (Deut. 17:18-19). A frequently opened Bible becomes a familiar and personal book.
Some people say you should never write in a Bible because God’s Word needs to be treated with respect. However, I write in my Bibles because doing so helps me process what I am learning, and it gives a record of my spiritual growth. If you were to open my Bible, you would find many underlined words, bracketed verses, comments in margins, coffee stains, and bookmarks. My Bible is the translation I use to memorize Scripture, and I know where to turn to find certain books.
There are many ways you can intentionally write in your Bible. If your Bible has blank pages in the front or back, use that space to record significant moments or seasons in your spiritual life, or to write down impactful truths that have become dear to you. Also, Christian publishers often sell Bibles with different kinds of readers in mind. You can use a journaling Bible or a Bible with large margins to take notes at church or during your devotions. When it comes to note-taking, using a pencil allows you to correct or clean up your notes, and certain pens or markers will bleed less through pages. Having a system of markings can enhance your Bible study. For example, color-code your pens and highlighters. Mark with straight, jagged, or wavy lines. Use symbols on the sides of your pages to identify paragraphs. Writing in your Bible is a special way to treasure God’s Word.
3. Freedom from Distraction
Amidst the digital revolution, the Bible remains the most popular book in the world. Yet, a barrage of unrelated digital notifications competes for your attention when you are reading the Bible on your phone. Having a digital Bible can be a great tool, but with it comes the temptation to look at other things. The end of Psalm 19 speaks to modern Bible readers well:
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Ps. 19:13-14).
My phone has killed more hours set aside for devotions in my life than I would like to admit, but physical books don’t send notifications, alerts, or texts. Opening a physical copy of the Bible gives you the freedom to set aside social media and emails, and focus on what God has said.
Before your devotional time, put away your phone. Then pick up your Bible and coffee, and pray. Ask God to help you engage with His Word as you read it, that he may “open [your] eyes to behold wondrous things out of [his] law’ (Ps. 119:18). Keeping your Bible open in church, at small group, and during your devotional time will help you focus on the text rather than on tomorrow’s emails. Interacting with an open Bible best prepares the soul to encounter God.
When you read your personal Bible, you are submitting to Christ’s authority and treasuring his grace. This is why an open Bible is the strongest sign of a person’s love for the Lord. Opening your Bible nourishes your soul in more ways than your phone ever can, and it shows how the Word carries weight in our lives for all who are watching.