From an Unmotivated Christian,
Should I read my Bible if my heart is not in it?
Dear Unmotivated Christian,
Yes. Please do not stop reading your Bible, all the more when your heart is not in it. God has promised to work through his Word so that our hearts desire to be with him more.
Let me begin by saying that I understand where your heart lies in the matter. You feel that it would be dishonouring to God if we came to him with our minds distracted and our hearts desiring to be elsewhere. I appreciate your desire to come before God with a pure heart, knowing that he is holy and deserves our best.
The bad news is that none of us will ever have a heart pure enough to come before God. Our best is not enough. Jesus himself called us evil (Mt 7:11)! We are natural sinners. Paul describes us as dead in our sins, and objects of wrath. Yes, God hates our sin and is right to be angry at us. We have belittled him, and not given him the honour he deserves.
But through Jesus a new way has been opened up to God. If we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that he is our Lord, we will enjoy all the benefits of his death and resurrection. We are forgiven. We are made alive. We are declared righteous. We are adopted as children of God. We are loved eternally.
And all this comes through no merit of our own. We can do nothing to contribute to our salvation. It is wholly of grace, wholly of Jesus. He is the basis by which we can approach God with confidence, without fear of divine wrath. As the old hymn says, “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”. We come empty-handed before God, and are given immeasurable riches. It sounds like a crazy deal. But such is the lavishness of his grace and love towards us. Our God is a God who is happy to welcome humble and penitent sinners to him. He does not require that we clean up our act first. He asks that you acknowledge your dirtiness and come to him to be washed.
At this point you might think that I have said nothing more than the gospel. You are correct. But let me try to help you see that the truths of the gospel are just as relevant to us every day of our lives as the day of our conversion.
The gospel reminds us that Jesus is the ground of our confidence for coming before God. Because of what he has done, the throne of God is a throne of mercy. The one seated on the throne is not an angry judge but our good and loving Father. Nothing has changed since your conversion. He is just as eager to welcome dirty and wounded children as he was to welcome dirty and wounded sinners. He would not want you to think that you have to now earn your way into his presence. Our relationship with him will always rest on the work of Jesus, and not the condition of our hearts. The fact is that even on our best days this side of heaven, our sincere hearts will never be sufficient to let us enter the presence of God.
Does sincerity count for nothing then? Absolutely not! Though it can never be the ground of our coming before God with confidence, any Christian who remembers that Jesus is the basis of his confidence cannot help but approach God sincerely. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Note the order of the words. Because Jesus is our great priest, we can draw near with a true heart. What is it that makes our heart true? It is a heart that believes it can only come before God because of Jesus.
Now that you know this, I hope you let nothing stop you from reading your Bible. God your Father eagerly waits for you to come to him, faults and sins and all. Sit a while and listen to him. All that I’ve said is found in the Bible. God wishes to remind us every day that our relationship with him is of grace, from first to last. If we forget this, we have been fooled by the devil into thinking that our hearts must first be right before we listen to God. To the contrary, we must listen to God if our hearts are to be right. And where else can we hear his voice but within the very pages of the Bible itself?