Sometimes a fresh look at the obvious yields a bombshell. At age 20, my life was crushed and rebuilt by one small challenge. Could it change yours as well?
For fifteen years, I have been issuing the same challenge that I was given to people all over the world: read the Bible like a child. Even Jesus said, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”[i] But what does that mean? Whether someone is a non-believer, new believer, or a seasoned follower of Christ, the Word of God is essential—it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”[ii]
How did reading the Bible like a child change me? I was raised in a loving home as a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon). My family and I faithfully attended church every week, prayed together, read the LDS Scriptures, and strove—throughout every aspect of our lives—to live out the tenets of our religion. I had a zeal for God through obedience to the laws and ordinances of our church. Despite my piety, I had no understanding of the saving Gospel of Christ.
Yet, I longed for intimacy with God. I pined for His love and forgiveness. I wanted to demonstrate my love for Him by obeying the commandments of my religion, hoping that I could establish my own righteousness by my works. However, since I trusted the leaders of my religion to teach me what was true, even when I read the Bible, I saw its teachings through the lens of the church to which I belonged. I had pre-conceived notions.
Here are four ways that you can approach the Bible through the eyes of a child.
1. Remove pre-conceived notions
Often, we approach truth based on a pre-supposition. We see God, Jesus, or the Bible through the lens of our own personal experience—whether cultural, religious, or other. As we grow older, we become more entrenched in our views and less moldable. To read the Bible like a child means to remove these pre-conceived notions about who God is, who Jesus is, and what truth is, seeing the Word of God with fresh eyes, as if reading it for the first time. We must allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to show us truth. As it says in Psalms, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”[iii]
At age 19, I embarked on a two-year mission trip for the LDS Church. Just months into my mission, I fervently confronted a Baptist minister with the intention of converting him to my religion. In response, this pastor lovingly shared the biblical Gospel with me for the first time in my life, boldly witnessing of the salvation that comes by grace through faith, and not by works.
At the conclusion of our encounter, this Christian minister challenged me to read the Bible as a child, promising me that if I would, my eyes would be opened and my life would change forever.
That summer day changed the trajectory of my life. God planted a seed of the Gospel in my heart and then grew that seed through the water of His Word. As I approached God in humility, I began to see the true Gospel.
2. Approach God in humility
Similar to having presuppositions, it’s all too easy to be prideful in our approach to God and His Word. Many people think they already know the truth, and therefore there is nothing more to learn from reading the Bible. This was my heart at first. I didn’t believe I could learn anything from the Bible that I didn’t already know—I couldn’t have been more wrong! Be humble in your approach to God’s Word, and trust that through it, you will hear truth. Remember, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”[iv]
I spent the next 20 months on my LDS mission passionately reading the New Testament daily. In that time, I read it from beginning to end 12 times. Slowly, over time, God opened my eyes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I painfully discovered, through God's Word, that salvation could not be earned by my religious merits, only by faith in the merits of Christ. I came to know the grace and love of Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way. Reading as a child may cause you to see truth and that may come at a cost. Discovering the Gospel of grace, I lost a scholarship at Brigham Young University, might have lost my fiancé (she found the true Gospel), lost the relationships of many friends and even family, at first. But, truth matters.
3. Seek truth no matter the cost
Truth can come at a heavy price. To follow Jesus, according to Him, means to lose our life, forsake our worldly desires, and trust Him alone to satisfy our needs. When we approach Scripture with a childlike faith, we are willing to receive truth—and subsequently follow truth—at any cost. To know Christ is worth the loss of any and all things. The Apostle Paul’s testimony was a powerful witness of the sufficiency of Christ: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”[v]
I underwent a life changing transformation and it changed everything about my own view of faith—all as a Mormon missionary—all because I was lovingly challenged to read the Word of God. As I read, I came to trust it and trust what God said, that I could be saved by His grace and not by my works.
4. Trust the Bible to be God’s very Word
I grew up believing in the Bible, reading the Bible, and proclaiming the Bible as a portion of Scripture. However, I was also taught that the Bible was partially corrupted, mistranslated, fallible, and missing “plain and precious truths.” Therefore, I didn’t trust it to be the infallible Word of God. To approach the Bible through the eyes of a child, we need to take it at face value. We need to trust it as a child trusts their father. After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”[vi]
Please, I beg you, do not take for granted the beauty of God’s Word! Through it, we have the message of eternal life—the Gospel—which is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”[vii] My challenge to you, wherever you are in your walk in life, is to pick up the Word of God and read the New Testament through the eyes of child. Doing so changed my life forever. It can change your life forever, too.
[i] Mark 10:15 [ii] Hebrews 4:12 [iii] Psalm 119:105 [iv] 1 Peter 5:5 [v] Philippians 3:8 [vi] 1 Timothy 3:16 [vii] Romans 1:16