Inspirational stories permeate our society. One speaker on public television, Wayne Dyer, has made a living teaching about inspiration. The other day, while working at LifeWay, a gentleman came in asking for this particular author’s latest book on inspiration. I told him we didn’t carry Dyer’s books nor would we. He seemed shocked and asked why, since this man talks about being inspired from the inside. I had to tell the customer that Dyer was not teaching Christian, Scriptural theology, but a form of new age, Eastern mysticism. Therefore, LifeWay will not be carrying his books. The only way I knew what Dyer taught was by listening to his teachings. Despite his non-Biblical teachings, Dyer’s emphasis on inspiration motivates many.
In the search for inspiration, Christians can be easily fooled by non-Christian doctrines when they don’t know God’s word. Two of the more popular sections in LifeWay are the ‘Christian Living’ and ‘Devotional’ sections. Why do people flock to these areas? It is because these are where inspirational and self-help books are located. It would not be surprising if the equivalent sections in other Christian bookstores are the more popular areas.
People long to be inspired. On a regular basis, I receive emails with inspirational stories intended to draw me closer to God. Many of these stories and many of the Christian living and devotional books are about God, Jesus, and the Bible. Some quote Scripture or use the Bible as the basis of their teachings. However, they are not the Bible. These are not God’s word, but are merely about God’s word.
One of the more recent devotional/inspirational works is Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Churches, study groups, and people around the world bought this book by the case, resulting in millions of copies being sold around the world. Warren should be credited for developing a Bible-based devotional work. However, the critical problem is that many people open Rick Warren’s book instead of the Bible in order to find their inspiration and theology.
It saddens me to see how popular this and other devotional works are in the church. People flock to the Christian living, prayer, and devotional sections of LifeWay and other Christian bookstores. While churches give Bibles as gifts, many recipients then leave, put the Bible down, and buy the latest devotional book for inspiration. We are inspired by stories of modern miracles, selflessness, and the hungry children on television ads. It is my desire that more people would put down the latest devotional/inspirational books by Max Lucado, Anne Graham Lotz, Rick Warren, Stormie Omartian and others and, instead, open their Bibles. People should read the messages of the prophets, the miracles done by Christ, and the theology taught by Paul. Our greatest inspiration should come from Scripture, not from the latest Bible-based author.
The most recent booming success I’ve seen has been Joel Osteen’s work, “Your Best Life Now.” In this book, Osteen explains the steps he believes are necessary to attain the best life possible and to have it now. However, the best life is not achievable outside of Christ. We cannot obtain our best life now on our own or apart from God’s grace. Instead, we can have the best life possible only through Christ. How do we learn about God’s plan for our lives? It is not in Osteen’s book, Warren’s book, nor any other modern author. The place where we learn about God, Jesus, and how to have the best life possible is in the Bible.
Some may argue that these books are based on the Bible. While this may be true, they are not the Bible. These books are not God’s revelation to man. Christ is God’s living revelation; Scripture is God’s written revelation that points us to Christ. If you want to know God more, read the source: the Bible. Study the Scriptures.
If we want to learn good theology, read the Bible. If we want to draw closer to God, read the Bible. If we want to know the plans and purposes God reveals to us, read the Bible. If you want to know about what Christ did for you, read the Bible. If you want to know God, read the Bible.
Many people depend on pop-culture works, fiction novels, and other extra- or non-Biblical sources to learn about God. However, God gave us his word and we should seek it to learn more about God. Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1 teach us that we are to meditate on the word of God and we will be blessed. This means studying it.
While the stories of children suffering, of people helping others, and of people dying and going to heaven or hell are inspiring, how much more inspiring it would be to spend time reading the Bible! How much more inspiring it is to study the Word itself, not just books about the word! How much more blessed it is to let the Holy Spirit illuminate us, teach us, embolden us, inspire us, empower us, and draw us closer to our Lord by reading the Bible!