Shout for Truth: The Power of 4

Stephen ArterburnBy Stephen Arterburn8 Minutes

Excerpt taken from EVERY BELIEVER’S THOUGHT LIFE: Defeating Destructive Mental Patterns to Gain Victory Over Temptation by Stephen Arterburn and M.N. Brotherton.

Chapter 6
Shout for Truth

The Power of 4

Practice means to repeat something over and over. We immerse ourselves in the skill or subject as if we’re soaking in a hot tub. In consideration of that immersion, this chapter’s encouragement might sound basic at first, the spiritual equivalent of getting our toes wet by the water’s edge. But I don’t want us to gloss over this, because there’s an important twist to it. The encouragement is simply this: Do we want to win the battles in our mind? Then we need to read the Bible.

Here’s the twist. I encourage us to read the Bible, and read the Bible, and read the Bible again. We can’t simply skim over its pages once or twice. When it comes to putting the truths of Scripture into our minds so we are transformed by Christ, we need to stay at it continually. We need to dive into the deep end.

Here’s why. People quote John 8:32 all the time — “The truth will set you free”— but they typically quote it out of context, or only a sliver of it, which doesn’t convey its fuller truth.

“Okay sure, you gotta get yourself some truth,” people say. “That truth will do wonders in your life.”

Yes. But here’s the fuller context. The promise of John 8:32 comes with an important condition. It’s shown in an “if-then” statement, which is found in the previous verse, John 8:31. Here are both verses together:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Do you see the condition? “If you hold to my teaching . . . Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We can’t ignore the “if.” As the fuller context points out, we must hold to Jesus’s teaching for the truth to impact us. We must grasp that truth tightly. We must take it in like food we eat every day. We must ingest that truth as if at a molecular level.

We absorb Scripture by constant and mindful repetition. We read the Bible over and over again, continually filling our minds with God’s truth, reminding ourselves of what He wants us to know. We hold to Jesus’s teaching by committing ourselves to the habit of regular Bible reading. We read the Scriptures daily the same way the worship leader practiced every morning. God uses our practice sessions for His glory.

It might sounds strange to hear, but the benefits of repeated expose to the Bible have actually been proven statistically. Dr. Pamela Caudill Ovwigho and Dr. Arnold Cole from the Center for Bible Engagement conducted detailed research. Using a diverse mix of open-ended questions, they surveyed more than 400,000 Americans to determine religious beliefs, religious service attendance, daily temptations, risky and moral behavior, and beliefs about spiritual growth and maturity. They crunched the numbers and revealed three important findings.

First, “Scripture engagement more reliably predicts moral behavior than traditional measures of spirituality, such as church attendance and prayer.”  In other words, Bible reading definitely affects how we live.

Second, that believers who “read or listen to the Bible at least four days a week” think and act measurably differently than those who engage with the Bible less often. The number four is significant. Not three, not two, not one. But four.

Third, when Christians passed the important “number three” threshold and went into their fourth engagement with the Bible each week, they reported a significantly positive difference in how they coped with hard times. Specifically:

  • Use of pornography and involvement in other sexual sins dropped 62 percent.
  • Relational issues (especially in marriage) dropped 40 percent.
  • Feelings of loneliness dropped 30 percent.
  • Anger issues dropped 32 percent.
  • Alcoholism dropped 57 percent.
  • Feelings of spiritual stagnation dropped 60 percent.

The statistics show it. If we open our Bible only once a week at church, then the impact on our life won’t be large. Nor can we merely flip open our Bibles two or three times a week and expect things to change.

When we read our Bibles four days per week, significant transformation begins to occur. If we read the Bible more days per week, that’s even better. We must get into God’s Word so God’s Word gets into us.

Of course, God is a Person and not bound by a statistic – and the Word of God is living and active, not bound to a statistic, either. Yet numbers can reflect upward or downward trends, and the numbers show that when believers read their Bibles a minimum of four times a week, that when transformation begins to happen. That’s typically when the “if-the” condition of John 8:31-32 kicks in and we begin to hold fast to Jesus’s teaching. We become the product of our habits. The truth gets into us, and the truth sets us free.

Pathways of God’s Commands

A colleague asked about the writing project I was working on, and I described to him the premise of this book.

“Hmm,” he said. “sounds like a book about sin management.”

I had to think for a moment, then responded, “No, that’s not the final takeaway for readers. The emphasis isn’t on ‘sin management,’ just like I wouldn’t want to write a book on ‘anger management.’ Why manage something when it can be eliminated? We’re dealing with the source of a problem, not just a symptom. The takeaway is that readers can live fully and abundantly, as Jesus invited us to, continually filling our minds and hearts with the thoughts of God. It’s an invitation to true freedom and a new quality of life.”


See also

Order your copy of EVERY BELIEVER’S THOUGHT LIFE: Defeating Destructive Mental Patterns to Gain Victory Over Temptation by Stephen Arterburn and M.N. Brotherton, published by Salem Books.