I used to work in the marketing department for a Bible software and Christian e-book company. In our efforts to “market” our products to people, we would often say things like, “Discover new biblical insights!” or “Go deeper in your Bible study!” And we used phrases like this because these are the types of things most of us are looking for when we approach Bible study. We want to learn something new; we want to see something differently.
But I think this approach to Bible study, or a sermon or small group, can be a bit misleading. While there is certainly a place for learning new things about the Christian faith, especially for younger believers, much of what we need from the study, teaching, and preaching of the Bible is simply reminders of what we already know to be true. We need weekly, if not daily, reminders of the gospel: God saves sinners completely by grace, and thus my identity, worth, and hope are secure!
And we need reminders precisely because we naturally drift from the gospel. Not that we necessarily forget the facts of the gospel, but we naturally begin to love, worship, and find comfort in things other than the gospel: our work, our family, our bank account, our physical fitness, what others’ think about us, etc.
Furthermore, we need reminders of how we are to live as people saved by the gospel, reminders of what growth in godliness and the fight against sin look like. And this is because the fight against sin isn’t so much like catching a mouse—trap it and dispose of it for good never to be thought of again—as it is like keeping spiders out of your house—take every measure to keep them out but even then, you must continually be on your guard because they’ll find a new way in. We can’t become complacent in pursuing godly living, but need to be constantly reminded of all that it entails.
This need for continual reminders—and not just new information–is what Peter is getting at in 2 Peter 1:12-13:
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder
Peter has just listed off a bunch of qualities that ought to increasingly characterize those truly saved by God. He then acknowledges that his audience “knows” these qualities, and to some degree, is established in the truth of the gospel. But he says there is still a need to “stir you up by way of reminder.”
I think what Peter is getting at is what the opening lines of the hymn Come Thou Fount are getting at:
Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing they grace
Our hearts are like instruments that slowly get out of tune, and need to be re-tuned regularly with reminders of God’s grace and truth. We may have the right information about God in our heads, but our hearts need to be regularly recalibrated to this truth.
And so when we consider the “effectiveness” of a Bible study or of a sermon, our primary concern shouldn’t be, “Did I learn something new?” but, “Did I truly see the beauty and significance of all that God has done for us in Jesus, in a way that leads me to worship, love, and obey Him?”