Five Ways for the Bible to Change Your Life
A recent study revealed that most Americans own Bibles (almost 9 out of 10 households possess a copy) and that many Americans view the Bible positively (over one half say it is a good source of moral instruction; 35% call it life-changing). However, the same study indicates that many people struggle to interact with Scripture in meaningful ways (about 50% have read relatively little of the Bible and 10% have read none of it at all).
What can we do to allow Scripture to change our lives? Here are five actions you can take that will give God’s Word life-changing access to your heart.
- HEARING – Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes from hearing the message.” As we hear Scripture read publicly in corporate worship and as we hear its truths proclaimed through preaching, God uses his Word to create faith within us. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation” (emphasis added).
- READING – The daily discipline of private Bible-reading has been, for many Christians, a source of on-going guidance, growth, and stability. Dr. David McKenna explained it this way: “Unless we read the Word of God, we cannot be instructed by the Spirit, and unless we are instructed by the Spirit, we cannot become godly and effective servants.” There are many helpful plans for reading Scripture daily, but what is most important is to have a plan. For the average reader, 15 minutes of reading each day is all it takes to work through the entire Bible in a year. To join a group from our church who (beginning October 1) will read through the Bible on their own over the next 12 months, email me at David@astoriachurch.org
- STUDYING – Someone has said that the difference between reading and studying is that, when you are studying, you have a pen in your hand. While that may be oversimplifying matters, it can be very helpful to move beyond reading God’s Word to the intentional study of the text. One way to do this is to join a Community Group and explore a passage of Scripture by discussing it with others. Another way to study the Bible is to make use of the many helpful resources available. A great on-line concordance can be found here. A helpful on-line resource for simple Hebrew and Greek word studies can be found here. A Bible handbook that I have found useful is this one. And you cannot go wrong with commentaries from this series on the Old Testament, or this series on the New Testament, or this series on the New Testament.
- MEMORIZING – A psalmist wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). Dr. Dallas Willard said, “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs.” Pastor Chuck Swindoll said, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…. No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.” The New Testament indicates that Jesus memorized Scripture and that this practice gave him power in resisting temptation. (See Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.) To get started memorizing Scripture, a great resource is this one.
- MEDITATION – Psalm 1 promises blessing for the person who “meditates on [God’s] law day and night”. What does it mean to meditate on Scripture? It means to take a phrase or passage from the Bible and turn it over repeatedly in your mind, focusing deeply on what it says. Actions that help me meditate on a passage of the Bible are: writing out a passage long-hand, reading a passage aloud to myself from several translations, memorizing Scripture (see above), taking a walk alone and talking to myself (and to God) quietly about what I have read, slowly repeating a biblical phrase in my mind with emphasis on a different word each time. Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) wrote: “Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that read most but he that meditates most that will prove to be the sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”
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