Getting God’s Word into Your Life
The Bible is God’s Word – the uniquely reliable revelation of his heart, his truth, and his redemptive plan. Augustine of Hippo, the 3rd Century African bishop and theologian, wrote, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
Because the Bible is God’s Word, it is vitally important for Christians to develop habits that put them into regular contact with Scripture. Donald S. Whitney writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.” Similarly, J.I. Packer states, “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible.”
How can we access Scripture so that it makes a meaningful difference in our lives? I have benefited from the advice of a discipleship ministry called The Navigators. They counsel believers to access Scripture by employing five important practices:
- HEARING – Romans 10:17 says, “… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” God builds our faith as we gather weekly to hear his Word read publicly in worship, and then as we listen to the Word explained and proclaimed through the act of preaching. God’s Word is so powerful that, even when the preacher is not witty or eloquent, a sermon that is faithful to the text and that gives us the gospel can have a meaningful impact on our lives.
- READING – One of the kindest things anyone ever did for me was when my mother taught me, when I was a child, to set aside a little time every day to read the Bible. She helped me to develop a habit that has transformed my life. Deuteronomy 17:19 counsels the king “to read [God’s law] all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lordhis God.” It is not only kings who benefit from the daily reading of God’s Word. Any one of us can see our faith strengthened, our wisdom increased, and our understanding of God’s grace deepened through reading the Word every day. My practice for decades has been to read through the entire Bible once a year. There are many helpful reading plans that can guide you to do this, and it only requires about fifteen minutes a day.
- STUDYING – Someone said that the difference between reading and studying is that when you study you have a pen in your hand. That may be an oversimplification, but it is true that, from time to time, we need to dig a little deeper into Scripture than can be done through merely reading it. A great way to do this is to join a small group Bible study where you can work through a passage and discuss it with others. You can also study Scripture privately. There are many helpful commentaries on the various books of the Bible, but what I find most beneficial is simple observation. One way to do this is to take a clean sheet of paper and write out a portion of Scripture long-hand. As you write it, read the words aloud to yourself. Then take colored pencils and use different hues to underline all the commands, all the promises, all the warnings, all the repeated words or phrases. Set your paper down and gaze at it. Do you see any patterns? Do you observe any connections between thoughts? What stands out to you? I’ve been amazed at insights I’ve gained by employing simple practices such as this.
- MEMORIZING – Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Setting Scripture to memory can have a transformative effect on one’s life. Jesus’ use of Scripture in battling temptation shows that he had committed much of the Bible to memory. (See Matt. 4:1-11.) If you’ve never memorized Scripture, a quick Google search of “Scripture memory verses” will yield countless helpful lists of where to begin. (Note: It’s often easier to remember words that are set to music. Search for “Scripture memory songs” on YouTube or Spotify sometime; you’ll be amazed what you find.)
- MEDITATE – The authors of the Bible often challenged us to meditate on God’s words and works. To meditate on Scripture means to toss it around in your mind and think about it over and over. This is different than merely reading it. (If reading the Bible is like gobbling down a chocolate, then meditating on Scripture is like sucking on a piece of hard candy or chewing a stick of gum.) What helps me to meditate on Scripture is to follow up my daily Bible reading time with a short time of private prayer. I will often begin my prayer time by talking with God about the passages I have just read, asking him what he wants to say to me through his Word. Psalm 1 describes the blessing that comes to the person who delights in and meditates on God’s Word. It says, “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.”
This autumn at ACC, we are discussing practices such as these in our Sunday morning sermon series on spiritual disciplines. You are welcome to come join us.