The Bible truly is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
But if you’re anything like me, when you open the Word of God, sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it’s quite confusing! Maybe you don’t even know where to start! I often see people getting caught up in the finer details of the text and, in doing so, miss the main points. Because of this, people turn to second-hand knowledge and experiences found in devotionals, books and podcasts, without having a chance to engage with the presence of the Author of Scripture. These resources aren’t evil, but if we rely on these alone, we can fall into a case of ‘cheap knowledge’, which may create a dependant spirit in us as we rely on others to digest information for us.
However, once we get past the ‘cheap knowledge’ temptation, we come to Scripture with our own priorities, prejudices and perspectives. This can result in us seeing what we want to see. If we know we need emotional fixing, we come to Scripture with the expectation that God will speak to the parts in us that need to be fixed. Or if we think gay marriage should be legalised, we will find that perspective in the pages of the Bible. As a matter of fact, as western Christians, we read the Word with understandings that are completely different to a Christian in another nation or in another cultural setting. It’s true that we are unable to avoid some of this due to our upbringing and the worldview that we are a part of. So how can we faithfully bring God’s Word to life when we read it? How can we engage with Scripture so that it changes how we live in this world as empowered people?
We need Scripture to read us! That’s right, when we come to reading Scripture, we need to practice an ancient spiritual discipline of allowing Scripture to read us. Instead of coming with our preferences and selfish ambitions, when we come to read Scripture it is best to allow it to read us. This means setting aside our agenda’s and allowing Scripture to set the agenda.
To most effectively do this, we can upskill ourselves as empowered people across various areas. Firstly, and most importantly, we need to learn to discern God’s voice. The whole point of Bible reading is to meet the Author. If we are simply trying to memorise verses to rebut our work colleagues at the lunch table, or to say that we have completed a Bible reading plan, we are missing the point. When we read Scripture, we must come with the primary priority to meet God Himself.
In John 5:39, Jesus warned the Pharisee’s of this exact thing when He said: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” So, in order to meet the One who has life, we ought to involve Him in our reading. For this, I would simply suggest starting with a simple time of prayer. Perhaps pray something like “God, thank You for Your revealed Word. I pray that today You would help me see all that You have for me. Spirit of wisdom and revelation come and meet me today.”
Once we invite God into our Bible reading time, we are primed and ready to hear from Him and search out what He is saying to us. To do this best, we should aim to learn the context and content of the passage that we are looking at. This can be done quite simply by purchasing a good study Bible, or by searching a website like Bible.org which will assist in explaining the genre, authorship, purpose, occasion, audience and themes of specific books and passages.
Once we have invited God into our reading time and have spent a few moments looking at the context and content of the passages, what are we going to do with it? If all of this remains in our heads without making real life application and response, we once again are missing the point of coming to Scripture. Scripture reading is only complete when we are changing and being transformed into the image of Christ, to then declare and demonstrate the love of God to those around us.
Scripture reading requires a response. For me, I love to open my journal and begin to write. What has God been saying to my soul through these passages? But more than that, how will I live today differently because of how God’s presence is interacting with me? I love this part of Bible reading because these notes then become testimonies of God’s faithfulness and love towards me as I look back on notes from years ago and see how He has been at work. If you don’t like writing or struggle to find time in your day to find some silence, perhaps start a new notes section on your phone or a new message with some friends of yours. This final aspect of Bible reading is so important, so why not try it out today?
Bringing God’s Word to life is a must for Riverlife as we continue as a family embracing His presence. This ancient discipline has transformed cities and has shaped cultures, and I am convinced that it will continue to do so in the days ahead. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! I’d encourage you to message a friend or mentor and ask them to read along with you. Once you invite God into the reading, seek out the context and content of the passage and then respond to what God is saying to you, just watch and see how God’s Word will come to life!