Ah Part three. This is a fun one! So far I have spoken a bit about the ideas that we have about devotions, that our attitude towards the scripture cannot beone where we simply engage with scripture for a half-hour a day without letting it permeate every part of our lives. I don’t want you to read these blog posts and feel guilty about not reading the Bible enough, but I do want to help give you a vision for the word of God. Guilt is not a good enough motivation to have the Bible influence you, but the way that the Holy Spirit can speak through the word can begin to get you excited, and that is my prayer!
If you haven’t read part one and two yet, take some time and check them out, then head back over here.
**Please note that a lot of this post is taken from John Piper’s Book “Desiring God”
The Benefits and Power of Scripture
In his book, Desiring God, John Piper has given many incredible benefits to reading scripture. My prayer for this is it will ignite a passion in your heart to make reading the word and truly ingesting the word a priority in your life!
Faith Comes by Hearing (John 20:23)
Jesus’ very words confirm that the way that we come to and grow in our faith is through the hearing and understanding of scripture. John 20:23 is John’s own intent in writing his gospel that “these things are written that you may believe. What we know to be true as foundational to our beliefs as well as what sustains us and grows our faith comes through scripture.
God Supplies His Spirit by the Hearing of Faith (Romans 8:5)
Romans 8:5 says that those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. How are we to do this? By setting our minds on scripture. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through scripture, leads us to Jesus through scripture, and ultimately makes us more like Jesus as we interact with Him through scripture. Along with this, we will experience a deeper communion with and filling of the Holy Spirit if we stay rooted in scripture.
The Scriptures give Hope
Hope is something that can be hard to come by these days. Often it is easy to get lost in the things of this world and the disappointments that it can bring. The reality is that scripture is unchanging. It constantly provides truth that remains true regardless of our circumstance. Staying in the word helps provide us with hope even in the darkest of circumstances. Many times the words of Romans 8 (that nothing can separate me from the love of God) and Psalm 23 (the Lord is my shepherd, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul) brought hope to me in the midst of my own dark thoughts. Where can we stay rooted in hope? Only in God’s word.
The Truth shall make You free (John 8:32)
This is one of the most incredible promises in scripture: “you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32- Jesus’ words).” When we believe lies (about ourselves, about God, about others), they act as bonds and ultimately enslave us. If I believe that I am unlovable, this lie will affect how I live my life. If I believe that God is unloving, this will even more affect how I live my life because nothing I do would ever be enough for Him. Knowing the truth truly sets one free… freedom from slavery to sin, freedom for holiness, freedom to receive grace, freedom from fear. If you don’t believe this, try saturating your life with scripture and see what happens 🙂
The Testimony of the Lord makes Wise the Simple
The Scriptures continually promise that wisdom will come to a person if they seek it and ask for it, but often that promise comes with an instruction… to pursue it in the word of God (Proverbs 2:1-5). The best definition of wisdom that I have ever heard: ‘wisdom is knowledge rightly used.’ This definition differentiates wisdom from knowledge, as I know many very smart people who I would not consider very wise. We can know scripture, but if we don’t know how to practically live it out, this knowledge falls short of the wisdom that we are promised throughout scripture. We grow in wisdom by seeking it through scripture and inviting the Holy Spirit to increase it in us (James 1:4-8).
The Bible is God’s “I Love You” (Corey Russell)
In his book, Pursuit of the Holy, Corey Russell engages in this topic quite effectively by reassuring us that the Bible is God’s “I love you.” He uses the analogy of his relationship with his wife, that the intention of his heart is made clear to his wife when he speaks it to her. Even more true is the fact that the intentions of God’s heart are made clear to his children, us, through scripture. How do we know what is on God’s heart? His WORD. He has made so much of Himself available to know through scripture, His feelings towards us, His plans for us and humanity. The Bible is God’s “I love you.”
The BIble is our only Offensive Weapon Against the Enemy (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Ephesians 6 is a well known passage in which Paul engages the topic of spiritual warfare. He states that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities of darkness in the Heavenly realms. He then goes on to list armour that Christians are to be equipped with so that they can stand firm when (not if) the attack of the enemy comes. The only offensive piece of the armour is the ‘Sword of the Spirit (the word of God)’ John Piper so beautifully illustrates this saying:
“What many Christians fail to realize is that we can’t draw the sword from someone else’s scabbard. If we don’t wear it, we can’t wield it, If the word of God does not abide in us (John 15:7), we will reach for it in vain when the enemy strikes.”
We need to know the word in able to wield it… I want to be sure that I am ready to stand firm in the midst of temptation and turmoil, and the only way to do this is through the word of God.
Common Misconceptions about Scripture
It is extremely important that we put to death some false views of scripture. Many different approaches to the word can taint our desire and steal away from the power of the word in our lives. I don’t want to spend too much time on this so I will not go into too much detail here. But it is important that I make mention of these misconceptions (many of which I have believed from time to time).
‘The BIble is a good book with Answers to all of Life’s Questions’
The Bible is NOT a glorified self-help book. While it does provide a lot of practical advice for living and (what I believe) lays out the best possible way to live one’s life (Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5ff), the Bible is so much more than a manual for the good life.
‘The Bible is just a good Historical Book’
Some people simply view the Bible as a good historical document. Again, this is limiting the power of scripture for today. While I believe that the Bible is true historically, to say that the principles and truths laid out in the Bible are limited to history (the gifts of the Spirit, the power of the resurrection, the fruit of a Spirit-filled community) is missing out on how scripture can speak directly to us today.
‘The Bible is God’s word to North America’
The Bible was not written by God to North America! The Bible was inspired by God through men to specific cultures in a specific place in history. It is of critical importance to seek to understand those cultures as it can help bring the scriptures to life in an entirely new way! The Bible needs to be understood as it was meant to be understood by its original readers and, because of this, how we interpret the Bible may look a little different.
‘Knowledge of Scripture is an end in Itself’
This one is a HUGE stumbling block for many people that I know. I have already addressed the fact that we need the Bible for more than head knowledge, but this goes even deeper than that. Jesus called out the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean”
You see, the Pharisees knew the scriptures inside and out. They studied the law, memorized it, worshipped it! But this was not enough. Their hearts were far from God and because of this, Jesus called them out at a heart level. The attitude of our hearts towards scripture is so important to God. We need to understand that scripture is a MEANS to meeting Jesus, not an END in simply knowing more. If we are not growing in our relationship with God through the Holy Spirit than we are no better than the Pharisees…. whitewashed tombs.
‘The Bible is Just a Textbook, or Just a Devotional’
This lie is HUGE for me. There is a constant tension towards approaching the BIble as a ‘text’ and approaching the BIble as a ‘devotional.’ While there is nothing wrong with either of these, the problem comes when one is an extreme. During my 6 years finishing my 4 year BTS in Pastoral Studies there were numerous times when the Bible was just a textbook. I read it as a text because I had to and it did not devotionally engage my heart with Jesus. On the flip side, there have been times when I have approached the Bible completely devotionally, not taking into account the fact that understanding the historical, social, and religious context of the book and therefore interpreting the BIble in ways were frankly untrue. We need to see the BIble as a textbook (something to be studied and understood) as well as a devotional (something to inform our relationship with God and help us grow to become more like Jesus).
What’s to Come
Thanks for tracking with me so far on this! It is my prayer that you have been encouraged by these words. I realize that today has been quite a lengthy post but as I said I hope that the Holy Spirit has been increasing your desire to interact with God through His very word. Stay tuned for a few more posts, the next on different ways that we can engage with scripture and the final one on setting realistic goals and preparing an action plan to see this discipline come to fruition in your life! Blessings!