Sam (not his real name) is a man with a sin problem who wants to be free! I’ve met with Sam several times and realize that nothing short of the power of the Spirit and the Word can break the chains. He has good intentions, strong desire, and yet… recently he called me in the middle of the night after a relapse, but this time he was different. He wasn’t making excuses for his actions. Instead, he recognized that he had broken God’s heart and he acknowledged his real need of forgiveness. He was under the effect of the Word! (Please pray for him, won’t you? God knows who he is even though I must use a pseudonym in this TFTD!)
The Psalmist asks – How can a young man keep his way pure? Then, he answers – By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:9-12, NIV)
Does the Word shape your thoughts, your values, your actions?
I cannot over-emphasize the power that the Bible has to transform our ways of thinking! The Bible, when read often and with prayer for understanding from the Holy Spirit, reaches deep into our thought processes and changes us- inside out. I’m not talking about the kind of foolishness that causes people to seize a single verse out of context to justify an action they wish to take. That’s called ‘proof texting!’ Nor am I referring to studying the Bible with a purely literary point of view. though careful, thoughtful study of the historical context and literary forms of the text can be enlightening. One does not have to be an intellectual, nor does a person have to have a degree in ancient Semitic languages, to read the Scripture with understanding. To be transformed by the Word effect, we come with open heart, a willingness to ‘hear what the Spirit is saying’ as we read. Yes, there is a necessary place for scholarly study, for comparing our interpretation of passages with the understandings of others. And yet, we must not come to believe that the Bible is beyond our ability to read and comprehend.
Each morning, I open the Word to read a passage (sometimes only a verse, other times a whole story, or entire book). Through the course of the day, I find my mind returning to what I’ve read; reflecting on it, inquiring about the way that it is informing my choices, drawing on the lessons and principles. Admittedly some passages yield more diamonds than others! For sure! The Scripture shapes my worldview, corrects my thoughts; yes, is the arbiter that makes the call when I am faced with two roads from which to choose.
Strangely enough, it is a blessing that keeps many Believers from the Scripture. That blessing is the plethora of Christian books available. Many read much about the Bible, yet they never just read the Bible itself. They think that reading another’s interaction with the Word is enough. Then, too, some think that hearing a sermon from the Word (Oh, God help us to fill our pulpits with the Word!) is enough. These are grave errors. Having help to understand what is written in the sacred Text is a blessing, but everyone of us needs to interact with the Word ourselves when possible.
Dr. Timothy Johnson in his book, Finding God In The Questions, relates how he was looking for Jesus Christ, even though he had been a Christian Believer for years. He went back to reading the Gospels carefully and found that the Jesus he discovered again in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John was a Man far removed from the pictures and concepts presented in books and sermons. He found a new wonder over the “surprising teachings” of Jesus.
Believer, get yourself into the Scripture! (That might be better phrased, ‘get the Scripture into you.’) Make reading of the Bible text itself a daily practice. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a sparkling gem of new understanding on the first day. Don’t try to read too much. Don’t go for the hard passages first. Instead, pray for the Spirit to be at work, and then sit down to read.
If you’re new to the Word, start with Luke’s story of Jesus’ ministry.
Break away some mornings to read a Psalm, aloud, if possible.
Get a modern translation (or two) of the Scripture: one like the New International Version or the New Living Translation, so you don’t have to try to overcome the language barriers.
When you read a passage that defies a ready understanding or application, allow for some ambiguity! After all the Bible is not a textbook, it is a revelation of the Almighty, Eternal God!
- There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another
—showing us truth,
exposing our rebellion,
correcting our mistakes,
training us to live God’s way.
Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (2 Timothy 3:15-17, The Message)
May you come under the Word effect, transformed by the wisdom and wonder of the Scriptures!
How firm a foundation, Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith In His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not; I am with thee. O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, And cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, Omnipotent hand.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell Should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION © Public Domain CCLI License No. 810055