Often one of our New Year (or mid-year) resolutions is to be more consistent in reading our Bible. The good news is there a lot of helpful Bible reading plans out there. Unfortunately, too soon our resolve falls by the way side and we chide ourselves for not being faithful or diligent enough. Next year, we promise, we will do better.
I often think, however, it’s not so much our sporadic approach to God’s Word that is lacking as much as it is our overall approach.
Too often we have approached God’s Word as simply a resource for teaching, or as an inspirational handbook for living, or as a mine of proof-texts for defending our dogmas, (“I’m right; you’re wrong.”) rather than the revelation of Christ to our hearts. When we approach the biblical text as information that needs to be analyzed or to prove our already presuppositions, we will see only what we want to see. In this way we keep Scripture “safe,” at arm’s length and we maintain our false that somehow we are in control of the text. It has been reduced to something that is studied, memorized and debated but not “heard” personally. When we do we will miss what God is saying to us, saying about himself, and His Word will have no meaningful connection to our lives. I believe this could explain why so many people can read God’s Word and remain relatively unchanged by it.
Eugene Peterson, in his excellent book Eat this Book, writes: “This may be the single most important thing to know as we come to read and study and believe these Holy Scriptures: this rich, alive, personally revealing God addressing us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, at whatever age we are, in whatever state we are—me, you, us. Christian reading is participatory reading, receiving the words in such a way that they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience ways of love” (p. 28).
He encourages us to read out Bibles as “fully and attentively and personally and responsively as we are able.”
Someone has said, “Alive words must be read in an alive manner.” So perhaps we need to change our approach to scripture. Perhaps to allow the scriptures come alive in our hearts requires that we see with new eyes. Do you remember the “Magic Eye” that was popular in the 80’s? It required us to look differently; to see through to the “picture in the picture”. It required we bring our whole self to come to the text with openness, vulnerability, curiosity, and time. It was always exhilarating to “discover” the mysteriously hidden picture that was not obvious to the untrained eye.
To truly allow the text to become Scripture to us we must approach come with this kind of openness and attentiveness. To truly “hear” will require we put aside our agenda and need to control the text and be willing listen with this same sense of wonder, vulnerability, and curiosity. It will also take time to “sit” with the text; reading, re-reading, pondering and reflecting.
In this way when we approach scripture as the living word of God it invites us to pay attention to how God may be speaking to us in a fresh way and we connect with God in ways we never dreamed possible. When we do, there is so much more than we thought and the words of Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” become a reality in our lives.
Once again, Eugene Peterson: “It is a person that we are learning, not a book. We are connecting with God, not words. We are to experience the mystery of the gospel, not just learn about it.”
I guess what I really wanted to say in all this: “The point is meeting God in the text.” I hope you don’t miss him because you are not looking.
How might you allow the text to settle into your heart today in such way that it becomes holy ground on which you encounter God?