Before his conversion, Paul and his fellow Pharisees had all read the same scriptures, and most could quote the book of Isaiah from memory. Yet, with their great knowledge and scrupulous study, they had completely missed the Life that was in the Word. How could this happen to such zealous guardians of the truth? The truth was right there in front of them – in fact they had memorized it. But their hearts had become so dull that their eyes could not see what was written and their ears could not hear what the Word of Life was telling them. Matthew 13:10-17.
In Luke 8:18, Jesus gave the disciples this critical warning: “Therefore, take heed how you hear” … and now that we have the scriptures in written form, we can also say, “Be careful how you read.”
When I read the words of the Bible, I have to ask myself: Do I crave to hear what the Spirit wants to teach me? When I read it, do I let its truth strip me of my pretenses so that I can honestly and boldly seek help before the throne of grace? Has this book become the Word of Life for me? Or is it just a bag of stones to throw at others?
Words for life
If I love the truth about myself, then when I read the Word of God, it is to my benefit to read what is actually written, and carefully consider the implications of those words for my daily Christian walk:
- “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17.
Do I believe that “all” means all? Can that apply even to mundane deeds like sweeping the floor or doing homework? What about hanging out with friends? Does the prospect of doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus seem like a Word of Life for me? Or am I more worried that my friends might think I’ve become a “buzzkill?” If the latter, maybe I should reconsider whom I hang out with.
- “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
Jesus’ commandment to “be perfect” really says something incredible about the “future and hope” He had in mind for His disciples. (Jeremiah 29:11) But as Judas sat together with his brethren and heard those words, he did not hear it as a life-giving word. From his actions, his thoughts might be deduced: “Aw, come on, Teacher, no one can be that perfect.” When I read the same words today, which voice should I listen to: the one that apparently spoke to Judas, or to the Word of Life Himself?
- “By the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body.” Romans 8:13.
As Christians, we know we are saved by grace through faith. Therefore, based on the scripture above, whose job is it to put to death the deeds of the body – the Spirit’s or ours? (Clue: it isn’t the Spirit’s). The throne of grace provides help for victory in temptation – not comfort for remaining in sin. Indeed, God’s grace offers forgiveness and cleansing for all who come to Him by faith. But grace is not a hiding place for those who are unwilling to let go of the sins they came in with.
The Word of God – for or about us?
Some people say, “All of the Bible is for us, but not all of it is about us.” There is a glimmer of truth in this. Suppose we are reading Revelation 21:8, and the Spirit reveals some points where we have been fearful, weak in faith, idolizing the greatness of this world, etc. If we repent and forsake those old ways, then Revelation 21:8 has been good for us but, God be praised, it is not about us. But if the Spirit shows us those hidden sins and instead of receiving that judgment, we comfort ourselves by comparing ourselves to people who we think are even worse, then Revelation 21:8 is not only for us, it is also about us.
Likewise, if we fight the good fight so that we overcome lying, then all of the things that are written about overcomers are also written about us. (Revelation 21:7) This is simple enough for a child to understand.
We often meet people who are new in the area and when the topic comes around to faith, they will usually say something like: “Yes, we are looking for a church where we can be comfortable.” Depending on the person, finding such a church may be easy or nearly impossible. But if people are hungry for the Word of Life – that is, hungry for a word that points them toward a new life in Christ – then they can find it simply by approaching the Scriptures with humility and a love for the truth about themselves. God will lead such people to others with the same mind, and they will find fellowship in the spirit.
Quote from J.O. Smith:
“Be an independent person – think for yourself and hear for yourself, read for yourself in the Scriptures, and judge and discern for yourself in everything. Then you will become spiritual and useful in the Lord’s service.”