One of the biggest issues that isn’t being talked about enough is the issue of biblical illiteracy. Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, President of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”[i]
Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better–by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family.
Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.
Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study. Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people? Even the pulpit has been sidelined in many congregations. Preaching has taken a back seat to other concerns in corporate worship. The centrality of biblical preaching to the formation of disciples is lost, and Christian ignorance leads to Christian indolence and worse.
This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.
Americans read the Bible on occasion—churchgoers a little more. In a recent LifeWay Research study, we learned the following about our Bible reading habits among church attendees. They indicated that they read their Bible as follows:
- 19% – Every day
- 26% – A few times a week
- 14% – Once a week
- 22% – At least once a month
- 18% – Rarely or never.[ii]
There are a couple of interesting takeaways from this study. Almost 60% of churchgoers open our Bibles at home during the week at least once. And for every person who is reading his/her Bible every day (19%), someone isn’t… at all (18%).
The Ubiquity of the Bible
The English language Bible continues to be the most popular book in our world. Every year, about 25 million Bibles are sold in the United States[iii], with Bible publishers pulling more than a half billion dollars annually[iv]. Nine out of ten American homes have a Bible.[v] Among those homes, the average home here in the U.S. has three Bibles.[vi] The Gideon’s have passed out more than 1.9 billion Bibles.[vii] This year alone, our Bible societies will distribute more than 400 million Bibles.[viii]
Many Christians rightly believe that they need to read the Bible. Such Christians have reading plans and study the Bible themselves. Many other Christians tend to focus on reading the Word of God without application. Finally, many Christians read the Bible more like it’s a book of stories than the inspired Word of God. Understanding how to hear the Word of God, read the Word of God, and study the Word of God is vital.
A recent study conducted by Lifeway Research and sponsored by Ligonier Ministries produced a study called The State of Theology. This report tells us a lot about contemporary evangelicals and their beliefs. On one part of this study, they asked those polled to respond to the following statement: “The Bible was written for each person to interpret as they choose.” 14 percent strongly agreed, 31 agreed somewhat, 19 percent disagree somewhat, 26 percent agree strongly, and 10 percent aren’t sure (15). Self-identified evangelicals who attend church once a month or more (66%) are more likely to Strongly Disagree than Other Christians (22%) and Non-Christians (15%). Evangelicals (48%) and are more likely to Strongly Disagree than Black Protestants (35%), Catholics (18%), and Mainlines (18%).[ix]
The next part of the study asked responders if “the Bible alone is the written Word of God.” 30 percent agreed strongly, 18 agreed somewhat, 19 percent disagree somewhat, 19 percent disagree strongly, and 12 percent aren’t sure. Self-identified evangelicals who attend church once a month or more (79%) are more likely to Strongly Agree than Other Christians (27%) and Non-Christians (11%). Evangelicals (62%) are more likely to Strongly Agree than Black Protestants (46%), Catholics (17%), and Mainlines (22%).”[x]
The next part of the study considered the following statement, “The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.” 27 percent agreed strongly with this statement, 16 agreed somewhat, 21 percent disagreed somewhat, 25 percent disagree strongly, and 12 percent aren’t sure (16). Self-identified evangelicals who attend church once a month or more (78%) are more likely to Strongly Agree than Other Christians (23%) and Non-Christians (9%). Evangelicals (61%) are more likely to Strongly Agree than Black Protestants (43%), Catholics (12%), and Mainlines (17%).”[xi]
Hearing God’s Word
We could argue that the easiest of the spiritual disciplines is hearing the Word of God as it is preached. We must develop the regular practice of attending a local church where God’s Word is faithfully preached. In Luke 11:28, Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” So merely listening to God-inspired words is not the point. Hearing the Word should lead to obedience to what God says, which leads to Christ-likeness.
Or consider the words of Paul in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” While this verse is teaching about initial faith, we need this kind of faith day to day. For example, hearing about God’s provision may aid a family to trust God in the families’ difficult financial situation. Or hearing a biblically based sermon on the love of Christ may be God’s means of granting assurance to a downcast believer. So listen to the Word in church. Download podcasts. Listen to sermons. Today, you can even take sermons with you through your smartphone, laptop, mp3 player, etc.
Reading God’s Word
Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus desires His followers to read “every word” that comes from the mouth of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” so let us feast upon those words! In these spiritual disciplines of hearing and reading the Bible we encounter the transforming grace of God. The most critical discipline is one’s intake of Scripture.
Discipline yourself to find the time to hear and read the Word of God. Make a habit of getting up early if you must. Second, find a good Bible reading plan. Many Christians just open up their Bible and play Russian roulette with the Word of God. But if you do this, you lose the Scriptural context and miss out on some key passages. Many study Bibles contain a reading schedule somewhere in the front or back. Most local churches can provide you with a daily reading schedule also. Keep a record of which books of the Bible you’ve read. Put a check beside a chapter when you read it or the title of that book in the table of contents when you’ve completed. Regardless of how long it takes or in what order they are read, you’ll know when you’ve completed reading the Bible.
Studying God’s Word
Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” There’s an instructive significance to the sequence in this verse. Ezra (1) “devoted himself”, (2) “to the study”, (3) “and observant of the Law of the Lord”, and (4) “and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel”. Before he taught the Word of God to the people of God, he practiced what he learned. Ezra’s learning came from the Scriptures. Before he studied he first devoted himself to study. Ezra is an example of disciplining himself to study God’s Word.
The other example comes from Acts 17:11. Missionaries Paul and Silas has barely escaped from Thessalonica after their successful evangelistic work had provoked the Jews there to jealousy. When they repeated the same course of action in Berea, the Jews there responded different: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with greater eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The willingness to examine the Scripture is commended as noble character here.
Why do so many Christians neglect the study of God’s Word? Dr. R.C. Sproul said: “Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring but because its work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”
For some the problem may be about how to study or how to begin to study. The basic difference between Bible reading and Bible study is as simple as a pencil and a piece of paper (one can even use a laptop and Word to write down observations). Write down your observations about the text as you read and record questions that come to your mind. If your Bible has cross-references, look up the one’s that relate to the verses that prompt your questions, then record your insights. Find a key word in your reading and use the concordance found in the back of most Bibles to review the other references that use the word, and again note your findings. Another way to begin is to outline a chapter, one paragraph at a time. When you read that chapter, move on to the next until you’ve outlined the rest of the book. Before long you’ll have a far stronger grasp on a section of Scripture than you had by just reading it.
As you advance in the study of the Bible you will learn the value of in-depth word studies, character studies, topical studies, and book studies. You’ll discover a new richness in the Scripture as your understanding grows of how the grammar, history, culture, and geography surrounding a text affects its interpretation.
Don’t let a feeling of inadequacy keep you from the delight of learning the Bible on your own. Books, thick and thin, abound on how to study the Bible. They can provide more guidance regarding methods and tools that we can delve into in this blog post. Don’t settle only for spiritual food that has been “predigested” by others. Experience the joy of discovering biblical insights firsthand through your own Bible study.
If one could measure the quality of growth in godliness by the quality of one’s Bible intake what would be the result? One’s growth in godliness is greatly affected by your Bible intake. Jesus in John 17:17 said this, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” God’s plan for sanctifying us, that is, for making us holy and godly, is accomplished by means of “the truth”—His Word. If we settle for a poor quality of intake of hearing, reading and studying God’s Word we restrict the main flow of God’s sanctifying grace to us.
What is one thing I can do to improve my intake of God’s Word? Joining a group of like-mined believers to hear God’s Word preached each week should be a minimum. Many Bible-believing churches provide more than one opportunity each week to hear God’s Word. You may want to consider podcasts (we have regular sermons posted here on Servants of Grace), or Bible exposition on radio as options for increased hearing of God’s Word. Also inexpensive workbooks and study guides on every book in the Bible and a multitude of topics are available in Christian bookstores. Besides launching out individually, join a Bible study group in your local church or community or even consider starting a group study.
Whatever way you choose, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness by committing to at least one way of improving your intake of God’s Word. Those who use their Bibles little are really not much better off than those who have no Bible at all.
Memorizing God’s Word
Many Christians look on the spiritual discipline of memorizing God’s Word as something tantamount to modern day martyrdom. Memorizing Scripture is precious when viewed with the understanding of one depositing God’s Word within one’s mind. When Scripture is stored in the mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to one’s attention when they need it the most. Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” When the Holy Spirit brings a verse to mind in a specific situation it’s an illustration of Ephesians 6:17, “the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” A pertinent scriptural truth, brought to one’s awareness by the Holy Spirit at just the right moment can be the weapon that makes the difference in a spiritual battle. One of the ways one experiences more spiritual victories is to do as Jesus did—memorize Scripture so that it’s available for the Holy Spirit to take and ignite within one when it is needed the most.
Every Christian ought to want to grow in their faith. One way to do this is to strength oneself to memorize Scripture. Proverbs 22:17-19 encourages, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made them known to you today, even to you.” To “apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you” pertains to Scriptural memory. The reason given here for keeping the wise words of Scripture within you and ready on your lips is so that your trust may be in the Lord. Memorizing Scripture strengths your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when one needs to hear it again.
On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter was suddenly inspired by God to stand and preach to the crowd about Jesus. Much of what he said consisted of quotations from the Old Testament (Acts 2:14-40). There’s a qualitative difference between Peter’s uniquely inspired sermon and our Spirit-led conversations but his experience illustrations how Scripture memory can prepare one for unexpected witnessing or counseling opportunities that come one’s way.
Psalm 119:24 extols, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” The Holy Spirit will use whatever scriptural truth one has in one’s memory bank for the use of ministry and also to provide timely guidance to ourselves.
Memorization Fuels Meditation
One of the most underrated benefits of memorizing Scripture is that it provides fuel for meditation. When one memorizes a verse of Scripture one can meditate on it at any time during the day of night. Psalm 119:97 provides a great example of this, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit cannot give you a weapon you have not stored in the armory of one’s mind.
The main issue with memorizing Scripture is not a lack of memory, but a lack of motivation. If you know your birthday, phone number and address and can remember the names of family, friends, then you can memorize Scripture. The question becomes whether you are willing to discipline yourself to do it.
Having a plan for Scripture memory is crucial. There are several good prepackaged Scripture memory plans available in Christian bookstores. Memorizing Scripture on a topic of interest is helpful. Also, one can make a list of the verses on a sheet of paper or write each verse on a separate index card. When memorizing Scripture do not lower your standard of getting a few words right. Make sure you are memorizing every word and can recite it word for word. Memorize it word for word and learn the reference, too. Without an objective standard of measurement, the goal is unclear and one may tend to continue lowering the standard until one quits entirely. Make sure you also find an accountability partner to help you in your quest to scriptural memory.
Meditating on God’s Word: Benefits and Methods
Meditation in today’s culture is most identified as non-Christian systems of thought than with Biblical Christianity. Even among Christians, the practice of meditation is often closely associated with yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or the New Age Movement. As a result of this many Christians are uncomfortable with the whole topic of meditation and suspicious of those who engage in it. Christians must remember that meditation is commanded by God and modeled by the godly in Scripture.
The kind of meditation encouraged in Scripture differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which one empties their mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to create one’s reality. Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of one’s God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is one’s servant to help one meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Instead of attempting to create one’s reality through visualization Christians link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.
Meditation is the deep thinking on truths and scriptural realities as revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word.
Joshua 1:8 and the Promise of Success
There is a Scriptural connection between success and the practice of meditation found in Joshua 1:8. As the Lord was commissioning Joshua to succeed Moses as the leader of His people He told him, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
The prosperity and success the Lord speaks here is prosperity and success from God’s perspective not the world’s. From a New Testament perspective we know that the main application of this promise would be to the prosperity of the soul and spiritual success. True success is promised to those who meditate on God’s Word, who think deeply on Scripture not only as one time each day, but at moments throughout the day and night. They meditate so much that Scripture saturates their conversation. The fruit of their meditation is in action. They do what they find written in God’s Word and as a result God prospers their way and grants them success.
Psalm 39:3 says, “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.” The Hebrew word translated meditated here is related to the one rendered meditate in Joshua 1:8. When we hear, read, study or memorize, the fire of God’s Word, the addition of meditation becomes like a bellows upon what we’ve taken in. As the fire blazes more brightly, it gives off more light (insight and understanding) and heat (passion for obedient action). As a result of this one will be prosperous and successful. Why does the intake of God’s Word often leave one cold and why don’t we have more success in our spiritual life? Thomas Watson has the answer, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”
Psalm 1:1-3- The Promises
God’s promises in Psalm 1:1-3 regarding meditation are every bit as generous as Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
We think about what we delight in. The tree of your spiritual life thrives best with meditation because it helps you absorb the water of God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26). Merely hearing or reading God’s Word can be like a short rainfall on hard ground. Regardless of the amount or intensity of the rain most runs off and little sinks in. Meditation opens the soil of the soul and lets the water of God’s Word percolate in deeply. The result is extraordinary fruitfulness and spiritual prosperity.
The author of Psalm 119 was confident that he was wiser than all his enemies (Psalm 119:98). Moreover he said, “I have more insight than all my teachers” (verse 99). Is it because he heard or studied or memorized God’s Word more than every one of his enemies and his teacher? Probably not! The Psalmist was wiser; not necessarily because of more input, but because of more insight. Psalm 119:98-99 gives the answer to this issue, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”
It is possible to encounter a torrential amount of God’s Truth but without absorption one will be little better for the experience. Medication is the absorption. Meditation is important for spiritual fruitfulness and prosperity. Even if the total input of God’s Word were the same as it was in prior centuries, we today have experienced a flash flood of information that the Psalmist could never have imagined. Combine this with some of the modern responsibilities and the result is a mental distraction and dissipation that choke one’s absorption of Scripture.
Select an appropriate passage
The easiest way to decide what to meditate on is to choose the verses, phrase or word that impressed one the most during the reading of Scripture. Meditation is essentially a subjective activity a fact that underscores the importance of basing it on Scripture the perfectly objective resource. One’s understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit also leads one to believe that many times He, as Author of the book, will impress one with a certain part of Scripture because that is the very part He wants one to meditate on for that day. This approach can be misused or taken to an extreme. We must use wisdom to make sure we don’t fail to meditate on the Person and work of Jesus and the great themes of the Bible.
Verses that relate to one’s concerns and personal needs are ones that you should use for meditation. We should not approach the Bible as simply a digest of wise advice, a collection or promises or an “answer book”, it is God’s will that we give our attention to those things He has written that directly pertain to one’s circumstances. If you’ve been struggling with your thought life, read Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
One of the most consistent ways to select a passage for meditation is to discern the main message of the selection of your encounter with Scripture and meditate on its meaning and application. After one does this one should repeat the verse or phrase of Scripture by mulling it over. The point here is not to repeat vainly each word of the verse until they’ve been emphasized. The purpose is to think deeply upon the light (Truth) that flashes into your mind each time the verse is turned. After one does this look for application. Ask yourself, “How am I to respond to this text?” The outcome of meditation should be application. Like chewing without swallowing, so meditation is incomplete without some type of application.
Pray through God’s Word. Psalm 119:18 begs, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your life.” The Holy Spirit guides one into all truth (John 14:26). Meditation is more than just riveted human concentration or creative mental energy. Praying your way through a verse of Scripture submits the mind of the Holy Spirit’s illumination for the text and intensifies your spiritual perception. The Bible was written under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, so pray for His illumination in your mediation. Meditation always involves two people—the Christian and the Holy Spirit. Praying over a text is the invitation for the Holy Spirit to hold His divine light over the words of Scripture to show you what you cannot see without Him.
When meditating on Scripture take your time. Read less if necessary. Although many Christians need to find the time to increase their Bible reading, there may be some who are spending all the time they can or should be reading the Bible. If you could not possibly add more time to your devotional schedule for meditating on Scripture reading, read less in order to have some unhurried time for meditation. Even though you may find moments throughout the day when you can meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:97), the best meditation generally occurs when it’s part of one’s main daily encounter with the Bible.
Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods
The Bible promises the blessing of God on those who apply the Word of God to one’s daily life. The classic New Covenant statement on the value of integrating the spiritual with the concrete is James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Pithy and powerful is Jesus’ similar statement in John 13:17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
These verses teach that there can be a delusion in hearing God’s Word. Without minimizing the sufficiency of Scripture nor the power of the Holy Spirit to work through even the most casual brush with the Bible, we can frequently be deluded about Scripture’s impact on our lives. According to James, we can experience God’s truth so powerfully that what the Lord wants us to do becomes as plain as our face in the morning mirror. If we do not apply the truth as we meet it, we delude ourselves by thinking we have gained practical value, regardless of how wonderful the experience of discovering the truth has been. The one who will be blessed in what he does is the one who does what Scripture says.
For someone to be blessed in what he does is the equivalent of the promises of blessing, success and prosperity given in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3 to those who meditate on God’s Word. That’s because meditation should ultimately lead to application. When God instructed Joshua to meditate on His word day and night, He told him the purpose for meditating was “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The promise “then you will be prosperous and successful” would be fulfilled, not as the result of meditation only, but as God’s blessing upon meditation-forged application.
The Lord wants you to be a doer of the Word. One should open the Bible with expectancy and anticipate the discovery of a practical response to the truth of God. It makes a big difference to come to the Bible with the faith that you will find an application for it as opposed to believing you won’t. Thomas Watson was called the nursing mother of the gigantic evangelical divines, and encouraged anticipation about application when he said, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins” when it presents any duty, “God intends me in this.”” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written but if you intend to profit by the Word bring it home to yourselves, since medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.
Because of God’s inspiration of Scripture, believe that what you are reading was meant for you as well as for the first recipient of the message. Without that attitude you’ll rarely perceive the application of the passage of Scripture to your personal situation. Meditation is not an end in itself. Deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities of Scripture is the key to putting them into practice. It is by means of meditating on the Bible that facts are fleshed out into practical application.
If one reads, hears, or studies God’s Word without meditating on it, no wonder “applying Scripture to concrete situations” is difficult. Perhaps we could even train a parrot to memorize every verse of Scripture that we do, but if we don’t apply those verses to life, they won’t be of much lasting value to us or the parrot. How does the Word memorized become the Word applied? It happens through meditation.
Most information, even biblical information, flows through our minds like water through a sieve. There’s usually so much information come in each day and it comes in so quickly that we retain very little. When we meditate the truth remains and percolates. We can smell its aroma more fully and taste it better. As it brews in our brain the insights come. The heart is heated by meditation and cold truth is melted into passionate action.
Psalm 119:15 states, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” It was through meditation on God’s Word that the psalmist discerned how to regard God’s ways for living, that is, how to be a doer of them. The way to determine how any Scripture applies to the concrete situations of life is to meditate on that Scripture.
Asking questions is one of the ways to meditate. The more questions you ask and answer about a verse of Scripture the more you will understand it and the more clearly you will see how it applies. Here are some examples of this: Does this text reveal something I should believe about God? Does this text reveal something I should praise or thank or trust God for? Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others? Does this text reveal something I should have a new attitude about? Does this text reveal something I should make a decision about? Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others, or myself? There are times when a verse of Scripture will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page and plead with you to do what it says. More often than not, however, you must interview the verse, patiently asking questions of it until a down-to-earth response becomes clear.
Respond specifically to Scripture. An encounter with God through His Word should result in at least one specific response. After you have concluded your time of Bible intake you should be able to name at least one definite response you have made or will make to what you have encountered. That response may be an explicit act of faith, worship, praise, thanksgiving or prayer. It may take the form of asking someone’s forgiveness or speaking a word of encouragement. The response may involve the forsaking of sin or showing an act of love. Regardless of the nature of that response, consciously commit yourself to at least one action to take following the intake of God’s Word.
A Final Thought
Will you begin a plan of memorizing God’s Word? If you’ve been a Christian very long, you’ve probably memorized more Scripture than you realize. Will you cultivate the discipline of meditating on God’s Word? Occasional Godward thoughts are not meditation. William Bridge said, “A man may think on God every day and meditate on God, no day.” God calls His people throughout the Scriptures to develop the practice of dwelling on Him in our thoughts. When you consider what the Scriptures say about meditation and when you weight the testimonies of some of the most godly men and women of Church history, the importance and value of Christian meditation for progress in Christian growth is undeniable.
Will you prove yourself an applier of the Word? You have read many verses from the Word of God in this series on reading and studying the Bible. What will you do in response to these passages of Scripture? The discipline of Bible intake, especially the discipline of applying God’s Word will often be difficult. The great difficulty in applying the Bible is the opposition to it. Dr. J.I. Packer said this:
“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and man traps, to frighten people off. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.”
Now that you have learned to read and study the Bible, are you now willing at all costs, to use your mind in a disciplined way to feed on the Word of God for the purpose of godliness? If your answer to that question is yes, then you are ready to grow in the knowledge of the Word of God and the Gospel of God since, “Nobody ever outgrows scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years.”
[i] The State of the Bible Six Trends for 2014, 8 April, 2014, accessed December 2016. http://www.barna.com/research/the-state-of-the-bible-6-trends-for-2014/#.VkZeQr9xJpu
[ii] Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers.
[iii] Guthrie, G. (2011). Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word. Nashville, TN: B&H. p.4
[iv] Crosby, Cindy. “Not Your Mother’s Bible.” Publisher’s Weekly, 27 Oct. 2006
[v] “The State of the Bible: 2014”. American Bible Society, Feb. 2014.
[vi] “The State of the Bible: 2014”. American Bible Society, Feb. 2014.
[vii] “About Us: Our History.” Gideons, Accessed via web. 8 July 2014. http://www.gideons.org/AboutUs/OurHistory.aspx
[viii] Guthrie, G. (2011). Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word. Nashville, TN: B&H. p.4
[ix] The State of Theology Theological Awareness Benchmark Study Full Survey and Key Findings 28 October 214, accessed 22 December 2016. http://ligonier-static-media.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/thestateoftheology/TheStateOfTheology-FullSurveyKeyFindings.pdf