Do you read the Word of God for information or revelation? Do you approach it as the transformative power in your life, or do you simply read it as a resource? Do you try to bend it for your own purposes, or do you allow it to bend you?
Today’s instructional climate encourages knowledge through education for the purpose of using what you know as a tool to better yourself. We are encouraged to read the latest book with the template on “how to”, watch the latest life coach video, or listen to the most innovative speaker on how to maximize your life. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, there is an underlying mindset that in order to succeed, you must gain knowledge and manipulate it for your purposes. We are encouraged to even approach eternal truths the way a scientist puts his experiment under a microscope. Henry Nouwen wrote:
“ My growing suspicion is that our competitive, productive, skeptical, sophisticated society inhibits our reading and being read by the Word of God.”
I liken this to eating your food without savoring or chewing each bite. Like taking a food supplement that has all the right nutrients but not taste or relish.
The Bible has even been used in history to justify the most atrocious acts on humanity. Some Christians wield the Bible the way a person wields a gun. They look for proof texts, to justify their position and use that knowledge to beat on people. In the world of Bible scholars, the one who knows how to dissect the Scriptures the best wins. Some use the Bible only as a resource to enhance their life or to solve some dilemma. Others use it only for comfort during hard times or even to yield riches and wealth. What is wrong with this picture?
Even we Christians can use the Bible in a way that is self-serving and manipulative. Just give me the five principles for success in the Word and I will do it. Instead of being read by the Word the way, we merely read the word for its informational, “how-to” value, but never as God invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good”.
It is clear that the way God views His word is different than just a resource or a set of principles to help us be better people. “The word of the LORD tested him” (Joseph). This was a process Joseph could not control or dissect in a laboratory, but could only submit to. He could master teachings on 3 ways to get out of prison. He could only surrender to the Word of God. That is indeed humbling to our flesh.
The saints and mystics of old approached the Word of God in a way that is not informational, but revelational. “Lectio Divina” is Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or “holy reading,” and has been practiced by Christians and Catholics alike. It is a way of approaching the Scriptures that calls a person to study, meditate, listen and, pray and (even sing) and speak from the Word, from their heart.
This is vastly different from approaching the Word for what it can do for us. Submitting to the Word means that the Word doesn’t just do something for me, but it does something to me.
It’s not what we read, but how we approach what we read. Do we approach it with a full cup of intellect, or a cracked, empty cup in meekness?
Approaching God’s word is a lot like feasting.
First you take a bite (Read), then you chew (Meditate), then savor(Speak it), then you digest, making it part of your body (It becomes part of your life).
As we come to the Word, do we say, “Lord, lay I open my heart, my thoughts, and my life. Transform me into what I must become”?