Happy New Year!!!
As 2018 kicks off, I can imagine most of you have made New Year resolutions you plan on sticking by this coming year. Whether it be increased fitness, dietary intake, how much money you spend, how many friends you make, books you read, or perhaps how many times you engage with the Bible! For this post, I want to provide and facilitate some helpful tips and give perspective on how I engage with the latter- reading from the Word of God and how it’s impacted me this year. The discipline of self-feeding from the Bible is fairly difficult for a lot of Christians. Many rely solely on their church leadership to feed them Sunday to Sunday. Others may open up this Sacred Book and haven’t the slightest clue on where to start. This post is meant to help you engage with the written Word of God.
There have been many occasions where I’ve flipped from one area of the Bible to discover my current life situation didn’t apply to the text; so I moved on! And so on and so forth. If you are in this situation today, I would exhort you to start with the Psalms. The Psalms are considered to be medicinal remedies for the heart, a collection of songs for the tongue, and delicious treats to be devoured for the soul. View the Psalms as such.
Let’s start by looking at the inerrant words of Psalm 19:7-11. Psalm 19 has a lot to say to us about God’s Word. Furthermore, Psalm 19 is an easy place to start with observing the Scriptures.
Psalm 19 (ESV):
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Many theologians and students of the Bible have come to the consensus that Psalm 19 is a condensed version of Psalm 119. If however, you have not wandered enough into the Scriptures to stumble upon Psalm 119, I suggest you ought to discover the splendors of truth contained within those 176 verses. At the time David penned Psalm 19, the Scriptures were in a stage of infancy. However, David loved and cherished God’s written law with the texts he had. It’s quite a misinterpretation when the Christian reads Galatians 3:10-13 – “the law being a curse” – and remove it from it’s context; as if the law were bad. On the contrary, it is the law that is perfect and holy as God is, and rather we are bad! (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10-13). It’s us that fall short of the glory of God in the things the law requires of us. It’s us that were to be recipients of God’s just wrath. Then came grace and mercy. Then came the Champion of Heaven, our Lord Jesus; God from God, Light from Light, and thus God satisfying God. He who fulfills the law perfectly. The Hero of the Gospel.
With Psalm 19:7-11 as our template, let’s walk through a few applications together and take a quick study from these short passages. I’ve also found it easier for me to read short verses per day rather than entire sections or chapters.
Notice in Psalm 19, David is declaring the wondrous work of God’s law. If you look carefully, you can see David methodically placing rooted synonyms of God’s Word (highlighted in cyan) before attributing a quality of value to it (highlighted in green). From Psalm 19:7, at once we can declare the Scriptures to be without error! (see also 2 Timothy 3:16). Thus we can apply the doctrine that God’s Word is trustworthy (see also Proverbs 30:5, Psalm 18:30). Secondly, we might notice that it [the Word] causes an effect – a verb (highlighted in maroon). The Word of God causes us or produces within us intended holiness.
See Psalm 19:7, it revives the soul as if the soul were dead! Making wise- or giving knowledge to someone who previously didn’t have knowledge.
See Psalm 19:8, it causes our hearts to have joy! Enlightening to the eyes- giving us greater understanding!
See Psalm 19:9, it is enduring forever! From ages past to present day, the Word of God will be put to the test and found as champion over every idea and philosophy.
See Psalm 19:10, MORE TO BE DESIRED than gold – even much fine gold! Sweeter than honey and the drippings of a honeycomb!
Stop here for a moment! Look at your Bible! Take hold of it in your hands! Flip through it and go toward the luminous parables of Luke in the Gospels. Now to the warrior Gideon in Judges as he victors over the Midianites. Next turn to the heedful instructions God gives to Moses concerning His laws in Leviticus. . .
Every single word contained in this Book – David says – are to be more desired than gold. God would have surely given David the finest of all the treasures of Earth. But David says the very Words that come from YOU ARE FAR GREATER, O LORD! Furthermore, my hands have never touched a brick of gold in my almost 23 years of life, perhaps they never will in this lifetime, but the most priceless of all the treasures in my possession is His written Word; my Bible. From day to day, it may not seem so, but David reminds me- it is!
It’s also important to note that David knew of nothing sweeter than honey. It was a treat and perhaps a daring feat to go beyond the walls of Jerusalem and acquire a comb of honey from Judean honey bees. David declares how much sweeter the words of Jehovah were!
Finally, we conclude in Psalm 19:11 that by keeping His Word, there is great reward. God rewards those who observe His statutes by which no good thing will be held from them (Psalm 84:11).
I hope this illustration helps you in your endeavor to know God through His Word. That’s just five verses, a mere stone hidden on the mountain of Scripture. Below are a few more tips on how I’ve been feeding on the Bible. Like any sort of training, it takes time and dedication to produce intended results; which is your holiness.
– Don’t journal for the sake of journaling if you’re not good at writing: I’m probably going to catch a lot of flak for this because pretty much 99.9% of the staff at my church use the REAP method (Here’s a resource to the REAP methodology). Confession, I use the REAP method as well for the sake of remembering certain passages of Scripture for specific seasons I went through. But not everyday… No where in the Scriptures are we instructed to have a full page discourse of what we read every morning. If it’s a distraction to your daily intake or seen as a requirement in your quiet time – then opt not to journal. If you do journal, which is encouraged, don’t write a full dissertation over God’s Sovereignty in election from Romans 9. A few short sentences per day is enough.
– Memorize Scripture: Smaller verses at a time if you have to. In Judean culture, the reading of the Word of God (the Tenakh or Torah) only occurred on the Sabbath day. Throughout the week, it was recited by heart. The Psalmist of Psalm 119:11 says that he has stored up the Word of God in his heart so that he might not sin against God.
I memorize what I like to call “staple verses” – these are simply short verses that holistically tie in a doctrine. For example, the supremacy, inspiration, and sufficiency of the Bible – I’ve memorized three verses that collectively tie in those doctrines. They’re 2 Timothy 3:16 (“All Scripture is breathed out…“), Proverbs 30:5 (“Every Word of the Lord proves true“), and Psalm 18:30 (alt of Prov 30:b “the Word of the Lord proves true”). Or when presented the Universalist question – “do all people go to heaven?” – John 14:6 (“I am the way the truth and the life…”)
Try writing a scripture down five times on a sheet of paper until you’ve memorized it. Or perhaps consume a scripture in the morning, review throughout the day with reminders, and test yourself before bed. Over time, you’ll notice a pastor recite scripture at church and you’ll be able to complete it with the address; book, chapter and verse.
– Look for Christ in every angle of the Scriptures (Lectio Divina): This is extremely important for the sanctification of yourself and for your personal walk with Jesus. Ask yourself the question “Where does Jesus fit into this?” in every corner of the Bible – all of God’s Word testifies to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a practice known as Lectio Divina. This is the “charismatic” approach of Bible reading that the saints have been using for over a thousand years.
– Meditate or Reflect: Put your Bible down and reflect on what the Lord has revealed to you in His Word. As a painfully introverted person, I often struggle with communicating with people; even close friends. However, it’s easier for me to trap myself deep in thought to ponder the things of the Lord. Go for a walk, clear your mind, and launch your mind into the works of God revealed in Scripture.
– FIGHT for your time: No one of great physical fitness became that way out of spontaneity. They had to train for it. I recently discipled someone who was ‘jacked’ and incredibly fit. However, with that – he was dedicated to going to the gym every day. He even mentioned that he had to intentionally fight for that reserved time of day. Like striving for fitness, you must be disciplined. Train yourself with the Word of God and intentionally reserve time to meet with the Lord. Try getting up earlier or reading on your lunch break.
– AVOID ACADEMIC CHRISTIANITY but strive for Student Mastery of the Bible: This is something my friend, roommate, and long-time mentor, Daniel, has rebuked me on recently. He noticed I attributed a spectrum of labels to myself: Calvinist, Baptist, Dispensationalist, Complementarian, etc – rather than beloved son, redeemed, and recipient of grace.
I noticed I had been learning Greek, ascending the mountains of lofty doctrines and creeds since the days of the early Church; yet struggled at praying and trusting.
Don’t sacrifice your relationship with the Lord for second-hand doctrines in the hopes of gaining more knowledge. Study them with the hopes of producing worship toward an incredible God! Studying dense theology and doctrine is extremely rewarding – but it’s not the ultimatum. Drop the labels too – you’re a son or daughter first.
I pray you plunge yourself deep into the Scriptures this year. Finding it joy to be reminded of God’s unchangeable nature. To be reminded of the Gospel story, a phenomenon found no where else apart from the Word.
Charles Spurgeon, who is perhaps my favorite non-contemporary preacher, says this of the Bible;
“Let me look at it’s letters; they flash glory on my eye. Let me read the chapters; they are big with meaning and mysteries unknown. Let me turn over the prophecies; they are pregnant with the unthought-of wonders. Oh, Book of books! And wast thou written by my God? Then I will be before thee. Thou Book of vast authority! Thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee!”
Rev. Charles Spurgeon ( “The Bible” Sermon II, Volume 1 Spurgeon Sermons)
Side by side,
Here’s a short list of books I strongly recommend over the Bible:
– Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – this is perhaps the best volume of systematic theology that’s in use by many ministers of the faith. It covers virtually every topic or doctrine that has been presented since the early Church.
– The Inerrant Word by John MacArthur – This really isn’t a light read but MacArthur gives some helpful Biblical perspective on the inspiration, sufficiency, and the supremacy of the Scriptures. I’ve been reading it mostly for apologetics.
– Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney – This book focuses on the spiritual practices every Christian should be disciplining themselves in. From scripture memorization, to fasting, to silence and solitude.
– Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks – If you liked the application of Psalm 19:7-11 from above and want to learn more about practical tools for daily Bible reading- check this book out. It ranges from how to select the right Bible for you – all the way to hermeneutics.