Reading God’s Word (4)
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly… Colossians 3.16
Comfort, strength, and protection
We’re trying to learn what is involved in right reading of the Word of God, so that we can gain the promised comfort, strength, protection, and joy the Scriptures can supply.
So far we’ve seen that this means regular, daily reading, meditating, and study of the Bible. It also means the whole Bible, even those difficult or tedious parts, and that over and over again. At the same time, we need to be careful to approach this discipline with the right attitude, so we’re going to let Psalm 119 lead and shape us as we prepare each day in prayer for the delights God has for us in His Word.
In other words, your reading of Scripture is wrong if it’s not regular, comprehensive, and undertaken as a delight. If that’s not where you are, then take heart! It’s where you can be if you are willing to take up right reading of God’s Word, following the guidelines we’re suggesting in this series.
But we also need to guard against a merely superficial reading of Scripture – one that skims the words of the text, but doesn’t really drink them in. David rejoiced that the Lord gave him to drink from the “river” of God’s delights (Ps. 36.8, 9); like a “fountain of life”, God quenched David’s spiritual thirst by great draughts of the Word. As David drank God’s Word in he was refreshed, renewed, and restored in his soul, and thus he was enabled to carry on in his calling and walk with the Lord.
What’s “in” there?
As we have seen, Paul says that we are reading the Word right when we allow it to dwell in us richly. We want to drink the Word in, so that it cleanses, refreshes, and renews us in our souls, in that deep spiritual essence that determines everything else about our lives. As we read the Scriptures and meditate and study them, we want them to “go down” like a refreshing drink on a hot day, or like that first cup of coffee in the morning, tingling, refreshing, delighting, and renewing us deep within our souls.
But we should first make sure that we’re acquainted with our souls. What’s in the soul that we can expect the Scriptures to affect with spiritual refreshment and renewing? What is the soul, and how can understanding the soul lead us to be better readers of Scripture?
The soul consists of three distinct but interacting and overlapping spiritual entities – the mind, the heart, and the conscience. The mind gathers, sorts, and arranges our thought life. The heart nurtures and deploys the affections. And the conscience preserves our default values, guiding our will as it brings heart and mind together into action.
Reading the Word “in”
OK, so how do we let the Word of Christ “dwell in” these various components of the soul? How does the Word become so lodged in our soul that it becomes right at home there, and does its transforming work from the inside-out?
You may find it helpful to bring some additional effort into your reading, meditating, and studying by jotting down some of your reflections on the Scriptures. You might want to get a pen and some paper – or open a new notebook in your favorite computer program or app. This act of writing things down – or journaling, as some describe it – can deepen the impressions of what you’re learning, helping you to sort out and combine the teaching of Scripture, and preparing you for another important aspect of right reading yet to be explained – what we have referred to as “reading to run.”
As you’re reading, ask yourself: What’s the central idea or truth of this passage? What word or teaching is God impressing on me from this text? How does this want to shape my thinking? Now you’re “drinking the Word” into your mind. Make a few notes under a heading such as, Main Idea.
At the same time, scour the text for any affections which may be suggested. Let it speak to you about feelings, attitudes, aspirations, hopes, and desires. In our text, to let the Word “dwell in” us suggests a welcoming attitude toward Scripture – a ready receptivity to the Word, being delighted to read and drink it in. Jot that down, and any other feelings, emotions, attitudes and the like that come out of your reading, all under a heading, Primary Affections.
Then, under the Values or Priorities heading, make a note concerning any priorities, values, or changes of will suggested by the test. The word “dwell in” makes a demand on your values and priorities. How will you fulfill that demand? Write it down!
The more you read Scripture with the components of your soul in mind – by focusing on your thought life, affections, values, and priorities as you read, and listening to how the Scriptures address these – and the more you write down and reflect on how the Scriptures are impressing your soul, the more the Word will come to dwell in you richly, and you’ll be improving right reading of the Bible.
1. Discuss some ways that you have seen Scripture affect your mind – what you think, how you think, how you understand, your ideas about life, and so forth:
2. How about your heart? Has your regular reading of Scripture made any difference in your affections – the way you feel about people or things, your hopes and aspirations, your attitudes?
3. If you were asked to prepare a list of the five highest priorities indicated in Scripture, what would you list? Cite some Scripture to support your list:
Next steps – Preparation: Try adding writing or journaling to your daily reading. Share some of the results of this with your reading partner or a Christian friend.
T. M. Moore
To learn more about understanding and using the Bible, enroll in the course, Introduction to Biblical Theology. It’s free and online, and you can study at your own pace or with friends. To learn more and to register, click here. This week’s study is Part 4 of a series on The Word of God, and is available as a free download by clicking here.
Your next step every day should be to improve your work in your Personal Mission Field. Our Mission Partners Outreach can help. This six-month, stay-at-home missions effort will show you and a study partner how to identify and begin working your Personal Mission Field faithfully and effectively. It’s free and online, so watch this brief video, then find a friend to join you and get started right away.
Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can contribute online, via PayPal, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.