Reading God’s Word (7)
Then the LORD answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2.2
We’ve been considering ways of approaching the Bible so as to read it right. There’s a good bit of wrong reading of Scripture going on in the Church these days, and, if we don’t want to be swept up in false teaching, we’ll need to fortify our souls against it by practicing right reading of God’s Word.
Reading right means daily reading, meditation, and study of God’s Word – all the Word of God. It means coming to the Word as a delight and letting the Word inhabit, redecorate, and refurnish our souls; allowing the story line and primary themes of Scripture to guide our interpretation; and reading along with the saints to make sure we’re not straying outside the tradition of faithful interpretation.
Anybody can read Scripture wrong, and plenty of people are doing so. Our goal is to read it right, and that means we’re going to have to pay a bit more attention to the disciplines we employ in this effort.
Right reading will lead to action. James says we must be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (Jms. 1.22). We deceive ourselves if we think all this reading and study of Scripture is just about gaining more head knowledge. God has given us His Word, as He gave it to the prophet Habakkuk, so that, having read it we might get busy doing it. Every passage of Scripture should suggest specific next steps that we can take to firm up and live out the teaching of God’s Word.
Doing God’s Word
This is as we might expect. After all, if the Scripture is refurbishing our souls, giving us new insights to God’s character and will, and bringing us into communion with the saints of the past and present, we’re probably going to experience some changes. Paul says that what happens in right reading is that we come face to face with God, in the power of His Spirit, and the glory of God exerts a transformative spiritual impact on us, causing us to grow increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ. This happens as we go from experiencing the glory of God to expressing God’s glory in all the everyday details of our lives (2 Cor. 3.12-18; 1 Cor. 10.31).
We do God’s Word in the words and deeds and every next step that make up our daily experience of following Jesus. The goal of all our reading and study of Scripture should be to increase love for God and our neighbors (1 Tim. 1.5). So reading right will find us trying to hear God speaking to us concerning whom to love and how to love them, and what next steps to take in bringing that love to fruition. The same Word which shows us God’s glorious love equips us for good works of love in the normal course of our everyday lives (2 Tim. 3.15-17).
Doing God’s Word doesn’t mean becoming a full-time evangelist, heading off to the mission field, or selling everything you have and giving it all to the poor. It might mean this for some people; normally, however, God is shaping us little by little for words and deeds more characteristic of the Lord Jesus Christ, and more potent in touching others with His grace and truth.
So we’ll know that we’re reading Scripture right when, coming away from our time in the Word, we have the clear sense of what God intends us to do with what we have read. You might even consider adding to your journal page a heading that says, Next Steps.
One step at a time
God’s purpose in giving us His Word is to equip us for good works of love. We learn what good works are through reading, meditation, and study; but we only learn them for ourselves by doing something different with our words and deeds.
As you are reading the Word, therefore, have your pen or notebook handy. Listen for any explicit or implicit instructions from the Lord. Maintain an attitude of prayer and seeking that says, throughout your daily reading, “What shall I run to do today, Lord?” Think of the people you’ll see in the day ahead, or the tasks before you. Let the Scripture you’re reading suggest small steps of obedience that will allow you to live out your reading in the words and deeds of your everyday relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
This is what Paul means by calling us to “work out” our salvation. God has given us salvation by grace through faith. He continues to teach us about salvation each time we read His Word. We work out our salvation when we bring our words and deeds into the power of God’s Word and Spirit, Who is at work within us to make us willing and able to do whatever lines up with the pleasure of God (Phil. 2.12, 13).
So don’t be content merely to read the Word. Read it, read it right, and read it with a view to living the truth of God, making the most of every opportunity to bring the glory of God to light in even your humblest, most routine, everyday tasks. Right reading leads to right living, and this is the proof that the living Word is making all things new in our lives (Heb. 4.12; Rev. 21.5).
1. How would you explain the concept of “read to run” to a new Christian who was just getting started with the Bible?
2. Meditate on 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1. How can this passage counsel us in thinking about daily opportunities for reading to run?
3. Meditate on 2 Corinthians 10.13-16. Paul had a sphere of influence – a Personal Mission Field – in which he lived out his Christian faith and calling. Following 1 Corinthians 11.1, should you have such a Personal Mission Field? Who would be some of the people in that field, and what opportunities for reading to run does this Personal Mission Field afford you each day?
Next steps – Demonstration: Who are the people most likely to be affected by your next steps of faith and obedience? What other kinds of impact for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ might you expect from your daily running to obey the Word of God? Pay careful attention throughout this day as to how God leads you in doing His Word. Then, before you go to bed, give Him praise and thanks for every indication of His having been at work within you, willing and doing according to His good pleasure.
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.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.