Bible Intake - Sustenance for the Soul
Occasionally when a person is attempting to defend an idea for which there is no biblical foundation, they will say, “Well, I’m not a Bible reader, but this is the way I see it.”
According to the Barna Research Group, 23 percent of professing Christians say they never read the Word of God. Is it any wonder that so many are swept about by every wind of doctrine and that multitudes fail to apply biblical principles to the problems they face in life?
Bible intake is a vital part of the Christian’s growth.
Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word if truth” (John 17:17). It is through the Word that those who are born of the Spirit grow in grace and learn to successfully fight the battle against temptation. David said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
Even Jesus when being tempted in the wilderness used the Scriptures to rebuke the devil. He repeatedly said, “It is written,” referring to what was recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures. And in one case He quoted the reference which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). At the very least He indicates that we should be familiar with the entire Word of God.
Hearing the Word preached is, of course, one of the primarily ways of becoming acquainted with it. If a man is preaching the Word under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, not only can the hearer be provided with information, but as the message comes with power and assurance the result is a change in conduct (1 Thessalonians 1:5 & 9). Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”(Colossians 3:16).
That is, the Word of Christ should be at home in you.
You are to be so familiar with it that when you face a crisis you immediately think of how to respond in a God-honoring way. As the Word dwells in you and becomes a part of your thinking you are then vitally interested in doing things God’s way. But if the Word is dwelling in you and you are hiding it in your heart, you must be reading it on a consistent basis.
Reading God's Word
Here is where discipline is required. How many times have you said, “I need to spend more time in the Word; I really do want to have a better understanding of it, I want it to make a difference in my life”? And yet all the good intentions soon slip away. Your life is so busy, you already have more on your plate than you can handle; and so reading the Bible becomes one item on your list that is expendable.
The question then comes, “How can I do better?” First, reading your Bible is not just a daily task to be fulfilled; the fact is you need to hear from God and the place He speaks is in His Word. You need direction in your life and encouragement to press on in times of difficulty.
What you need is in the Word.
You want to help and encourage others but the way you minister to others is not by offering a litany of personal opinions but by using the Scriptures which provide the counsel we need. “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalm 119:24). There is a lot of bad counsel given today by well-meaning people because they have not turned to God’s Word as the one authoritative source for the counsel we need.
Memorizing God's Word
In this process of hiding the Word in our hearts and having our minds renewed, it is very beneficial to memorize Scripture. When passages have been committed to memory they often come immediately to mind in a time of need. What a blessing for children to memorize Scriptures which will then be of use to them for the rest of their life!
This should certainly be encouraged by parents who are working to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. On the other hand the excuse that “I am too old” doesn’t hold up.
When the effort is made, and the Scriptures are used regularly in our lives, they become a part of us.
Think of the blessing of recalling even a short passage. Often, when I have encouraged someone struggling with anxiety to memorize Psalm 56:3—“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee”—it has proven to be a real source of comfort. Or in times of a great crisis to remember, “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15).
The truth has a calming effect on the believer as he meditates on such precious promises. Much attention has been recently given to the life of William Wilberforce through the movie Amazing Grace. He was a statesman who had much to do with the abolition and slavery throughout the British Empire. In 1819 he wrote in his diary, “Walked today from Hyde Park Corner, repeating the 119th Psalm with great comfort.” It is interesting to note that a man as busy as Wilberforce knew this Psalm by heart and found pleasure in repeating it as he walked.
Psalm 119 is the longest of the Psalms with 176 verses. In almost every verse some reference is made to the benefit of God’s Word. It is referred to as laws, judgments, statutes, words, commands, precepts, testimonies and promises. In it we find worship, praise, prayers and admonition. The writer considered the Word to be food for the soul and of greater value than gold and silver. The psalm describes God’s truth as it assists in pursuing a godly walk, facing persecution and dealing with afflictions.
Studying God's Word
Reading the Scriptures must be more than a race to see how much territory we can cover and memorizing them must be more than just reciting words. We must also study the Bible.
We know that it is God’s book so we must study to see God in it.
The Old Testament is more than a historical account of God’s dealing with the national Israel—it reveals much about Who God is. We learn that He is a holy God, Who hates sin and will punish it; but we also learn He is a merciful God who promised to send His Son to redeem a portion of the fallen race.
In the New Testament we read of the living Word—God made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. We see Him as the only Savior and exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords.
We learn much about ourselves in God’s Word.
We learn that we are sinners and that our heart is deceitful above all things. Yet we learn that we can come boldly to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace to help in the time of need. We learn that we are weak but that we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.
The point is, we must study not just to accumulate facts or to win an argument with someone who holds an opposing view; we study to learn more about God and His will for our life. We study with the view of having a firm doctrinal foundation upon which a life of obedience can be built. As in the Ephesian epistle, Paul generally gave instruction in the doctrine and then built on it the admonitions about how to live a godly life, how to treat others, and how to serve in the kingdom of heaven.
May we never be guilty of substituting the opinions and commandments of men for the doctrine of God’s Word. May we not allow the distractions of the world or a lazy spirit to keep us from the very book that is God’s message to us.