I have mentioned before that there are times when I experience the Bible as a living organism, a being in and of itself that seems to come alive and teach me exactly what I need at that moment. It may be a scripture that I have read hundreds of times, but never really understood or thought relevant to my life. All of a sudden, that very scripture would leap off the page and hit me right between the eyes. Animated and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, that particular scripture suddenly held deep meaning and relevance to my current situation.
I think this happens because we are constantly changing and growing and as a result, a passage of scripture that held little significance at one stage of our life might suddenly be filled with pertinence. Tyler Edwards, in his book Zombie Chruch, makes the following observation regarding the fluid nature of scripture and its impact on our lives:
In reading the Bible, something that has helped me is to approach the Bible every time as if it were the first time. Although you may have read the words before, you have never read those words at this precise point in your life before. Daily your life changes: your circumstances change, your needs change, your knowledge, understanding, and emotions change. Perhaps a passage of scripture that was nothing more than words on a page for twenty years did not connect to you because you were not ready, but at this moment in time, as you are reading this passage you have read countless times in the past, all of a sudden God will speak to you through it. If you come to the text with a humble heart, you might be amazed at how it speaks to you.
As mentioned earlier, my personal experience has verified what Tyler Edwards is saying many times over. And I suspect that if you are a regular student of Holy Scripture, then you most likely have had similar experiences.
My grandfather used to encourage me to approach the familiar things in life, the things we encounter on a repeated, routine basis, with what he called “fresh eyes.” By that, he meant that we should make every effort to see these things with the eyes of a child, as if we were seeing them for the first time. Tyler Edwards recommends that we approach our time with scripture with this little prayer:
God, I am opening Your Word. You said this Word is living and active. You wrote it for our benefit. You said, ask for wisdom and You’ll give it. I’m asking: help me to be aligned with You. Show me what You want me to get from this. I don’t trust my reason, opinions, feelings. I am submitting to Your superior mind. God, I want to know You. Please show Yourself to me as I read, so that I may continue to find favor in Your sight.
I will be the first to admit that my experience with the Bible has been less than what it should be. For many years I viewed scripture with a marked ambivalence. Although I saw much wisdom in its pages, at the same time, I encountered much material that I felt was outdated, irrelevant, and especially erroneous. Further, I held great resentment toward those believers who tried to prove their particular slant on things by quoting scripture incessantly, more often than not out of context. I also had little patience with Bible thumpers who beat people over the head with the “Good Book,” while applying few of its teachings to their own lives.
I still struggle with these sorts of issues, but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I have been able to separate the Bible itself from those who misuse and abuse it. As a result there are more than a few occasions where, as mentioned above, the Holy Spirit animates the words of scripture, bringing them alive with meaning and practical application for my life. It is at such times that scripture becomes what I think it was intended to be, an agent of spiritual transformation and a portal through which the Creator and I might encounter one another.
When I began to see the Bible in this light, scripture became something very sacred in my eyes. In the pages of the Bible I was able to experientially encounter the unfolding of God’s great story of redemption and restoration, as well as my own journey of exile and return. I also gained a greater appreciation and sense of gratitude for all those who came before, serving future generations by preserving the Bible and its life-changing message of a Creator that loves us in a manner beyond human comprehension. I will close with one more quotation from Tyler Edwards, who expresses far better than I can what the Bible can come to mean for those with “eyes to see”:
When you start looking at the Bible as a message that was preserved so you could read it – that God saved every verse that He did because He wants to tell you something – then it changes the way you view the Word. Each word is a gift bought with the blood of those who came before us. In each word we can find the life that God designed for us to have. As you seek God, He will open your eyes to what He is saying to you, and He can begin to mold and shape you. When you start to let the Word come to life, then you will not feel guilty when you don’t read it, you will feel an overwhelming passion to make sure you do.
When this transformation from reading as obligation to reading as positive desire occurs, you have received a great blessing from the Holy Spirit. A great blessing, indeed.
Think about it.
© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved
- Study makes ‘scripture come alive’ (shelbystar.com)
- The Bible, the Universal Book (unknownwellknown.wordpress.com)