Thursday, September 17

Does Bible Reading Make You Spiritual? Part 2

Yesterday, we focused on the idea that Bible reading in itself does not make you spiritual, that this is the work of God in Jesus Christ.

Unquestionably, the Bible places great emphasis on reading the Bible. Of the godly man, Psalm 1:2 says, "His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." But, there's more . . .

Today, we want to affirm the very important place of God's Word in the Christian's life. We ask the question, "Is there a right WAY to read God's Word? Is there a way to study the Bible that really imparts God's power and presence to us?"


This is basic to all successful Christian living. It goes contrary to the world's mantra that "seeing is believing." Faith sees what the eyes blindly overlook. The only way we can glean from God's Word is to PARTICIPATE in our reading. Participation is faith participation. What does that mean? Eugene Peterson explains that there is a TEXT where God is the subject. It is not just words on a page, therefore, it demands that we get involved in our reading in a more intensive way than if we were on the outside looking in. He says further, "If we have not entered this text as participants we arent' going to understand what is going on. This text cannot be understood by watching from the bleachers -- or even from expensive box seats. We are in on it."

--We Involve Ourselves in What Really Interests Us
Peterson explains something that makes so much sense to me because I do the same thing. He used to run, and enjoyed it when he took up running. He was so interested in it that he bought magazines and checked out books at the library to read everything on the subject. He entered 10K races every month or so, and entered a marathon once a year. It didn't matter, he avers, if the magazines were well-written, or that there wasn't but so much you can write on the subject without repeating. He loved running, and therefore, loved reading about running as well.

Then something happened. He pulled a thigh muscle and while he was recuperating for a couple of months, not running, he stopped reading the periodicals and books. It wasn't a decision he made, they were still all over the house. He just wasn't reading them. "The moment I began running again I started reading again."

Here's the point of spiritual reading, participatory reading. GET THIS! Peterson writes:
It meant that I read every word on the page as an extension or deepening or correction or affirmation of something that I was a part of. I was reading about running not primarily to find out something, not to learn something, but for companionship and validation and confirmation of the experience of running [emphasis mine]. Yes, I did learn a few things along the way, but mostly it was to extend and deepen and populate the world of running that I loved so much. But if I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.

The parallel with reading Scripture seems to me almost exact: if I am not participating in the reality -- the God reality, the creation/salvation/holiness reality -- revealed in the Bible, not involved in the obedience Calvin wrote of [i.e., "all right knowledge of God is born of obedience"], I am probably not going to be much interested in reading about it -- at least not for long.

Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God. The most important question we ask of this text is not, "What does this mean?" but "What can I obey?" A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.
Reading alone does not a spiritual person make. Nor does reading disconnectedly. There must be a readiness to know the Author first, even before we read a word. And after we have begun reading, we must embrace the ongoing heart of the Author in our doing what he says. To quote a line from the University hymn of Bob Jones, "Knowledge alone life's problems cannot meet, we learn to live while sitting at Thy feet." Indeed.


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