How can reading the Word of God draw you closer to God?
Reading the Bible
Reading the Bible seemed like a simple task at first, but I soon realized that I needed some help in explaining certain passages. Some verses seemed so daunting. There are so many verses to write on our hearts and truths to be revealed that it’s hard to know where to begin, but the Bible is unlike any other book. It’s a book that can be read over and over again, and each time, new understanding comes, and the former passages that were difficult eventually became easier to understand, although many will always remain difficult. I don’t normally read a book twice, but the Bible is not just a book. It is the very breath of God, so here are some ways you can draw closer to God by reading the Word of God and other applications.
Meditating on the Word
Our church elder said that meditating on the Word of God is a lost art, and he’s absolutely right. Its one thing to read the Word of God, but it’s an altogether different thing to sit and contemplate what we read. I would rather read only a few lines of Scripture and mediate on these than read a whole chapter and then not remember most of it. When we take time to reflect, ponder, and mediate on His Word, the Word penetrates deep into our mind and this allows us to internalize it and memorize it. We lose out on so much when we simply read the Bible but don’t slow down to meditate on it. The Psalmist says we are to hide or memorize God’s Word in order that we might not sin (Psalm 119:11), and you can’t do that by skimming over chapters. There is such power in His Word (Isaiah 55:11; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18) but we often don’t tap that power when we read right past it. The Scriptures tell us to meditate on His Word, both day and night, but you can never meditate on the Word of God if you’re not reading the Word of God. The Lord told Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist wrote, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97), and that’s because His commandments make us wiser and give us more understanding (Psalm 119:98-100).
Context is King
Tapping into the power of Scripture takes practice and patience, but daily reading of the Word also helps us not take texts out of context, and this helps us avoid pretexts, so how do we avoid taking texts out of context? It’s so easy to rip one verse out of context and create a pretext, but often it’s a false one, and of course, we don’t want that. That’s how cults are formed. We need to read the verse within the whole context of the chapter, and even within the context of the book. Taking texts out of context are how heated arguments begin, but this is typically pride-induced. Someone takes one text to prove that they’re right and the other person’s wrong, but what happens is Christians wield the Word of God like a sword and use it against other in a way it was never intended.
Personalize the Bible
How can you personalize the Bible? You can do this by putting “you” or your name in a certain verse. Of course, it doesn’t work with every verse, but when the Lord s addressing believers, it works very well. Here’s an example: John 3:16 can read, “For God so loved the (Sarah/Gary/you) that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” or Colossians 1:21-22 works well by adding personal names: “And you Sarah/Donnie, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Even on its own, the Word of God is quite personalized as we read in Colossians 2:6-7 where the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Prescriptive vs Descriptive
All Scripture is written for believers but not all Scripture is written to believers as far as application is concerned. One obvious example is the animal sacrifices. To try and apply these to believers today would be ridiculous. These verses were written to Israel and are prescriptive to Israel, or written specifically to them and for them to act on (application). You must read Scripture as prescriptive, descriptive, or both, because some Scriptures are to be applied to whomever they were written too (prescriptive). Circumcision was not commanded of Gentiles. Those verses were prescribed only to Israel and those who joined with them, but they are also descriptive of God’s unique covenant with the descendants of Israel (Gen 17). The Mosaic Laws are prescriptive, or prescribed for Israel, however, these laws are also descriptive because they describe how God sees sin and that sin requires a blood sacrifice. Paul wrote that he was crucified with Christ, but that is more descriptive than prescriptive because we no longer live in the flesh since we have Christ living in us (Gal 2:20). Cleary, Paul is not prescribing that we literally crucify ourselves; it is more of a descriptive verse showing that we must die to ourselves and live for Christ (Rom 6:8). We can’t read this and really believe that Paul was crucified with Christ on Calvary can we?
One crucial part of reading the Bible is allowing the Spirit to guide us. There are many times when I have felt like I just read a verse for the very first time. It’s not that I hadn’t read it before, but there was suddenly a new revelation of the meaning behind the verse. This happens when we pray for the Spirit’s guidance? The Holy Spirit can help us make more sense of the Scriptures if we pray for His help in understanding what God’s Word is saying to us. Ask the Spirit to help bring you understanding, but within the proper context. Ask the Spirit, “Where is this applicable in my life?” Jesus said that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26), so “when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26).
Have a Plan
I love the advice of many Bible teachers and scholars who advise us to have a daily reading plan so that we can gain wisdom from the Scriptures. Personally, I read some out of the Old Testament and then some from the New Testament every morning. No Bible, no breakfast, so as hard as it is a times, I know I need it, and the times when I don’t feel like reading the Bible are the very times I need it most! We don’t eat one meal on Sunday expecting it’ll last us all week, so we must have a daily intake of our Daily Bread, the Word of God, to sustain us through the difficult trials, temptations, and tests that may come in the day. Have a plan and try to stick to it.
I love to mark my Bible. The paper is not holy….God’s Word is. I highlight certain passages that are very important to me. When I see certain verses, I write them out or highlight them so that I can memorize them. Second Corinthians 5:21 and 1 John 1:9 are very important to me because these are essential to every believer. When we read something, then highlight it, and then write it out, we give our mind three ways in which the Word can sink down deep into our minds, and then we can recall them when we need them during the day.
As for me, I like to start in the Old Testament and go from Genesis to Malachi and also from the Gospel of Matthew to Revelation, so I read it chronologically. Reading both Testaments gives me a good look at God’s plan and His will for my life. That keeps Scriptures in context (avoiding pretexts), enabling me to know whether it’s descriptive (the parting of the Red sea) or prescriptive (repent and believe). In this way, I can have God’s Word hidden in my heart, and it might even keep me from sinning (Psalm 199:11).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.