Previously in the study, Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, a call to spiritual disciplines was presented, communicating both the importance of reading the Bible well, and the hard work of Bible study. God’s Word is so much more than printed words on paper; it has the power to sift and separate. God’s Word lifts, humbles, convicts, and soothes our souls. Even so, we have a selfish tendency to use every word to make ourselves the focus.
Is it not true we live in a time of rampant individualism? Today’s motto is It’s all about me: My life. My job. My family. My plans. My rights. My happiness. It’s me, me, me. This selfish attitude has crept into the church and into our Bible reading. Perfect posture for the reading of Scripture is Godward. Godward posture requires we also put God forefront in our Bible reading and study. Ephesians 2:10 reads that we were made to fit into God’s plan, not the other way: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And, although the Word applies to us, it is not centered around us. It’s not just about us: It’s first about God.
- What might individualism look like in your own life?
- Why would your preconceived notions be important to acknowledge when coming to the Scriptures?
In light of this individualism, what should I feel about the Word of God? Kevin DeYoung writes, “We are all righteously indignant when someone else holds in little esteem what we know to be precious. Extreme delight in someone or something naturally leads to extreme disgust when others consider that person or thing not worthy of their delight. No one who truly delights in God’s word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.”
Christians are quick to make excuses of why we aren’t spending time in the Bible: Believing we don’t have the energy or see the necessity of why we should study, we lack motivation. Offering the excuse of little time due to being too busy, we have a problem with priorities. The excuse of not knowing how to read well or doing the hard work of Bible study reveals a problem of not learning technique. And when we simply don’t get around to it, we have a problem of preoccupation.
Many times in this series, we have considered the praise of God’s Word in the Psalms. In Psalm 119:17, we are reminded that in order to serve God rightly, we should seek to have our eyes opened to behold His truth and earnestly desire to understand it. In all honesty, would this be your own desire? Does your heart posture include humbling yourself enough to set aside agendas, opinions, and emotions? Are you giving the Spirit space to work? Read the following:
- Deuteronomy 6:6-7
- Psalm 1:1-2
- Psalm 119:17, 53, 119, 127, 139-140
- Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. God’s Word ought to occupy the mind of the Christian all the time. Is Bible reading and study something to be hurried?
- Read Psalm 1:1-2. Do you see Bible reading as something we should do, over and over, “day and night,” repeatedly?
- Are there times you come to the Bible with an ambivalent or indifferent attitude?
- Do you come to God’s Word with delight and expectation?
- The Bible is truly magnificent and awe-inspiring. Does your posture reflect this truth?
David Dockery sums up the need for a correct biblical posture: “Of course the Bible is the most relevant book on the planet, but its message is a God centered message, not a self-centered message. The Bible isn’t primarily about us; it is all about God! The Bible is about knowing and loving God as He wants to be known and loved, coming into His presence, having your mind renewed to think about life the way He does. Once you begin to understand the Bible is about God and not primarily about you, it takes on a whole different priority in your life – and a whole new relevance. If we are really God centered, it can make all the difference.”
With perfect posture, we as His children are supernaturally renewed moment by moment, day by day, as we read, hear, learn, and live out the Scriptures. Whether our posture be kneeling before God or standing before God, it is not the posture of our bodies but of our hearts that is important. Thus, as we apply our posture to Bible reading and study, we would do well to remember that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (ex. James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34). Read the following:
- 2 Chronicles 6:7-9 & 39
- Psalm 44:21
- Psalm 51:1-17
- Proverbs 4:23
- Proverbs 21:2
- Jeremiah 17:10
- In 2 Chronicles 6:7-9, we see God’s attention to the heart of David. What posture do you see in 2 Chronicles 6:39? Why was posture important in this context?
- In Psalm 51:1-17, we see essential heart postures that can draw us closer to God. List them.
- What would be the application of Proverbs 4:23 to our posture in Bible reading and study?
Charles Spurgeon penned, “I confess that the words of Scripture thrill my soul as nothing else ever can; they bear me aloft or dash me down, they tear me in pieces or they build me up after an unrivalled fashion. The words of God have more power over me than ever David’s fingers had over his harp strings. Is it not so with you?” The key to perfect posture is to have one toward God’s Word by which His Word is changing us in our current context, rather than our reshaping of the Word to fit our cultural tastes. The Bible, as read in the light of its various contexts, it can transform our own various contexts, as we explore further in Part Seven of this series. “It is not the book that is to be altered: our hearts want altering.” writes Spurgeon.
God’s Word is precise, not ambiguous. Are you guilty of superficial Bible study? Does your study consist of nothing more than, “I guess this verse means” or “What does this verse mean to you?” Why might this approach be incorrect posture?
- We don’t want to merely admire the Bible. We need to understand it. Seeing the Bible as God’s Word, why is it crucial we gain understanding?
- Why would reading books about the Bible, or devotional materials loosely based on it, not be a substitute for reading the Scriptures?
Wielded by the Holy Spirit, the Bible has the power to sort us out spiritually, growing us in relationship with our Lord. Our heart posture matters. If we are not being moved in heart, challenged, and moved to new places in life (new levels of obedience and service to God), we are not really reading the Bible the way God intended. Spiritual renewal and continued growth is always related to intake of God’s Word. In The Power of Surrender, Michael Catt writes, “The Word of God was never given to make our flesh feel good; it was given to confront us with our worldly and fleshly thinking. The Word takes us to the cross.”
“The Holy Scriptures are the lifeline God throws us in order to ensure that he and we stay connected while the rescue is in progress.”- J.I. Packer
As we reject conformity to the world by the renewal of our minds, our Bible reading enables spiritual growth. We can know the truth, enabling us to think clearly about what God says is true and right. Therefore, Bible reading profits us to live well for God in this world and live out His will. In experiencing God’s freedom, his grace, peace, and hope, Bible reading brings us joy. With Bible intake, we guard ourselves from sin and error. Bible reading and Bible study equip Christians to handle the Word rightly as we represent our Lord in ministering to other Christ followers and evangelize the lost. Corporately, we are built up as a Christian community with others when hearing and reading the Bible. Read the following:
- Joshua 1:8
- Psalm 26:2
- Psalm 51:10
- Acts 20:32
- Romans 12:1-2
- Ephesians 4:14-16, 6:11
- 2 Timothy 3:15-17
- 1 Peter 2:1-2
- 2 Peter 2:1-2
- In Joshua 1:8, Joshua’s courage and hope of victory in the quest for Canaan were made to depend on his firm and inflexible adherence to the law of God (Deuteronomy 17:18). Why might you be tempted to look for hope elsewhere?
- God sees straight through to the motives of the heart. A proper posture when coming to the Word would be Psalm 51:10. Why might that be?
- Referencing 2 Peter 2:1-2, Peter’s constant prayer of grace and peace for his Christian friends is dependent on their deep knowledge of God and Jesus. How might you apply Peter’s prayer?
- Would honest evaluation determine your Bible reading a joy, or has it become dread? Where is your zeal?
The marks of spiritual renewal in relation to God’s word are: the necessity of Bible intake, reverently hearing His word expounded and taught, and His people responding rightly. This is most clearly seen in the book of Nehemiah. In Nehemiah chapter eight, we can acknowledge that God’s people were hungry for the written word. Their posture toward the written Word, reverent anticipation and expectation, had no less zeal due to the Book of the Law of Moses having already been an ancient book, a thousand years old. Clearly, God’s people in Nehemiah’s day believed the Book to be authoritative. If we are God’s people, we read his Word with the same zeal. A proper view of scripture understands and trusts the Bible’s reliability. Read the following:
- Exodus 24:2, 7
- 2 Chronicles 34:27
- Nehemiah 8:1-5, 9-18
- Psalm 19:10
- Isaiah 66:2
- When Moses read the newly written book of the Covenant to the people (Exodus 24), what was their response? What was the heart posture of the people in vs. 7?
- Reading Isaiah 66:2, consider that the spiritual temple of the heart is God’s favorite dwelling place. What heart posture is identified?
“Scripture itself is alone competent to judge our doctrine of Scripture.” – J.I. Packer
By the working of the Word, the Holy Spirit produces outcomes in the life of the believer. Results from a Lifeway study show, when coupled with regularly attending church, Bible reading is the number one predictor of wisdom and maturity. George Muller wisely penned, “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.” Read the following:
- Deuteronomy 17:19-20
- Matthew 22:37
- Luke 10:26-28
- Acts 8:30-34, 17:11-12
- In Deuteronomy 17:19-20, which character traits and heart attitudes are mentioned? Why would these be vital in the daily reading?
- Matthew 22:37 and Luke 10:26-28 command the whole man to use different ways of thinking (not different parts) in relation to God. Why would more than a superficial allegiance to God be beneficial in everyday Bible reading?
- In their response to the gospel, the Jews were zealous to hear what Paul had to say (Acts 17:11-12). Scripture indicates they met with him daily, not accepting the truth uncritically but rather examining the scriptures for themselves. Their conversion involved intellect and was not merely emotional. Why might this be important for us to understand? How might this affect your attitude toward Bible reading and study?
As we have established, the Bible is, in fact, the voice of God; Christians innately know we should read it. We need enough space in our minds to routinely sit, read, and think about the Bible — We need space in our hearts to take it in and respond to it appropriately. Many of us don’t because we have a hard time staying on task to gain understanding of the text. The fact is, we are going to have to start tuning out distractions in order to make room in our lives and hearts to hear God’s voice. Correct posture involves the whole of life as we try to grasp and interact with the whole story of Scripture and find our place in that story.
“Apply yourself wholly to the Scriptures, and apply the Scriptures wholly to yourself.”– J.A. Bengel
Read the following:
- Deuteronomy 33:3
- 2 Chronicles 34:21
- Nehemiah 8:6-8
- Psalm 1:2, 119:17-18
- Proverbs 2:1-6, 3:5
- Have your eyes been opened to behold His truth? Do you earnestly desire to understand it (Psalm 119:17-18)?
- Which words or phrases in Proverbs 2:1-6 might indicate the right perspective, prayer, and effort?
What should I do with the Word of God? We have looked at Psalm 119 throughout this study and it is true that it illustrates the Spirit prompted uses for the word. Obediently, we are to sing the word, speak the word, study the word, and store up the word. The Christian should obey the word, praise God for the word, and pray the word. These are indicators of what we believe and feel about the Word.
- Take notes for what you personally believe, practice, and feel about God’s Word as you read and reread the verses below.
- Psalm 119:7-8, 11, 13, 15, 44, 46, 48-49, 57-58, 62, 93, 97, 121-123, 129, 141, 145-160, 164, 167-168, 171-172
Referring once again to Nehemiah: In God’s Word, Our Story, Nancy Guthrie writes in her summary of Nehemiah 7-8, “Coming Together Around God’s Word: The people gathered at the gate were not hungry for some sort of spiritual experience apart from God’s Word. They were not heading out to find places to be alone, where they might silence themselves and listen to hear a special word all about them spoken into their private thoughts. They were hungry to hear God speaking to them in such a way that they would know for sure it was his voice they were hearing.” In response to the reading, the people worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground (8:3-8). Rather than constantly posing the question, Isn’t life all about me?, may we be a generation of women who God would raise up to be hungry for the book!
Perfect posture positions the reader to be obedient to what the text plainly means instead of supporting the reader’s preconceived ideas. Slightly revised from Tim Keller’s book, It’s all about Jesus, this understanding positions the reader to acknowledge Jesus:
Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the wilderness not the garden, and whose obedience is imputed to us. Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain by wicked hands, has blood that now cries out, not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal. Jesus is the true and better Ark of Noah, who carries us safely thru the wrath of God revealed from heaven and delivers us to a new earth. Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answered the call of God to leave all that is comfortable and familiar and go out into the world not knowing where he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your Son, your only Son, whom you love, from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob, who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed him and sold him, and uses his new power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant. Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses, who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us living water in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Joshua, who leads us into a land of eternal rest and heavenly blessing. Jesus is the true and better Ark of the Covenant, who topples and disarms idols of this world, going Himself into enemy territory, and making an open spectacle of them all. Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends. Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people. Jesus is the true and better Daniel, who, having been lowered into a lion’s den of death, emerged early the next morning alive and vindicated by His God.
Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast into the storm so that we safely could be brought in.
Jesus is the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain, so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, and the true bread.
The Bible really is not about you is it? – It really is all about Him.
Application of the Scriptures flows out of our posture in Bible reading and study. Yielding a practical help for Bible reading and study, the five questions below are not only the main points of good hermeneutics (Bible interpretation), but are helpful with intentionality of good posture. Use these questions to redirect attention away from self and toward God.
- What does this text teach me about God?
- What does this text teach me about fallen humanity?
- How does this text point to Christ?
- What does God want me to know?
- What does God want me to do?
Reflect on your posture when coming to the Bible.
- My goals in posture when coming to the Bible are…
- As a result of a proper view of Scripture, my hope is…
- My prayer for posture in my personal Bible reading and study is…
All sources for this series are listed here: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/30/excited-to-share/