This last Sunday, I gave a word of exhortation to all my listeners to immerse themselves in the Word of God. I didn’t have enough time to include all that I thought would be practically beneficial about this, so I’m writing a blog post with some of what I couldn’t include in the sermon. (This is the second post in a 3-post series.)
Immerse yourself in the Word of God as the Word of God. This is practical and (in one sense) quite easy to do. “Just read the Bible, and come hear it read and preached and discussed? Cool; I can do that.” Not so fast. There are two issues that need to be addressed: (1) Many people (most?) do not read the Bible as often as they should. And (2) It is far easier to take in the Bible superficially or even flippantly than to do so as though it were living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, that pierces deep into our hearts. The good news is that if we can tackle this second issue, the first often resolves itself. (Below is an expanded form of what I mentioned on Sunday.)
What does it look like to take in the Bible truly embracing it as the living and active Word of God? It looks like having the right attitude with which you approach the Word, having the right actions as you engage with the Word, and having the right applications as you respond to the Word.
- Attitude – In order to have the right attitude as you approach the Word of God:
- Prepare yourself by having a good space, time, and plan before you read/listen.
- Remind yourself of what the Bible actually is and is for (namely, it really is God Himself powerfully speaking to us, effecting change deep within our hearts).
- Pray. Pray throughout: before, during, and after you take in the Word. Pray that the Lord will give you clear and correct understanding, passionate and sincere affections, focused and strong faith, and renewed and unshakable commitments.
- Trust that He will always work through His Word to accomplish His good purposes (Isa. 58:11).
- Action – In order to have the right actions as you engage with the Word of God:
- Engage intentionally and with intensity. Gold yields to the committed and arduous digger, not the half-hearted slacker. Engage your heart, mind, and body in the task of mining the Word of God. And when listening to it proclaimed, fight to shut out distractions. Don’t allow your mind to wonder. In order to engage your heart and mind, you will often benefit from first engaging your body by physically leaning forward and focusing your eyes and ears on the preacher.
- Think carefully about what you read/hear. Don’t allow your thoughts to be shallow and quickly lost. Don’t be satisfied with the most superficial understanding. Ask questions, seek to understand the individual statements, and then see how they relate to each other, how they fit with other passages/doctrine, and how they help support the main point of the particular passage. And when you need to (but only when you need to, after you’ve prayerfully thought through the text yourself), get help from good commentaries.
- Take notes of what the Lord shows you. Whether you write pages or just a few sentences or even words, writing helps you not only record and remember it, but it actually helps you understand it better. Writing helps you carefully clarify your thoughts. This holds true both for when you are reading/studying the Bible and when you are listening to it proclaimed. So, regardless of whether you write it down on paper or an electronic device, take notes.
- Make time. Engaging and thinking deeply and carefully about anything takes time. Most people have time available, or at least they can free up time, to spend in the Word. We often just don’t prepare, schedule, or fight for time as we ought to. And even if some days you really only have a few minutes here and there, then make the best use of the time that God does give you. One idea is to get a 3×5 note card and write down the verse(s) you are reading that day, and every moment you can, take it out to read over, think through, write on, and/or pray about it.
- Application – In order to have the right applications as you respond to the Word of God:
- Connect the rightly understood truth of the passage to yourself. But make sure to do so responsibly and deeply. Don’t allow illegitimate connections that aren’t supported by the truth of the text. And when making personal applications, don’t be superficial. Seek to go deeper. Don’t be content with shallow connections that never challenge you or expose your sin.
- Digest through discussion. Meet with others studying God’s Word and talk about it together. This is a really practical and helpful way to understand the Bible better, to apply it to yourself better, and to have better accountability for responding as you ought to. You might even consider regularly sharing with unbelievers what the Lord is teaching you through His Word. He may use it to bless them and draw them to Himself.
- Plan to practice and commit to respond in obedience to what the Lord is showing you. Remember, the Word of God pierces deep into our hearts, uncovering those areas of weakness and issues of sin. What is God exposing in you that you need to confess and repent of? Repentance is never less than confession, but it is always more. Real repentance from a soft and receptive heart, reads/hears God’s Word and then responds by committing/recommitting to active obedience to the Lord.
Part of striving for steadfast faith in Jesus may mean getting help for needed growth, change, and/or repentance. You may need to read a book, go to counseling, ask for prayer from others, submit to accountability, and more, but one thing is for sure, if you want to fight for steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus, then you must immerse yourself in the Word of God as the Word of God, trusting that it is powerful, living and active, piercing even to the depths of our hearts, creating in us a stronger, more steadfast faith.