The Gift of Scripture

blog living word praying Dec 14, 2022

Blog by Alan Fadling

Gem and I were discussing a podcast she’d heard in which the host talked about quoting the Bible “for those who feel the need for that sort of authority.” I remember hearing another prominent Christian leader say how some of his listeners and readers need him to “rub some Bible” on what he says. I appreciate both of these leaders but feel sad about this way of speaking about the holy Scriptures. 

There is, of course, a way of engaging or proclaiming the message of the Bible that is devoid of the grace and truth of God’s Spirit. This is perhaps what those leaders were reacting against, and I do too. My hope as I read, reflect on, study, and teach from the Scriptures is that I might be able to find and share wisdom that speaks to the central issues of living well. 

Too often, the New Testament gets turned into a law book. People speak of following biblical principles, but those principles aren’t always expressed as a way of living in God. Rather, they seem more like life-management strategies that can be utilized without having to interact with God. God becomes merely a lawgiver. I’m not sure I want a close relationship with someone who lays down the law and inevitably judges (condemns?) me based on our performance. 

What does it mean to live “biblically”? I don’t think it’s approaching the Bible as an “owner’s manual.” When did you last read through an owner’s manual? You might consult it if you have a question or a problem with your car or a household appliance, but otherwise you’re likely to ignore it. Living biblically is living wisely. Wisdom is the fruit of living in the truth. Wisdom knows how truth works. Wisdom is the fruit of communion with the all-wise God who speaks. 

The Bible is a wisdom book, a love book, a grace book. As such, it is priceless. I think of David’s heartfelt appreciation in Psalm 19:7-11 for the goodness of what God says. This is where the language of “sweeter than honey” and “more valuable than gold” feels richly true. 

There is a wholeness and wholesomeness in what God says that refreshes our whole being. The vision of reality God speaks to us enables us to live well. What God speaks to us is just so right that we can’t help but respond with joy. God speaks words that enlighten our hearts and minds so we see kingdom reality more clearly. There is a reverent purity to how God speaks that keeps helping us generation after generation. 

God speaks trustworthy words. As our vision of how God speaks to us in Scripture becomes clearer, we experience the profound treasure and delightful flavor of hearing God’s voice in our lives. Letting our lives be shaped and guided by God’s voice leads us more deeply into places of peace. Our confidence grows even when circumstances disappoint or threaten us. 

In what is often called Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17, we hear Jesus say to the Father, “For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:8-9). We believe what Jesus says not as a religious activity but as a response to the reality we experience in him. 

It is to the degree that I read the Scriptures listening for the caring, wise guidance of my Father in heaven that I come to treasure these ancient written words. When I approach the text to get an insight I can carry off with me into the day or with a task to add to my to-do list, I may grow to feel burdened by my ongoing engagement with Scripture. 

We are engaging Jesus, the living Word of God, as we read, reflect on, and even pray the written word of God in Scripture. When we are growing in communion with God through our engagement with Scripture, we find our hearts and minds growing in alignment with reality as God has created it. We may not always find what God says to be easy, but we will find that we are led into deeper life through his words. 

Taking our own self-decided path, unmindful of how God is guiding us, tends to lead to more anxiety and despair. We can discover the joy of living in a community of sisters and brothers who are learning the ways of God. A life lived in growing responsiveness to what God says will produce a heart and mind that grows in peace, joy, hope, and love. This is my experience over the decades as I’ve sought to engage the Scriptures day-to-day. 

For Reflection: 

  • What has been your relationship with the Scriptures these days? 
  • In what ways are you finding the Scriptures to be a place of living encounter with God? 
  • In what ways might you react to lesser visions of the Scriptures you’ve been exposed to? 
  • How would you like to talk with God about this?

 

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash