When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.
“The heart well-stocked with God’s word is like a well-armed arsenal. Confident in the strength of its weaponry, it is fearless in the face of attacks for without or insurrections from within.”
~ Eugenne Peterson
When I first starting attending Bible study groups in college, I was insecure and intimidated because I had no clue where to find anything in the Bible. The leader would ask us to turn to verse such-and-such and the rest of the group would quickly find the exact passage. Not me. I would not even open my Bible at all because I was too embarrassed to turn to the table of contents to figure out where to go next.
Finally, I discovered these nifty little tabs that I adhered to the pages of my Bible so I could find my way around. Now the entire table of contents was conveniently and discreetly at my fingertips—literally. This small but vital crutch gave me confidence to get started on my adventure studying God’s word. Over the years, most of the tabs fell off one by one, but by then I didn’t need them anymore.
I want to share with you today three key actions regarding God’s Word: Absorb, Filter, and Act.
Jeremiah says he “devoured” God’s words (Jer 15:16). I love the word picture of ingesting the Word of God like life-giving nourishment for a hungry soul. I want to go beyond just reading the Bible as words of book. I want to internalize His words so they become a part of my inner being, of who I am as a person. I want to make sure His words become so much a part of me that they can never be taken from me.
If we are to absorb the Word of God, we must interact with it daily (ingest) and meditate on what it means (digest). Merely reading or skimming it occasionally by picking out a verse here or there isn’t enough. It’s like trying to water your Texas garden with a Dixie Cup every couple of weeks. It won’t produce much fruit.
I used to read through the Bible once a year. This is a beneficial habit and there are many great tools to make it convenient. Many of my family members do this every year.
However, I have changed my approach in the last few years because I wanted to dig deeper. I have come to realize that (for me, for now) studying a few verses in depth and taking the time to meditate on them produces more life fruit than reading several chapters to finish whole Bible in one year without really thinking about, praying over, or applying what I just read.
There is no one “right way” to absorb the Bible and get it fixed in your heart and in your head. You have to figure out what works for you and do it regularly and consistently.
My husband is a fighter pilot. He is used to absorbing large quantities of information from fast-paced briefings. Every morning, he listens to a portion of Scripture on his Bible app at 2-times normal speed. This is how he listens to the news and podcasts also. He is able to focus better when the language of Scripture is presented to him in the way his mind has been trained to receive information.
This does not work for me. I’ve tried. Attempting to keep up with the fast pace increases my anxiety until my brain shuts down and it sounds like the audio guy is reading the Bible in a foreign language.
Some people prefer using Bible apps on their phone or other device. Digital information has a lot of advantages and it’s easy to carry with you. (You also don’t have to use sticky tabs to find anything thanks to the search feature.)
I’m more of a visual learner. I do best with words on actual paper pages and a pen in my hand. Call me old-fashioned, but I also need real paper made from trees to write down thoughts I have that I don’t want to forget.
John 1:1-2 names Jesus as the Word of God. God’s words are so much more than just a book. They are living and active (Heb 4:12). Internalizing Scripture is internalizing the very Son of God Himself.
O Lord, increase my hunger for more of your Word and more of You.
God’s Word is a perfect filter to sort out the world around us. It identifies the lies by proclaiming the truth thereby allowing us to reject that which is not best for us and hold tightly to what gives us abundant life.
God has preserved His words for us to strengthen us and build us up. But proper interpretation and application is critical. We can’t pull verses out of context and twist them into what we want them to say. Much evil has been done under the banner of “Christianity” by making this serious error.
The Bible is the lens through which we are to view the world around us and interpret our experiences. A cloudy camera lens produces a blurry picture. Information is lost and the image is distorted. God’s image is distorted in our minds when we don’t view our experiences in light of His Word. We see pain and suffering and conclude that God is cruel, or doesn’t care, or is powerless to help, or doesn’t exist at all. The picture we develop of life is out of focus when the lens we use is not founded on Scripture.
When we are not fortified in the Word of God, the enemy will try use our weakened condition to cloud our thinking causing us to judge God unjustly. I have fallen prey to this many times.
Finally, all of this absorbing and filtering is useless unless we let life wring the goodness of God out of us occasionally. James is pretty clear on this.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
If we read it at home and listen to it at church, but never get around to actually living it out, then we’ve forgotten who we really are.
Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message Bible, says, “Feet, not ears and tongues, are the organs of obedience.” In other words, it’s the doing that is most important. The hearing, and the reading, and the listening are all just a means to that end.
Application and action are where God’s love becomes visible to a lost world. Without the work of the gospel, our faith in the gospel is dead (James 2:26). God brings life to us and through us when we put what we believe into action. That is true faith. Belief without action is useless.
The Bible is God’s instruction manual for our lives. He has provided guidance for us on every area of life we need guidance on. No matter who or where you are or what you need to know—there’s a verse for that!
So let’s start now.
Find your Bible and dust it off, or download a free app.
Read it. Listen to it on audio. Highlight it. Star your favorite parts.
But don’t just read it.
Study it. Dig deep. Ask questions.
Use God’s own words to springboard your communication with Him through prayer.
But don’t just study for the sake of intellectual pursuit alone.
Have a Nike moment and Just Do It!
Live it. Ask God how to apply it.
Be the embodiment of God’s Word in the world around you.
You may not know exactly what or how. You may not feel prepared, equipped, or adequate, but step out in obedience anyway. The Jordan River didn’t dry up until the people stepped in and got their feet wet. It was only then that a path to the other side was made clear (Joshua 3:13).
What is God speaking to you through His word today?
“Word of God Speak” by Mercy Me
To read other posts in this series, click the image below.