Reading Challenge for this Week:
Read EPHESIANS everyday. All SIX chapters. It will be a challenge. Stretch yourself. Trust God to speak.
I did not get a chance to explain the reason for reading this much in such a short period of time last week. So here it goes.
The reason is, the more familiar you are with the text of Scripture the better chance you have of hearing from God THROUGH the text, not just IN the text. There is a difference here. What we want is to be able to know, for sure, that God is speaking to us. Not in some vague, “I had this feeling that maybe God kinda wants me to do this or that.” This is not how a healthy relationship develops or is sustained. When we speak to God there should be genuine communication, and God should also speak to us.
What I am not saying is that we are looking for information outside of the biblical cannon. Rather, I am saying that what we hear/learn/understand/contemplate should never contradict what the Bible teaches. It is informed by the text. What happens is that we begin to grow in our ability to understand what God is doing in us and through those around us. That is another point to remember. If you are not connected to other people who are reading with you, you will not have the checks and balances that you need to make sure that you are not straying from what the Bible is saying. (Invite someone to join you. You just might be amazed at what you discover!)
We have to learn to hear the God OF the Bible, not merely try to find the God that the Bible describes. The Bible, as wonderful a gift that it is, will never capture the totality that is God. What this means is that we should not use the Bible to give us the greatest picture of who God in God’s self. This is not what the Bible was designed to do. Only God can fully reveal and express himself. The logical question that we should be asking then is this, “What is the purpose of the bible?”
The purpose of the bible is to point
us in the right direction so that we will
not miss God when we encounter him.
Are there commands to be obey? Yes. Are there suggestions for daily living, and wisdom for daily practice? Yes. But, these are secondary purposes. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to direct us toward God so that He can reveal himself to us.
Too often I have tried to conjure up the God IN the Bible, rather than allow the text of Scripture to serve as the lens that focuses my attention on God when he is moving about in the world, and in my life. The purpose of reading one entire book of the bible at a time is to better grasp the message that is being communicated. When we chop up the letters or gospels or histories we are make one critical mistake:
We are choosing what is important in the story
that God has communicated.
We should never be the ones choosing what is or is not important. We must allow God to direct our minds, affections and direction as we interact with him through allowing the word to me an intermediary. This idea was confirmed as I have been reading Donald Whitney’s book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [Paperback | Kindle]. I have provided some quotations from the book to help here. (The references are from the Amazon Kindle edition.)
“…it is through His Word that our experience with God, including our perception of His presence, is mediated.” (Location 515)
“Shouldn’t we expect to experience God’s presence primarily by means of that which He gave explicitly for the purpose of making Himself known to us: His Word?” (Location 580)
“When we seek the presence of God mediated-directly or indirectly-through Scripture, we are not imagining God as we would like Him to be. The basis of our experience with God is God-revealed truth, not our individual, idiosyncratic opinions about God.” (Location 528)
“Without a mediated sense of God’s presence, how can I know I have indeed encountered the God of the Bible? How can I be sure that I haven’t delved into the recesses of a mysterious…” (Location 545)
“Go often to the place where God has revealed Himself most clearly–the Bible.” (Location 577)
“Martyn Lloyd Jones said of God’s Word, “The more we know it and read it, the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much of your time with regular daily reading of the Bible.’” (Location 577)
So how do we avoid becoming the arbiter of God’s truth? We avoid it by reading larger sections of the bible, whole books if possible, and allowing God to speak to us where we are. This is a tremendous act of faith. It is not easy at first, and it can be very disconcerting when you do not hear anything. Give it time. Get familiar with God’s word first. Get used to the ryhthm and timbre of God’s voice.
This new way of reading will lead to a new way of living. Do not forget the goal: Be a disciple of and for Jesus, who makes disciples of and for Jesus.