Knowing the Word
Often we find ourselves in a place where we understand, at a rudimentary level, a need for knowing God’s Word, in one degree or another, for a number of reasons. But ultimately, there is no way to really do that without actually reading His Word, whether visually or audibly. Everything we want to know about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, comes from His Word. But for many of us, that Word only comes to us via a sermon or Bible study.
When we allow the Spirit to convict us in this, it stirs the desire to “want to” develop a habit of reading His Word with greater frequency. Yet not just for the benefits that He has already proven come from doing so — such as peace, understanding, and spiritual growth — but because we do desire to better our relationship with Him.
But even though we “want to”, we continually find ourselves unable to do so with any significant reliability. Like so many new habits, we fail to incorporate this behavior into our daily routines. We resign ourselves first to the failure of such a campaign, because we fail to plan a strategy that would lead to long-term success, and we fail to establish any true resolution that would make it valid.
“Diet” finds its origins in the Greek diaita (and similar variations), meaning ‘a way of life.’ A diet is not something that should be treated as a short-term implementation, but rather a lifestyle change. This is why most fail at a supposed diet, because by our modern-day definition, it is only temporary. And so the first order of business is to approach this endeavor as a life change, not just one more thing we are adding to our already overflowing plates.
As I’ve mentioned before, we have to set the purpose of such a lifestyle change — a new diet of God’s Word — at the foot of the Throne of God. We must then crucify our current lifestyle — the one that excludes a relationship with the Word — and lay it at the foot of the Cross, asking Jesus to help us let go of ourselves and embrace His Truth. Only then can we attain a true resolve to be obedient to that change, not because we’ve “decided” to, but because we’ve actually sought God’s blessing — and more importantly — His help.
Now, we know from God’s Word that Jesus is the Word of God [John 1:1-5], and so to claim to know Jesus is an invalid claim if we aren’t consuming His words:
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” [Deuteronomy 8:3]
Jesus clarifies these words by explaining that He is, in fact, the very Words of God:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” [John 6:51]
Understanding that Jesus is the Word, the following passage — that was considered by many of His followers to be a “hard teaching” and caused them to walk away — comes to life (pun intended) when we consider the words He so carefully chose:
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” [John 6:53-58]
Perhaps Jesus was not speaking as figuratively as it may seem. There are no other allusions to any hidden meanings here. He was not speaking in parables. That’s why many turned away because they were taking Him literally and could not imagine living as cannibals. But Jesus was being as concise and clear as He could be in this situation.
But knowing that Jesus is the very word of God, we can now see how reasonable this all seems. He is saying plainly, “Consume the words of God. Ingest them and make them part of you. For only those who feed on God’s words and make them their own will truly have life.”
Why, then, do we treat the consumption of God’s Word as optional? Do we consider it as something that is better that we do, but not imperative? Is that what Jesus is saying? It seems that the greatest reason many Christians struggle with making the reading of Scripture a regular part of their lives is that they don’t understand the necessity.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” [Matthew 7:21-23]
But how can we really know Jesus if we never hear His words? How can we live like He did if we don’t know how He lived? And how can we follow Him if we don’t know where He’s going? It’s imperative that we stay close to Him so that we don’t lose our way. But how can we stay close to Him if we’re not even watching Him or listening to Him?
Have we indeed resigned ourselves only to follow our church leaders, speakers, authors, and other believers, and trusting everything they tell us all the time, instead of reading and learning and asking God Himself to reveal His truths to us?
Is there any wonder we don’t feel power in our prayers, or the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control” [Gal. 5:22-23] in our daily lives?
Oftentimes Scripture is presented to us in a variety of valid and useful ways, but we don’t seek to verify it. We just assume that the teacher or source is infallible. Many Christians don’t even know how to find passages in their Bible at all, even though the average Christian home has three Bibles in it!
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. [Acts 17:11]
Do you fact-check your pastor? I regularly see pastors use different translations of the Bible in their message so that they can make their points. It’s usually because certain versions read a certain way that helps reinforce what’s being taught. While this is not wrong, we must be careful. While exposing ourselves to different translations can open up new meanings or understandings, even deepening those understandings and drawing us closer to God, this is not always the case. Sometimes this can lead to confusion because a passage is not presented in its full context, giving it a different meaning than may have been originally intended. But how is one to know?
This truth is certain: “If we don’t know the truth, we won’t know when we hear a lie.”
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.” [Matthew 22:37]
Here we can easily understand that the “mind” is where our knowledge of His Word comes into play. We must read and understand it so that we can apply it in our lives. And those of us that really struggle with the application of His Word find that it comes from a lack of understanding when we hear it, because we only hear it once, or occasionally. We fail to follow up and seek answers to the deeper questions that provide the understanding we need.
The result of that is what James, the brother of Jesus, tells us:
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. [James 1:23-25]
And so, if we start with even the basics of re-reading those passages provided to us in a sermon or other setting, we would be amazed to find how easy it is to gain a hunger for it!
For when we are “devouring” His Word regularly, we find ourselves driven to understand it. We ask questions and generate discussions, seeking understanding so that it becomes part of our soul, a part of who we are. And then we find the Spirit stirring even more questions so that we seek even more understanding, desiring to consume even more of His Word.
And so again, we come back to the concept of resolution. This starts with the desire to transform for the specific reason of drawing nearer to God, with the intended result of being closer to God. Everything else flows from there.
And this is where the rubber meets the road. Because instead of finding a place in your kingdom for God, you must first go to the Cross and truly die to yourself. Only then can you approach the Throne of God and lay your dead carcass at His feet. Finally then, you may humbly ask the King to show you where in His Kingdom you might have a place to serve!
“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
But so often, we are not prepared to pick up that cross, let alone carry it up the hill and climb upon it. Very rarely have we ever counted the cost of following Jesus at all:
“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:27]
We cannot cheat the process. We can’t have been raised to new life if we’ve never died!
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. [Romans 6:3-4]
So then, are my Scripture references mistaken? Have I taken anything out of context? Am I making an argument contrary to Scripture? Perhaps. This is certainly only my understanding of the words God has written, and maybe I’m seeing something that isn’t there. Or, indeed, am I reading into it just as it has been given? Well, this is exactly where you have to get involved. Not by arguing your view, but by discovering God’s view and checking to see if yours lines up…
I realize this has gone from a casual observation to a very serious consideration indeed. I know what this means for me! But it cannot be dismissed out-of-hand simply because we don’t like the way it tastes. There’s something going on here, something very important. And it’s our jobs to investigate it.
So discover these truths for yourself, else you make the argument for me. For we must never look at Scripture casually through the filtered lens of our own sinfulness, lest we make excuses. But rather, we must always view our sinfulness through the sharpened lens of God’s holy Word so that we may be sanctified!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:12-13]
Do I have the magic formula that’s gonna work for you? Of course not. We have to each determine our own best method of changing our lives in this way. There are certainly a number of resources and ideas available that may work for you, and I could certainly offer some suggestions, but it has to start with prayer.
As I stated earlier, this isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. It’s a life change. That means that if you haven’t yet, it’s time to lay it down that God may lift you up. Quit trying to “add” God to your life, because:
There’s no room for God in your life as long as you live.