It is time for me to systematically study scripture with my own brain. Time to let it root deeply in me and grow something meaningful in my life. Time to invite the Biblical text to speak into my life in a new way. Time to listen to God’s voice with my own spiritual ears, as I practice knowing what God’s voice has already said through the inspired words of the Bible.
I am not suggesting that I should stop listening to other people’s interpretation of scripture. I must have instruction, correction and direction from wise leaders. But if the Bible is truly a compilation of the inspired Words of God, as I believe that it is, then it is beneficial for me to read all by itself. Study of the written Words of God is the only way I can know when God is actually speaking to me in my spirit and recognize what is from Him versus what is just my cute little brain thinking up its own cute little thoughts. My brain thinks up lots of thoughts. Does yours? Most of my thoughts are not trustworthy.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” My heart and my thoughts actually deceive me. I need to know what the Bible says so that I can check my thoughts as they roll in and dismiss the ones that are wrong or faulty or leading me down a bad path. As women, we are often told that we are emotional creatures who lead with our hearts and feelings. And while that may be true, each woman is also created in God’s image, with a mind and a spirit that God intended us to use. I am increasingly convinced that God has called me to live into my identity as His image-bearer by using the mind that He gave me to love Him well. That sort of intellectual love and worship are going to require intentional study and practice.
The Bible is trustworthy. It is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17) and the first place I should apply any of those uses of scripture is to my own thoughts. Devotional, “pump me up for a good day” types of Biblestudy are of some value…but those studies often play on our emotions and are ineffective, impotent imposters when compared to the life-changing impact of God-breathed words that never return void.
We read scripture, asking it to show us who we are. But the Bible is not intended to be read with ourselves as the centerpiece. It is intended to be read as a book about God. The I Am. Not the Who am I? We cannot gain a right view of ourselves until we gain a right view of God through the reading of His inspired words about Himself. The identity of the individual will always feel a bit nebulous and just out of the circle of light, hidden in the shadows of our awareness unless we do the work of study of the Bible. Only through the study of the word of God can we receive illumination of His character and personality, which will then inevitably cast light into the shadows of our identities.
The word disciple has at its root the ideas of “learner” and “discipline” and cannot be separated from those derivatives. When we try to characterize ourselves as disciples of Christ…or perhaps even to characterize ourselves as people who are ready to disciple others to follow Christ…but we do not find a disciplined learner at the core of our identities, we deceive ourselves. We are neither a disciple nor are we ready to disciple others unless and until we have become disciplined learners.
Some Christians have spent entire lives attending church and leading programming and befriending people and all manner of “godly activities” but do not find themselves transformed by the work of the Gospel. This is simply because all the relevant programming and striving efforts of the Church can never replace the individualized power and transformation that come from systematic study of the Bible. It is fundamentally irreplaceable.
We must root the Word deeply in our hearts and ask that God will grow something meaningful out of us. Will you join me in learning to engage the Bible with my intellect, asking it to transform my mind, and ultimately my heart, to follow God in all things?