I should read my Bible more.
I don’t have very consistent quiet-times.
The Bible seems (can I say it?) dull. Unrelated to my life. Reading Scripture is like starting a fire with wet kindling: no matter how much I try, the match seems to go out.
Have you ever thought anything like that? Does the word of God, which claims to be “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), seem dead and inactive when you read it? If so, here’s good news: you’re not alone! Every Christian has, and will, struggle to give consistent attention to God’s word. Sin, Satan, and a God-ignoring world around us all do their best to keep us away from the Bible, or at least unsatisfied with the Bible’s impact.
But apart from what we might call the “hostile opposition” to our Scripture reading, we face another challenge: the Bible isn’t about us! A resume, a birthday card from your kids – those are about your life directly. But the Bible is filled with stories about other people, distant places, difficult names, battles and birth narratives. How do all those stories and sayings actually impact real life in your world, amid bills, screaming children, chronic pain, sleepless nights, or constant loneliness – all the stuff that fills up our moments?
Here’s one way to get at that question. What Scripture has had a significant impact on your life? We can probably all point to one particular passage, verse, even phrase that has been a milestone in our Christian lives. Maybe it’s the passage that God used to save you. Maybe it was something that got you through a significant struggle in marriage or parenting, a job crisis, or a health emergency. Take a moment and think about that significant Scripture. What stands out about it? What made it leap off the page?
Here’s how David Powlison, a writer and biblical counselor, summarizes the way Scripture comes to life for us. Consider your significant Scripture, and see if you find a mix of these three elements. Scripture comes to life when three things intersect: our situation, the living God, and our response in light of who God is and what he does. Situation, God, response. Let’s unpack each of these.
The situation – Scripture is about the real lives of real people. It has dirt under its fingernails. It portrays life as it really is: messy, painful, joyous, glorious, all at once. It portrays people as we really are. Made in God’s image, yet fallen. Sinful and sinned against. Corrupt and corrupting. The point of all this is to intersect with your life. You live in the same world, a good world made by God but now under his curse because of sin. Scripture accurately portrays life in that kind of world.
God – but Scripture does more than catalogue the joys and woes of humanity. Scripture reveals God. It is fundamentally about the triune God: who he is, what he is like, what he does. Or we could put it this way: Scripture is about God revealing himself in Christ in the power of the Spirit. But note: God doesn’t reveal himself in abstracts. It’s easy as Christians to only have vague, fuzzy notions about God. Fuzziness never changes anyone. Scripture reveals God in specifics, not in vague abstractions.
Response – God reveals himself so that we can respond. And that response (again summarizing Powlison) happens in two-dimensions: vertically, towards God; and horizontally, towards other people. In other words, faith and love.
When you put these three together – the triune, living God, situation, response – Scripture comes to life. Think back to your significant Scripture. Can you see these elements? Now imagine this: what if all of Scripture began to open up to you in these ways? That’s God’s intention. Scripture is about life: your life, and mine. It is living and active (Heb. 4:12). It is able to make us wise for salvation, and useful for godliness (2 Tim. 3:15-17). It brings life, wisdom, joy, and purity (Ps. 19:7-8). And it brings all those good gifts in the midst of the real world, the world we live in as sinners, sufferers, and saints. Life and Scripture aren’t strangers. They share the same zip code. And as we bring our life to the Bible, we’ll find that the Bible comes to life in ways we’ve never expected.
Photo by Chris Yarzab.