Now that we've started 2011 and we're all setting "New Years Resolutions", I thought I'd post something that might provide some practical thoughts for those of us who are rededicating ourselves to a renewed study of God's word this year.
In reading Dallas Willard's book "Hearing God", I came across something that really spoke to me, and I thought everyone might benefit from having the chance to consider it. On pages 162-163, Willard says the following:
"When we come to the Scriptures as part of our conscious strategy to cooperate with God for the full redemption of our life, we must desire that his revealed will should be true for us. Next, we should begin with those parts of Scripture with which we have some familiarity, such as Psalm 23, the Lord's Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13 or Romans 8.
"You may think this is not a big beginning. But keep in mind that your aim is not to become a scholar or to impress others with your knowledge of the Bible - a dreadful trap for so many fellowships aiming to be biblical. That aim will only cultivate pride and lay a foundation for the petty, quarrelsome spirit so regrettably, yet so commonly, observed in those outwardly identified as the most serious students of the Scriptures.
"It may help to remember these words of Thomas a Kempis:
'Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?'"
I have to admit that I've been supremely guilty in the past (hopefully less so these days) of trying to learn as much as I can in order to be known as the guy who knows a lot. Thankfully, God has been patient enough with me to humble me repeatedly in this area. Perhaps there are others who are struggling with this, so hopefully you can feel the personal indictment from this quote that I felt when I read it myself.
Willard has additional advice, which has had equal impact on me, as follows:
"Do not try to read a great deal at once. As Madame Guyon wisely counsels, 'If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.'
"You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God? It is a proven fact that many who read the Bible in this way, as if they were taking medicine or exercising on a schedule, do not advance spiritually. It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes."
To me, this is very a very powerful and indicting statement. Those of you who know me undoubtedly have known the pride I've taken in the past from being someone who knows the Bible, and who can talk on many different subjects of Theology and Apologetics. As I said above, I believe God is continuing to show me just how shallow such a way of life is.
Now this doesn't mean that I believe that people should give up on trying to dive deeply into God's word and to develop an understanding of deep theological topics. I believe this is a goal we should all have. For me, however, the goal in the past has been to (as Willard says) "become a scholar or to impress others with your knowledge of the Bible". Instead, I believe my goal should be (and hopefully is) that of seeking a deep conversational relationship with God.
Thus, in 2011 I am hoping to learn to approach God's word with humility and a desire to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. I think that the guidance offered by Willard's last statement is one that will be helpful to me in that quest, and also perhaps to some of you. I genuinely want God's word to be transferred into the substance of my life, and to have more and more the mind of Christ as I move through 2011. If this is also one of the goals you've set for yourself this year, then let me know. I'd enjoy the opportunity to make that journey together.
I would solicit your prayers in this regard, just as I'll certainly be praying for each of you as you seek to develop a deeper relationship with Christ in this new year.
Posted on Sat, January 1, 2011