Biblical Living: Engaging the Word
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”Isaiah 40:8 (ESV)
The Foundation of the Word
How powerful is God’s word?
As we know in the first chapter of Genesis, everything we see and know was created by the spoken word of God. That’s pretty powerful. Definitely more powerful than my words. Half the time I speak to my children I get excited when they acknowledge that I’m even in the room, much less actually responding in obedience to the thing I said. Can any of you parents attest? Have you ever had that jaw dropping moment when you asked your child to do something (or for you wives asking your husband) and they immediately went and did it? No response. No arguing. No talking back. No asking for more time. No rolling around on the floor for 30 minutes complaining about how hard its going to be and how terrible their life is for having to do such a thing. They just went and did it.
That’s what happened when God spoke. It did. Whatever it was; light, earth, animals, trees, stars. When God said, it became.
The apostle John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel that the Word became flesh and dwelt upon the earth. The very Word that created all things and who was in the beginning with God and was God. That Word, Jesus, is the foundation of all things.
He is the beginning. He is the bedrock. Before anything else is or was in our lives, He is and was. And He has been revealed to us, as the good news, through the written word of God.
When Jesus encountered the two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, it says that “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
How precious is this Word? How undeserved is it that the invisible eternal God, creator of all things would reveal Himself to us through His Word?
God’s word, the written scriptures that display to us His immutable attributes, character, and plan, is the very foundation of all that we are and all that we believe as His people.
The Invitation of the Word
“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.”Romans 10:17 (NLT)
But God’s word is not just a foundation to build our lives upon. It’s also inviting. There’s an invitation within God’s word. It’s an invitation to life. It’s an invitation to become a new creation. It’s an invitation to become whole. Or should I say holy?
As the people of God we are called to be a people of faith and as Paul tells the Roman church, faith comes by hearing…and hearing…and hearing again God’s word.
Sometimes it can be hard to fully grasp what is meant by faith. Is it just belief in something? Is it hope? If we have it, does that mean we get what we want, when we want? What I mean is if I have faith does that mean I get healed of sickness, or get a new job, or experience a restored relationship, or….whatever else you may be in need of at the time?
I don’t think having faith is just about “getting” something. It’s about “becoming” something. We don’t just get life, we start living differently. That new or different way of living is evident through our faith; the very faith we obtain by the hearing the good news of the Word made flesh.
You see faith is substantial. What I mean is that it has substance. There is an evidence to it. In other words it’s not just belief in something, its belief put into motion.
I’ve often used the simple analogy of sitting in a chair. Chairs are inviting by nature. They don’t demand that you sit in them. They don’t trip you and make you sit in them. They just sit. Empty. Waiting for someone to come and engaging them. They remain open and inviting. A well positioned chair can offer a number of invitations. Come rest. Come talk. Come listen. Come eat.
I may be able to hear the invitation (whatever it may be) and proclaim all day long that I believe the chair can hold me, but until I fully sit down in the chair with my weight distributed in such a way that without it I would be on the floor, I have not exhibited faith. Until that moment I have not responded fully to the invitation. By sitting, I respond to the invitation and put my belief into motion. I have faith. I give myself over to a different posture. I go from standing to sitting. It becomes substantial. There is evidence to my belief and hope that the chair will fulfill its promise to bear me up as I trustingly rest upon it.
My faith in the chair, or we could say my belief in motion, wasn’t just about me getting something from the chair, it was about me responding to the invitation and changing my posture. It was about me becoming different.
God’s Word is full of invitations to become different. But the biggest invitation in His word is to know Him and love Him. In knowing and loving Him we become different. Our posture changes. We become more humble, reliant upon Him to bear us up. As He bears us up and we become different, our responses and reactions to life’s struggles become different. Our engagement with other people becomes different. By faith we receive new life and become new creations.
God’s word is not only the foundation of our lives, it is the invitation to life.
“…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
The Transformation of the Word
As people of God, why is engaging with His word so important? Why must we continue to read it, though we don’t understand it? Why must we hear it preached, hear it read, hear it prayed? Why do we seek to memorize Bible passages and meditate on these ancient words and texts that are so confusing and often times seem so contradictory?
We do this because we are a people in need of transformation. Not just in need, I believe many of us desire it. We long for it. We want to be different than we are.
There’s only One transformative power in all the universe. As I said at the beginning, my words don’t change people. My efforts, my commands and demands, my reminders, my yelling and anger, my discipline. Even my listening, empathy, comfort, and love. None of those things can transform my children. They can guide them. They can show them that there is a different way of being expected of them. But they cannot transform them.
Only God can transform. And God, by His grace alone, uses His word to invite us into a life of transformation through faith.
If we want to be a transformed people, a people with a different posture of being, then we must be a people of the Word.
I know this can sound a bit cliche. There’s a chance this encouragement to engage God’s word may seem banal and predictable. “I get it Jeremy, I need to read my bible more.”
I’ve been there. I’ve felt the same way. But what if we approached it differently. What if we didn’t approach our engagement with God’s word as something to be figured but as something to rest in. I want to invite you to engage God’s Word not simply in a cognitive way, but in a spiritual way. Try reading it with an open heart. Read it slowly. Read it with listening ears. Listen for the invitation to know and love Him. Let it sink deeper into the soil of your soul and listen for the ways you are already known and loved.
As Henri Nouwen put it, we engage in God’s word through spiritual reading not to master it but to be mastered by God. We don’t just read it it to read it, we read it to let ourselves be read by God. We engage it to be transformed.
I love the way Robert Mulholland describes it in his book, Invitation to a Journey.
“Spiritual reading is the discipline of openness to encounter God. In spiritual reading the text becomes a means of grace through which we encounter the God who has spoken us forth into being and who continues to speak to us to shape us in the image of Christ for others. In short, the text opens us to God’s control of our lives for God’s purposes.” – Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey
I hope you hear the invitation of God’s word to you to love and be loved; to know and be known. I hope you find yourself strengthened in your faith as you hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus. As we respond to this invitation in faith, may we be a people who are continually transformed by grace into the image of the Word made flesh.