The Spiritual disciplines are a means of grace God uses to grow His people. Without active involvement in the disciplines, our spiritual growth will be stunted or nonexistent. In our last article, we began a series on the Spiritual disciplines which we will continue today by considering the first spiritual discipline: Bible intake.
Bible intake is the most important Spiritual discipline. A Christian simply cannot grow without God’s Word continually being consumed. Scripture is the only way we know about God, and if we are not taking it in, we are missing out on God’s revelation of Himself.
In John 17, Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth.” Our sanctification comes through God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. We see in the book of Hebrews how God’s Word discerns our very thoughts: “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (4:12). Our hearts can’t be trusted (Jeremiah 17), so we need God’s Word to discern our very thoughts and motives.
In 2 Tim. 3, we are told that all of Scripture is inspired by God, therefore it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (3:16). These passages clearly teach that God uses His Word to edify His people. We can’t grow without Bible intake.
Here are a few ways we take in the Scriptures:
Hearing God’s Word
This isn’t too difficult if you attend a New Testament church that preaches God’s Word each week. Scripture teaches that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and those who hear and obey are blessed (Luke 11:28). We must be careful that we don’t just hear the Word, but are a doer of the Word as well (James 1:22).
Hearing God’s Word is even easier in a digital age with Bibles apps, online sermons, and podcasts. It’s great to be able to pull up a sermon from a favorite preacher and listen to the message. With that said, as a word of warning, make sure those things do not replace meeting together with a local congregation and sitting under a pastor’s teaching who knows you and is shepherding your soul.
Reading and Studying God’s Word
Not only should we listen to God’s Word being taught, but we also need to take time for ourselves to read and study it. God uses His Word to sanctify His people, so strive to find time each day to open His Word and read. May we follow the example of Ezra who “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord” (Ezra 7:10).
Lifeway researched the top influences on Christians and churches that are growing spiritually, and, to no surprise, they found that the most important factor was daily Bible reading. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform His people. Lifeway’s research also showed that many churchgoers agree that Bible reading is necessary for growth. However, only 16% actually read the bible every day. We confess the power of Scripture with our words, but deny it by our lifestyle.
Spending time in God’s Word will take time and intentional effort. R.C. Sproul states: “We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” Let us not be lazy Christians! May our love for the Lord and desire to grow in godliness motivate us to diligent study of the Word.
If you’re not reading the Bible regularly, then begin by starting small. Too often we make a commitment to read the Bible every day for long periods of time but don’t stay with it. While reading for long periods of time is great, devoting yourself to shorter periods at the beginning might help you continue throughout the year.
Also, be creative in how you make time for the Word. There have been times where I had long commutes that provided time for the Word and prayer. Other times I’ve gotten up early or stayed up late to make time. Some years I read through the entire Bible, other years I focus on one specific book of the Bible. Our seasons of life may change, which is why evaluating our day and determining how we can make time requires discipline and intentionality to grow in grace.
Join me in praying that we would discipline ourselves to read, study, and hear God’s Word. Pray that as we encounter God through His Word, we would crave it more and more…until it is honey on our lips!
Points of Application:
- What’s one thing you can do to improve your Bible intake?
- Do you have a set place/time to read and study God’s Word? Determine what works best for your schedule and commit that time to the Lord.
- If you don’t know how to study God’s Word, make a point to meet with a friend, Sunday school teacher, pastor, or someone else you trust and ask for help!
Next week, we’ll look at two more ways we take in the Scriptures: meditation and memorization.
Helpful Links for Further Study:
Sources: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.