This lesson is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Study the Bible” series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
I love being around people who have so deeply taken the word of God into their lives that it has shaped the very way they think, their overall attitude toward life, their reactions to minor and major events, even their temperament. This is the fruit, developed by the Holy Spirit, of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are the signs that the word of God has truly gotten lodged into the deepest part of who we are–into the heart–where opinions are formed and motives are birthed, where emotions are sparked and decisions are set.
These are not people who look to impress others by quoting Scripture all the time, or who feel obligated to slap a verse on every event of life. They so respect Scripture that they avoid twisting it to suit their purposes. The Bible is never a weapon in their hands, and not merely a tool. It is more than an encyclopedia of spiritual knowledge. It is the voice of God– sometimes a whisper, sometimes a shout–but always a revelation of God’s own pure character. It is thus the wisdom of God, the power of God, the love of God, the light of God, the truth of God. They read the Bible because they long to know God and to have a God-filled life.
But how does the word of God get firmly planted in us?
Whenever I have run across Colossians 3:16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” it has always challenged and enthused and comforted me. “Dwell in you richly.” Of course that’s what God wants! I’m not a computer hard drive whose purpose it is to collect more and more data. I’m not a student hoping against hope to get all the answers right on the final exam. I’m a member of God’s household, and I get to learn with my brothers and sisters what God’s word through the prophets and the apostles is, and to ask God to make that word go down deeply and effectively, down to a place where it won’t get blown away by the winds of today’s concerns. I can ask God to make it take root there, so it will dwell there, and nobody can take it away. And it will not lie dormant. It will, like well-planted seed, sprout and grow, and then put down roots, and finally be ready for harvesting and digesting. We take it in as seed, but it becomes a nourishing feast.
The way I look at people who have had a pattern of Scripture digestion over the years is that the word which they consume faithfully is transformed into the spiritual muscle tissue of their lives. The word of God actually becomes part of who they are.
These people do not view Scripture as a collection of magical sayings which work wonders when voiced, but they consistently act out of the truth of Scripture. Their reactions to people around them are governed by grace because they have a graduate degree in grace, as it were (in learning and in experience). They react with truth because their consciences have been trained and shaped to stay within the bounds of honest, authentic reality. Their instincts, which are as naturally fallen as any of us, have been retrained. They don’t even think: “what is the biblical thing to do or say?” because biblical ethics and ethos have become essential to who they are. It is what is promised in the new covenant when God said, “I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).
Next week: how to meditate on the word of God.
Mel Lawrenz trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.