So let’s move on to the next way God communicates to us, according to this psalm, and that is the Word of God, the Scriptures. The psalmist says:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
As an introduction to these verses let me share with you some quotes from some articles in an interesting journal found in our College library. It is called the Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care (see references # 18) and in this particular journal the theme is “The Formative Reading of Scripture”.
Basically it talks about two ways to read the Bible, the ‘informative’ way and the ‘formative’ way, suggesting that in our lives as believers we should do both. We should read the Bible both for information and in order that God can transform us in the process.
In the introduction to this subject there is a quote from Bernard McGinn who says, “Clearly from the beginning Christians read the Bible both intellectually for growing in the knowledge of biblical truth and experientially so that the biblical truth might be applied to their daily lives.”
McGinn, who wrote on “Christian spirituality especially up to the twelfth century” also said, “The cultivation of the…divine presence [of God] took place within the exercise of reading, meditating, preaching and teaching the biblical text…[for the purpose of] forming Christians and building [up] the body of Christ.”
Certainly at our College the students have the opportunity to read the Bible using their minds in order to learn more and then have the opportunity to share that truth learnt with others, hopefully in a cross-cultural situation. But is that enough? The answer is obviously, ‘no’. And so we endeavour to help them understand that the Word of God needs to be much more than a textbook from where we gain knowledge. It needs to be the place where God speaks to us, refreshes our souls, encourages us in our daily walk with him, reveals things about our lives that are not pleasing to him, teaches us things that he then enables us to apply in our lives in the power of his Holy Spirit, indeed transforming us into the men and women of God that he desires us to be. See Romans 12:1, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
In another quote in the same journal we read that Thomas Watson, a seventeenth century English Puritan pastor, understood the need for reading the Bible with both our heads and our hearts. He said, keep reading your Bibles “till you find your hearts warmed…read the Word not only as history, but strive to be affected with it. Let [the Word of God] not only inform you but [also] inflame you.”
Possibly he was remembering the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as they walked with Jesus and when he taught them from “Moses and all the prophets” (Luke 24:27). They said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
It’s very important to have a good understanding of the Bible, it is an amazing book and to understand God’s Word is to be at a great advantage in living this life as God planned it for us as human beings. In the Word is the truth concerning life in Christ. But, to be really healthy and alive and effective disciples of Jesus Christ we must engage with the Scriptures in such a way that there is lasting transformation in our lives as the Spirit of God gives us understanding. To quote Irenaeus: “The glory of God is human beings fully alive.” And that life is only found in the Christ of the Scriptures.
When Miriam and I did our missionary training in 1980 – 1981, I had been a Christian for 10 years from a non-Christian background. It was a great time for us both to build upon the knowledge we already had of the Bible. For me, I needed to learn some basics that I had never considered before. Let me share one example.
I remember that we studied the NT and particularly the person of Jesus Christ. But, one day a newsletter was read for prayer. It was from a missionary in Indonesia and concerned a conversation she had with a Muslim who was on a bus with her. The Muslim asked her, ‘Who is your God?’ And she answered, ‘Jesus is my God.’ That’s all I can remember, because at that stage I thought to myself that I would not have given that answer and I wondered why.
Soon after this Miriam and I, with our two children, went on a holiday and stayed in a caravan. I can remember two things about those couple of weeks. One was that it was cold! Caravans aren’t the greatest things to stay in when the weather is cool. The second thing though, was that I was still wondering about my response to that newsletter. I remember praying and saying, Father, I know in my head that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and therefore God the Son, but somehow, in my heart, I don’t really seem to believe in his divinity. I had, up until this time, always related to God as Father and of course believed in Jesus as my Saviour and Lord, but something was missing in my deep understanding of who Jesus really was. So, I asked God to reveal to me, in my heart and not just my head, that Jesus was God.
I remember at some stage during that holiday turning to Colossians 1 and reading these words:
“13 For he [God, the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God…16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Now, I had read these verses many times before, but this time it was very different. It was like a new revelation to me from the Spirit of God answering my prayer. I read this and knew, not just in my head, but now in my heart, that Jesus is God! And when asked in future, ‘who is your God?’ I would have no problem saying, ‘Jesus is my God.’ A very important lesson for me, considering we would spend the next 11 years in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan working with Muslims who deny the divinity of Christ.