Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reading the Bible for Devotion

Recently I have read the Bible more than I usually do. Now this may come as a surprise to some, since I actually read the Bible more often. What could I mean by this seeming contradiction? When I read, I normally read the Bible as a text to study. Now this is not bad. In fact, it is part of loving God with your mind, which is something we should all strive to do (cf. Matt. 22:37). However, I had not been reading it as a devotional—I had not been reading it as something that can and should penetrate my heart and lead to life change.

It is certainly true that academic study should and often does lead to devotion. Sometimes, as in the case of Anselm and his development of the ontological argument, devotion just is the object of academic study or reflection on God. However—and this is especially true for seminary students—it is far easier to focus on word meanings, theme, immediate context, ancient setting, and theological and philosophical systems.

Reading devotionally has been really refreshing. And I don’t mean to suggest that I turn my brain off while I read. I still try to take note of the overall message and briefly scan the margins to see what alternate translation is. But I try to avoid the full academic side for a moment, gain the basic understanding of the context, and see what applications I can make.

Note that this is still fundamentally biblical study. But it is study with a purpose of worship of God, prayer and communion with him, and life change. If you haven’t been able to get jump started on this, I’d recommend starting small. Finishing a letter of the New Testament in one setting is not only not difficult, it allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment. Reading the whole letter in a single setting also helps you not to miss the forest for the trees; in other words, you tend to gain perspective about particular passages because you see the whole letter develop in front of you. This can especially be true in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. Well, really, it is true in all of them.

What lessons in Scripture is God teaching you? What else might you add to what I have written?

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