A Fresh Approach to Reading Scripture

God’s inspiration of the writer and God’s inspiration of the reader are two halves of a whole, and to lose either half is to filter out our hearing of the Scripture a tremendous amount of the living, penetrating, transforming Word of God.
— M. Robert Mullholland | Shaped by the Word

Many of you reading this receive “His Truth” each day. Over 600 people are connected with each other by engaging in God’s Word. It’s really a pretty powerful expression of community, even more so when I think of how many of you turn around and send it to family, friends, or co-workers who you want to bless and possibly encourage.

Today, I want to you to reflect on your approach to Scripture. I certainly have been lately.

I recently read a book called, Shaped by the Word: The power of Scripture in spiritual formation (M. Robert Mulholland). I appreciated Mulholland’s focus and elevation of God’s Word. He writes, “The Word of God is the action of the presence, the purpose, and the power of God in the midst of human life”.

He really hit home for me when he explained the difference between an informational vs. a formational approach to reading and meditating on Scripture.

One who has an informational approach may have the best of intentions. There may be a desire to know more about the Bible, to memorize verses, to know characters in Scripture and their stories. All good things. We are called to love God with all of our mind. The issue is when it stops here. I think we can all be guilty of this at times, I certainly know I have been here before. Times where time spent in Scripture is so that I can have material to preach on Sunday morning or to send out a daily verse or put something on Facebook. Or other times where I am reading and I find myself applying to someone else’s life “Boy, So-and-so needs to hear this!”

A few things that define the nature of informational reading from Mulholland:
1) "...seeks to cover as much as possible as quickly as possible so as to quicly separate the wheat from the chaff and get the data needed to do what must be done."

2) "...seeks to master the text."

3) "...sees the text as an object 'out there' for us to control and/or manipulate according to our own puposes, intentions, or desires."

On the contrary, the formational approach looks like this:

1) "It becomes less about the quantity of Scripture we read, but rather the quality of time, reflection, and attention spent on what the text says, and how it might be speaking into your life and your heart."

2) "...allows the text to master you...we come to the text with an openness to hear, to receive, to respond, to be a servant of the Word rather than a master of the text."

3) "The text becomes the subject of the reading relationship; we are the object that is shaped by the text."

A common and helpful practice before entering into times of study and devotion of God's Word, is to ask a simple question: “What is God seeking to say to me in all of this?” 

Beginning this week, “His Truth” and your own personal daily devotions should take on a deeper meaning in your spiritual formation than it has in the past. I encourage you to engage in God’s Word. To pray, even before beginning to read, “God help me to see Your Word as an instrument of your grace in my life. Holy Spirit, open the eyes of my heart that my life might be transformed by Your Word today.”

I pray that God gives you a spiritual hunger for His Word and that by His grace, God would transform your life into the man/woman He has created you to be. I hope that God would connect your head and heart to your hands, that we might fulfill the goal of spiritual formation: To love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbor.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
— Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT)