Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Preparation for Receiving the Word

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Proper preparation is critical. Without it, Scripture reading is seldom blessed. Such preparation is threefold. First, we must approach Scripture with a reverential fear of God and His majesty. We must approach the Word "swift to hear, slow to speak" (James 1:19), determined like Mary to lay up God's word in our hearts. Reverential fear is always blessed, either by having our understanding enlightened or by some other good affections being put into us.
Second, we must approach the scripture with faith in Christ, looking on Him as the Messiah, who "is the lion of the tribe of Judah, to whom it is given to open the book of God." If we come to Scripture with reverence for God and faith in Christ, will Christ Himself not open our hearts as He did the hearts of the disciples traveling to Emmaus?
Third we must approach the Scripture sincerely desirous to learn of God (Prov. 17:16). Those who bore fruit from thirty to a hundredfold were precisely those who received the word "in a good and honest heart" (Luke 8:15). We often do not profit from Bible-reading because we come "without a heart" for divine teaching.

-Joel R. Beeke  and Ray B. Lanning, "The Transforming Power of Scripture" from Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible pgs. 119-120

The above quote prompts preparation for reading the Bible. While many of us thrive on reading, meditating is more difficult in a fast-paced lifestyle and sometimes we excuse ourselves by attempting to meditate in the midst of hundreds of other things. In the same way, preparing for consuming and digesting the Word can be difficult. Many times I find myself eagerly diving into the Bible, desperate for the Word, but unconscious of the sacred act that has been engaged. I am receiving the very words of God. The question becomes how well am I receiving?

Jesus rebuked His disciples again and again because of their dullness of hearing when it came to the Word. His irritation is apparent (and apparently still divine irritation), His disciples were not prepared to receive spiritual instruction, they had their heads, but more important still, their hearts, set on earthly things. They responded from the shallow context that pervaded their hearts. Jesus desperately wanted them to hear.

Many times I have attempted to institute a discipline of saying "grace" before reading the Word, simply preparing myself with a short prayer asking God to give me ears to hear and a heart to receive His Word and His voice. I know that my own interpretation of the Bible is as useless as the Pharisees'. It is only the Holy Spirit's revelation of the Bible's meaning and significance that will produce good fruit. The Pharisees were mentally prepared to tackle the scripture, they had it memorized, knew it by mind, but had never received it by heart. They were the professional interpreters of their day, but did not have the humble heart to hear.

Lord give us that heart.

I desire to take Beeke and Lanning's warning and exhort myself to pause before I hastily enter the Word. I am on sacred ground. I am entering a place that terrorizes the devil and that he has crafted an entire army of lies to twist and pervert. I need the Lord to soften my heart, to give me spiritual ears to hear, to give me a humility that is able to receive and a hunger that is ready to feed on the living Word. I need to invite the Holy Spirit to come and interpret the text, to communicate to my spirit and place within me the engrafted word. May we take time to open ourselves to the work of the Spirit to establish us as a habitation for the living Word of God.

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