reading scripture

Recently I was listening to N.T. Wright, considered by many the world’s foremost theologian today, certainly one of the most influential theologians. I heard him say that reading scripture for him is like breathing. He meant that for any Christian, reading scripture is simply a part of our life in God, which imparts life from God, one might say. Indeed all scripture is said to be God-breathed and profitable, so we do well to be in it regularly.

I listen to scripture being read, daily, and I try to regularly recite the “Jesus Creed” as well as the “our Father”/”Lord’s prayer.” I find these passages help get me centered again, or better centered. Also going over passages I’ve memorized can be quite helpful. I wish I knew many more passages than I do. My actual count of passages which I know verbatim is few. Right now my wife Deb and I are working on memorizing the book of James. Certainly a great book.

Scripture is God’s written word, and as Scot McKnight has aptly said, our posture when reading scripture, or hearing it read, should be one of listening. We listen of course, with the intent of obeying, as Lois Tverberg brings out clearly in her recent book. To hear in scripture is never separated from obeying, so that hearing and acting are meant to always be our response to God’s word. As Samuel was instructed to say, “Speak Yahweh, for your servant is listening.”

It doesn’t matter if it seems we’re getting nothing out of it. And I don’t try to make something good happen as I hear it. I remember past times when, say, the book of Job just impacted me in some clear way, and I kind of stood in awe. But the next time around maybe I’m rather in some sort of tizzy and it just doesn’t seem to be coming through the same. But reading scripture is not just reading and looking for some kind of experience. It is really meant to be an interactivity with God. Especially on our part, simply listening, and being attentive to what impressions God may be giving us.

While we need to read or listen to the whole of scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, it is good also to settle down on one passage. Recently I spent some time in Isaiah 26, wanting to not only meditate on the one well known verse in that passage, but to see it in its context. We need to stop and look at the trees, as well as go through the entire forest.

So reading scripture is part and parcel of our life in God through Jesus by the Spirit. We need to do it privately, and we need to hear it read in our gatherings. And first and foremost we need to seek to hear God’s voice to us through it. The Lord will be faithful, and his word will not return to him empty, but will fulfill his purpose as we faithfully seek to listen and obey. In and through Jesus, together for the world.

12 comments on “reading scripture

  1. Deborah says:

    I fully agree with N.T. Wright in that reading scripture is like breathing to me. When I first started this journey with the Lord the desire that was placed in my heart was to soak up the Bible. Knowing that everyone who preached or taught used it so I wanted to learn myself directly. Then I learned how it became a double edged sword of our armor because I found that many who taught may not have been telling the truths found in it’s pages. As the foundation of our beliefs many made the choice of reading parts, like taking chapters out of a great novel and did not connect the dots in the importance of the whole.

    Over the years time after time my journey through the whole Bible my eyes have been open to more truths and many aahhh haa moments. I would not trade that time for anything. The one problem I have found, well if it is really a problem per say, is that I am more aware of how much truth from it others have twisted to lead people astray whether knowingly or unknowingly because they count on the fact that not many folks sitting in the pews have ever read it, so they depend on the pastors to teach rather than learning together with our Lord who guides us through the pages. If one does not read it how can they be aware of which are true shepherds and those only dressed in the clothing.

    I guess I have never read it to learn obedience but it just teaches me just how many areas I need the Grace of God and how very, very patient and merciful He truly is. Many have tried obedience to every word and have found that while they fail they expect others to live what they believe a rather legalistic approach but I know One who was able to be obedient to every Word and it is Jesus. Who knowing my failures took the punishment for my lack of obedience and that is why I love Him above all others. Humbly I accept His free gift and desire to read all about Him everyday like breathing.

    • Thanks, Deborah. Yes, we need to test the spirits, to grow up in the meat of the word, to discern between good and evil, in the love in which we’re maturing coming to know what is best.

      Yes on the grace part, and how we do fall short, but we are called to obedience, no less, to Christ. That doesn’t have to become legalistic. It is done out of love, and Christ brings us back out of love when we fail.

      • Deborah says:

        I think that depends on whether you are being obedient to the Law or to Grace. Being obedient to the Law brings glory to oneself and obedience to Grace displays an after effect of what we have been shown and the Glory goes to God.

      • That’s a big subject. God through grace not only forgives, but brings us into the new life in Jesus, in which obedience is part and parcel. In which we not only hear, but obey. That actually is a concept right in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. If expected of saints in the old covenant, how much more should it be expected of us in the new covenant? Certainly of grace, which in Jesus we see in its outworking as the fulfillment of the law, which we are enabled to fulfill in Jesus by the Spirit. No glory ever goes to us, for sure.

  2. Deborah says:

    If we are saved from the bondage of the law then after salvation we try and live it then it holds us in bondage again however if we live and are obedient to Christ then we will live under faith, mercy and grace which in obedience to Him we show to others in servant hood and then our mission is the great commission because telling others of what Christ did for us but we do not however try and live the law again. Romans 3:21-28 and many others show this.

    • Deborah, I’m not saying that we try to obey the law, or fulfill God’s calling to us in the flesh. Not at all. But by the Spirit we do fulfill that, according to Romans 8. We are no longer under law but under grace, so that we now can obey (Romans 6, and see Romans 7). I share this so you can see how I see it from scripture.

  3. Deborah says:

    I guess I do not know what you are saying by obey. Obeying what? That is were my confusion comes.

    • Obedience to God as in obeying Jesus’ commands for example (John 14, where Jesus says that if we love him, we’ll obey what he commands. Our take and where we’re at from the Reformation has made us prone to question good works and obedience as legalisms. Another reason I’m more favorable to the Anabaptist take among the Reformers, Anabaptism being called “the Radical Reformation.” But I’m not talking about sinless perfection, merit, or something anyone does apart from grace. But works matter.

      Works of the law are of the flesh only because the Spirit is now working to fulfill them through the new covenant, not the old. So much more to be said on this.

  4. Deborah says:

    I do not know about the reformers because all I have ever done is read the bible and no longer belong to a specific denomination after leaving the Lutheran Church in the 70’s. I guess I do not feel like works are obedience because of my faith it is more of a way of life that just happened the longer and more I got to know the Lord.

    I often ask many people who say they want to be obedient to the Lord, what they mean by that obedience and what are they obeying not many ever give a direct answer unless it pertains to the law some how and that is very sad to me because it negates what Christ did.

    Thank you for all your responses because I love to discuss these types of things.

    • Deborah, I think our theological take and understanding is vital, but what amazes me is how we skirt over plain passages of scripture in doing this, at times. I think you are trying to honor all of that in what you do. I say simply let the Bible say what it says, don’t change the language in how we describe it, and remember too, as the Bible says, it is all of God’s grace. Of course you likely will be saying the same thing. But on this issue and others, I think what scripture plainly and simply says differs from some of the ways our evangelical theology tries to describe it.

      • Deborah says:

        That is why having the foundation of God’s Word is so important because no matter what doctrinal philosophy one adapts the Word remains the same and our understanding grows the more it is read.

        We must be sure of what it is we truly believe which is imperative to sharing the gospel which is the bottom line of what the Lord commanded us to do and to that we must act in obedience.

      • True, Deborah. I see scripture as first, not sola scriptura for me, but primera scriptura. Then tradition (the church, how the Spirit has taught the church, so that it isn’t just a private, individual reading), reason and experience. God alone in Christ by the Spirit is our foundation.

        The gospel ends up about being for all of life, and includes directives from our loving God, indeed commandments. While the law is being written on our hearts by the Spirit, God sees fit still to give us commands as we see in the letters of Paul, etc. So it’s more than just the command to share the good news. There are directives/commands along with that, as we see over and over again.

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