Biblical illiteracy in America is no secret. While statistics vary from survey to survey, polls tell us that only half of our young people can name the four Gospels, and only a third can identify who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. One must ask, why is it that when the Bible is so readily available today, even as a free app on an iPhone, so many have little more than a casual interest in the Bible?
In an article addressing the problem of biblical illiteracy in America, David Gelernter the famous computer scientist and professor at Yale University reminds us that, “Scripture begins with God creating the world, but there is something these verses don’t tell you: The Bible has itself created worlds. Wherever you stand on the spectrum from devout to atheist, you must acknowledge that the Bible has been a creative force without parallel in history.” But even among those who acknowledge the creative force of the Bible, it does not always motivate them to engage the Holy Book.
I am presently teaching an online course in spiritual formation for Rockbridge Seminary, entitled, The Practice of Spiritual Disciplines, to a class of a dozen graduate students, most of whom are already serving as ministry leaders. Several of the spiritual disciplines focus on the Holy Scriptures, such as: lectio divina or the sacred reading of Scripture, Scripture Memorization, personal Bible study, and meditation. It was striking to discover when first teaching the course eight years ago, that some students had never read through the entire Bible, not even once.
Sad to say, many of those being ordained into Christian ministry today may not be able to name the books of the Bible, or to clearly state in their own words the one central message of the Bible, the main idea that holds it all together. Is it because people have not been taught? Is it because they have not observed their parents and mentors spending time in the Scriptures? Is it a spiritual defect of some kind?
May I humbly suggest a simple reason? Perhaps it is because they have never experienced its benefits. The Scriptures might be likened to spiritual milk, bread and meat, a complete spiritual diet if you will. Some is more easily digested, some requires mild chewing, and some requires long term rumination. But just like we have to introduce adult foods gradually to children until they acquire a taste for them, so we must cultivate a habit and practice that brings us to God’s Word on a daily basis. Yes, as the actor Wilford Brimley used to say in the old Quaker Oats commercial, “It’s the right thing to do!”
The Psalmist declares, “The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul”(Psalm 19:7a NIV). The Hebrew reads, “The Torah (writings of Moses) of Yahweh is whole (complete and sound), restoring the soul.” The Hebrew word underlying our text may also be translated reviving. It reminds me of the word “reset” or “restore” on my computer. It is the same Hebrew word used in Psalm 23:3, where we read, “He refreshes my soul.”
Jesus, shortly after the miracles of feeding the five thousand and quieting the storm in the Sea of Galilee, said to His disciples, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63b ESV). Multiplying the bread and fish in His hands, Jesus restored or refreshed a fainting hungry multitude. By walking on the sea, and quieting the storm, Jesus “reset” the weather restoring peace where there had been fear and anxiety. But it is with His words in the Old Testament and New, spoken by the Breath of God, that He refreshes the soul.
There were two very difficult periods in my life when the difference between an emotional breakdown and functioning responsibly with those I loved and those with whom I worked could have been reduced to time spent meditating on God’s Word each morning. Yes, He spoke peace to me! God speaks through His Word and if embraced by a hungry soul, it energizes the spirit and breaks anxiety. Indeed, I have found over the years, that time alone with God in His Word is like a mini-retreat, reviving the soul.
7 thoughts on “The Benefit of Embracing God’s Word”
Wonderfully said Dr. E, thank you! As affirmation for you and encouragement for others allow me to say what a blessing has been given me as I read, study, memorize and study Scripture. We only limit ourselves of this blessing by not partaking more fully of what God has for us in His word.
I recall with great fondness your Spiritual Disciplines course and count it as the single most help in my growth in faith from seminary.
Blessings to you as you continue to bless others,
PS. I would gladly share my memorization technique (I’ve modified the Navigator’s memory system for my own use) with any of your current students!
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Reblogged this on Knowing Jesus in Confusing Times.
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Hi Chuck! I very much appreciate your kind words. I will let our students know about your offer to share your memorization technique at the appropriate point in the course! Thank you! Also, thank you for reblogging. Dr. Eldridge asked me to write on this subject, and he’ll appreciate your passing it on!
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My pleasure and please tell him hello for me
Hebrews 10.23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” My favorite word in this phrase is confession. The Greek word is homologia which roughly means “to say the same thing as.” How is it one can speak the same thing as the author of our hope without having that confession written on your heart through exposure to His Word?
Life slips away and still, we fail to embrace the author of life’s words. Oh that our hearts would cry out the sentiment of Dallan Forgaill’s poem now known as “Be Thou My Vision”:
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
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Good word, Wes!
Good word Dr. E.
The spiritual disciplines course was pivotal for me, a boon on my journey. During that year I was motivated by an assignment to do something that had been in my heart for many years- a retreat of silence and solitude. From that time, I developed a relationship with a spiritual director (who is still my director), followed an 9 month adaptation of Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, and trained as a spiritual director. Of course life in the Spirit is not these things. But these experiences have served to draw me deeper into a sense of the heart of God in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t just give us peace, Christ is our peace. God doesn’t give us power, he give us of himself, and he is our power. And wisdom isn’t from the Spirit, The Spirit is wisdom. I could go on and on. Spiritual formation is a big word for simply surrendering to be transformed (to walk in) into the truth of who we (already) are in Christ.
(And I think Chuck of previous comment was in the same class.)
Dr. E., you have encouraged me over the years more than you can possibly know. For this I am deeply grateful.
Laura O’Neill, posting as agapesantos. (Which is from Gal 2:20, the greek word meaning ‘who loved us’)
p.s. I don’t know that I have yet read the Bible cover to cover, sad to say. I get distracted and start taking rabbit trails on topics that seem to speak to me at the time. I’m not sure that bothers God, but it bothers me a little.