With warm tea in hand and a Bible open, I was excited to start my favorite time of week. It was an encouraging time when our friends from a Muslim-only country would come to our house, and we would study the Bible together. It was a joy to see their hearts leap with excitement as God revealed Himself to them through His word. Together we would read a passage of Scripture and discuss it. Then, because they were voraciously reading their Bibles at home, they would come with questions about what they had been reading.
On one particular Sunday afternoon, the woman posed a question that I never thought of before, but impacted me greatly. “In the Muslim religion, before we begin reading the Quran, we have to shower and clean ourselves before we open the book. As a Christian, is there a ritual we should follow before reading the Bible?”
The Bible doesn’t lay out a specific ritual we should follow, but in light of what the Bible is, is there an attitude we should have when we read the Bible? Before we answer this question, we need to think about what the Bible is.
What is the Bible?
In simple terms, the Bible is the written Word of God. As God communicated with people over the centuries, those people wrote those words down. Now, we who live today, can be blessed by words God has spoken through the centuries. The words found in the Bible are a testament to the character of God and how He wants to live in relationship with His creation. In other words, they are the actual words of a loving, powerful, creator God.
At first glance, the Bible can appear to be just words on a page, but when those words are read or heard, those words become active and powerful. We first see the Word of God in Genesis, when His word spoke creation into being. The word of the Lord caused the sinful nation of Nineveh to turn from their wickedness (Jonah 3:6-9). Jesus hushed the storm with his words in the Gospels. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead with his words in John. The outcast Samaritan woman, whom Jesus met at a well, was transformed by Jesus’s words. The list goes on and on. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It has the power to create worlds, control nature, bring life from death, and transform people’s lives.
How should we approach the Word of God?
In light of knowing that God’s Word is actual words from the ruler of the universe, in light of knowing these words have life and power in the here and now, what should our attitude be when we approach reading the Word of God?
We want to first approach reading the Bible with joy. God desires to communicate with us. He longs to be in relationship with us. He could have just left us to our own devices, but He didn’t do that. Instead, He chose to share with us what is good, what is not good, and how much He loves us. His desire to reveal Himself to us was so great, His word became flesh in the form of Jesus, and walked among us (John 1:14). The words written on the pages of the Bible are a labor of love from our God, and spending time in His word can fill us with incredible joy.
We also want to read God’s word with hearts that are open, pliable, and ready to listen. If we know the Word of God is living and active and has the power to change us, we want to sit before the Word ready to hear what God desires to say to us.
The attitude of our heart is important
In Matthew 13:3-9, Jesus shares with us how the soil of a heart impacts how the Word of God can change us. If our heart is unengaged or hard, the word has no way to grow. If our heart is open and pliable, the word is able to grow into a harvest that blesses not only us, but those around us.
When we sit down to read the Word of God, we have to be ready to accept the words of love and encouragement written there, even if we don’t feel love for ourselves. We have to know those words are true, because that is what we base our identity on regardless of whether or not our feelings agree.
We also have to be willing to allow the words of God to reveal the sinful parts in our heart that need to change. Knowing that the Bible is a revelation from a good God that desires to bless us, allows us to courageously make room for Him to change the unrighteous behaviors in our lives.
When we come to the Bible with grateful joy and an open-heart, it honors the God who wrote it. As we honor Him in reading His word, He blesses us. I have seen this to be true in my own life. The word of God encouraged me when I didn’t know if my sick kid would ever get better. It was His very words, found in the Bible, that let me know He was walking with me during that difficult time.
When my mind spins on sinful negativity, it is His word that renews my mind and helps me set my mind on truth, instead of my negative perception. I could name countless other times where His Word has helped me navigate times of conflict and anxiety with wisdom and hope. I have truly been blessed by spending time listening to God’s loving voice as I read His word.
There are plenty of books and articles out there vying for our time and attention. Many of them promise to help make our lives better or to offer encouragement, but none can provide us with the love, wisdom, and challenge that the Word of God brings when we read it with a joyful, open heart.
While we may not have to shower and prepare ourselves with physical rituals, like my Muslim friends did with the Quran, we should come to the word of God with a heart ready to honor God and eagerly anticipate hearing from Him. My hope is that time in God’s Word will become something you look forward to. The Creator of the universe loves you so very much and has gone to great lengths to talk with you. As you spend time with Him in His Word, I know you will be greatly blessed.