Some people call what I’m talking about the devotional approach to scripture. They tend to say it looking down their noses, as if the devotional approach is inferior to the scholarly approach, for example. But listen to me now—there is no record in the Bible of anyone reading it with a scholarly hat on and getting a pat on the back. The Scribes and Pharisees were the scholarly approach people of Jesus’ day. As I’ve already said, he spent a good chunk of his time frustrated with them and trying to help them unlearn what they had piled up in their heads, telling them that despite their knowledge, they had never heard God. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!” Jesus muttered, or something like that—a dozen or more times through the Gospels. The devotional approach is the only approach you can find applauded in the Bible. That’s good enough for me.
I once heard Erwin McManus tell a story about a guy in his church. Apparently Erwin had approached one of the church’s senior members about leading a discipleship group for new believers.
“I don’t have the time right now,” came the lazy response. The next Sunday Erwin pitched the need to his congregation—and lo and behold, an on-fire new believer stepped up to the plate and volunteered to lead the discipleship group. When the older believer heard about it, he was incensed.
“You can’t have a young believer doing that!” he said. “I’ve changed my mind. I’ll do it. He doesn’t even know where the book of Romans is!”
McManus came back with one of those golden-tongued gems every pastor dreams of delivering: “No, he doesn’t know where the book of Romans is. But when he finds it, he’ll obey everything he reads… Tell you what; why don’t you become his apprentice leader, and when he thinks you’re ready to lead a group, we’ll consider your offer.”
Way to go, Erwin. James the Apostle would have loved that reply. It reminds me of James 1:22-25. Let’s park there awhile. James says,
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”
This passage is a gold mine. Go on, read it again. What can we learn from it?
Sorry, that was a setup.
If you dug right in there without praying, you just made your first mistake. Jack Deere astutely remarks that spiritual truths are revealed, not discovered. Remember what Jesus said to Peter when he said, “You are the Christ”? He said, “This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (John 16:17). Remember what happened on the road to Emmaus after Christ’s resurrection? Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to the disciples, enabling them to see him for who he was (Luke 24:32). Jesus promised his Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Count on Jesus opening the scriptures for you too. Ask Him to do it. And don’t just pray before you start. Keep praying as you go. Ask God to keep guiding you. Make your Bible study a conversation with Him.
Why? Because the Bible isn’t its own best interpreter. The Author is, and he happens to be right there with you.
Lord God, would you please open up your word to me? And open up my heart to receive what you show me. Help me see what you want me to see, hear what you want me to hear, learn what you want me to learn, feel what you want me to feel, and do what you want me to do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
And we’re just getting warmed up. See you tomorrow.. 😉