The Rhythm of Scripture
Scripture is a library of writings that tell a unified story, leading us into a relationship with Jesus. In this book, we find life.
No spiritual rhythm is more important than the intake of God’s word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian apart from the diet of the milk and meat of scripture.
However, many who yawn with familiarity and nod in agreement to these statements spend no more time in God’s word in an average day than those with no Bible at all. Someone once remarked that the worst dust storm in history would happen if church members everywhere who neglected their Bibles dusted them off simultaneously.
In our busy lives, it’s easy to become preoccupied with “Christian” activities and not spend enough time in God’s word.
Scripture intake is not only one of the most important spiritual rhythms, it is also the most broad. There are several ways to pursue scripture.
Listening to Scripture
The easiest way to intake scripture is simply to hear it. Why consider this a rhythm? Because if we don’t discipline ourselves to hear God’s word regularly, we may only hear it accidentally, just when we feel like it, or even not hear it at all. For most of us, disciplining ourselves to hear God’s word means developing the practice of attending church, but we are not limited to this. Sermons are streamed online, and uploaded to YouTube. You can download them podcasts, or listen to scripture on CD. Listening the word of God is a simple, yet profoundly important rhythm.
Reading God’s Word
Jesus often asked questions about people’s understanding of the scriptures beginning with these words, “Have you not read…?” He assumed that those claiming to be the people of God would have read the word of God. When Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God: (Matthew 4:4), surely He intended at the very least for us to read those words. Since “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), shouldn’t we read it? Be in the word of God every day, let it fill your brain, meditate on the words you read and let them show in your life.
The basic difference between Bible reading and Bible study is simply a pencil and a piece of paper. Write down observations about the text as you read and record questions that come to your mind. If your Bible cross references, look up the ones that relate to the verses that prompt your questions, then record your insights. Find a key word in your reading and use the concordance found in the back of most Bibles (or a Bible search online or on your phone if your Bible doesn’t have a concordance) to review other references that use that word, and again not your findings. Ask questions, seek the answers, and before long you’ll have a far stronger grasp on a section of scripture than you would have had by just reading it. Don’t settle for spiritual food that’s been “predigested” by others. Experience the joy of discovering Biblical insights firsthand through your own Bible study!
Memorizing God’s Word
Many people look on the rhythm of memorizing God’s word as something tantamount to modern day martyrdom. But what many miss is the overwhelming benefits of continually adding scripture to our mental arsenal. The word of God is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17) but the Holy Spirit cannot give you a weapon you have not stored in the armory of your mind. Imagine yourself in the midst of a decision and needing guidance, or struggling with a difficult temptation and needing victory. The Holy Spirit rushes to your arsenal, flings open the door, but all He finds are John 3:16, Genesis 1:1, and the gist of the Great Commission. Those are great swords, but they’re not made for every battle. Memorization of scripture helps fill our personal spiritual arsenal with a supply of swords for the Holy Spirit to bring us in times of need, as long as we remember that the goal isn’t just to memorize scripture so we can brag about how much scripture we know, the goal is Godliness.
Meditation is both commanded by God and modeled by the Godly in scripture. Let’s define meditation as deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, and studying, and even memorizing as a means to taking in God’s word. If the other disciplines of Bible intake are consistently dipping a tea bag in hot water, meditating on scripture is immersing the bag completely and letting the rich tea flavor envelop the entire mug.
Pick a text and meditate on it. Rewrite it in your own words; repeat it with different emphases, look for applications of the text, pray through the text, and take your time doing these things. Ask yourself, “how am I to respond to this text? What would God have me do as a result of my encounter with this part of His word?” The outcome of meditation should be application. Like chewing without swallowing, so meditation is incomplete without some type of application.
Despite our occasional struggles to understand parts of scripture, understanding it isn’t our chief problem. Most of scripture is abundantly clear. Much more often our difficulty lies in knowing how to apply the clearly understood parts of God’s word to everyday living.
When seeking application, we need to begin by expecting to discover application. Read scripture with the premise that it should mean something to you. Thomas Watson once said, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves.” Whenever sin is mention, tell yourself “God means my sin”, whenever it presents duty, think, “God intends me in this”, whenever there is a rebuke, ask yourself, “is this a rebuke of me?”
We also must understand the text wholly. Too often has a misunderstanding about the meaning of a verse led to misguided application. Although Watson suggests to “Take every word as spoken to yourselves”, we cannot do that until we understand how it was intended for those who heard it first. Read scripture in context, strive to understand the history and purpose of the book, and when we can understand its original purpose, then we can seek it’s application
Lastly, we should respond specifically when applying scripture to our lives. In other words, after you have concluded your Bible intake, you should be able to name at least one definitive response you have made or will make to what you have encountered.
Intaking scripture is incredibly important, but without application, it’s merely swords lying in an armory, rusting from lack of use!
This introduction to Scripture Intake is based on Donald S. Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.
Resources For Pursuing Scripture
Pray As You Go
Read Scripture (The Bible Project)
Dwell Scripture Listening App (Subscription Required)
The Bible App For Kids