Think of the closest relationship you have, or can imagine. Now ask yourself under what conditions would you allow someone access to your most private thoughts. What would it take for a person to gain access to the deepest, most unconfessed part of you? Under what conditions would you allow someone “inside?” Perhaps words like trust, responsibility, respect, transparency come to mind—humility, mutuality, agreement, and concord. There are others, certainly, but the point is, whatever your answer may be, the same conditions should apply when approaching Scripture.
Reading Scripture is not always about understanding what you read. It is a living exchange, and like any successful relationship it demands submission, mutual regard, and the warm mechanics of good dialogue. For it is never one-sided. You must engage at close range and you must leave some part of yourself open to scrutiny. That is how it works most effectively. After all, do we look into the Scripture or does the Scripture look into us?
A healthy relationship with God will mean establishing and cultivating a habit of the Word, and by relationship, not by study. There is a time for study. And simply reading the Bible can be like a prayer in itself. But a true knowledge of God can never be attained by mere study or intellectual pursuit.
Relationship is better. It will also ask more of you.
True harmony is the goal. Harmony between you and God, between you and the living Word, and ultimately a harmony, or concord, between you and your own soul.
Clarity is just one of the many rewards of this relationship. The more you engage with the Word of God the more you will come to know what is genuine about yourself. For many, this is an unsettling proposition. And understandably so. Risk is frightening, and we often settle with what little knowledge we have of ourselves. We learn how to live agreeably with the counterfeit, the imaginary and the superficial. But the nature of Scripture gives us little choice. It’s much too invasive for that, the plunder too deep and thorough.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." —Hebrews 4:12
The whole idea is reform, rehabilitation, reacquaintance, reanimation—in a word, rediscovery. In knowing God, Augustine said, we know ourselves.
There is much more to say, but be encouraged. None of this is easy. And we are not left without instruction. Each of us has a script within us that is all ours, one that God himself has crafted, a blueprint that tells us who we are; that instructs each of us as we navigate through this life in hope of the next one. The Word of God helps to animate this script, to keep it alive and active, moving forward into time (and beyond). It begins with relationship, with God and with his Word. The poet-king David understood this and spun it down to a few well-chosen words. “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” —Psalms 27:8
David Teems is the author of Discovering Your Spiritual Center: The Power of Psalm 119 (Leafwood, 2011).