Someone wise once said “People begin to think when they are faced with a problem.” It doesn’t take a long look down the hallways of church history to see this philosophical thought being played out. Take Martin Luther for example, that great German lawyer/monk turned reformer who nailed 95 arguments against Roman Catholic practices to his local Catholic church door—thus sparking the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s “problem” was interesting and must have nearly driven him mad: How could a Holy Righteous God ever pardon and reconcile the unrighteous sinner? He soon rediscovered that great Gospel truth that God justifies the sinner by faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. It should be said that Luther did not stumble upon this great doctrine, not by any means. When confronted with the problem, Luther began to think. But he didn’t just think about anything and upon everything. He refused to philosophize away the problem or to drum up an answer that sounded academic yet was empty of any real truth. No, the great reformer began to think explicitly and emphatically upon the Scriptures—the revealed truth of God, in particular the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. In short, it changed Luther’s entire life. This type of life-altering thinking isn’t reserved to just 16th century German monks though. Recall Hudson Taylor, that great missionary who founded the China Inland Mission, whose thinking upon the word of God caused him to think of the millions dying without the Gospel and thus stirred in his heart a zealous unwillingness to sit idly by while they perished without hope. The same could be said of the great cricket player, C.T. Studd, who along with six other young European men (later nicknamed the Cambridge Seven) when thinking upon the Word found it impossible and ridiculous to spend the rest of their lives hitting a ball with a stick when they could spend it winning souls for Christ. Thus, they joined up with Hudson Taylor. Marvelous things seem to occur when people begin to think upon the Scriptures. It is a powerfully effective thing to set your mind upon the Holy words of The Lord Jesus.
But how often do we truly think when reading the Scriptures? I find it to be a constant battle that I personally fight. I find that I must go to war each and every morning to fight against that useless, vain, ineffective, mindless activity of merely skimming the passages like a zombie. War is an appropriate word for it is a frightening thing when I realize that I am thinking more about what I must do at the office while simultaneously reading the Scripture of the day. This type of reading, this mindless zombie-like skimming is dangerous. It may soothe your conviction of being a daily bible reader but it will leave you totally untransformed. The Holy Spirit doesn’t sanctify zombies and you will not stumble upon transformation. If you want to experience God in the prayer closet the first thing you must do each and every morning is to refuse to read like a zombie—you must surrender your mind to Him. You must surrender your day’s schedule to Him. You must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. And in that sweet surrender you will begin to think and in thinking upon those Holy words you will not just find your problem, but the life-altering answer too.
How can I learn to read the Bible with this type of thinking? How do I fight against zombie-reading and mindless skimming? Stay tuned. My next several posts will be to share some disciplines that have helped me to make sense of the Bible during personal study. Until then, Soli Deo Gloria.