How to Abide in God’s Word

February 8, 2020
Dr. Phil Collins

Has anyone ever taught you how to abide in God’s Word, to come to the Scriptures in a manner that promotes a thriving, living relationship with Christ? Perhaps you’ve been told you should read the Bible, where in the Bible you should read, and that you should read most every day. But have you been given clear instructions about the reading (or listening) process?

Too many people have come to the Bible with an inadequate approach, flounder around, and then stop coming to the Bible; thinking that something was wrong with the Bible or with themselves. Perhaps your time in the Bible is rich but you’d love to teach others how to grow spiritually through Bible reading but just aren’t sure how to go about the process? With a little training and encouragement, the life-changing nature of the Scriptures can be experienced by anyone.

How the Bible describes abiding in the Word

The Bible itself teaches us how we are to abide in God’s Word. Words the Bible uses besides “abide” (1 John 2:14) include “meditate” (Ps. 1:2, Josh. 1:8), “consider” (2 Tim. 2:7), “look into” (James 1:25), “dwell” (Col. 3:16), “see” (Jer. 2:31), “bind” (Deut. 6:7), “receive” and “search” (Acts 17:11), “hide” (Ps. 119:11), “hold fast” (1 Cor. 15:2), “piercing” (Heb. 4:12), and even “eat” (Jer. 15:16).

Do those biblical words convey the way you normally approach the Bible? Or do you too often tend to skim over, get distracted during, protect yourself from, visit, or just ignore God’s Word?

Perhaps some images will help convey what is meant by abiding in God’s Word. One of the terms the Bible uses when describing how to approach it is the word “meditate.” In Psalm 1 we are told that the blessed person “meditates day and night” on the law. Eugene Peterson, in Eat This Book, tells us that the Hebrew word for meditate is hagah, the same word used in Isaiah 31:4, which speaks of a hungry lion growling (hagah) over his prey. One way we’re to approach the Bible is to meditate or “growl” over it. Picture a hungry lion, in all its power, focused, serious, and concentrated on every part of its meal, growling out of pleasure and intensity as it eats. We need to come to the Bible with purpose and intensity, wishing to catch every word God may have for us that will nourish our hungry souls. Do we too often come to the Bible casually, not really hungry, not really expecting to gain anything we might need?

Another “eating” metaphor used for how to abide in God’s Word is “ruminating”. Picture a cow chewing its cud all day long. It takes a lot of grinding to get the nutrients out of grass, so the cow chews the grass over and over, bringing up old grass (“cud”) from one of four different sections of its stomach, each time reworking a mouthful. The cow needs the nutrients to live, so it patiently, slowly, “ruminates” on what it needs. We too should slowly, repeatedly, “chew” on God’s Word throughout the day, recognizing that being with God gives us life. One quick pass at a verse or section of the Bible once a week is not enough. Scripture needs to be gone over-and-over so we can fully savor it and be spiritually fed by it.

God’s Word is the bread our souls desperately need to live. Too often we end up “spiritually anorexic” because we have starved ourselves from God’s Word (Deut. 8:3, Matt. 4:4).

The idea of “eating” God’s Word comes from Jeremiah 15:16, Ezekiel 3:1-3, and Revelation 10:9-11. Notice that when the Apostle John “ate” God’s Word in Revelation 10:9-10, it tasted “sweet” in his mouth but turned “sour” in his stomach. God’s Word, while always true and good, is not always easy to absorb, it calls us to obey and trust. Meeting with God is not a “tame” process, God is training us for His kingdom, and training involves work and change.

Engaging Scripture

A phrase that helps capture the process of abiding in God’s Word is “Scripture engagement.” Lawson Murray defines Scripture engagement as “the process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him.” The Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement has a “tagline” that reads “Engage Scripture, Engage God.” That is exactly what The Abide Bible seeks to do, to help people learn how to meet Christ in God’s Word so that lives are transformed by Him.

Scripture engagement is a way of hearing and reading the Bible with an awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily meet God. It is a marinating, mulling over, reflecting, dwelling on, or a pondering of the Scriptures, resulting in a “transformative engagement” with God, an allowing of God to form us through His Word. It is in meeting God that we grow spiritually. Besides “Scripture engagement,” phrases that have been used to convey the idea of abiding in God’s Word include “holy attention,” “spiritual reading,” “participatory reading,” “formative reading,” “scriptural imagination” and “existential reading.”

There is nothing new about Scripture engagement, Christians have always valued and meditated on the Bible. Though not new, perhaps each generation needs to explore the values and practices of reflecting on the Scriptures afresh, experientially discovering its power for themselves.

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The Abide Bible: Engage Scripture, Engage God.

Do you yearn for life-giving, intimate communion with God? The Abide Bible is designed to help you experience the peace, hope, and growth that come from encountering the voice and presence of God in Scripture. Every feature in Abide is designed to teach and develop Scripture-engagement habits that help you know the power and spiritual nourishment of abiding in Christ.

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