I recently read Question 157 in the Westminster Larger Catechism which asks,”How is the word of God to be read?”
I found the answer to be both challenging and helpful. Here it is:
The holy scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.
When I open my Bible to read it, is it with high and reverent esteem for the text? Or am I merely doing it out of a sense of obligation?
Am I conscious that it is the very word of God as I read it (even those boring bits that I have a tendency to skip over)?
Am I seeking the Holy Spirit to enlighten me as I read?
Am I reading with a desire to know, believe and obey the will of God that is revealed in the text?
Am I reading with diligence and attention to the matter or am I merely getting a check in the box?
Do I meditate on what I read so that it can be applied to my life?
Do I have an attitude of self-denial and prayer as I read?
Some of the time the answer to these questions is yes. There are times when I am engaged in the way the catechism prescribes. But too often, I am going through the motions and not very engaged.
I suppose the good news is that even if I am not fully present in my Bible reading, some good comes from the exercise. But how much better would it be to be fully present every time I take up the Bible to read it.
One of the most surprising statements in the answer to this question is the encouragement to self-denial. I had never thought of self-denial in the context of Bible reading. But a brief meditation on this reveals the wisdom in it.
One of the struggles of the 21st Century church is the tendency for the reader to stand in judgment on the text. When this happens, we find ways of explaining away the bits of Scripture that we don’t like. The antidote to this is self-denial.
If I approach the text with humility and self-denial the result will be much different than if I approach it with a sense of superiority and judgment.
I hope that you are encouraged and convicted by this reminder to take Bible reading seriously and to approach it with the right frame of mind.