We have been asking this question for several weeks now and it is time for a reality check. Are you learning to hear God more? Are you and I being intentional to make time and space available to God for my attention? You see we have all asked God from time to time, “Where are you?” So what about asking the question back to ourselves?
In this session, Richard Foster is talking with Dallas Willard and leading us through the Bible as God revealed Himself to man, and what their response was. We start to see ourselves in many of the responses and it brings a reality check, am I living my life on a moment by moment basis, with God?
Richard Foster – God has come to give us life, He said so, that you might have life and have it abundantly. Hearing God comes within the context of a life. That is why the fully satisfying word for salvation in the Bible is life. Life: life here, now and life to come. In this session we want to explore that larger context of life with God that frames for us a way of understanding Divine Guidance.
In this session we are working on hearing God in the context of life. The life that God gives and our lives as we learn to live within context of this life. I want to take you back 40 yrs ago when you were teaching a group on the book of Acts. You and the Spirit were working together and came up with a sentence that helped us see how Acts fits in the larger picture.
The aim of God in history is the creation of an all inclusive community of loving persons with God Himself at the very center of that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.” Dallas Willard
This captured a sense of how the whole Bible and our lives fit together. Years later we were working on a Bible project and you came up with a description that helped us understand the unity of the Bible. That description is a phrase – the “with God life” as the unity of the Bible. So talk with us now, about the “with God life” as revealed from Genesis to Revelation.
Dallas- We see from the very beginning, that God places human beings in positions of responsibility. We have no way of discerning how much of a degree of power they had in the garden, but it was a position of great responsibility. They had to take charge of the animals and fish and all the living things. It was a situation of great responsibility and power, but yet at the same time distance from God. This is crucial to the whole story. When we look at the woeful path of human history we wonder where is God, and the answer is the real question is, “Where is man?” He is away from God. This is man’s choice. God has not left him alone and then you see God showing up in the garden, he would come and visit and then give them space. God gives distance (choice).
Richard – We see that when man disobeys, there is a sense of God hiding Himself from us. So we can hide from God (we can choose).
Dallas – That is absolutely true and crucial for the plan of God in human history to bring the community out of human history which is almost nothing compared to time, extremely short. Who knows what else He has in mind, but God has this project of bringing that community of love indwelt by God, for cosmic and eternal purposes. You see God giving distance. After the fall God was still coming around. Chat with Cain, Enoch walked with God, Noah had favor. Then you come to Abraham.
Very interesting that Abraham is the first person that is called the friend of God. And what we are seeing here is that God is no longer only calling on individuals but he is pulling out family. This is God’s way of being more fully in the human condition without standing over it. So when you look at Abraham’s life it is very interesting to watch their “ins and outs.” God now has a covenant. The covenant is with the family and the family grows into a nation of people. We see a nation with as yet, no place to be. And then you see with the events of the Exodus and then with Moses you see an increasing with God presence in the world. And then God says through Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Richard – then there is the tabernacle which becomes that “with God” sensibility (a greater sense of with the people.)
Dallas – yes and it gives a focal point for human beings to locate God in relation to themselves. Now that really is crucial to our whole story, because even today we ask, “Where is God from here?” You see people overcoming distance is a major project. (Where God is and where they are in relation to God. This is crucial to our understanding of distance.) The way of preparation for dealing with that, which we now know through Jesus Christ as He brings to earth in an available form, has been prepared through by centuries where God is with people who aren’t necessarily doing what He wants.
Then we go through a period after Exodus, we see how the people ask for judges and ask for kings. God says that is not a good idea but provides it anyway. There is distress and then God makes a profound statement to Samuel when they rejected him, saying “they are not rejecting you they are rejecting me.” This is one of the most profound statements in this “with God life” story. He did not reject them, but said, “Okay we will work this out.” Then God uses their choices in many ways. One was to establish in the Kings, a different kind of presence than was established in the prophets.
We see the movement from the individual, to the family, to the nation and then you have to building of the temple and the formulation of law so that when the nation gets smashed and it does, God is still with them. They went through exile but God is still with them. That is the key. They found out there was a God in heaven and the idea of heaven now begins to intrude, not as something far away, but they went to Babylon and low and behold God is here. The book of Daniel is magnificent and is always bringing in there is a God in heaven. (Shows God’s presence and distance.)
Richard – and the first heaven in Hebrew cosmology is the atmosphere.
Dallas – that is exactly right – it is not far away, goes all the way down to your socks, it is not far away. That is what they are learning is the presence of God in the surrounding atmosphere. Then when you look back you see this over and over. A wonderful verse in Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’
It is actually a statement about God’s presence in the atmosphere.
Richard – Then there is the restoration period, the Nehemiah story.
Dallas – Yes and the big deal here is they do not have a government. God is dealing with them through Cyrus and others and they learn, we don’t have to have a government to have God, and also without a very impressive temple. There was a lot of learning there because God was with them. (God continues to teach lessons and give revelations.)
Then John the Baptist shows up on the scene and says, “Well you know, you should rethink what you’re doing because the kingdom of heaven is right here.” And that lays a foundation and he establishes a connection between the old prophetic tradition and the new one with Jesus.
1) What stands out to you the most in the discussion so far?
Richard – And Jesus becomes the embodiment of the “with God life.”
Dallas – Yes, He is the Shekinah in person and He returns to the temple and of course there is a future to that.
Richard – The life of Jesus is so important because it helps us get the picture of this “with God life.”
Dallas – Yes – He is Emmanuel and He comes in the form of a person and a face is put on God.
Richard – I love the idea of the doctrine of the NT of the Christ likeness of God. The Gospels give us a clarity of a “with God life.” Then that moves into the church the book of Acts.
Dallas – Yes it is the continuing incarnation is the church. The way that forms is through the Jewish people, the ones who have been prepared for this, and through them all the Abrahamic blessings come. Comes to all the earth. You get a body of people animated by presence of the Spirit of God, enabling them to live by God.
Wonderful phrase in Ephesians 5, “be followers of God as His dear children” is such a wonderful way to express the description of His people. Just watch a little child imitate people. God has become the accessible in Jesus and a body has been formed. That body is this community of loving persons with God at the heart of that community and the book of Acts tells us about this story.
Now we see the day of Pentecost, that is the point in which everyone comes from all the nations and they are in many cases or inhabited by this God whose name is Jesus now is the Spirit and they spread out across the world and take that message out completely non-sectarian and it isn’t just religion, it is a life now that is available, without any cultural presuppositions. We are so used to talking about gatherings and we don’t realize what a revolution was with people of different races and identities mixed. Greeks and Jews together.
Here they are, sitting together and loving one another ministering to one another loving people in their community, and it all comes out one thing that is Christ, who is all in all. And then in John’s Revelation, it projects that on into eternity. By the time you get to John you begin to understand who Jesus was. They couldn’t get their minds around it. The last chapter of this was written so you may know the Christ. By the time you get to the Book of Revelation they have got it. The only response John could make was to pass out.
Richard – One of the things I love in this is the sense all the way through the Bible saying I am with you, I am with you, I am with you. And then the haunting question, are you willing to be with Me?
Dallas – Yes, that is the great choice. Then we ask, how are we going to live with Him? That is a choice we make. We learn how to live. We grow and get a sense far beyond anything we know. 1 John 3:2 “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. We are getting in position to reign with Him forever and ever
2) Dallas describes the church as “the continuing incarnation.” What are the implications of this image for living a “with-God life”?
Richard – Dallas has been encouraging us about crucifixion with Christ as a good thing to lead us into a greater night of the kingdom of God in which we hear and obey the formation of the soul leading us into an all inclusive community of loving persons with God at the center, the prime sustainer.
Dallas – When we get the taste of that daily life and we don’t get the whole deal, we couldn’t stand it if we did. We get to be people living now an eternal kind of life wherever we are because we are really living from the Kingdom of God.
Richard – God is with us together and we can depend and listen to one another.
One of beautiful things we hear from the life of George Fox, he had the experience where he was seeking God and not finding him seeking and not finding. And then finally we had that well-known experience. The following is from his journal
“And when all my hopes in them [i.e., preachers, and “those called the most experienced people”] and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do; then, oh then I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition”: and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens, and gives grace and faith and power.” George Fox
That was the secret of George Fox’s life and the secret of the seekers taking focus off of man and putting them on to Christ. The Quaker’s were taught to be quiet and listen. You were waiting to hear the voice of God and the point of this is not mistaken and it always has had that corporate sense of speaking to all. There was a sense of being with God together. And we could depend and listen to one another.
John – What is so resonate in what Fox said, is one who could speak to my condition. And no matter how religious or irreligious we are, we want Dr. Phil or someone to speak to our condition. And so often we don’t think of ourselves as even having a condition until somebody says it and that is what Jesus does, He speaks to our condition.
Dallas – that has so many dimensions in that particular tradition, one is that Fox trained his Friends (congregation) when they were being persecuted that they would address Christ in the person who was mistreating them. And one of the most powerful things in his teaching, there is going to be Christ there. The issue was not whether they would go to heaven or not, but that whatever happens to them, every person has the life of Christ in them because He is the light that lights up the world. Then that changes the whole picture of human relationships.
Richard – Another experience that he had that I found interesting was that he had great temptations and we learned from that. And what he learned from studying the Bible, essentially studying the sins of everybody. And he wondered why he went through these experiences and it writes that the Lord answers I went back into Nottinghamshire,
and there the Lord showed me that the natures of those things, which were hurtful without, were within, in the hearts and minds of wicked men. The natures of dogs, swine, vipers, of Sodom and Egypt, Pharaoh, Cain, Ishmael, Esau, etc.; the natures of these I saw within, though people had been looking without. I cried to the Lord, saying, “Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?” and the Lord answered, “That it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions!” and in this I saw the infinite love of God. I saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings.”George Fox
Dallas – He was so conscious of that. The sense of the greatness of the Kingdom and how it touches everything.
When asked, “Where is God?” The real question is where is man? God hasn’t left him alone, but given him choice. Jesus said, I will be with you always, Are we with Him?
Live now, an eternal kind of life, in the Kingdom of God
3) What do you believe happens when you talk to God?
Notes from Book: Hearing God (page numbers may vary with versions)
Chapter 6: The Word of God & the Rule of God – talks about God’s Word, His written Word in Scripture and the power of that Word in the creation and redemption process.
One who hears the voice of God is operating from the very foundation and framework of all reality, not from the fridge. 117/155
Astonishing Faith in The Power Words – Luke 7:2. This Centurion understood, from his own experience of authority, how Jesus accomplished what he did. Great faith, like great strength in general is revealed by the ease of its workings. Most of what we think we see as the struggle of faith is the struggle to act as if we have faith when in fact we do not. This centurion has much to teach us about faith and about dependence on a proper understanding of the word of God. 118/156
Words and the Word – God created, God rules and God redeems through his word. What is essential to a person’s word is the meaning given to it by that person. The thoughts, feelings or actions that person associates with it and hopes to convey to others. Through our words we literally give to others a piece of our mind…The power of the word lies finally in the personality that it conveys. 119/157
The true view of the power of words is forcefully given in the book of Proverbs see 18:21; 25:15; 15:4 – see also Matthew 12:37; James 3:5 120/158
Words as Spiritual Forces – In trying to understand the great power of words, we cannot afford to overlook their spiritual nature. Spirit is unbodily, personal force. It is personal reality that can and often works independently of physical or bodily forces. It can also work in conjunction with them. We can most clearly see spirit in our own selves as the force that belongs to thought, emotion and intention. In the biblical view, spirit reaches far beyond these and beyond our limited understanding and ultimately serves as the foundation of all reality. God is Spirit John 4:24. Once when his followers were struggling to understand him and were overemphasizing the material realm, Jesus said to them it is the Spirit gives life the flesh is useless. John 6:63. This meant that through his words Jesus imparted himself in some measure conferred on those who received his words by the power of God’s sovereign rule. 120/158
The word as “a person’s speaking” is therefore to be understood as a spiritual power – whether of ourselves, of God or of some other personal agency and whether for evil or for God. 121/159
The word of God, when no further qualification is added, is His speaking, his communicating. When God speaks, he expresses his mind, his character, and his purposes. Thus he is always present with his word. All expressions of his mind are words of God. This is true whether specific means are external to the human mind (natural phenomena) other human beings, the incarnate Christ or the bible. God’s rule over all things, including the affairs of humankind is carried out through his word, understood in this way. 121/159
A Kingdom of Words – We are under constant temptation to think of the universe as a place in which there are only certain physical and mechanical relationships between things…In contrast, the religious life and religious outlook on the universe, (especially the outlook identifiable with the mind of Christ and with life in his footsteps), is one that sees the universe as a kingdom. The kingdom does not work merely by pushes and pulls. Essentially it works by the communication of thoughts and intentions through words or other symbols, for a kingdom is a network of personal relationships. This is a point about the nature of social reality that we cannot afford to miss. Some of our greatest problems in understanding and entering into a life of the kingdom can come from inadequate appreciation of how about kingdom, like all kingdoms, works: that is by communication is speaking our use of words for the expression of lines and intentions. The Scriptures are the best place to look for illustrations of how the speaking of a word works in the kingdom of God. 129/160.
Marks comment – A kingdom works through the command of the word of the king, all other social orders works through laws. The kingdom is relational. A republic is legal not relational. In the Kingdom authority flows from a person, in a republic it flows from the constitution and is not relational.
Creation by Words: God and Ours. It should come as no surprise, given that we know of the physical universe, the first creative act was to create light, form of physical energy. How did he create life? God speaking, the word of God, simply the expression of his mind. 122/161
We know that we cannot create with our thoughts and this shows us the meaning of our finiteness. Finite means limitations or restrictions. God by contrast, dictates the structure and order things. (The discussion goes on to who how we create through channels of other means, God is not limited to that) 123/161.
The Word of God as the Son of God – The story of the New Testament is the story of people increasing understanding of who Jesus was. Only in the latter part of the New Testament does there emerge the concept, but Jesus as a cosmic messiah: I remember spending all geographical and technical differences Colossians 1:17 upholding all things by the word of his power Hebrews 1:3 127/167
The Power of a Word – But a king, contrary to what is often thought, does not rule simply by brute force. 128/169
Words in the Kingdom – If we turn to the kingdom of God with an understanding that it is a kingdom in that it too works largely by the measure words, numerous events from the life of Jesus on earth are easier to appreciate and enter into. 129/170
In the story of the centurion soldier, we see a trust based upon experiential knowledge of the power in the words spoken by authorized individuals. Matthew 8:9 ; Luke 7. The word directs actions in advance. The centurion and understood this and Jesus marveled at his understanding. 129/171
In part…our skepticism comes from the fact that we often speak words unaccompanied by faith and authority. Such words do not have the effect on reality that words laden with faith spoken in the fulfillment of authoritative role have. That’s our experience and unlike this centurion it hinders rather than helps our faith. 130/171
This Power Given To Human Beings – See Matthew 9:6 to 8 – authority given to forgive sins. The transfer of the power of God’s word to the word of ordinary humans was something that Jesus, during his days in human form, approached experimentally. 131/173
Superstition, voodoo and magic – Superstition is belief in magic and magic relies on alleged causal influences that are not actually mediated through the nature of things involved…Legalists are forced into merely symbolic behavior, which they superstitiously supposed to have good effects they seek. Trying to get everything just right is the essence of legalism. 140/179
Superstitious Attitudes Creep In – Legalism claims that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behaviors what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing. See Matthew 5:20. Legalism, superstition and magic are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events. 140/183
The Bible and the Word of God – The Bible is one of the results of God’s speaking. It is the unique written Word of God. It is inerrant in its original form and infallible in all of its forms for the purpose of guiding us into a life-saving relationship with God in his kingdom. It is infallible in this way precisely because God never leaves it alone. 141/185
The inerrancy of the original texts is rendered effective for the purposes of redemption only as that text, through its present-day derivatives, is constantly held within the eternal living Word. Inerrancy by itself is not a sufficient theory of biblical inspiration because as everyone knows, the Bible in our hand is not the original text. Inerrancy of the originals also does not guarantee sane and sound, much less error-free, interpretations. Our dependence as we read the Bible today must be on God, who now speaks to us in conjunction with it and with our best efforts to understand it. 142/185
In light of our discussions so far it is clear that while the Bible is the written Word of God, the Word of God is not simply the Bible. The way we know that this is so is, above all, by paying attention to what the Bible says. 142/185
Our only protection from our own pride, fear, ignorance and impatience as we study the Bible is fellowship with the living Word, the Lord himself, invoked in constant supplication from the midst of these people. 143/187
Chapter 7: Redemption through the Word of God
Gods voice is essentially just one dimension of certain kind of life, the eternal kind of life, a life lived in conversational relationship with God. (John 17:3) God does not speak only for us and our purposes, nor does he speak primarily for our own safety or gratification. Those who receive the grace of God’s saving companionship in his Word are by that very fact also fitted to show humankind how to live. They and they alone are at home in the universe as it actually is. In that sense they are the light of the world. Mark comments. Truth must be lived to be liked. P 145/189
The disciple and friend of Jesus who has learned to work shoulder to shoulder with his or her Lord, stands in this world at the point of contact between heaven and earth.… Hannah Hurnard — An intercessor means one who is in such vital contact with God and with his fellowmen that he is like a live wire closing the gap between the saving power of God and the sinful men who have been cut off from that power. 147/190
But what is the process by which we can be fully transformed into children of light? It is through the option of the word of God upon us, throughout us and with us that we come to have the mind of Christ and thus to live fully in the kingdom of God. 148/191
An Additional Birth by the Word of God – Those born of the spirit manifest a different kind of life. Remember that a life is a definite range of activities and responses. The spiritually born exhibit a life deriving from an invisible spiritual realm and all its powers. We recognize the presence of God’s kingdom in a person by its effects in and around them. 150
Birth Through the Spirit and the Word of God – Even so we have felt the Spirit of God operating upon our hearts, we know and have perceived the power which he wields over human spirits, and we know him by conscious personal contact. By the sensitiveness of our spirit we are as much made conscious of the presence of the Spirit of God as we are made cognizant of the existence of the souls of our fellow-men by their action upon our souls, or as we are certified of the existence of matter by its action upon our senses. We have been raised from the dull sphere of mind and matter into the heavenly radiance of the spirit-world; and not as spiritual men, we discern spiritual things, we feel the forces which are paramount in the spirit-realm, and we know that there is a Holy Ghost, for we feel him operating upon our spirits. C. H. Spurgeon 151/196 – (for the full sermon see http://www.godrules.net/library/spurgeon/NEW9spurgeon_d29.htm)
The Word of God Planted in our Heart – After the “additional life” has been planted in us, unnatural powers are not left to run their own way under or alongside the new life; they are to be channeled through and subordinated to that light from above. 151/196
Washed in the Word of God – The word of God is washing away the impurities and clutter that have permeated our human personalities during our life away from God. By the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection Jesus Christ finished welding his immediate followers into a totally new kind of social unit this relative redemption community, living temple of the living God, the church. 152/ 197
Mark Cowper-Smith’s comments. Our minds are transformed, not just by reading the Bible but by the influence of the Holy Spirit in our thoughts and emotions there therefore His thoughts are our thoughts and vice versa. 152
The Amazing Extent of the Dirt – A multitude of things must first be washed from the mind as they are an obstacle they pose to us hearing God. For example we usually think that if we are mean enough to people they will be good. We hope to control people by threatening them. Yet, this is not the way of Jesus. 153/198
Even for many of us who already profess to follow Christ, much inward change will still be needed before we are able to hereby(will be able to hear God) correctly. 153/198
Union with Christ – Until now we have been dealing with the word of God as it comes to, upon and through us. But in the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion, and communion into union. Phil 1:21… When communion advances into union, there ceases to be “mine” and the sense of “ours” takes over. For this reason marriage can serve as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church and the soul and God. 155/201
We must at some point begin to appreciate the literal character of the Scriptures speak of Christ being in us. Jesus Christ in parts himself to church…It was through his words that he literally, not figuratively imparted himself while he lived among the people of this date. Colossians 1:27. 156/202
Christ’s Faith is my Faith – The gospel is the good news that the kingdom rule of God is available to humankind here and now. His followers did not have this faith deep within themselves, and a long regarded it only as his faith not theirs. Even after they came to have faith in him they did not share his faith. The disciples called upon Jesus to save them when they were in danger, they had great faith in him but they did not have his great faith in God. It is because they did not have his faith that he spoke of how little faith they had. Some Christians demonstrate that the notions of faith in Christ and love for Christ leave Christ outside the personality of the believer. These exterior notions of Christ’s faith and the love will never be strong enough to yield the confident statement,” It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Exterior notions cannot provide the mutual abiding that comes as branches to bring forth much fruit and without which we can do nothing. Our additional life, though it is still our life, it’s also God’s life in us: his thoughts, his face, his love, and literally imparted to us shared with us by his word and. Spirit. 157/203
The substance of Paul’s teachings about salvation is drained off when we fail to take literally his word about our union and identification with Christ. Without this his writings can handily be subjected to elaborate plans of salvation made into a “Roman Road” of doctrinal assents, by which we supposedly gain God’s approval merely for believing what every demon believes to be true about Jesus and his work. James S. Stewart in a profound book, “A Man in Christ” deals with this tendency in interpreting Paul and forcefully corrects it: Only when union with Christ is kept central is sanctification seen in its true nature, as the unfolding of Christ’s own character within the believer’s life; and only then can the essential relationship between religion and ethics be understood. In short, the whole meaning of the atonement is here at stake. 157/203
“Beyond the reproduction in the believer’s spiritual life of his Lord’s death and burial lies the glorious fact of union with Christ in His resurrection. ”Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4) Everything that Paul associates with salvation – joy, and peace, and power, and progress, and moral victory – is gathered up in the one word he uses so constantly, “life”. Only those who through Christ have entered into a vital relationship to God are really “alive”. Existence outside of Christ is not worthy of the name at all; for as compared with a soul that has seen everything in heaven and earth transfigured by a personal experience of redemption and has begun to live daily in the romance and wonder and thrilling stimulus of Jesus fellowship, the man who lives for the world and the flesh and has no knowledge of God is virtually dead. He does not know it, he thinks he is “seeing life”; he cannot guess the glory he is missing, nor realize the utter bankruptcy and wretchedness of everything in which he has put his trust. But the fact remains. “To be carnally minded is death; to be spiritually minded is life.” (Rom. 8:6) James S. Stewart, ‘A Man In Christ’.
Dallas says that Stewart points out how Paul speaks of “Christ who is your life” (Col 3:4); “the light of Christ being made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:10. This life which flows from Christ into man is something totally different from anything experienced on the merely natural plane. It is different, not only in degree, but also in kind… It is a new quality-of-life a supernatural quality which is what Paul means when he says if one is in Christ he is a new creation. Is this identity between the additional life of the regenerate or restarted individual and the person and life of Christ himself it turns believers into “a colony of heaven” (as Moffat translates Philippians 3:20) enables them to fill their call to be the light of the world showing the world what is really like to be alive. 158/205
Focusing on our aliveness to God – Even while dead in our sins and unable to interact constructively with God, we are still capable of sensing the vacuum in the natural life apart from God and the following up on the many earthly rumors about God and where he is to be found. Once the new life begins to enter our soul, however, we’ve the responsibility and opportunity even more fully focusing our whole being honest and holy orienting ourselves towards it. This is our part and God will not do it for us. See Romans 7:16 to 20 in the Phillips translation.158/205
The proper use of the written word is most central to our cooperative efforts with God toward full conformity with Christ. The written word may come to us in many ways. It may come through sermons, through art through conversation through dramatic performances. All of these are important. The person who wishes to grow in grace is far best advised to make a close and constant companion of the Bible, because it is self authenticating to any earnest and open user. The eager use of the Bible leads naturally and tangibly to the mind of God and the person of Christ. As we read and study intelligently, humbly and openly, we come increasingly to share God’s mind. Scripture is a communication that establishes communion and opens the way to Union. We will be spiritually safe in our use of the Bible if we follow a simple rule call, reading with a submissive attitude. Subordinate your desire to find the truth, to instead your desired to do it, to act it out. 161/209
Keep in mind you’re aim is not to become a scholar or impress others with your knowledge of the Bible, a deadly trap for many fellowships aiming to be biblical. That aim will only cultivate pride and leave a foundation for the petty, quarrelsome spirit. 162/209
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God? ‘Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity,’ except to love God and serve Him alone. And this is supreme wisdom – to despise the world, and draw daily nearer the kingdom of heaven.” Thomas a Kempis 162/212
1) Your aim a must be only to nourish your soul on God’s word to you. Go first of those parts of the Bible you already know, and count on your later growth to study other parts. 162/212
2) Do not try to read a great deal at once. Scripture is not judged by how much you read but by the way in which you read.
If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee that penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar. – Madame Guyon
It is better in one year to have 10 good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes. Remember, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6. We read to open ourselves to the spirit. 162/212
3) Come to your chosen passages as to a place where you will have a holy meeting with God. Read a small part of the passage and dwell on it, praying for the assistance of God’s Spirit in bringing fully before your mind and into your life the realities expressed. Always ask, what is my life like since this is true, how shall I speak and act because of this? You may wish to turn the passage into a prayer or praise. Learn that God’s word is now speaking into you, not just at you, creates the faith that appropriates the fact for you. (Theophostic prayer style)
4) Do not hurry. Do not dabble in spiritual things. Give time for each stage to play itself out fully in your heart. Remember, this is not something you are doing by yourself. Watch and pray. Watch for what He is doing in you.
Now practice again those passages in Romans 8 starting at verse 28
- longing for it to be so
- affirmation that it must be so
- invocation to God to make it so
- appropriation by God’s grace that it is so.
This last stage must not be forced or, especially faked. The ability for it will be given as you watch for God to move in your life. When there is inner agreement between our minds and the truth expressed in the passages we read, we know that we have part of the mind of Christ in us as our own. These great truths conveyed by Scripture were the very things Jesus believed. They constituted the faith, hope and love in which he lived. 164/214