Seeing the Gospel in the Word of God
Surely no one reading this article needs to be convinced of the importance of feeding upon the Word of God. As Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). It is through the regular, personal intake of the Bible that we come to know God better, understand His will for our lives, experience God’s transforming presence, and much more.
But have you considered the significance of daily saturation in Scripture for developing a more gospel-centered, Christ-focused life? Here’s what I mean: in your Bible reading, ask the question, “How does this text relate to the gospel and to Jesus?”
Martin Luther encouraged Christians: “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.” So there are times in every day when we need the reminder that what we are doing, saying, or thinking is sinful and needs to be taken by repentance to the cross of Jesus for forgiveness. Also, there are moments each day when we require a fresh awareness that a Christian lives in the freedom of God’s forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ because of the person and work of Jesus. We need to transform our daily Bible reading time into a stimulus to this kind of biblical thinking.
So again, regardless of how much or how little Scripture you read on a given day, close by going back to something from your reading and ask, “How does this text relate to the gospel and to Jesus?” Perhaps you will choose one verse or part of a verse. Maybe you will select a single word, a character in the narrative, or the main idea of the passage. From it you may see, for instance, something that shows our need for the gospel, or an example that points to something Jesus is or something Jesus did in an even greater way, or an illustration of one of the effects of the gospel upon those who believe.
Choosing a few words from your reading and asking a question such as this is one way to meditate on Scripture. Some of the most remarkable promises in the Bible are associated with the practice of meditation on Scripture (for example, Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2; James 1:25). Despite these, I am convinced that the greatest devotional need for most of those reading this article — even those committed to spending time in the Bible every day — is to meditate on Scripture.
It seems a common experience for people to read the Bible and then, as soon as they close it, to forget everything they’ve read. People are seldom changed by what they immediately forget. Why can’t we remember? Do most people somehow lack the mental equipment necessary to remember something they just read? I think the forgetfulness occurs mostly because people spend two or three seconds reading one verse, then two or three seconds with the next verse, and so on until they are finished. How much does anyone remember of thoughts they consider for just two seconds?
Reading the Bible was never intended to be the primary means of absorbing the Bible. Reading is the starting place, but meditation is the absorption of Scripture. And it is the absorption of Scripture that leads to the experiences with God and the changes in our lives that we seek when we come to the Bible.
Most Christians read the Bible; few meditate on it. As a result, so many sense little spiritual impact from the time they invest in Scripture intake. So the main reason more Christians don’t find their daily time in the Scriptures more profitable has little to do with the strength of their memory, the level of their education, or their IQ; rather, the problem is very simple: a lack of meditation on Scripture.
Biblical meditation has to be simple if it is to be doable by every Christian, for God has children around the world with incredible diversity regarding age, education, intelligence, and opportunity. Accordingly, there are many ways to meditate on the text of Scripture, such as repeating the verse or phrase with emphasis on a different word each time, rewriting the verse or phrase in your own words, looking for applications of the text, formulating a principle from it, asking what question is answered or problem is solved by it, praying through the text, and more. Another simple method is what I have suggested here — to select something from your reading and ask, “How does this text relate to the gospel and to Jesus?”
With any form of Bible intake — whether hearing, reading, studying, or memorizing God’s Word — this is always a good question. It enables us to learn and love the gospel more deeply, and it helps us to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. It encourages us to see the Scriptures christocentrically and thus to prize Jesus all the more.
If you spend just sixty seconds meditating on a verse of Scripture, do you realize that may be ten to twenty times as long as you would normally consider that verse? Reserve at least a minute in your Bible reading time today, choose a verse, and ask, “How does this text relate to the gospel and to Jesus?”