The following is an excerpt from Unleashed: Being Conformed to the Image of Christ, a six-session, biblically based, practical Bible study tool for small groups that unleashes believers for spiritual growth in Jesus Christ. Find more information at lifeway.com/unleashed.
GROWN BY THE WORD OF GOD
Bible reading is on the decline today. This phenomenon has been observed by pastors, Christian college professors, and research organizations that study trends in the church. In previous generations most Christians were equipped with a basic level of biblical knowledge. A general familiarity with Scripture came with faith in Christ—a knowledge passed on by parents to their children, as well as through the church. This general familiarity with the Bible is no longer commonplace. Regardless of the reasons for this decline in biblical engagement, God’s Word is critical to our spiritual growth and an inseparable part of our lives as Christ followers. Let’s look at four ways we can allow God’s Word to change our hearts and minds: hearing the Word, receiving the Word, studying the Word, and meditating on the Word.
HEARING THE WORD
Hearing God’s Word requires that we put ourselves in the path of those who are speaking the Word. It means we don’t forsake gathering together for the preaching of the Word. It means we load up our iPhones with sermons that expose the Word. It means we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people at the mission who sit under the preaching of a gospel evangelist. It means we discipline ourselves to make sure our path intersects with the Word wherever it’s being preached.
Truly hearing the Word is one of the main entryways to be sanctified by the Word of God. Because our hearts are changed by the gospel, believers in Jesus are good soil for the implantation of the Word.
RECEIVING THE WORD
If the purpose of hearing the Word is to expose us to the Word, the purpose of receiving the Word is to internalize what we hear. It’s one thing to hear God’s Word, but it’s another thing to receive by faith what it says.
It’s possible to be a hearer without being a receiver, but we can’t be a receiver and not a hearer. Yet more broadly, true hearing is receiving, which leads to doing. This is how we participate in God’s plan to grow us in Christlikeness. We not only hear the Word but also receive the Word by putting it into practice.
STUDYING THE WORD
I find that the average Christian is bored and closed to learning what’s necessary for a walk of faith. Many of us are more concerned about God’s meeting our needs than about knowing and loving Him. So we shirk the responsibility to study God’s Word. But God’s Word is living and active. It speaks to us like no other book, blog, or tweet, and we need to read it in a consistent, focused way to grow closer to God.
We need not only to hear and think about the Word but also to be active in studying it and discovering its full significance. There’s simply no other book like it.
MEDITATING ON THE WORD
As many Christian teachers have said on this subject, the church has let Eastern religions hijack one of the most powerful means of grace for spiritual growth. In contrast with the Eastern practice, however, Christian meditation isn’t clearing or emptying our minds but filling our minds with God’s Word. Meditation develops our ability to absorb God’s Word.
Letting the Word richly dwell in us is done through meditation. Our meditation doesn’t make improvements on the Word, but it increases the intensity of our absorption of the Word. As our minds are plunged into the Word through constant, repetitive meditation, we find ourselves saturated. As we muse on, consider, think on, ponder, and give serious consideration to information or a situation in the Bible, we take the Word very seriously. To let the Word dwell richly within us is to realize the depth of the Word.
To unleash the power of the Spirit of God that conforms us to the image of Christ, we have to unleash the Word of God in our lives. We must hear the Word, receive the Word, study and know the Word, and meditate on the Word.
Excerpted from Eric Mason, Unleashed Bible Study. © 2016 Lifeway Press. Used by permission.