The past two posts we have been a look at the activity of hearing the Word. In this post we will take a look at the activity of reading the Word. As with hearing, reading the Word is a way in which we can practice the spiritual discipline of Bible intake. As a new year is upon us, I pray that the verse, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4) would be used to prompt our hearts toward the activity of consistent Bible reading. Remember, the spiritual disciplines are, “those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth.”
The activity of reading God’s Word shapes our progress in Christ-likeness because it is a foundational way in which we develop our relationship to Christ. Spiritual growth or progress in Christ-likeness is the outcome of our relationship to Christ. To put it more simply: to become like Christ we must truly behold Christ. It is through the Word of God that we behold Christ. Paul captures this in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he states, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Commenting on this passage, John Piper writes:
Christian believers are being transformed—progressively, degree by degree—into the image of Christ the Lord. Be sure you see this: “We are being transformed into the same image (the Lord’s image) from glory to glory (not all at once, but by degrees).” Now that means we are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us.
How does it happen? The key, Paul says, is that we “behold (see) the glory of the Lord.” In other words we are transformed into His image by looking at His glory. You become like what you constantly behold. It will happen, as verse 18 says, by steadily looking to Jesus, the Lord.
We must see Christ. But how do we see Him? We can see Him by believingly reading His Word. For that reason, as we read it, we are not merely engaged in an activity, we are connected in relationship with Christ by the Spirit. Through the Word of God, as Piper explains the “Spirit exalts Christ. The Spirit opens the eyes to Christ. The Spirit applies the image of Christ to our soul.” This is the dynamic that changes us into Christ-likeness.
Therefore, since the Word of God is the environment in which we can experience our relationship with Christ, seeing Him as the Holy Spirit shows Him to us, we must pursue the activity of reading the Word of God. The Spirit does not work this transformation apart from the Word. Thus, may we consider adopting a consistent plan of reading the Word of God so that we posture ourselves to be focused upon Christ. To this end, we will continue in the next post by considering further the need for a plan, as well as some hints concerning a manner for reading.