Filling Your Soul with Scripture
From the start, the church devoted itself to the apostles’ teaching.[i] Fellowship wasn’t centered on just anything, but on the living word of God. The word revealed Christ to them, brought them joy, and shaped their devotion to God, their love for one another, and their witness to the world.[ii]
The church learned that God comes near to sinners in his word. By his word, God came near to Israel in Deuteronomy 30:11-14, which Paul says ultimately points toward God’s nearness in the person of Christ himself, the Word made flesh (Rom 10:6-8; John 1:1, 14). Also, the gospel message itself is the word the Holy Spirit uses to bring the new birth (Ezek 37:4; Jas 1:18, 21). When that inner-transformation occurs, God creates a person whose appetites are not satiated by the world’s word but only by one that is “living and abiding” (1 Pet 1:23-27).
This same word also enlivens, sanctifies, and equips the church. God rules his church through the word and gifts individuals to keep that word before his people.[iii] God even joins us to the church to make us vehicles of transformation as we carry his word to one another, admonishing, rebuking, exhorting, and encouraging.[iv] In Hebrews 4:11-13, the word penetrates and stands as what we use to help each other persevere in obtaining the eternal rest. As no surprise, then, it’s also the word God uses to conquer the spiritual strongholds of the evil one (Eph 6:15-21).
The world has other false stories it wants us living by, as does our flesh and the devil. But only God’s story is true. He sees things about ourselves and the world that we cannot see but desperately need to see; and he has written it down for the sake of our eternal joy in him. Therefore, O how much we should fill our souls with the written word of God! Charles Spurgeon once put it this way:
Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord.
I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress…without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.
I commend his example to us all. But how might we grow into that example? How do we fill our soul with Scripture? What does this look like?
Ask the Lord’s Help
Perhaps one place to begin is evaluating your own disposition to God’s word. Whenever the word is not something we desire, we must ask with all sobriety, “Why?” The Spirit of God compels the people of God to devote themselves to the word of God. Ask the Lord to help you treasure his word more (Ps 119:25). We give ourselves to what we treasure. If the Lord caused us to be born again with the word (1 Pet 1:23), then he can certainly help us cherish the word more deeply (1 Pet 2:2).
Prioritize Bible Intake
After prayer, take steps to grow in treasuring the word by making Bible intake a priority. When I say priority, I mean your daily food. Without God’s word, we die. Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. As you plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plan to sit before the word. Set aside time to read and meditate on Scripture (Ps 119:14, 20, 148). Put your smartphone across the room or set it to “airplane mode,” to avoid distractions. I often meditate with a pencil in hand, writing down one or two truths I learned from my readings.
Talk about Scripture
Talk to others about what you’re reading (Acts 2:42). Call each other and ask what you read when you can’t see each other in person. Ask what the passage you’re reading means and how it helps you follow Jesus. Be honest with each other when you’re finding the Bible boring, and then pray for God to give light and joy. Perhaps serving other people, enduring a rushed morning, or just a poor use of time prevented you from getting in the word one day. Don’t shy away from admitting it—Jesus is our justification, not Bible reading plans—and then ask your brother or sister to feed you with what they read.
Seek Mature Wisdom
Don’t shy away from seeking wisdom from older sisters or brothers, who’ve been walking with the Lord a long time.[v] Ask them to help you understand a passage you didn’t understand. Likewise, older brothers and sisters should pursue their calling in discipling those in the church who are younger, who may need help finding Habakkuk and wonder what in the world to do with the lists in Numbers. Bible studies are available too at Redeemer. A group of men meet at the church on Tuesday mornings and a group of women meet at the church on Monday evenings.
Use a Bible Reading Plan
If a Bible reading plan helps you stay the course, there are several very good ones available. Justin Taylor lists several helpful plans here. For myself, I just use four book marks and read a chapter or more from each part of the Bible per day (Law, Prophets, Writings, and New Testament). I read very slowly, but with a bit of consistency I work through the entire Bible every year. The idea here is to find/develop a plan that works well for you and then stick to it. We all have things in life that we're disciplined about, whether studying for an exam, researching medical treatments, planning a vacation, checking Facebook updates, caring for children, team projects at work, and so on. But none of these compare to knowing God and meeting God through his written word.
The church also follows the Fighter Verse Scripture memory plan, and there are creative ways to memorize Scripture (Ps 119:11, 16). Some use a chalkboard in their kitchen. I know others who carry index cards. Others have partnered with each other before roosters crow to memorize entire books of the Bible. Memorizing Scripture is a very helpful way to make Scripture your meditation throughout the day, even when you may not be in a context where it’s easy to crack open a Bible and journal, such as driving, breastfeeding, cleaning, exercising, etc.
Prepare to Hear the Sermon
There’s one more practical step you might take in Bible intake, and that’s preparing to hear the sermon. Use Saturday evening to read through the passage from which the sermon will be. Maybe even discuss it with the family, your wife, or another in your care group. Make it your meditation as you fall asleep and your thoughts on Sunday morning. Note key themes and ask questions that you hope may be answered. When they’re not, tell the preacher, who may be able to answer it in another sermon. You may see something beneficial to the church that he did not. In any case, reading it beforehand will make listening to the sermon more fruitful.
You’re not expected to do all of these at once or any of them exactly the same way. These are simply some ways to step forward in your personal Bible intake. The likelihood is that the more Bible that’s in you as an individual, the more Bible will be in our church as a whole. And the more Bible that’s in us, the more we will be seeing Jesus, our everlasting joy!
[i]Acts 2:42; 4:33.
[ii]Acts 2:41; 6:7; 11:1; 12:24; 1 Cor 15:2; Col 3:16; Jas 1:22.
[iii]Col 1:23; 1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:2; Tit 1:9; Jude 3.
[iv]Col 3:16; 1 Tim 4:16; 2 Tim 3:16-17.
[v]2 Tim 2:2; Tit 2:1-5; cf. Matt 28:18-20.