Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how being regularly engaged with God’s word in meaningful ways is what sets us apart for his will.
Psalm 1:1-2 – “Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of Yahweh and reflects on his teachings day and night.”
A life that is set apart in holiness has its roots in the diligent study of torah, or the instruction, of Yahweh. This constant input of God’s teachings is what generates within us a desire to do what honors him and directs us to deal fairly with others. Since we are commanded to be holy, a practical understanding of what it means to “meditate” or “reflect on” his teachings can benefit our spiritual growth and nourishment.
Firstly, if our review of God’s instruction is to be constant, it must be comprehensive. We should be reviewing all of God’s word on a regular basis, not just cherry-picking our favorite verses. At a minimum we should be reviewing all of the Bible at least once a year.
There are many different ways this can be accomplished in today’s world. In our day and culture, at least here in America, we have a large variety of versions and translations to choose from. We also have many different media options from print, to online, to apps for our mobile devices. We have audio versions and video versions that can be listened to and viewed regularly. If any generation has the ability to be steeped in God’s word, it is our current information-rich society.
Typically, one of these through-the-year plans will have daily readings each including a portion of the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament. When broken down into bite-size pieces like this, it is easily achievable to read the entire Bible in only 15 or so minutes a day.
The problem that can be encountered with these plans comes when some unavoidable event comes up that causes the reader to lose a day or a couple of days. Getting caught up to get back on track becomes more and more challenging with each passing day, and eventually it is just easier to give up. Part of this stems from the versions that list the actual date for each passage to be read, and once a few days are lost or we get behind, it can be a struggle to keep up. I find it’s easier to use a plan that doesn’t have dates attached to each reading, therefore, if a day or two is missed, it just takes a couple of days longer than a year to complete the entire Bible.
My favorite method is based on a chart that was created by the para-ministry Young Life, and it breaks all of the passages down by the genre of content on each day of the week rather than by simply Old or New Testament each day. This way, there is more consistency and variety throughout each week.
Now over the years I have modified this method for my own preference, but as an example, on Sundays I read through the books of Moses. Mondays and Tuesdays are prophecy, Wednesdays are the Apocryphal books, Thursdays and Fridays are historical books, and Sabbath is New Testament. Additionally, each day I read a portion from Proverbs and Psalms in an ongoing rotation throughout the year. I have had the most success with this method, as it has the variety I need, but also the consistency of regularity that works with my daily and weekly routine.
Whatever plan one chooses, just take it one day at a time to continue or create a daily routine. There really is no excuse to not engage regularly with God’s Word for believers in today’s day and age, other than not having the discipline to do so, which leads to the next point.
Secondly, our review should be intentional. We have to set apart time each day to be successful. Like any relationship, there has to be constant interaction in order for the relationship to grow. The psalmist uses the language of “day and night” to convey the constancy of this meditation in God’s word.
Again, my personal practice is that my morning time is when I can most focus on my relationship with God and my deeper thinking about theological issues. I’m typically up really early while the rest of the family is sleeping so I have the quiet time I need to focus. For other people, late at night might be the best for them, after the events of the day have calmed down and everyone else in the household goes to bed.
All I know is that for me, personally, if the day gets going before I have had my quiet time, I rarely have another opportunity throughout the day and I am usually so tired by the evening that I am straight off to bed.
Setting aside whatever time works for you is critical to the success of this type of commitment to read through the Bible. If you do not have a routine, you are less likely to keep going.
Additionally, with a quiet time routine, your mind and body are more likely to remain engaged with it because it becomes a natural part of who you are and what you do. I look forward to my quiet time each day because I enjoy spending time with God in his Word, but if I don’t make the time for that interaction to take place, it rarely happens on its own.
Thirdly, this daily review of God’s Word should be meaningful. We need to be critically engaged with God’s instruction. What do I mean by this? Essentially, we need to be thinking about what it is that we are reading: who was this written to? When was it written? What is the goal of the author in writing this material? These are the types of things that help us begin to understand the overarching narratives that become evident as we gather information on the whole of the Bible and not just our favorite comfortable passages.
It’s popular today to do some form of Bible journaling, where one comes to the Bible with markers and pens, ready to note any insights that may become apparent in that daily reading. Using this type of approach helped me begin to see many of the connections throughout the Bible, how it is essentially “hyper-linked” between passages and quotations throughout. In fact, at one point, my marked-up Bible became so worn that pages began to fall out. Some wonderful friends in the congregation surprised me by taking the time and expense to have it rebound for me as a gift so I could continue to use it as the valuable reference tool it had become.
The more comprehensive our understanding is of all of God’s Word, the more clarity we can gain on his overall purpose and goal for humanity within his Creation. When we have a better grasp of his purpose and goals, then we also have more understanding on his expectations of us as individuals, and we become empowered to bear fruit for him.
A comprehensive understanding of the Bible helps us realize that God desires people to rule over his Creation as his representatives, but they have constantly rejected his authority and suffered the due consequences of that rejection. He then chose one nation, Israel, to be an example and a light to the rest of the world. The Bible is their record of the experiences they encountered on that journey with God. Through their example and his interactions with them, we learn of how God desires to interact with all people.
Coming to conclusions like this can only be gained by continual and deep reflection on the context of the original writings of Scripture. Rather than looking for a meaningful verse that just sounds good, or simply passing popular scripture memes on social media, the life of true faith in the God of the Bible is one that seeks to understand not only what the Bible says this life is about, but how it is to be lived to best honor our Creator.
Finally, while there are different learning styles, we can have various levels of meaningful engagement depending on how we choose to interact with the Word. Most people do this through reading. This engages one level of our critical insight. If one comes to the Bible to read and to journal or take physical notes, our comprehension begins to grow on a couple of levels. By reading and taking notes while listening to an audio version, our comprehension grows on multiple levels. The key is to recognize that God has provided his Word for a reason, and it’s the most important reason in the world: so we can know him. If doing additional things besides just reading sounds too difficult and challenging, then at least reading or listening to the Word on a regular basis can continually familiarize the believer with its content.
Here are a couple of other ideas for helping our understanding grow:
- When we study, we can read the word out loud, interacting through sight, speech and hearing.
- We can select different versions or parallel Bibles to keep the variety of expressions fresh, and our understanding broadened by the subtle variations in versions.
- By committing meaningful passages to memory and reciting them over and over (i.e., “hiding God’s word in our heart,” Psalm 119:11), we have our most intimate and meaningful application of this engagement.
Through all of this, I would hope that you have at least one takeaway from today’s information, and that is that whatever method works for you in spending time with the God of the Bible, your diligence in that effort sets you apart from the rest of the world who is simply trying to find their own way based on what seems best to them at the time. This being set apart, this holiness, is what God wants for his people, because he does desire our continual spiritual growth in knowing him and in our fruitful work in helping others.
In what ways can you be more engaged with God’s instruction? Perhaps experimenting with different levels of interacting with his word through the media options available to us can provide fresh perspective and renewed insight. The more intentional we are in learning from his guidance, the more set apart and available for his purposes we become.
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