Each morning over breakfast, I open God’s word for a time of devotion. Often, my morning time in Scripture is refreshing and strengthens me for the day: but there are also times I’ll grab on to some phrase or idea as an instrument for my own purposes. Now, despite how it sounds, the problem isn’t that I’ve premeditated a self-serving use of God’s word. Rather, I suspect my misstep is in overlooking preparation – taking a moment beforehand to submit to God, to prepare to receive and accept whatever work he intends to do during our intimate time together.
It’s not unlike any other relationship. In order for me to hear another person, and for what I hear to survive the trip to my heart, I must first agree to lower my defenses, relinquish my sense of entitlement to render judgment on validity, and accede to the importance and value of their words independent of my preference. This requires a conquering (or at least, a refusal) of the fear that doing so will nullify my own validity or value to God in some way. Ironically, this is precisely what I expect from those listening to me!
This idea moves beyond courtesy and respect into the realm of security and honor. Courtesy and respect are externally manifested and foundational, but they were never intended to be sufficient for the Church. Security and honor, in contrast, reside in the heart and require faith and work.
Security is evasive, it seems, whether inside or outside the Body of Christ, but the degree to which each of us is secure in our identity establishes our capacity for honoring others. Where chronic doubt and terror fester, there is no opportunity for genuine comprehension and fulfillment of our identity in Christ. (1 Jn 4:17-19; Mt. 10:29-30) The result of this terror is a decision, an agreement that we must arrange for our own security – an impossibility in the most absolute sense, yet all of us at times dance in and out of this tempting lie. Once we do “sign the agreement” however, peace and honor are exchanged for control and a chess-like relational life, precluding, or at least resisting, intimacy with most people and insisting the power of the Holy Spirit remain inside the temple.
Despite all this, security and understanding are truly available from Jesus, but not on a drive-thru basis. The next time you look into his word, take a few minutes to get ready first. Recall whom you are about to speak with and capture those selfish thoughts demanding attention. In fact, I’ve found that prayer before, during and after my time in God’s word has been dramatically helpful. If you make a discovery in his word, build a fence around your thinking, only exploring what he has to show you about you. The truth and revelation of God’s word must always be applied honestly to our own thoughts, hearts, character and behavior before we ever consider application to someone else. (Mt. 7:3-5) Next – and this is the really tough part – listen carefully to the Holy Spirit. God’s word is alive and powerful, much more so than can possibly be absorbed in five minutes! Allow his word to flex inside your mind. Contemplate, listen, resist drawing conclusions, and wait for Jesus to assemble his perspective in your mind and heart.