In the sixteenth century, Spanish soldiers sweated and died in the jungles of Florida looking for the proverbial “Fountain of Youth.” They likely thought that if they could crest just one more hill, ford one more stream, or fend off one more enemy, that they would locate the water and find life. Don’t we do the same? We may not traverse jungles, but we do invest in shaky relationships, buy just one more facial cream, or order another twelve-step program promising to help us lose weight and take control of our lives. We look to a man or a mirror or a scale to find life, but whenever we look for life in these things we’re sure to be disappointed. Life has only ever been found in one thing. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” and it is as true today as it was when He first spoke it (John 14:6).
The open secret of our souls is this: we long to know Christ and to be known perfectly in return. We yearn to love and to be loved. We want life. We want freedom. We want joy. And there is only One person who can give it to us.
The purpose of each spiritual discipline is for us to know Christ better, and through that open-eyed relationship to find abundant life and fullness of joy. The object of each spiritual discipline is the contemplation of God. Studying God’s Word is never meant as an end in itself; it is never a mere intellectual exercise. It is intended as a means to adore God more and more.
The Bible is different from all other books.
When famed professor and preacher Haddon Robinson considered doctoral programs in the 1960s, he visited a well-known institution and told them he wanted to study preaching. The university didn’t have a preaching department so they sent him to the classics department. In the old classics library covered with cobwebs, a chain-smoking professor pointed to a dusty pulpit Bible laying on a table. “You know how that book differs from Aristotle, Quintilian, and Plato?” the professor asked Robinson. “I’ll tell you: that book’s alive. I don’t know anybody whose life was changed by studying those other books, but I do know some people whose lives were changed by studying that book.” Robinson took that as a word of grace and went on to teach thousands of students how to preach.
The Bible is alive. The Spirit of God animates its pages and helps readers receive and apply its message. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Serious students of God’s Word have always found the Bible transformative. Fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich understood that study of God’s Word leads directly to adoration of God: “Truth perceives God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes the third, and that is a holy, wonderful delight in God, which is love.”
Thousands of years ago, the author of Psalm 119 considered the study of God’s Word a natural catalyst for loving God even more. “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws” the psalmist writes in verse 7. “You are good, and what you do is good,” he continues. “Teach me your decrees” (v. 68).
Knowledge by itself is of some value, but it also holds the danger of puffing us up with pride. But knowledge wrapped in adoration will build us up more and more into the image of Christ. Loving God will motivate us to study His Word. In turn, studying God’s Word will transform us to love Him even more.
Ask God to give you an appetite for His Word and a greater knowledge of your Creator. Pray that every moment you spend in disciplined study of God and His Word will return a harvest of righteousness and peace (Hebrews 12:11).