Luke 24: 45
As we continue this journey of meditating on the things of God, we come to God's word - the Bible. Let me take a brief side journey to illustrate how we should approach our reading of the Bible with our reading partner, the Holy Spirit.
In my current video series and soon-to-be-released book, Live Like You're Loved, I share the seven ways in which the Holy Spirit speaks to us. One of those ways is conscience. Not included in the seven ways is the Bible itself. I explain that the Holy Spirit should accompany us in our reading of the Bible and will teach into our conscience what we need to learn at this reading.
The Holy Spirit illuminates our reading of scripture and opens our minds, just as the resurrected Jesus did when visiting his fearful disciples in Luke 24: 45:
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
I find that I can read a section of the Bible, and it speaks to me differently than it did in the past. I believe that is the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it's possible that I have a different life perspective, and that's why it reads differently. But I believe that is the work of the Holy Spirit, using my life experiences plus the Bible to teach me.
For example, take the famous verse, Jeremiah 29: 11.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I have understood that passage in four ways over time. First, I learned it independent of its context in the story of God's people being sent to captivity in Babylon. It was a nice, sweet, optimistic verse primarily in my mind.
Then I heard a depressed person's testimony. For them, this was a powerful verse of hope in the midst of despair. I was inspired by the Spirit to chase down and read this verse newly. I began sharing it with people in need, such as cancer patients, who found comfort in this verse.
The third way was in reading Jeremiah more deeply. The Spirit helped me understand the historical context, and the specificity of what was going on with the captive people. This was not just a sweet verse, but a light to people in 70-year exile to let them know life would eventually change for them and their descendants.
The Spirit has now inspired me to understand this section of Jeremiah 29: 10-14 in a fuller way that guides my life. What the Lord is describing is a relationship more so than a rescue mission. Past verse 11 above, verses 12-14 go on to say:
"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
The Spirit showed me how God's plans were laid out for the exiles, but they would not get executed until the people prayed to and sought God. Similarly, for us, God's plan is that we will be rescued, but the rescue is founded on relationship and on prayerful searching with our whole hearts.
This is just one of my examples of Spirit guidance when reading the Bible. Why did it take time to unfold the fullness of this section? Perhaps I could only take in this marvelous passage a piece at a time. The Spirit took me through a journey of deeper understanding rather than handing me all of the various understandings at once. This is why I say that we read the Bible under the Spirit's guidance.
The best way to read or listen to the Bible is to first pray and invite God’s Spirit to open our minds. Here is how we can pray as we read God’s Word with the Holy Spirit:
Please open my mind to understand Your Word.
Help me receive Your Word with an honest and good heart.
I repent of any unbelief or idol that blocks my understanding.
Please explain today’s teaching to me.
Why have You put this in Your written Word? What is Your intention?
What are You trying to show me through this passage?
What should I do with what You have shown me?
Please help me to remember what You have taught me. Thank you, Jesus.
I like the Bible image for today's devotional, as it seemed to me that the Spirit wind was turning the page. Meditate now on how the Bible is not a static set of words written on a page, but a living, God-breathed document whose pages are turned by and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Consider how you can open your mind and spirit to the Holy Spirit's teaching whenever you pick up the Bible. Meditate on what God might have in store for you and how your life might be modified by the Spirit's instruction through the Bible.
Cecil Taylor's new book, Live Like You're Loved, is planned for a November release. Cecil has also authored The Next Thing: A Christian Model for Dealing with Crisis in Personal Life. This book is now available on CecilTaylorMinistries.com, along with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Dove Christian Publishers, and other booksellers.