"If we want to receive from the Bible the life with God that is portrayed in the Bible, we must be prepared to have our dearest most fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our associations called into question. We must read humbly and in a constant attitude of repentance. Only in this way can we gain a thorough and practical grasp of the spiritual riches that God has made available to all humanity in his written Word. Only in this way can we keep from transforming The Book into a Catholic Bible, an Orthodox Bible, a Protestant Bible, an Ours is More Accurate than Yours Bible...And so the test of whether or not we have really gotten the point of the Bible would be the quality of love that we show."~Richard Foster,Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation
Some Bible verses that came to mind when I read that passage and others from Foster in regards to reading Scripture for spiritual transformation (emphasis mine):
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Matthew 16: 24-26 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
John 15:12-13 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
1 John 4:7-8 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
I am no expert, but from experience and what I've read as I've gone through the gospels and Scripture, by reading Scripture with an open heart and open mind, with conviction and expectancy, one cannot help but be changed and transformed. Who could expect anything less from the very living and real Word of God?
In Foster's book he brings up the technique of reading the Bible with expectancy. Not just reading it as some kind of historical account of biblical times or just to get knowledge about the laws of God. But to approach Scripture with expectancy of meeting God there. To be continually open and receptive to the promptings of the Spirit and to expect change in one's heart. After all, that is what sanctification is all about-us moving away from our illusions and attachments towards ourselves and the world and towards the reality of Christ, our wills eventually cleaving to His. Becoming a "new creation" in Christ. And what better litmus test to our progress than the love that we exhibit towards God and to others? A heart moving closer to God and becoming identified more and more in Christ cannot but help to experience a greater depth of love towards others as the Spirit prompts the heart to move from superficial love to agape love.
Do you feel yourself changed when you read the Bible? Do you feel yourself nourished and full when you finish reading through Scripture? Your soul lifted up and encouraged? Do you feel your heart opening up to new dimensions of love? Do you expect to meet with God when you open up the holy text which reveals His Word, His love letter to you and I and the rest of the world? When you meet with Him do you feel His presence? Do you feel a peace that surpasses all understanding?
If not, take heart...the very things which I just described are possible for everyone. God in His amazing love, makes it possible for all of His children to experience the love and peace of His presence and makes it possible for us humans, in our frailty and brokeness, to be transformed in His love and truth by means of His Word, prayer and meditation.
Let's Pray :)
We thank you for the amazing love that is your reality. We thank you for Your mercy and grace that break the chains of sin in our lives and your light which causes darkness to flee. We seek to be changed and transformed in your presence. We seek to love others, not with conscious effort, but through a changed and transformed heart that makes it natural to love others the way you do. May the Holy Spirit touch our lives with truth and grace and enable us to draw close to you and give us the strength, clarity and spiritual insight to conform more and more to the likeness of Christ. May Scripture come alive when we enter into it with expectant hearts, may it breathe truth and light into our souls.
May you humble us in areas that need humbling, may you remind us of our need for you and may we never, ever cease to seek your face. May the Holy Spirit continually spur us on to greater heights of understanding and experiencing you. We love you and seek you with all our hearts, minds and strength. Thank you for being the kind of God we can call Father and approach with humble confidence.
In Jesus' name,