3 Ways We Undermine the Bible’s Power

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The end of another hard day: You plop down into a comfortable chair, and it feels good. Your Bible is there, handy, so you open it at the bookmark.

After reading over the first few sentences a couple of times, they start to make sense. Your mind seems momentarily lifted to truths that transcend the day’s assorted pursuits. You’re beginning to get just a taste of something real–like seeing far away the dim outline of a great mountain, or, when the breeze is right, hungrily catching the aroma of a neighbor’s backyard barbecue.

God is there somewhere, and it would be so good to get closer, to understand more, to see more–to see enough to really understand his will and live it out in these fast-paced days, and to really love other people. Show me these things, Lord. . . .

You’re nodding. Your brief prayer somehow drifted into drowsy thoughts. You look down once more at the blurred paragraph you haven’t finished, and then you close the book. No use trying to read the Bible when I’m half asleep. Your requests will have to stay unanswered again.

The end of another hard day. . . .

You may have tried fasting for one or two days or possibly a week. But I doubt you have ever gone without food for a month or more. If we don’t eat, eventually we die.

The Scriptures are the food for our spiritual life. They are also the equipment for our ministry, but they are most important to us as our spiritual food. Without a good, steady intake of the Scriptures, we miss out on true spiritual living.

In Deuteronomy 32:46–47, Moses said to the people of Israel-

Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day. . . . They are not just idle words for you–they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Moses spoke these words as Israel was waiting just east of the Jordan River, preparing to cross over to the Promised Land. Moses reminded Israel that God had promised to lead them. He had promised them communion with himself. He promised prosperity, joy, peace, and growth. He said that in this land flowing with milk and honey he would defeat Israel’s enemies. And he said he would make Israel to be fruitful and to multiply.

The key to obtaining all these promises, Moses said now, was to saturate their lives with God’s word, and to obey it.

For us, crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land signifies the life of total commitment–a life in which Jesus Christ is Lord in every area. Crossing the Jordan into that kind of life results in the same blessings: God’s guidance; an intimate, living, growing communion with God; prosperity; the joy that comes from walking with God; a life of peace not dependent on circumstances; a life of growth; the assurance that no matter what the situation, God will defeat our enemy Satan; and our own fruitfulness and multiplication.

The key to receiving these is the same for us: saturating our lives in God’s word, and obeying him.

Moses said God’s words were not idle words, or, as another translation puts it, a trifle–something insignificant, of little value or importance. One way we make God’s word a trifle is to neglect it. We have time for our career, sports and social activities, keeping the car running, and whatever else–but somehow time for the word of God isn’t there.

I’m the youngest of twelve children. I remember leaving for school in the mornings, and Mom would be in the living room on her knees by the large blue leather chair in the corner. Her Bible would be open before her, and she was praying over it. A few years ago my wife asked her how she ever got through those years with all those children and the demanding work load. Mom answered that the only way was to spend time daily in the Bible and prayer. She made the word of God her first priority. With all the other activities, she did the best she could in the time she had left.


Another way we make God’s word a trifle is to read it in the flesh. Jesus said, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). When we read the Bible we should begin with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes. Otherwise the Bible is just one of millions of books with black words printed on white paper. There is nothing automatic about understanding this book.

A verse I’ve claimed on this is Luke 24:45–”Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Three Ways We Undermine the Bible’s Power in Our Lives

  1. Neglecting to read it.
  2. Reading it without relying on the Spirit’s power to help us understand it.
  3. Reading it, but not obeying what we read.

Another way to make God’s word a trifle is to read the Bible but not obey it. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Then he gave an illustration of a man who is like someone building a house with a foundation on rock, and another man who is like one building without a foundation. The only difference between these two is that one obeys Christ’s word, and the other does not.

We see and hear many significant things from God’s word. The ultimate issue will be how we apply what we have learned. Is your life any different because of what you have seen in the Bible?

Each of us has unresolved problems in our life that we know God has spoken to us about in the past. Maybe it’s having a complaining spirit, or impatience with other people, or lustful thoughts. What happens when we don’t come face to face with what God has been telling us about these things? Our sensitivity becomes deadened. We read about the subject in Scripture and we may think, This really speaks to me. We may even mention the passage to someone else–but later we keep on griping or being impatient or enjoying lustful thoughts.

Sometimes we almost brag about it. We’ll tell someone, “I want you to know I’m a critical person. I’ve had this problem for years; that’s just the way I am.” It’s as if we’re making an official announcement: This is the way I am, so expect me to be that way for the rest of my life.

But God is in the business of changing us. Discipleship means continually changing to become more and more like Jesus Christ. That’s what our time in the Scriptures should lead to.

Moses said God’s word is our life. What did he mean by that? Let’s do a short Bible study in John 14 and 15 to help us find out.

Jesus said,

I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6).

Jesus Christ is the only source of life. This is the miracle of Christianity, the “exchanged life” which we see in Galatians 2:20″I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” To me, this is the miracle of Christianity: Bob DeHaan has died in the flesh and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lives in me. I’m a brand new person by the power of Christ.

Jesus also said,

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (John 14:21).

Jesus will show himself and his life to us–but only if we take hold of his words and obey them.

Then John 14:23—

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Not only will Christ show himself to us, but if we obey his word he will make his home with us and live with us.

The word of Christ is like a bar of soap. Jesus said,

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you (John 15:3).

Then in the next two verses:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Remaining in Christ, the source of life, is a prerequisite to bearing fruit. In fact, apart from him we can’t do anything.

Then John 15:7—

If you remain in me and my words remain in you. . . .

That’s interesting. In John 15:4 Jesus had spoken about our remaining in him. Now in verse seven he speaks of our remaining in him and his words remaining in us. It’s clear: Jesus is saying that he remains in us through his word. To be united with him means we must have his word inside us.

I believe in these verses Jesus is saying the same thing Moses said in Deuteronomy 32: The key to appropriating all the blessings of God is to saturate our lives with the word of God.

How do we do this? There is no magic formula. I can only say that it’s work. One step is to continually read through the entire Bible. Another is concentrated study on certain books or passages. This means personally investigating the Scriptures and digging into them for ourselves.

Scripture memory is another method, and probably the one God has used most in my life. Dawson Trotman said he never made an investment of time in his entire life that paid greater dividends than the time spent memorizing the word of God. That is also true for me.

Memorizing Scripture keeps it in my mind, readily available hour by hour out there where the battles of life are. It becomes practical, as relevant as the shirt on my back.

Scripture memory is a tool for meditation, and meditation on the Scriptures is a means for getting to know God better. Psalm 1 tells us that the people to whom God gives true joy are those who “day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely” (The Living Bible).

All these methods–Bible reading, Bible study, memorization, and meditation–take work.

How are you doing in your intake of Scripture? Where there are deficiencies, try coming up with a simple plan for correcting them. And then, stick with your plan–learning and obeying God’s word.

This article was originally published in Issue 2 of the Discipleship Journal. Author Bob DeHaan coordinated Navigator community ministries in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana.

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