The Bible, otherwise known as the word of God, is a collection of 66 books written over many centuries by a variety of individuals led by God. The Bible serves many purposes. One is to make it clear to us that every person ever born was born into sin, and has thus been separated from God the Father and needs to be saved. As noted in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” Another purpose is to present Jesus as the only means through which we can be reconciled to God. Jesus himself stated, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Describing our need for salvation and the means by which this can be met are key purposes of the Bible.
Another purpose of the Bible is to help us know how to live in order to please God. Known as sanctification, living to please God is a process whereby over time we are gradually led and empowered to turn away from evil and to pursue a deeper relationship with God. In Colossians 3:1-10 (ESV) Paul challenges those who have already received Christ as their Savior to draw closer to God. He writes:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Salvation takes place the moment we genuinely receive Jesus as our Savior. Sanctification, however, is a process that lasts for as long as we are on this earth. None of us will ever “arrive” in this sense. We will never be perfect on earth. We can, however, strive to draw closer to God through the empowerment and leading of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit most often leads us as we read and listen to the word of God, and seek to align ourselves to the truth we find in it.
One of the most meaningful Bible verses to me as I seek to draw closer to God is Psalm 91:1. In the NIV it says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Another meaning for the original word translated as “shelter” is a “secret place.” Seeking to dwell in the secret place of God is spoken of by many as the desire to live one’s life in God’s presence. This is the goal of my life, and I hope it’s your goal too. We all know, however, that life is busy and there are times when we need to focus on many other things. This is why it’s important for me to carve out some special time in the early mornings and late evenings when I can be alone and draw into that secret place of God with as few distractions as possible. I call this my “intentional dwelling time.” In other words, time during which I draw very near to God. During these times I pray, read the Bible, and listen quietly hoping to be led by the Holy Spirit about how I am to live and what I am to do.
During these times I generally approach the Bible in a focused way. I read little and think about what I’ve read a great deal. Recently, however, I’ve added to this a time of listening to the Bible for twenty minutes or so. This gives me a much wider view, and is passive rather than active as is reading. I actually started doing this several years ago during my morning walks alone. Since I now walk in the evenings with my wife, I got out of the habit of listening to the Bible. Having started to do so again in another way, I now realize how much I missed this.
Then and now I find that listening to the word of God for 20-30 minutes a day allows me to work my way through the entire New Testament about 6-7 times every year. Each time I listen I learn something new, and God opens up things that I had not heard before. To me, this process is like being “washed by the word.” It’s remarkable how many ways the Lord uses this in my life, and I’m grateful to have rediscovered this.
There are several Apps one can use to listen to the Bible. Two very good ones are the Bible.is App, and the Youversion App. I’ve use both. Most recently, however, I downloaded a version of the New Testament in the English Standard Version (ESV) from Audible. No matter which method you choose, I suggest that you not be too concerned with catching every detail as you listen. Let the word “wash over you” using this broader approach, and save your very focused study of the Bible for when you read it.
After listening to the entire New Testament in this way a few times, two things will likely happen. First, at some point you’ll find yourself finishing many passages before they’re fully read. This means you’re absorbing God’s word. Finally, I suspect that you’ll find yourself applying the teaching of the Bible to your life in ways that you’ve not done so previously. To me this is the most significant benefit.
Every true warrior knows the importance of mastering his or her weapons. In Ephesians 6:17 the word of God is spoken of as “The sword of the Spirit.” Those who know how to wield God’s sword and who are empowered by the Spirit can stand firm in the face of our strongest spiritual enemies, and have the best chance of repelling attacks. Those who have no use for God’s sword are overcome by even the weakest spiritual foe.
As the end of time draws ever closer, I encourage you to know God’s word better than you’ve ever known any other weapon. By doing so you’ll know how to live to please God, and will have a better chance of standing firm in the face of increasingly intense spiritual opposition.
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:42-44).