The X-Factor in Bible Reading
The Bible is no magic book. But saying it that way might give the wrong impression.
A strange, enigmatic power stirs when we reach for the Scriptures. Something influential, though invisible, is happening as we hear God’s words read or spoken. Something supernatural, but unseen, transpires as we see the text in front of us and take it into our souls. Someone unseen moves.
He is a personal force, fully divine and full of mystery — more a person than you or me, and yet no less an indomitable and ultimately irresistible power. He makes the seemingly simple into something supernatural, as reading the Bible takes us beyond the realm of our control. There is an x-factor when we read the Book.
More Than Cause and Effect
He loves to strengthen human souls in obvious and subtle ways as they encounter God’s word — whether that Word is the incarnate Christ, the gospel word of salvation for sinners, or the written word in the Scriptures.
As much as we want to master the discipline of Bible intake, to trace the lines of cause and effect from some action we take to some resulting satisfaction of our soul, the Helper resists our efforts to objectify grace. He lingers in silence. He labors mysteriously, lurking outside our control. He imperceptibly shapes us this morning to make us into who we need to be this afternoon. His hands act untraceably as he molds our minds, hews out our hearts, whittles at our wills, and carves at our callouses.
Beyond Our Control
Not only does he hover over the waters, over all created space, standing ready to execute the Father’s will and extend the reign of the glorified Son. But he hovers all the more over the divine word — whether incarnate, spoken, or written — standing ready to awaken dead souls and open blind eyes and warm cold hearts. Ready to bear witness about the Son (John 15:26), ready to glorify him (John 16:14).
It was by this Helper that the gospel first came to us “not only in word, but also in power” (1 Thessalonians 1:5), and it was with his joy that we “received the word in much affliction” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). It was by him that “God chose [us] to be saved, through sanctification” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
More Than We Can Muster
With him in view, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24).
He is the one through whom now is revealed to us the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7–10). Our helper is the one who searches everything, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except our aid (1 Corinthians 2:11). He is the one whom the truly born again have received “that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). And so when we — not just apostles, but we Christians — communicate the Christian message and teaching, we “impart this in words not taught by human wisdom,” but taught by him, “interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
He is the promised one, with whom we were sealed when we “heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in [Jesus]” (Ephesians 1:13). The word of God is said to be his sword (Ephesians 6:17).
More Than Meets the Eye
When we get alone with the Bible, we are not alone. God has not left us to ourselves to understand his words and feed our own souls. No matter how thin your training, no matter how spotty your routine, the Helper stands ready. Take up the text in confidence that God is primed to bless your being with his very breath.
There is more than meets the eye to this spiritual discipline. A variable we can’t control. An enigmatic power we cannot command. A mysterious goodness we can only receive.
The Holy Spirit.
A revised and expanded version of this article now appears in Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines (Crossway, 2016) by David Mathis. Also available is a study guide for personal and group studies.