How to Live the Bible — Sweeter Than Honey
This is the forty-seventh lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
One of the differences between an empty life and a full life is whether we’ve taken the opportunity to receive the truth of God in the deep places of our minds and hearts. This truth is not merely “truths” or information like the facts you comb the newspaper for. This truth is a harvest in the heart. It is the life-changing comprehension of the reality of supernatural love. It is true knowledge of ourselves, true knowledge of God, and true knowledge of the world in which we live.
God longs for us to receive his word as contained in the Scriptures. To demonstrate this God had a prophet eat a scroll that turned to sweet honey in his mouth (Ezekiel 3:3).
Psalm 119:113 says: “how sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”
To use another metaphor, think of the Bible as a kind of complete topographical map of all reality. A hiker will unfold and study a topographical map that describes with great detail the geography of where he stands-every hill, ravine, river, bridge, railroad, landmark, building. Then he knows how to proceed.
Scripture is God’s top-down view, his published topographical map, of reality. Those who study it know of the gorges of evil, the mountaintops of God’s holiness, the streams where there is fresh water, the roads that lead to ruin or to good destinations. This knowledge is cumulative, of course, which is why we need to be devoted to a pattern of reading and studying Scripture. No one who is honest can say that he or she has a complete comprehension of truth, and those who do say that make us wary.
A yearning to hear God’s voice will lead us to Scripture. If we read it naturally, widely, and over a long period of time, we will experience a filling that comes no other way. We will be assured and guided, and we will also be corrected and challenged (which is why Mark Twain said it wasn’t the parts of the Bible he didn’t understand that bothered him, but the parts he did).
One of the greatest joys I can think of has been those times when I’ve been able to talk to someone just as they have come to faith in Christ, smiles abounding just like in the delivery room of a hospital when a new life has noisily entered the world. Often people at that stage know they need to get their hands on a Bible, or the person who has led them to faith has given them a new, easy to understand, Bible. The shrink-wrap is barely off it. The spine still cracks as they open it. And they have no idea where to find anything. You might as well say the Epistle to the Martians as the Epistle to the Romans, or the Gospel of Marx as the Gospel of Mark.
Then, six months later, they know where the Gospel of John is, and oh do they have questions! Six months after that and their Bible easily flops open on the desk, papers and notes spilling out, passages underlined and highlighted. But the truly impressive thing is the change in them. Holding a Bible that is getting more supple matters little; the miracle is the softening of the heart–and its strengthening, and filling, and expanding, and deepening.
Who can explain such a supernatural process? It is an entirely different experience from being influenced by any other kind of book. A really good book with a great story or great ideas may get a grip on us, and move us, but the discipline of assimilating Scripture into the mind and heart has a truly transforming effect.
Here is God’s own word about God’s own word:
“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules… I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you…. I weep with grief; encourage me by your word. Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your law…. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:9, 11, 28, 29, 105 NLT).
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:7-8).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:15).
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
This last passage tells us that Scripture is “useful.” It is the spiritual breath of God which gives life, both by its immediate supernatural effect, and in its practical usefulness in training. It teaches (tells us the truth); it rebukes (confronts us when we violate the truth); it corrects (shows us how to get back on track); and it trains in righteousness (disciplines us to stay on track).
Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.
July 20, 2019