The Bible and Gods Word

Ever since I surrendered to the lordship of Christ in college, I have consumed the Bible the same way I can’t turn from a plate of hot chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven. Who can resist all of that gooey goodness?!

It wasn’t always like that, though. Before I truly met the Lord, I felt like a foreigner trying to read Scripture outside of my native tongue. As a young teen longing to get to know God (so that I could marry my Christian boyfriend), nothing I read in the Bible made any sense. I could never find the stories without turning to the table of contents, while my peers flipped to the correct page as if their fingers were magnets to books, chapters, and verses. 

As a child not raised in the church, the Bible just wasn’t part of my growing up narrative. There was no reason to know where the Psalms were or what the difference was between the Old and the New Testament. So when, in high school, I started to go to church with my boyfriend, I rustled through the gold-leafed pages of my brand-new Bible, embarrassed and mystified. 

When I finally arrived at the verses we were reading, I was usually late to the story. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d gotten there in time anyway; nothing ever made any sense. Who were these people? Why did this ancient tale matter? How did it fit into the rest of history that I’d been learning in school? And what was the deal with all of those rules?

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wrestle the Bible into submission. It was nothing like any other book I’d ever read, and I loved to read. So the only explanation I have for what happened in 2000 as a freshman in my dorm room has to do with the Holy Spirit. 

Something unlocked in my heart and mind when I asked Jesus to help me live my life. Something awakened. My appetite for Scripture became insatiable. I devoured the good news. Stories that read like gibberish before came to me with such clarity I’d either shout with joy or weep with glee. 

I felt like I was the first one ever to discover the generous love and mercy of the Father, and so I told my closest friends, who had all been raised in the every Sunday and Wednesday night church routine, all about what I was learning in the Bible.

“Listen to this!” I’d squeal, reading from the letters of Paul.

“Yeah, yeah,” they’d reply. This abundant grace was old news to them.

It’s been over two decades since God’s Word—his voice speaking through Scripture—ignited my life. It is, to this day, as if God’s Word “is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9 NIV). Like Jeremiah, I can’t hold it in. 

I can’t often cite the chapter and verse. I don’t know exactly where it says that one thing about how convinced Paul is that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord without Googling some keywords I remember (it’s in Romans 8:38-39, in case you were wondering). The precise turn of phrase is lost to me, but it doesn’t matter; Christ’s Word is written on my heart. His Love is impressed upon my soul.

I have been in lots of different church and Christian school contexts since I first called Jesus “Lord,” and I have met lots of Christians who can recite Scripture, naming the chapter and verse because they have been given “sword drills” and quizzed in Sunday school classes to memorize Scripture in return for Dum Dum suckers. I’ve been envious of the way they’ve been able to write the Word of God (many Christians refer to the Bible as “God’s Word” or the revelation of God) into the folds of their minds, the same way I was trained to solve math problems or recite “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

But you don’t have to memorize Scripture to have God’s Word written on your heart.

For centuries upon centuries, the vast majority of people only heard the Bible preached or read to them. It is a great privilege that we live in a time of common literacy, of Bible translation in hundreds of languages. We can read the Bible anywhere, any time, in nearly any language.

However, until we have had a transformational encounter with Christ, the words of the Bible might as well be just ink on paper in a dusty textbook.

That’s what they were to me, all those years ago, when I really did want to know about God. I really wanted to check off the right boxes so that I could marry my boyfriend. Reading the Bible hadn’t gotten me there, although I tried, I really did. 

It took experiencing God, being rescued by God, encountering the unfathomable and undeserved love of God to split my soul in two.

The Word of God, according to Hebrews 4:12, is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

This is absolutely true, but “God’s Word” in Hebrews 4:12 is likely not referring primarily to Scripture but to the living voice of God. 

In John’s Gospel, the Word of God is Jesus Christ (John 1:1). Strong’s concordance calls logos, the Word, “the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.”

Jesus is the living Word of God. It is that Word that rewrites the narrative of our lives. It is that Word that redefines us, it is that Word that saves us, it is that Word that woos us away from the lesser gods we’ve worshiped and renames us, from “Not my people” to “My people,” from “Not my loved one” to “My beloved” (Hosea 2:23 NIV).

I think the reason the Bible opened up to me after I had my first encounter with the Lord is because before, I had no context for the God-Who-Sees (Genesis 16:13). I hadn’t felt Seen. I didn’t know the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). My life was defined by anxiety. 

But once I felt God’s saving grace, God’s rescue, other people’s stories in the Bible and beyond resonated with the deep truth of my personal experience. I was saved, and other people were too, and if God could rescue me through hearing other people’s stories, then I would tell my story too. I would pass on the Word of God that has been written on my heart so that, maybe, it would have the chance to penetrate and divide another soul from spirit. As the light of the world and the salt of the earth, maybe through me, the Word would be for someone else a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.

It hasn’t been my life’s ambition as a parent to weave Bible verses into the folds of my children’s brains, but it has been my greatest hope that they would have opportunities and moments to encounter the Living Word, through me, through our family, through other people they encounter at church, through stories they see and hear. 

“Look!” I might say, “See how God’s saving grace shows up here? See how you have been saved? See how the unconditional love of Christ is the undercurrent of everything? See? See?” 

The Bible, of course, can help, but what I’ve learned through my own experience is that without an experience of the Living Word, the written Word is not enough. 

The written Word exists to point us to the Living Word, the “Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV).

That is Who divides soul and spirit. That is Who penetrates the heart. That is Whose Name burns like a fire in our bones. That is Who Saves.

—Written by Sarah M. Wells. Used by permission from the author.