Scripture is one of the best ways to understand the heart and mindset of God. The author of Psalm 119 extolled the virtues of the Bible, referring to it as “a lamp for my feet and a light to my path.” The author of Hebrews talked about the way that Scripture teaches, challenges, and convicts us; she/he writes that God’s word is “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). When we reflect on Scripture, we allow God’s word to challenge and transform us. We learn new things about God, the Bible, and ourselves that we might not have discovered before.
One of the ways in which we are able to bring Scripture to life is not just through reading, but by reflecting on what we are reading. Specifically, what does the word of God say to me in this moment, in this time, in the things going on today? What might God be trying to teach me?
One of the practices that has been incredibly meaningful to me is lectio divina. Lectio divina is a Latin phrase that means “divine reading.” It is an age-old practice that takes the roles of Scripture and the Holy Spirit very seriously. It allows us to read Scripture and, at the same time, allows Scripture to read us. Lectio divina believes that Scripture still speaks to our lives today and connects to our current context. God teaches us as our hearts and minds connect the message to the situations of our lives. The goal isn’t just to discover what the Scripture says, but also how we might apply this Scripture to our lives.
This process goes by many different names: Dwelling in the Word, Dwelling in the World; Praying with Scripture; etc. Whatever name you choose, the process is similar as we dwell within the text, allowing it to change our hearts, minds, and actions. But it takes seriously the belief that God is at work through his written word, transforming our hearts and drawing us closer to him.
The steps of lectio divina are listed below.
Steps of Lectio Divina
- Practice silence with the Lord. Come into God’s presence, slow down, relax, and intentionally release the chaos and noise in your mind to him
- Read the passage slowly, whether silently or out loud.
- When a word or phrases catches your attention, stop and attend to what God is saying through this phrase.
- Don’t feel that you have to rush through the experience. Take your time and savor each word or phrase that impacts you.
- Read the Scripture a second time.
- Reflect on the importance of any part that seems significant to you.
- Ponder these words in your heart
- Pray these Scriptures, with the following thoughts in mind.
- What feelings/emotions has the text brought up in you?
- Where are some areas that make you uncomfortable in the text?
- What might God be trying to teach you about your life right now through these words, phrases, or ideas?
- Contemplate, rest, and listen to God.
- Allow some time for the word to sink deeply into your soul.
Another way to summarize these steps is…
- Remember… moments with God
- Read… the passage
- Reflect… on its message and what it is saying to you
- Rest… in the message, letting it sink into your heart, mind, and soul
(These are taken from Chris Altrock’s wonderful book Ten Minute Transformation.)
We believe that God’s word is “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). If this is true, then God’s word, when it dwells in our minds for a time, will bring us to greater clarity and understanding. God still speaks to us through his word.
As our focus today, let’s look at the passage we were studying in our sermon yesterday. This is the “Christ hymn” of Philippians 2:5-11:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
What did you notice? What stands out to you? For me, something I am constantly amazed by is the fact that Jesus was in the very “form/nature” (morphe) of God, but willingly put that aside in order to take on the “form/nature” (morphe) of a servant or slave. Jesus gave up the glories of heaven, the place of power and the highest position, to come and serve his people.
One of my favorite scholars is Peter O’Brien, who argues that there are three ways to understand this idea:
- Temporally – While or Being… “While being in the very form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, but made himself nothing…”
- Concessively – Although or Though… “Although Messiah Jesus was in the form of God, a status that means the exercise of power, he acted out of character… when he emptied and humbled himself.”
- Causally – Because or Since… “Precisely because he was in the form of God, he did not regard this divine equality as something to be used for his own advantage…”
(O’Brien, 202-203, 214, 216)
This desire and drive to serve is actually what it means to be God. It is his character, his ethos, his way of being and acting in the world. God is a God who serves.
What do you notice from this passage? What stands out to you? What is God teaching you through this passage? And what might it mean for your life?