I have a strange relationship with instruction manuals. On one hand, my testosterone-poisoned male brain thinks it can assemble the bicycle or furniture without consulting the manual. This rarely works out as well as I think it will. On the other hand, I keep stacks of them thinking that “I may need to refer to it some day!” I never do. I discovered quite a few such dusty old manuals the other day for which I no longer even own the item to which they belonged!
There is a common expression in Christian circles that refers to the Bible as “God’s instruction manual”. I worry that thinking may cause us to treat it the same way we do other instruction manuals; that is, we keep it around in case we ever need to refer to it, even if we too rarely do. True, there is a sense in which God’s Word is an instruction manual. The word “manual” derives from the French word for a book, of which the Bible certainly is one. And the Bible is most definitely instructive. The Apostle Paul told Timothy that all scripture is valuable for instruction. However, the manual-mindset may lead us to believe we consult it largely in times of need for instruction on dealing with some specific circumstance that has come up.
A better understanding of the scriptures is that they are the very mind, thoughts, and words of our Creator-God for us. Scripture flows from the mind of God to us by the agency of the Holy Spirit working through human writers. We cannot easily separate God’s Word from God’s Person. Jesus Christ is revealed to us as the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) To diligently read and meditate upon the scriptures is to begin to pattern our thoughts after the very thoughts of God! Does that sound far-fetched?
Paul told the Romans (and us) to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He also said that “… we have the mind of Christ.” The Apostle Peter writes, “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Peter 1:4) These are astonishing thoughts that lead us to an astonishing conclusion. The Bible is far more than a dusty manual we consult at last resort after we have tried and failed on our own. The scriptures are the means by which our minds and thoughts are brought into communion and conformity with the very mind and thoughts of our Father God!
That is why – unlike consulting an instruction manual – we need to be continually absorbed in and consumed by the scriptures. The Bible must not be just reference material, it must become a part of our heart and mind. The Prophet Jeremiah understood this as he wrote, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;” (Jeremiah 15:16) Now there is an idea to get behind! God’s Word is the food that nourishes our soul, and the feast that delights our hearts! Eat heartily of God’s Word, my friends!