How God Uses the Bible to Change Us
- Dr. Matthew Harmon
- 2017 7 Jul
The Bible is unlike any other book in the world. Nowhere else has God made himself known so clearly. But God did not give us the Bible simply for informational purposes. God gave us the Bible to transform us so that our lives more clearly reflect his Son, Jesus Christ. But before we can understand how God changes us through his Word, we need to look at why we need to be changed.
Made in His Image
The Bible is clear that God made human beings in his own image (Gen 1:26–27). Because we are image-bearers he also gave humanity a commission to live out: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28). God made human beings to reflect his beauty as we fill the earth and rule over it under the authority of the ultimate king—God himself. By worshiping God, humanity would reflect his character.
Marred by Our Sin
But things went horribly wrong. Adam and Eve rejected their identity as image-bearers by rebelling against God. Instead of joyfully submitting to God they placed themselves at the center of the universe (Gen 3:1–24) and committed idolatry (Rom 1:21–23). Now instead of worshiping God and reflecting his beauty, we pursue vain things like idols and become like them (Ps 115:3–8; 135:15–18; Isa 44:1–20). So because of Adam’s rebellion against God in the garden, we enter this world with a deeply ingrained tendency towards idolatry. We are like the shopping cart with the bent wheel that always pulls the cart the wrong direction. The way idolatry shows up varies from person to person. But no one is immune to it. Unless someone intervenes at the deepest level of our heart and soul we will pursue idolatry in some form or fashion.
Praise God that’s exactly what he’s done! As the true and complete image of God, Jesus Christ lived the life of perfect obedience that we could not live. He died the death that we should have died for our sins. He rose from the dead three days later to defeat our greatest enemies: sin, death, and the devil. Forty days later he ascended into heaven, and shortly afterward poured out the Holy Spirit on his people. In addition to making us spiritually alive, the Holy Spirit is the one who opens our eyes to see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). As a result, we are transformed into true worshipers who worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). As we worship the one true God in Jesus Christ, we become like him. As we see who Christ is and what he has done for us we are transformed so that we more fully reflect the image of Jesus Christ himself (2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2-3).
Tool for Renewal
So where do we see the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ most clearly? In the Bible. God has given us the Bible to tell us who he is, what he has done for us, and how we should live. He uses the Bible to change us so that our lives demonstrate that we bear his image.
Psalm 19:7-11 gives us a beautiful description of the various ways that God’s Word changes us:
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Look at all the things that God’s Word does: revives the soul, makes the simple wise, rejoices our hearts, enlightens our eyes, and warns us. No wonder David describes God’s Word as more desirable than gold and sweeter than the sweetest honey!
Notice David’s response to what God’s word is and what it does (19:12-14):
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Reading God’s Word reveals our sin to us, and calls us to confess it and turn away from it. It prompts a desire in God’s people to pursue spiritual growth so that what we say, think, do, and feel reflects the one who is our rock and our redeemer.
This transformation, however, does not take place in isolation. We hear, read, and study the Bible not only as individuals, but as part of a community of fellow believers—the church. God has given us other Christians to learn from and learn with as we take in God’s Word. As we hear God’s Word preached and taught, study it together in small groups, and talk about it with other believers, God uses his Word to transform us into clearer reflections of his Son, Jesus Christ.
So the next time you open up your Bible, take a moment to pray that God will change you to resemble Jesus more closely. That is a prayer that God loves to answer!
Matthew S. Harmon (PhD, Wheaton College Graduate School) is professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He is the author of Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. He also serves on the preaching team of Christ's Covenant Church, where he leads a small group and teaches the Bible regularly.
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Publication date: July 7, 2017