The Transformational Power of Scripture
Aligning the compass of your life to the truth of Scripture
A compass is an instrument used to navigate in a specific direction, whether north, south, east or west. A compass is especially helpful to mariners and hikers (of which I am neither), and to anyone who is directionally challenged (of which I am always). With a compass, you’re not only able to determine which direction you are going, but you’re able to make the adjustments necessary to head the direction you need to go.
In life, we all live by a compass of sorts … a compass that helps us end up somewhere intentional, purposeful and meaningful. Without the right compass, we’ll end up where we never intended to go. Why? Because the path you take always determines the story you tell. The question you have to answer is, “What kind of compass will help me choose the right kind of path?” In short, you need a compass that points toward truth.
If you were to poll people and ask them, “What is truth?” you’d probably hear a variety of answers. Some people would define truth by their circumstances. Others would define truth by a set of beliefs or values. Still others would define truth by preferences or opinions.
The problem is, our circumstances, beliefs, values, preferences and opinions are unreliable sources of truth. Why? Because truth doesn’t start with me. In fact, circumstances, beliefs, values, preferences, and opinions change. Truth, on the other hand, is always true.
Truth is true no matter how passionate I am about my opinions or how deeply I believe my opinions. Truth is true no matter how many of my friends agree with me or how popular my opinions are on social media. Simply put, the truth doesn’t need my opinion to be the truth. The most reliable truth originates outside of me. The most enduring truth stands whether I stand with it or not.
So, if I’m going to align the compass of my life with the ultimate truth, I must seek out truth that is true for all people, all times and all cultures. Truth that is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Scripture is that truth.
Scripture is more than a collection of good thoughts, ideas, preferences or opinions. It’s more than a history book. The Bible is the story of God’s redemptive work in the world. And it’s reliable, accurate and enduring. How can that be said?
In their book, The Faith: Given Once, for All, Charles Colson and Harold Fickett observed that there are 24,947 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament (the oldest dating back to A.D. 150), and 14,000 manuscripts of the Old Testament. To put this in perspective, the next closest is the ancient Greek poem Homer’s Iliad, with only 600 manuscripts.
Furthermore, the accuracy of the Bible manuscripts is remarkable. According to Hebrew practice, only eyewitness testimony was accepted; and when copying documents, the Jews would copy one letter at a time — not word by word, not phrase by phrase, not sentence by sentence. Colson and Fickett observed, “Before the end of the 1950s, no less than 25,000 biblical sites had been substantiated by archaeological discoveries; there has been no discovery proving the Bible false. No other religious document now or in history has ever been found that accurate.”
The Bible was written by different people — statesmen, farmers, shepherds, peasants, musicians, poets and tax collectors. It was also written in different places. The Bible was written by Moses in the wilderness, Jeremiah in the dungeon, Luke while traveling, Paul while he was in prison, and John while he was in exile. This Bible was written in 13 different countries on three different continents — Asia, Africa and Europe. And the Bible was written in three different languages — Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
Although the Bible consists of 66 books written over 1,500 years by 40 people in three different languages on three different continents, the story of Scripture provides amazing harmony. It is truth that is reliable, accurate and enduring, and it’s truth that is trustworthy to serve as the magnetic north of our life’s compass.
Scripture is more than a collection of good thoughts, ideas, preferences or opinions.
Scripture is not just a compass; it’s also an anchor. When you were a kid, you and a friend might have sat on a seesaw on the playground at school or in the park. Up and down you would go as your feet thrust you upward. Regardless of how fast you soared into the air, your confidence was grounded in one thing — the base at the center of the seesaw. No matter how quickly you pushed up and how hard you came down, you knew the base wasn’t going anywhere. It was your anchor.
Today, you and I are sitting on a different type of seesaw. I call it the thinking seesaw. Our thinking seesaw is inundated with the up-and-down opinions of others. In fact, if you scroll through social media for just a few minutes, you’ll be inundated with the up-and-down philosophies, ideas, viewpoints, and opinions of individuals and the culture at large.
The challenge is, most people have fastened their thinking seesaw to cultural trends rather than Scriptural truth. What’s wrong with that? Trends change. What seems right can suddenly feel wrong, and what feels wrong can suddenly seem right. That’s why Scripture warns us, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Scripture must become the anchor — the base — of our thinking seesaw. When we face the up-and-down philosophies and viewpoints of our culture, Scripture serves as a trustworthy anchor.
One reason this is so important is because Scripture has the power to transform our lives. This book is not just words on a piece of paper. It’s alive! Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God 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.”
The Bible has the power to transform our hearts, guide our decisions, and break the pattern of sin in our lives. And the Bible provides truth on many topics that you and I deal with today — from doubt to faith, fear to forgiveness, marriage to parenting, guilt to grief, injustice to leadership, honor to mercy … the list is almost endless.
Wherever you experience brokenness or bondage, the Bible comes with transformational power. According to research by the Center for Bible Engagement, the lives of people who engage the Bible four or more times per week look significantly different than the lives of those who aren’t spending time in God’s Word. The center observes that “
That’s why The Center for Bible Engagement advocates what it calls “the power of four.” The center’s surveys have found that a person who engages the Bible four or more times per week is 57 percent less likely to get drunk, 68 percent less likely to have sex outside of marriage, 61 percent less likely to view pornography, and 74 percent less likely to gamble.
So, how do you engage Scripture regularly and benefit from its transformational power? The popular S.O.A.P. method is one strategy. S.O.A.P. is an acronym that stands for Scripture, observation, application and prayer. Here’s how it works:
Scripture. Read a chapter of the Bible, paying special attention to a Scripture that really speaks to you.
Observation. Write down any observations you have about that Scripture. What does it mean? What stands out to you? How does it challenge you?
Application. Write down how you can apply that Scripture to your life. It’s not enough to read it; we’re ultimately called to live it.
Prayer. Ask God for His grace, wisdom and strength to live what you’ve read.
When you regularly engage the S.O.A.P. process, God’s Word begins to transform your heart, your mind and your life.
Paul admonishes us, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Instead, align the compass of your life with the truth of Scripture. Let it serve as the anchor for your thinking.