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Richard Bennett :: Chapter 2 The Head and the Heart

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Food for Faith — Chapter 2

The Head and the Heart


Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy Voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking Voice. Amen.

— A. W. Tozer

Several years ago, in the northern part of Kenya, my wife Dorothy and I, had the privilege of teaching the Word of God to a gathering of national pastors and their wives. In order to arrive by 7:00 p.m., in time for the evening meeting, some of these pastors had set out at four o’clock that morning. Motivated strictly by their fervent desire to learn more of the Bible, they had walked that long, wearisome journey under the brutal equatorial sun that had so devastated their land through drought and famine.

It came as a shock for us to find that between sixty and seventy percent of those national pastors did not possess a Bible. Even though many of these dedicated leaders had only been converted as recently as the past two or three years, their glowing testimonies among their own people had been used by God to bring to life many little churches in the African bush.

At the start of our conference, we were able to put a Bible into the hands of each of these pastors. I then proceeded with several days of instruction. My theme was this: “Now that you have a Bible in your hand, it will be of no blessing to you until it gets from your hand into your head! But even that will not bring you the full blessing that God intends for you in these days. Only when the Bible begins to live as God’s Word in your heart will this conference have become a lasting blessing to you. It is imperative that you learn how to get the Bible from your hand to your head and then from your head to your heart.”

Recently I saw the house in England where I lived when I was converted to Christ in my late teens. Not far from our home was a lamppost under which a fourteen-year old lad, Bob Flint, also received Christ. Bob’s conversion dramatically changed his entire life. Because he had already left school and had been working as a laborer on a construction site, at that time in his life young Bob certainly was no scholar!

Yet soon after Bob became a Christian, I was able to persuade him to read his Bible before he went to work each day. Even though he had had absolutely no church background, Bob soon learned how to nourish his spiritual life by personally interacting with the Word of God in a daily Together Time.

It was little wonder then that at the age of seventeen, Bob, having enrolled in a Bible correspondence course, received top grades in his study of the book of Daniel! How thrilled I was later to hear that when he joined the military at age eighteen, he continued in his zeal for the Lord. In fact, during his first eight weeks at ‘boot camp’, he personally prayed with each one of the other seventeen soldiers in his barracks as they in turn reached out to Christ. And then, when he concluded his military service, Bob felt called to begin missionary training. As he was flying his last mission in Germany, however, his military plane crashed, and Bob was called home to be with his Lord.

Near the site of the plane crash, gospel tracts from Bob’s backpack were scattered over the German countryside! Indeed, the Word of God had advanced from Bob’s hands to his head, and then from his head to his heart, and finally from his heart to the hearts of others. And when Bob died he was merely called out of a living, earth-confined relationship with his Lord into a more wonderful fellowship in the presence of God!

Many people, like Bob, have ready access to formal Bible study resources and training which can encourage them in their Christian walk. And unlike those eager African pastors, most of us do not have to walk for fifteen hours under the equatorial sun to hear the Word of God taught. But whatever our circumstances may be, we should all know how to transform—yes, transform—Bible knowledge into heart experience.

Personally, I thank the Lord that early in my Christian life He showed me the distinction between formal Bible study and Together Time. Though the involvement of both the head and the heart are vital in our approach to the Word of God, it is important to understand that head knowledge without heart commitment will not lead to spiritual growth.

THE HEAD

Bible Study: its purpose and its problems.

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). To formally study the Bible, and thereby to become acquainted with its contents, is in itself an exciting and necessary investment of time for every Christian. Whenever possible, take full advantage of the services and teachings of a godly pastor or Bible teacher and let available Bible commentaries help you become mentally familiar with the Word of God. Such a backdrop of information will help you greatly when you draw aside for your own private Together Time.

After all, pastor-teachers are part of God’s gift to His church. A pastor’s supreme ministry is to teach believers the content, the context and the circumstances of the various books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and book by book. From that framework, a pastor is to exhort his congregation to a life of godliness, a state of inner contentment and a concern for perishing souls.

I have before me the record of five lectures which were delivered by such a pastor. Several years ago, Pastor William Still presented these lectures at an Inter-Varsity Theological Students’ Conference. After more than a forty-five year ministry at a single church in Aberdeen, Scotland, his ministry was still as vibrant and vital as ever. And, without question, his pastoral ministry reached out far beyond that church in Scotland. Even today a small army of converts and many others who have been influenced by his preaching and teaching are serving Christ literally around the world. In his lectures to his Inter-Varsity students Pastor Still said:

The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats and let them do it in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness… The most fruitful pastoral duty is to help all sorts of odd sheep live together, and show them how to live in the world among goats without becoming goat-like.

When you have been born again, it is very important that you become part of a church where you can be blessed through such faithful pastoral ministry.

Unfortunately, some of you who are reading this book may not have access to this kind of pastoral instruction. However, even if you are so privileged as to have the help of a faithful pastor-teacher and do have ready access to Bible commentaries, you should always be aware of the ever-present danger of trying to let what you have learned in your head substitute for the spiritual food God desires to give you in your daily Together Time.

No, we must realize that neither the Bible knowledge we acquire from a faithful pastor-teacher, nor even the understanding that we gain from our own intellectual study of God’s Word, can take the place of the spiritual food which the Holy Spirit will apply to our hearts and lives as we join with Him in that special Together Time.

Of course, just as a Bible teacher is no substitute for a personal Together Time, so too, having a personal Together Time is no excuse for neglecting the opportunities that God gives us to study His Word and for failing to become part of the ministry of a Bible-believing church.

Whatever your circumstances, the following suggestions may help you develop a more rewarding method of formal Bible study.

A long time ago, Myles Coverdale suggested these questions be used to facilitate a helpful study of God’s Word. This is a paraphrase of what he wrote:

It will greatly help you to understand Scripture, if you note not only what is spoken or written but also:

  • Of whom is the passage speaking?
  • To whom is the passage directed?
  • What specific words does the writer use?
  • At what time was the passage written?
  • From where was the passage written?
  • For what purpose was the passage written?
  • In what situation was the passage written?
  • How does the passage fit into what goes before it and what follows it?

When you form the habit of responding naturally to such questions in your formal Bible study (using a marginal reference Bible whenever possible), you will increasingly thrill at the marvelous gems of truth that harmonize throughout the entire Bible. Gradually, you will be fascinated with the unfolding panorama of prophecy contained in God’s revelation, some parts of which have already been fulfilled and some of which yet await fulfillment.

You will also be greatly blessed as your eyes are increasingly and wonderfully opened to your eternal God: His purposes in creation; His place in history; His doctrine of salvation; His coming into the world in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His detailed instruction for Christians like you and me, even to this present hour. Such Bible knowledge is truly fascinating and should be diligently pursued by every believer.

THE HEART

Together Time: its correctives and its counsel.

God’s desire for each of His own is that we worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24 NKJV), with both our heart and our head—the two joined in a oneness of personal fellowship with Him.

If your formal Bible study leaves you with only an objective knowledge of the Bible, such knowledge will profit you little! In fact, head knowledge without sincere life-application is a great problem with many Christians today.

Sadly, there are those who know a great deal about the Word of God but who do not live in the light of that wonderful knowledge. Instead, they lock away their knowledge of the Bible in the recesses of their minds and foolishly adopt the ways of the world. What a tragedy, for God’s Word never conforms to contemporary thought and life patterns.

To approach the Word of God with the mind-set of the world, and then to try to synchronize the Scriptures with the philosophy or psychology of a humanistic culture is to violate every principle of intellectual honesty and moral integrity. The Lord Jesus Christ paid a tremendous price to deliver us out of this present evil world, and the Word of God certainly contradicts the thought patterns of a Christ-rejecting generation.

Because God’s Word never conforms to a humanistic culture, when we study the Bible with the supreme desire of becoming what God wants us to be, it will indeed be a revolutionary life-transforming experience! It is this heart involvement not just a head knowledge that God requires of each of His children.

The psalmist did not say, ‘Your Word have I hidden in my head.’ He did say: Your Word have I hidden in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee (Psalm 119:11 NKJV). In his public tirades, even Adolf Hitler at times quoted from the Bible, but this knowledge of certain Bible verses was of no help to him in his own moral choices nor in his eternal destiny. Obviously, his knowledge had not penetrated his heart.

But, you may ask, “What did David mean when he said that he had hidden God’s Word in his heart?” Certainly he was not talking about the hollow muscular organ which pumped blood from his veins into his arteries. Of course nobody can hide God’s Word there! When David used the word heart, he referred to the very center of his behavioral life-directing inner self. As we read the Bible to hide God’s Word in the center of our being, then, by the power of the indwelling Christ, we will constantly enjoy the purifying, enabling and nourishing vitality of God’s Word.

When it was my privilege to formally study the Bible and theology as a full-time student, I learned that the accumulation of biblical truth was no substitute for getting alone with God to hear what He had to say to me through His Word. I also discovered that it was easier to sit in judgment on the Word of God than to let the Word of God sit in judgment upon me.

During those college days we used to laugh when we thought of our flippant definition for a classroom lecture. We said: “A lecture is the means whereby material is transferred from the notebook of the professor to the notebook of the student without its going through the head of either!”

Even more tragic than this, is the situation in which Bible teaching goes through the head of the pastor to the heads of the congregation without its stirring the heart of either. You will remember that God clearly says:

But the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it (Hebrews 4:2 NKJV).

Only when we can identify with the testimony of the prophet Jeremiah will the Word of God bring its intended blessing to our lives. Jeremiah said: His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones… (Jeremiah 20:9 NKJV). In the lives of many believers today such a flaming conviction about God’s Word is sorely missing. There is no real link made between the head and the heart—between the Voice of God and the life of the believer. As a result, there is too often very little correlation between what we know and what we do.

When Bible teaching really stirs your heart, it will most certainly change your life! As this happens, you will find yourself becoming much less dependent upon human support systems, such as family counselors and neatly-packaged seminars, for you will have discovered how God has intended for you to personally appropriate the promises that He has made to you in His Word. Then, by the power of the Spirit’s indwelling, you will be able to obey the clear commands of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Occasionally after I have preached, a kindly member of the congregation will seek to encourage me by saying, “You certainly gave me something to think about.” When I hear that, I know the sermon has not really accomplished the purpose that I had hoped it would! There is a difference between the Word of God being applauded as an intellectual stimulus, and that of its being applied as a life-transforming Truth. Truly, sermons should give people something to act upon, not just something to think about!

Similarly, if a Together Time does not lead to an active response of faith, and/or obedience, the confession of sin, or to an attitude of worship, it has not been a fruitful Together Time!

On the other hand, whenever a child of God has his head filled with the knowledge of God’s Word and his heart vibrating with the tender movement of the Holy Spirit, he will truly enjoy living fellowship with the Savior. Even today, when I visit Bible colleges as a guest lecturer, I tell my students:

You are not here to study the Bible just to get to know the Bible!
You are here to study the Bible to get to know the God of the Bible!

Spiritual immaturity among believers is mute testimony to the impotency of a few slick phrases and neatly-packaged biblical outlines. Anything that you let take the place of the unique experience of individually drawing aside with God and your open Bible will diminish—and possibly even destroy—your intimate and personal fellowship with God.

True fellowship with the Lord can only occur when the Christian encounters the transparent light of God’s holy presence. Such light is very revealing and requires the honesty and frankness of open communication between you and your Heavenly Father. If, when you read His Word, your heart responds obediently to His truth, that truth will become nourishment to your soul and you will grow in the knowledge and wisdom of your Lord. The psalmist testified: In Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9 NKJV). The old adage is still very true:

Light obeyed brings greater light;
Light disobeyed brings deeper night.

I am sure you have found, as I have, that it is easier to give counsel to someone else than it is to act upon your own counsel. However, the Lord Jesus, who is described by Isaiah as the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV), is unique, for He not only gives counsel, but He also becomes the One who enables us to act upon that counsel.

Each morning your Together Time can play a vital role in preparing you for what awaits you later in the day. When, through the reading of His Word, God gives you His counsel, you can be assured that the Lord Jesus will also be your indwelling sufficiency and guide for whatever befalls.

Spiritual Check-up


  1. Does my heart respond as readily as my head when I read the Bible?
  2. When I pray, am I truly having a two-way communication with God?
  3. In my spiritual life, do I first seek counsel from man or from God (through His Word)? (Warning: They did not wait for His counsel…Psalm 106:13 NKJV.)
  4. In my Christian service, does my counsel to others come from a heart that is aflame with God’s love and a mind that is filled with His Word? (Warning: They rebelled against Him by their counsel…Psalm 106:43 NKJV.)
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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