Saturday, July 13, 2013
Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life: Placing yourself in Scripture
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV)
In his Christian classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales lays a foundation for spiritual growth by encouraging all believers to meditate on God’s Word. Precisely because it is God’s very Word, it is beyond value. We must therefore be attentive to whatever the Lord has to say to us.
“Cultivate a special devotion to God's Word,” exhorts de Sales, “whether studied privately or in public; always listen to it with attention and reverence, strive to profit by it, and do not let it fall to the ground, but receive it within your heart as a precious balm.”
Receiving Correction and Direction
Sometimes God gives us a word of comfort in Scripture. Other times it is a word of correction, as 2 Timothy 2:16 states: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Often times the comfort or correction is accompanied by some specific direction for our lives.
Whatever correction or instruction comes our way, we need to be ready to obey Scripture. Reading the Bible or hearing it is not enough, we must have our minds made up ahead of time that we will truly “listen” to it and follow through on whatever the Lord speaks in his Word. As Jesus asserts, we will be blessed if we hear the word and keep it (Luke 11:28).
Scripture should never be boring! If our Bible reading is dull, it is because we come to it with a dull mind and dull attitude. God’s Word itself is alive and vibrant, as Hebrews 4:12-13 declares, “For the word of God is living 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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.”
Helping us to approach God’s Word with all our attention, de Sales offers some very practical steps as we approach Scripture to read it and reflect upon it.
First, we Need to Place Ourselves in God’s Presence
One way to do this is by realizing “that His Presence is universal; that is to say, that He is everywhere, and in all, and that there is no place, nothing in the world, devoid of His Most Holy Presence, so that, even as birds on the wing meet the air continually, we, let us go where we will, meet with that Presence always and everywhere.” Another way to make ourselves attentive to God’s presence, says de Sales, is “simply to exercise your ordinary imagination, picturing the Saviour to yourself in His Sacred Humanity as if He were beside you just as we are wont to think of our friends, and fancy that we see or hear them at our side.”
Second, Ask for God’s Grace
De Sales instructs, you “must ask of Him grace to serve and worship Him in this your meditation. You may use some such brief and earnest words as those of David: ‘Show me Thy Ways, O Lord, and teach me Thy paths’ [Psalm 25:4]. ‘Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy Law: yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart’ [Psalm 119:34].”
Third, Place Yourself into Scripture
We can also mentally place ourselves right into the biblical scene that we are meditating on. This is a great way to bring God’s Word alive in our hearts and lives! De Sales challenges us simply to kindle “a vivid picture of the mystery to be meditated within your imagination, even as though you were actually beholding it. For instance, if you wish to meditate upon our Lord on His Cross, you will place yourself in imagination on Mount Calvary, as though you saw and heard all that occurred there during the Passion; or you can imagine to yourself all that the Evangelists describe as taking place where you are.”
Spiritual Life Founded on God’s Word
Many forms of “spirituality” are in circulation today. How do we know which ones are true Christian spiritual formation? First and foremost, we must see whether they are founded upon and saturated in Scripture.
In his classic, de Sales gives some down-to-earth suggestions in approaching God’s Word and making it our own. He also offers some helpful devotions in the opening chapters of his work, including meditations on Creation, on the Purpose for which we were Created, the Gifts of God, on our Sin, and others.
I pray that we would all be so saturated in God’s Word that it transforms our thinking, empowers us for godly living, and fills our hearts with God’s inextinguishable love for us!
*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.txt
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers