As I began this book, I thought often of Carmen. She had heard the gospel at a Christian rally in
her dorm, and the message made a lot of sense to her. She was lonely; the Christians were neat people.
She started attending a Bible study that met for an hour, three nights a week, and
she eventually trusted Christ as her Savior. She began reading her Bible every day. She liked the
"love of God" parts but gradually found that she wasn’t particularly inspired by the
"old-fashioned stuff" about sin. And then, here roommates started to get on her case about
spending so much time with those "religious nuts." So after a few months, she found excuses
not to go to her study group. The excitement just wore off, and the Bible reading times became fewer
and fewer. Something about it all began to go dry. Her Bible started gathering dust on her shelf.
Spiritual Ignition Needed
It’s not uncommon; the excitement can wear off. And it doesn’t just happen to the occasional new
believer. I’ve found it in the most mature Christians-those periods of time when the Bible seems to
hold little attraction. Indeed, it’s been a part of my own experience. Yet I take comfort in knowing
that the most exemplary Christians of old, as well, attest to hitting such dry spells with the Word
of God. Listen to John Bunyan, for example:
I have sometimes seen more in a line of the Bible than I could well tell how to
stand under, and yet a another time the whole Bible hath been to me as dry as a stick.
This book seeks to ignite that dry stick, for the Scriptures are like fire; they
enkindle the character of Christ within us if we will just stay close to them and let them do their
heartwarming work. Once we experience that kind of igniting of our souls, we won’t be able to stay
away for long.
How about you? If you’re interested in a renewed love for His Word, read on! I’ve organized
the chapters under four parts:
Part I: The Bible’s Transforming Power. Someone once said: "Other
books were given for our information, the Bible was given for our transformation."
We begin by speaking of the Bible’s transforming power through two analogies: the Bible is the seed
that grows the character of Christ within us; it is also a mirror that reflects what is already there,
what needs to be transformed. Both of these images, of course, tell of a genuine encounter with God.
Part II: The Receptive Heart. Truly, the Bible as the Word of God has
an inherent power, but it is not a coercive power. That is, the Bible does not work its effects mechanically.
We don’t change just because we read it. Our minds may be engaged in the text, but something must happen
in our hearts as well. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23), the seed does not miraculously
and independently transform itself into a flowering plant. The condition of the soil affects how well
the seed takes root. Our hearts must be conducive to the development of deep roots and luxuriant growth.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "What you bring away from the Bible depends on some extent on
what you carry to it."
In this part of the book we begin with a discussion of lenses. What do lenses have to
do with a receptive heart? Though it may not be apparent at first, this image does speak of our receptivity
to God’s Word, for we bring a perspective to the Bible every time we open its pages. If our perspective is
thoroughly skewed or grossly smudged, then what enters our vision-what we "see" and understand
with our minds-can hardly pierce into our hearts. So the two metaphors work well together.
Part III: The Understanding Mind. What are the perspectives-the attitudes,
concerns, and passions-that characterize a receptive heart? In the first place, a receptive reader focuses
on the object of the Word, Jesus Christ Himself. Further, he or she must approach the Bible with trust,
for a trust in the Bible is at heart a trust in God Himself. Thus, in Part III, we raise the question
of the Bible’s integrity and explore how we can set our minds at ease about its authority and genuineness.
We must be convinced that it truly is the Word of God in order to develop our deep passion for its
transforming power within us.
Our passion for God Himself directly relates to our desire to know His Word and understand
it aright. Just as we want to spend time and talk with a close friend, so we yearn to hear the voice of
the One who knows us so well and speaks so directly to our hearts. We want to grow in our experience of
listening to God’s Word. And the better we understand the nature of His Word, the more clearly and accurately
we will hear God. Therefore, we turn to an exploration of the seven crucial principles for interpreting
Part IV: The Literary Cornucopia. Finally, I dedicate the bulk of the book
to a survey of the marvelous variety of literary genres that make up the Bible. Like a horn of plenty
overflowing with ripe vegetables, the Bible abounds with the fruits of history, law, poetry, prophecy,
and other literary forms. We must understand the characteristics of each genre to know how the writers
are speaking to us. An apple is not a tomato. An orange tastes different from a pear.
It is truly wonderful to realize that our God, the Creative Genius of the cosmos, has
given us such variety and richness in His Word. He has let the personality of the writers flow through.
Rather than handing down an antiseptic "Manual of Religious Instruction," He has allowed
intensely personal artistry and music to flourish for our satisfaction. As you dig into this flourishing
literary bounty, may God grant you an answer to the kind of prayer that covets a flowering of your inner
God stir the soil,
Run the ploughshare deep,
Cut the furrows round and round,
Overturn the hard, dry ground,
Spare not strength nor toil,
Even though I weep.
In the loose, fresh mangled earth
Sow new seed.
Free of withered vine and weed
Bring fair flowers to birth.
With Heart and Mind
The title of this book makes it clear that we need a whole-person engagement with the Word of God.
When both heart and mind are in full swing, interacting with the Word is an awesome experience because
it is a personal encounter with the living God.
My prayer for you as you begin this adventure is that you will not be merely informed
but transformed. That is what happens when the Scriptures engage both heart and mind. And what better
way to spend the best moments of our days than in fruitful involvement with the Scriptures?
In response to that question, I leave you with John Calvin’s eloquent, one-sentence
endorsement of Bible reading:
Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, or any others of that class; I
grant you that you will be attracted, delighted, moved, enraptured by them in a surprising manner; but
if, after reading them, you turn to the perusal of the sacred volume, whether you are willing or
unwilling, it will affect you so powerfully, it will so penetrate your heart, and impress itself so
strangely on your mind that, compared with its energetic influence, the beauties of rhetoricians and
philosophers will almost entirely disappear; so that it is easy to perceive something divine in the
sacred Scriptures, which far surpasses the highest attainments and ornaments of human industry.
"Sections of Scripture I have read countless times came alive with a new passion and a compelling
call as I read this book. If you want to be changed by the Word of God, walk through the familiar with a
new perspective offered by a humble, brilliant guide. It will be the journey of a lifetime." Dan B.
Allender, Ph.D., director of Wounded Heart Ministries
"Tremper Longman has learned to love the Bible with all his heart and mind, and even more to love
its Author. This delightful and compelling work will help others to fall in love with God too."
Dr. James Montgomery Boice, senior minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia; and president,
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
"If you are ready to find out what living by the Bible is all about, this is the book you’ve been
looking for. Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind can revolutionize how we think about the Bible
and use it day by day. These are concepts I want our church to learn; they are concepts I use to train my
students; they are concepts I teach my kids." John H. Walton, Ph.D., professor of Old Testament,
Moody Bible Institute; and coauthor of Survey of the Old Testament
"Longman drive home the truths that the Bible transforms our lives and leads us to Christ. His
words will inflame your heart and guide you to read the Bible for all its worth." Bruce K. Waltke,
Marshall Sheppard Professor of Old Testament Studies, Regent College