How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


A. The Heart Being Open

The Bible is the word of God. It is full of God’s light. Yet this light will only enlighten those who are open to Him. Second Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord.” The basic qualification for being enlightened by the glory of the Lord is to behold Him with unveiled face. If a man comes to the Lord with a veiled face, the glory will not enlighten him. God’s light will only enlighten those who are open to Him. If a man is not open to God, he will not receive God’s light. The trouble with some people is that they are closed to the Lord. Their spirit, heart, will, and mind are all closed to God. As a result, the light of the Scriptures will not reach them. Even though the sun is full of light and shines on the whole world, its light will not reach a person who sits inside a room with closed door and windows. The problem is not with the light but with the person. Light will only shine on those who are open to it. This is true of physical light, and this is also true of spiritual light. Whenever we lock ourselves in, light cannot shine through. Some people are closed to the Lord; they can never see God’s light. We must not pay attention just to reading and studying; rather, we should ask if we are open before the Lord. If we do not have an unveiled face, the glory of the Lord will not shine on us. If our heart is not open to God, God cannot give us any light.

Light operates according to a law. It shines on those who are open to it, and the amount of shining depends on the amount of openness. This is a law. If all the doors and windows of a room are closed but just one crack is left open, light will still come in. It is not difficult to get the light. As long as one follows this law, he will receive the light. But if he acts contrary to this law, he will not have any light. A man who is closed to God may study and pray much, but he will remain ignorant as far as understanding the Bible is concerned. It is hard for a man to expect any light when he is not open to God. God’s light does not come unconditionally. In order to have God’s light, one must first fulfill the conditions for receiving it.

Every child of God has a Bible in his hand, but the amount of light each receives from this book is different. Some are completely ignorant of what the Bible says. Others receive some light from reading it. Still others are full of light when they read it. The reason for the difference is that the persons reading it are different. God’s light is the same, but the persons are different. People who are open to God can understand the Bible. Others who are closed to God cannot understand the Bible. Some are closed completely, and as a result they are in complete darkness. Others are closed partially, and as a result they receive partial light. Any lack of sight that we experience, whether great or small, complete or partial, means that we are in darkness. We should never consider it a small thing to find ourselves having difficulty understanding the Bible. If we have difficulty understanding the Bible, it can only mean one thing: We are living in darkness! It is a very serious thing to read God’s Word and not understand or receive any light from it.

Next, we should ask what is the meaning of being open to God? Openness comes from unconditional and unreserved consecration. Openness to God is not a temporary attitude; it is a permanent disposition which a man develops before God. It is not an incidental temperament but a continuous practice. Openness to God can only come from unconditional and unreserved consecration. If a man’s consecration to God is perfect and absolute, he will have no reservation toward God and will not be closed in any way. Any closedness reflects shortages in one’s consecration. Darkness is the result of being closed, and being closed is the result of a lack of consecration. Any time there is a shortage of consecration, there will be reservations. When a man refuses to humble himself before God in any area, he will try to justify himself instead. As a consequence, he cannot understand the scriptural truth related to that same area. As soon as he touches that area, he will try to dodge it. This is the reason we say that darkness comes from being closed, and being closed comes from a lack of consecration. All kinds of darkness come as a result of being closed, and being closed in any area is the result of a lack of consecration and submission.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)