Spiritual hindrances to planting God’s Word in our hearts
Christians sometimes say that they can’t seem to understand, remember, or quote a lot of the Bible, despite having studied it for years. The issue isn’t their desire or brain capacity. After all, neuroscience research has shown that our brains have the capacity to store 4.7 billion books*. Perhaps it is Satan who has “snatched away” the Word of God, as Jesus illustrated in the Parable of the Sower.
Matthew 13:18-19 ESV “Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
God gave every one of us amazing brains with the ability to memorise all the pages of the entire Bible at any age. Here are some facts about our brains.
- The brain’s memory capacity is about one petabyte or 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
- The brain has the ability to reorganise and change itself throughout a person’s lifetime according to the needs of our environment. This is called neuroplasticity.
- It is not ageing that causes memory loss, it is the lack of exercise that does. We can become more intelligent in old age if we continue to actively use our brains and learn new skills.
Recognising spiritual hindrances
The Bible warns us in Ephesians 4 not to close our minds and harden our hearts against God. This leads to minds that are “darkened” and “hopelessly confused”. Such minds will have great difficulty in understanding and remembering the Bible. Instead, we ought to set our hearts on the Holy Spirit, who will “write” God’s Word on our minds.
Ephesians 4:17-18 NLT With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.
Hebrews 10:15-16 ESV And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
When we are not submitted to the Holy Spirit, Satan will turn our focus elsewhere.
- We start to hear thoughts such as, “I can’t understand the Bible or remember what I read,” “There is too much to read, I can’t do it,” or “The Bible is outdated, it isn’t relevant to me now.”
- Our minds can’t focus. We skim through the words, without them making an impression on our hearts.
- Our minds wander off to our errands, our entertainment and other earthly things.
- We fall asleep while reading God’s Word.
- We forget what we have read shortly afterwards.
- Our minds become clouded as we read the Bible.
- We are tempted to debate the text, rather than humbly seek God’s revelation for us.
- We feel condemned instead of being enlightened, convicted, warned, and saved.
- We find that we keep getting interrupted by things or people around us whenever we sit down to read the Bible.
A heart and mind that are both submitted to the Holy Spirit will read the Bible differently.
- The Bible becomes “living and active” in our lives. It steers our hearts and guides us closer towards our Heavenly Father. | Hebrews 4:12 ESV For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
- We feel joyful and excited to study God’s Word. The world seems to melt away and it is just God and us reading His Word together. There is no boredom, sleepiness, or reluctance. | Psalm 119:15-16 NLT I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.
- The Bible becomes our daily spiritual food, which we miss feeding on when we don’t read it. | Jeremiah 15:16 ESV Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
- Bible verses will randomly pop up in our minds to remind, warn, and reassure us. | 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
- Whatever we have read is stored in our hearts. We grow in godly wisdom and discernment. | Psalm 119:10-11 ESV With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
How spiritual hindrances come about
There are practical things we can do to help us focus on reading the Bible. These include finding a quiet place, using a Bible concordance, reading the text aloud, or using an audio Bible.
If we feel as if our hearts are still blocked and our ability to recall Bible verses is still hampered, then we might need to check if we have somehow let Satan obstruct the Word of God in our lives.
Unbelief “blinds” our minds. Unbelief does not necessarily refer to an outright rejection of God. People of other faiths also believe the facts about Jesus.
As Christians, we can harbour unbelief simply by selectively believing some parts of the Bible and rejecting the rest. Once we allow any unbelief to slip into our hearts, the enemy will give us more and more reasons to doubt God’s Word, until we become hardened and blinded to the truth. Every word that God speaks has its purpose and we should not dismiss or diminish it. If anyone teaches us otherwise, we ought to be cautious to test what we hear so we do not fall for heresies.
2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Also, see Why we don’t truly believe.
2. Incomplete submission to God
Our minds are “hardened” against the Bible when we do not submit to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Complete submission means we do our best to obey God’s will; not just hear the Word and not follow. Satan will use any hint of rebellion in our hearts to steer us away and tempt us to rationalise away the importance of keeping God’s commandments.
2 Corinthians 3:14,16 ESV But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
James 1:21-22 ESV … receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
3. Worldly pleasures and concerns
Worldly anxieties and carnal pleasures can choke God’s Word out of our hearts so that we “only think about this life here on earth”. The Bible calls us to reflect on and recite God’s Word all the time. When we submit to our fleshly desires, Satan will use the things of this world to distract us with things that are “amusing”, “relaxing”, or seemingly more “important”.
Matthew 13:22 ESV As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Philippians 3:19 NLT They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
Joshua 1:8 ESV This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
4. Sorcery and mind-altering activities
God warns us that magic charms and magic arts trap people and destroy us. Our minds will be “bewitched” and appear to be put under a spell. This is observed in people who appear as if their minds are perpetually floating somewhere else. Their eyes seem dazed, glazed over, “startled”, or worn down. There is little joy or peace. Often, this is because they have participated in mind-bending or altering activities that have given Satan a direct foothold in their minds. Some examples include:
- Mind-numbing chanting
- Mind-freeing meditation
- Soaking or trance-like music
- Drugs, alcohol and drunkenness
- Hypnosis, séances and psychics
- Sorcery, magic arts, and witchcraft
- Living in alternate worlds such as online worlds, alternate identities, double dressing etc.
Ezekiel 13:20 NLT “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against all your magic charms, which you use to ensnare my people like birds…
Revelation 21:8 NIV … those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Galatians 3:1 ESV O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Are you so foolish?
Ephesians 5:18 ESV And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Renewing the Spirit of our minds to learn God’s Word
Let us set our minds on the Holy Spirit so that Satan can no longer hinder us from planting God’s Word in our minds and hearts.
Romans 8:6 ESV For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Ephesians 4:22-23 ESV to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
We simply need to ask our Heavenly Father for help. He will gladly receive us and fulfil our desire for His Word.
“Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for Your precious Word. Many people have given their lives to preserve Your Word so that I may be blessed by it. Thank you for Your inspiring Word that accomplishes everything that You desire.
Please forgive me for all the times I doubted Your Word and read the Bible with unbelief in my heart. I’m sorry for all the times I followed human opinion, worldly views, or intellectualism, instead of asking the Holy Spirit for Your revelation. I invite the Holy Spirit to purify my heart.
1 Corinthians 1:18-19 ESV For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
James 4:8 ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
God, You are the One who gives me the understanding of Your Word, I turn my heart to follow You as I read the Bible.
Job 38:36 ESV Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?
Where I have given Satan a foothold in my mind, through mind-altering activities such as (name the activities), I now repent and asked for Your forgiveness. I also cut ungodly soul ties to all teachers, gurus, or spiritual masters that led me astray on such activities, as well as the spirits they served. In the powerful name of Jesus, I forbid Satan from planting any more distractions in my head as I study the Bible.
Matthew 16:23 ESV But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
In Jesus’ name, I command the mind-blinding spirit, the spirit of error, and the antichrist spirit, and all other agents of Satan sent to distract me, to leave me for good.
1 John 4:6 ESV We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 John 4:1-5 NLT Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them.
Today, I humbly come before my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, with childlike faith and I lay down all my preconceived ideas and bias. Please open my heart and my eyes to all that You wish to show me through the Bible. I choose to be “good soil“ for Your Word to be planted in. I desire to grow and flourish like a strong healthy tree in Your kingdom on earth.
Matthew 18:3 NIV And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
In Jesus’ name, amen.”
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