The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read, Part 1 | Why study the Bible?

June 13, 2011

Update July 3, 2011: In the course of writing this series on how I study my Bible, everything I thought I knew about Bible study has been flipped on its head.  My world has been twisted upside down when it comes to the purpose of the Bible and what the Lord wants us to gain from it.  I have taken the last week to think through what I now believe about Bible Study and thankfully the two posts I have already posted need little change.  Please bear with me as I attempt to re-work my own method while teaching it to you.

The Bible can be incredibly intimidating.  Thousands of pages of tiny print, notorious for being confusing, contradictory, and just plain boring.  Well, have I got good news for you!  You no longer need to be intimidated because this Book is neither confusing nor contradictory, and it’s definitely not boring.  My theme for this summer is Simplicity.  Last week I simplified my home and this week I’ve been simplifying the way I study my Bible.  I’m excited to share my new method with you during the next few weeks.

Before I begin, though, if you’re not sure about all this Christianity stuff, or if you think maybe you don’t agree with me that the Bible is the most important thing you’ll ever read, please see this very short article I’ve written, The Best News You’ll Ever Hear.  I pray it changes your thinking.  If after reading it you have any questions or concerns about what I’ve written there, please comment or email me directly.  My heart is to help you in your walk towards the Lord.  No judgment.

When I first became a believer I was glued to my Bible.  I couldn’t put it down.  I quickly learned the “basic” points and within a few short months found myself believing I had gleaned pretty much everything one could from the pages of Scripture.  I was a Christian for almost a full year before anyone sat me down and showed me how to have a “personal devotion” or a “quiet time” or whatever you want to call it.  It was then, through my studies, that I slowly began to recognize that the Bible really is alive–it really does have incredible depth and that I would be studying it for the rest of my life, never–probably–fully grasping every single word.

There are many ways to study the Bible.  Some people pray through it’s words.  Others pick at each word with a fine-tooth comb, still others journal while reading it.  I’ve tried each of these methods, and I’ve recently created a way that works for me–a hybrid of many approaches I’ve been taught in the past.  During the next few weeks I’ll share with you this way that I’ve begun studying my Bible, but today I just want to explain how very important it is to study it in the first place.

As believers, what should we be like?

Christ does most of the work when we become Christians.  He changes our hearts and minds about things that before we felt very differently, he gives us the Holy Spirit to convict us, and He gifts us with the grace to handle situations that would have found us in bed for weeks previously.  It’s not all up to Him, though.  We have a responsibility to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12.)  We are to follow Christ–we are to become more like Him.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” -Mark 8:34

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3

How do we become more like Christ?

I’ve always been a strong person.  I’ve always woken up early, did what needed to get done, and then–and only then–relaxed.  It wasn’t until college–after salvation–that I became lazy.  I started waking up late, hanging out in my p.j.s all day, procrastinating.  Sometimes I would go days without really doing much of anything.  At first I chalked it up to something most college kids go through, but looking back I’m not so sure.  I think I finally felt off the hook.  I knew that change in my life was all up to God and His Plan and so I took a back seat–way, way, way in the back–and let Him do all the work.  Needless to say, not much growth got accomplished.  Since then I’ve flipped back and forth between this kind of laziness (or letting God do all the work) and extreme legalism (pulling myself up from my bootstraps and attempting to “do the godly thing” in my own strength).  As you can imagine, neither is the right approach.

There must be balance.  There must be humble obedience.  It’s not right to live in sin so that grace will have an opportunity to cover you (Romans 6:1-2a), nor is it right to (hear this!) run around accomplishing every spiritual feat in an effort to prove one’s godliness. The more I study the first Psalm, the more I see it speaking to this beautifully.  What does the righteous–the one following Jesus–do that the wicked does not?  What is the foundation of difference in these two lives?

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night. -Psalm 1:2

He simply studies the Law of the Lord, His precepts, The Bible.  That is how we become more like Christ.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. -2 Timothy 3:16

What are the benefits of  studying it?

  • It Gives Understanding

The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. -Psalm 119:130

  • It Helps us Stay Pure

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. -Psalm 119:9

  • Because it’s Necessary

I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. -Job 23:12

  • Because it’s Precious

They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  -Psalm 19:10

  • Because we’re Told to

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 success. -Joshua 1:8

How can we study it? (Updated July 3, 2011)

Here it is.  This is the real reason for this series.  Now that I’ve (I hope) convinced you that studying the Bible is important–how else will we know God!?–I want to show you how I’ve found to best study the Bible.  Below is a very quick summary of what I will be discussing during the next few weeks.  For some of you it may look very familiar.  At the core of my method is what some have called Bible Study Methods, as found in Howard and William Hendricks’ Living by the Book.  However, I’ve adapted their method to make it a bit less . . . academic . . . ?  Their approach to Bible study is fabulous.  They go so in depth into each and every word, phrase, and passage, that you leave your Bible with a head full of knowledge.  Isn’t that a good thing?  Well, yes!  Only what I noticed was that I was spending so much time learning about the words of Scripture, that I often missed message–I often missed the point and how it applied to me–what I should do about it.  So for this reason, we will be using The Hendricks’ method as a backbone, but I will be adding a few of my own techniques along the way.

1. Pray: for guidance, understanding, and application

2. Observation: What does it say?

3. Interpretation: What does it mean?

  • Look back over your Observations.
  • Ask all the “Why?” questions you didn’t ask during the Observation phase.
  • Word Studies: What did it mean?
  • Context: Why did the author say it in this way to these people at this time?
  • Consultation: Look at Reference books (including commentaries) to get others’ wisdom about the passage.
  • Conclusion: So what?  This is ALWAYS a focus on Jesus, the cross, God’s grace, etc.  Jesus is the main point of the Bible and so if you come to the conclusion that this verse is about you or about a famous dead guy, you’re wrong.  It’s always all about Jesus!

4. Application: What does it mean for me?

  • Summarize: How did it apply?
  • Principle-ize: How does it apply?
  • Personalize: How will it apply?

5. Pray: Thank God for who He is and ask for strength and help in applying what you’ve learned.

6. Journal for as long and in-depth as needed.

It may seem quiet overwhelming and maybe still too academic for you, but I assure you it is not.  You can make it what you want it, as you’ll see as we continue.  It has revolutionized the way I study the Bible, given me incredible insight into the Word, and has given me a deeper love for God’s Word.  I trust it will do the same for you.  Please stick with me over the next few weeks as I show you how to implement this approach in a simplified manner.  I can’t wait to share with you the easiest, best way I’ve found to get the most from my time with the Lord.  The best part about it is that once you learn from me you can adapt this method to work best for you!

Next time: The first part of Observing the text.

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