How To Study The Bible (pt1)
The Bible is such more than just a book. Even more than a compilation of 66 books.
The Bible has been described as "God lowering Himself to the status of an author," and since He has, we should read and respond to it as though it must be the most valuable piece ever written.
But where do we start?
How do we begin reading the Bible?
People attend seminaries and various schools and study the Bible for their entire life, while still claiming there's more to learn - and I believe them. If God truly wrote a book, I'd expect it's entire depth and teaching to be beyond anything I could grasp in my lifetime.
At the same time, the Bible is simple enough for any of us to gain all that we need to have a full and vibrant life and relationship God.
It's been said that the Bible is shallow enough for the youngest child to splash in its water, yet deep enough for the most studious scholar to never reach its bottom. It is this Word that we have the pleasure, benefit, and duty to ready, study, and apply.
Because of the depth of God's Word, we can't go into all aspects of studying it, but I think part of the problem most people face is that they let the depth of the Bible paralyze them from gleaning anything. If this describes you, I want to help you.
The simple inductive Bible method we'll go over is:
We're going to look at this three step process next week that will help us study any passage of scripture, but before we do, there's an attitude and approach to reading God’s Word that we need to clarify:
1. The purpose of studying the Bible is to know Jesus better
Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39, “you study the scriptures, for in them you think you have life, but it is they that speak of Me." He told the Bible scholars of His day that they missed the entire point of the scriptures they devoted their lives to studying. They had studied the Bible in hopes that they could be saved because of their religious activity, while God's purpose in His Word is for us to find our salvation in a life-giving and life-changing relationship with Jesus. Whenever we read the Bible simply as a self-help book or tips to a better life, we miss the entire point of drawing nearer to Jesus.
2. This is a supernatural endeavor
I don't mean to say that studying the Bible is not also a scholarly endevor, it is actually both. However, I think too often we try to boil down the Bible to merely a really amazing piece of writing and not the actual Word of God which requires our spiritual eyes to be open and not merely our physical ones. In order to truly understand and apply God's Word to our lives, we need to come before God humbly knowing that only He can teach us spiritual things and give us life. I encourage everyone to begin their time in God's Word with prayer, asking Him to speak to them and work in their lives through His Word.
3. Are we the teacher, or God?
I know this seems silly to even say, but so often we can come to God's Word with our own agenda and want God to simply enforce our current beliefs. If there are never truths in God's Word that require you to change your belief or submit to it even though you naturally disagree, then you are not letting God be your teacher, but you are instead trying to read your predetermined beliefs into the Bible.
As one pastor recalled, when someone had asked him what he should do if he disagreed with something the Bible said, the pastor told the man, “Then you must be wrong, and you should change your belief." Sometimes we try to be God's teacher rather than let God teach us. If you come to the Bible with this perspective, you will not receive from the Bible what God would desire you to have.
4. None of this matters if we don't apply it
Although the third step in this inductive Bible method (Application) is simply applying what we read in scripture, it's important to come to God's Word with a desire to have change in our hearts and lives. The book of James warns us that we can become hard to the Word and that our faith is not true faith if it doesn't affect our lives (James 1:22-25). We should always be on guard of hearing God's truth and not acting on it because as we begin that cycle it becomes easier and easier to not obey and follow Jesus.
It’s only after we have prepared our heart and mind for God's Word that we are ready to study the Bible. Next week, we’ll cover different tools and methods you can use to study the Bible for yourself.