I hope last week’s study has encouraged you to spend more time in the Word. Last week we looked into the “why” of Bible study, this week we are going to delve into the “how” we are to study the Bible. I hope you will join me and as always, feel free to read the study as well: Multiply. Let us dive into Part III: Session 2: Studying the Bible Prayerfully and Obediently.
First off, we have to ask ourselves, “Is there a ‘right’ way to study the Bible?” Many of us would argue method. Perhaps you like to do word studies or only read the well-known stories or maybe you have a journal that you write in while you read or maybe you take the academic approach and pour over the meaning of every word. Take some time to think about what approach works well for you and why it might be.
Discussion Question #1: Describe your experience with studying the Bible. What approaches have you tried? What has been effective? What has been ineffective? What have you learned in the process?
Studying the Bible Devotionally
Before we decide how to approach Bible study, we need to remind ourselves what the Bible is and why we are studying it. It is God’s Word, His chosen message to us spoken with all His authority and purpose. “When we read the Bible we are hearing the voice of God“(110).
How should we approach something like that? Obviously we are going to be very careful to every word God has to say to us. We should read the words “devotionally”, meaning we need to be devoted to the word. It needs to seep into our very lives.
“Have you ever thought to simply enjoy reading the Bible?”(110).
Psalm 119 gives a beautiful picture of what it means to enjoy God’s Word. The psalmist is writing it like a love letter to the Law. This reminds us once again to crave God’s Word as a baby craves her mother’s milk (1 Pet. 2:2-3).
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NASB)
Scripture helps complete us and gives us all we need to accomplish the work God calls us to do. “As we study the Bible to teach, correct, or encourage other people, we need to let God’s truths saturate every aspect of our minds, hearts, and lifestyles” (111).
Discussion Question #2: What does it look like to take joy in reading the Bible? Have you ever experienced this? If so, what is it like? If not, why do you think you’ve never enjoyed the Bible?
Discussion Question #3: Read through Psalm 119. What do you find striking, challenging, or encouraging?
Prayer and Understanding
“Christians often talk about praying and reading their Bibles, but we don’t hear much about praying while reading the Bible”(112). Prayer is a very important part of understanding Scripture and we are missing out if we are not including prayer in our study of the Bible.
“Some believe that if we examine the biblical text closely enough—possibly even learning Hebrew and Greek—if we consult enough commentaries, and if we diagram every passage perfectly, then we can arrive at the true meaning of any biblical text. Each of these elements is important, but this mentality leaves no room for prayer, which means that there is no dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is a mentality of complete self-reliance”(112). We aren’t called to be self-reliant, we are called to be God-reliant. We need the Spirit’s help. Paul describes the difference between human wisdom and God’s wisdom:
“…but just as it is written,
‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised”(1 Cor. 2:9-14 NASB).
Understand Paul’s point: we cannot understand Scripture without the Spirit’s help. This is why prayer is foundational in understanding God’s Word poured forth from the mind of God. Only the Spirit knows the mind of God.
Discussion Question #4: In practical terms, what does it mean to study the Bible prayerfully? What can you do to build prayer and dependence on God into your study of the Bible?
Studying the Bible Obediently
One really good reason for being sure to include prayer in our study is that we desperately need the Spirit’s help in applying the Word of God. What good is gaining all that wisdom if we do not use what we learn? One of the silliest criticisms of the church that I hear is that the church is full of hypocrites. I want to say, “Of course it is! It’s full of humans!” We need the Spirit’s help to keep us from being those who don’t “practice what they preach”. We must allow the truth to change us from who we are into who we are meant to be. If we are only reading to gain knowledge, that knowledge is worthless, maybe even harmful as Paul points out: knowledge puffs up (makes one arrogant), but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1). “There’s a terrifying irony here: your study of the Bible could actually lead you further away from the Lord”(116).
Discussion Question #5: Take a minute to think through the commands that you know God wants us all to be doing (for example, loving the people around you, forgiving others, praying, etc.). Write down a handful of these things below.
Now think about these commands in view of your own life. Are you following these commands, are you allowing them an active part in your life? “If these things are not manifested in the way you live, then you’re misusing the Bible“(117). Sounds like a pretty harsh statement, but if you are not applying God’s Word, you are missing the point of the Bible.
Discussion Question #6: Take a minute to examine your life in light of what you already know about the Bible. If you find that you haven’t been applying biblical truth to your life, then what changes do you need to make to the way you study the Bible?
Studying the Bible with Faith
Sometimes we overlook the importance of studying the Bible with faith. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, than we can have faith that every promise, every command is backed by the integrity and authority of God, Himself. When we read the Bible, we must believe what it says. Sometimes I struggle with this myself. Intellectually, I know the promises of God, but sometimes I have trouble making my heart believe them. I know, in my head, I am forgiven (Eph. 2:1-9), but I sometimes still have doubts about my acceptance and my salvation. If we are going to believe that the Bible is the very words of God, then we had better believe in what they say.
Discussion Question #7: In your own words, explain what it means to study the Bible with faith. Do you see this playing out in your life? How so?
The Bible and Transformation
“Good Bible study leads to transformation“(119). If we are going to believe “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12 NASB), then we believe that the Word of God isn’t just for gaining knowledge and wisdom (although those are important), but that it acts in our lives. It is living. We don’t just read it, it reads us. Romans 8:1 tells us to “be transformed”, we are transformed by the Bible. James illustrates our need to be transformed:
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (Jam. 1:22-25 NASB).
We don’t want to be like a man who looks into a mirror, sees he’s a mess, and then walks away without doing anything about it. The Bible becomes our mirror, it shows us our mess and what to do about it. We need to take initiative to follow what it commands and make the changes in ourselves.
So ask yourself again: are you reading the Bible merely to gain knowledge or are you reading to allow it to change you?
Discussion Question #8: Take a minute to consider everything you’ve thought through in this session. What changes do you need to make in the way you study the Bible?
Discussion Question #9: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to give you a heart for His Word. Ask Him to help you approach His Word devotionally and obediently.
Hope you all are blessed in your Bible study this week and that you will prayerfully allow it to change you into the masterpiece God is designing you to be. God bless!