TO GIVE US HIMSELF
People read the Bible for a variety of reasons. Sosme read it looking for information about God or about themselves. People will read it looking for facts about history or about how to live successfully. They can find all these things in the Bible, but this is not the primary reason why God gave us His Word.
When we read the Bible as God intended, we will not see just words on a page. We will see the great and almighty God stooping low to look us in the eye or whisper in our ear.
God’s chief purpose in giving us the Bible was not to give us information – but to give us Himself!
Unfortunately, many Christians ignore, or take lightly, this incredible eternal revelation called “The Bible”. Too many leaders become so busy with the demands of ministry that they neglect this precious resource. Others are simply slothful or undisciplined.
Some believers, however, have never received practical instruction on how to read and study the Bible for all it’s worth. This chapter will focus on how to practically develop a solid life-changing Bible-reading habit.
WHY SHOULD WE READ THE BIBLE?
A. THE SCRIPTURES EXHORT US TO DO SO.
Joshua is told by God, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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” (Joshua 1:8).
The Psalmist declared, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).
The great prophet Isaiah exhorted us to “Search from the book of the Lord and read” (Is 34:16).
Paul tells Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading [the Scriptures], to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Meditate on these things: give yourself entirely to them” (I Tim 4:13,15).
And again Paul exhorts Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim 2:15 KJV).
To the church at Colossae, Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col 3:16).
And Luke, in writing the book of Acts, commended the Berean Jews for being “more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Since God is a God who desires to reveal Himself, He has not remained silent. From creation, all down through history, God has revealed Himself by speaking. All of God’s great purposes and plans for mankind are revealed only in the written Word, “The Bible”.
But there is a second great reason why we should study the Bible:
B. THE BIBLE IS A TREASURE-STORE OF WEALTH FOR OUR DAILY NEEDS
If we devote ourselves to a consistent, daily study of God’s Word, we will reap a tremendous harvest. This harvest will be multifold. We will see it at a personal level, in our family, and then in the fruitfulness of the ministry God has entrusted to us.
Many benefits are guaranteed to be ours if only we will keep on sowing the Word of God into our lives (see Galatians 6:2-9). Listed below are just some of the blessings the Word of God brings to our lives.
- The Word secures our salvation. “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you“ (I Tim 4:16).
- It is a necessary part of spiritual growth. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).
- It provides spiritual cleansing. The Word of God has a washing effect that purifies our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, motives and desires (see Hebrews 4:12). Paul describes the Church being cleansed and sanctified by the “washing of water by the Word” (Eph 5:26). Jesus pointed to a personal cleansing when He said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
- The Word imparts spiritual freedom and liberty. “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free“ (John 8:31-32). This freedom breaks the yoke of emotional, mental and spiritual bondage.
- It establishes a warning safeguard against sin. “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
- The Word works with the power of God to transform us. “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet 1:3-4).
- It is a building block of faith. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). God’s Word stimulates, promotes and strengthens our faith.
- It gives wisdom and understanding. “The entrance of Your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps 119:130; also see Proverbs 6:23).
- The Word instructs and exhorts us. “Now all these things [the events of the Old Testament] happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of ages have come. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (I Cor 10:11-12). We can learn from the example of others in the Word the blessing of obedience to God, or the consequences of selfish, sinful choices.
- God’s Word strengthens and edifies us. “Strengthen me according to Your Word” (Ps 119:28). “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up [edify]“ (Acts 20:32).
- It equips us. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim 3:16-17). Do you ever feel you do not “have what it takes” to be effective for God? Then fill yourself with God’s Word, and let it help make you ready (equip you) for anything God would have you do.
- It is an effectual weapon of spiritual warfare. “And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17; see also how Jesus battled Satan and his temptations in Matthew 4:1-11). The best way to battle against sin, temptation or demonic activity is with the truth found in the holy Scriptures and with the Name of Jesus.
- It causes us to be approved. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim 2:15). The Greek word for “approved” is dokimos. It describes anything which has been tested, thus purified, and made fit for service.
- The Word gives comfort in times of testing. “This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has given me life” (Ps 119:50). Even when it is the Word of the Lord doing the testing, we can be comforted – for it is God who is at work in us. “Until the time that his [Joseph] word came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested him” (Ps 105:19).
- It imparts the peace of God. “Great peace have those who love your law and nothing causes them to stumble” (Ps 119:165). From God’s Word we gain assurance, security and confidence.
- The Word imparts hope and comfort. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4).
- It reveals divine guidance and direction. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). And, “direct my steps by your word and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps 119:130). Scriptures give a clarity of understanding, a discernment for walking through life, an assurance of the paths of righteousness.
- The Word imparts practical answers to life’s challenges. “So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in your word“ (Ps 119:42; see also Luke 12:11,12; I Peter 3:15; John 14:26).
- It gives us assurance of physical healing. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree . . . by whose stripes you were healed” (I Peter 2:24). And, “He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps 107:20).
- The Word imparts stability in our lives. The parable of the man who built his house on the rock, as opposed to the man who built his house on the sand, clearly shows the stabilizing power of the Word (Luke 6:47-49; see also Psalms 1:1-3).
These are just a few of the many benefits that can be found in the “treasure-store” of God’s Word. These benefits are meant to be experienced in everyday life – and will be, if we surrender to the Lordship of Christ, know His Word, and obey His word as doers, not just hearers (James XXX).
Remember, God has given us His Word so that we can know Him. His Word is Truth, and should not be changed or added to. God’s Word is full of promises and benefits, and those will remain until they have accomplished every purpose for which they were sent (see Isaiah 55:10-XX).
We can trust in the Word of God, because it is backed up with the almighty power and unmatched authority of God Himself. What He has said, He will do! (Ref…).
SOME PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR SUCCESSFUL STUDY
Being very familiar with the contents of the Bible is a worthwhile objective. However, our highest priority should be to systematically study the Scriptures for the purpose of applying its power and truth to our everyday lives.
In the following section is a checklist of helpful steps. If you review these steps closely, and put them into action, you will insure a rewarding and life-changing experience with the Word of God.
- Establish a consistent daily reading of God’s Word. Without this first and most basic step, you will never truly develop a healthy and profitable Bible reading pattern. As mentioned above, the Bereans wisely “searched the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).
Scripture tells us that we should be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). A daily feeding (reading) on God’s Word is a very important part of redeeming each day, along with our personal worship and prayer time.
Being “too busy” to read God’s Word is a trap laid by the devil, and is meant to starve us to death spiritually (or at least weaken us so much that we are more easily defeated by sin and temptation). All of us need to drink fluids and eat food daily to sustain our physical bodies. It is no different when it comes to reading God’s Word – we need its nourishment to sustain us spiritually!
In reading daily, set aside a specific time and place to read. It should be a place free from distractions like T.V. or radio. Pick out a specific and regular time of day. The morning is usually the best time, before distractions start and our mind gets cluttered with activities. Also read your Bible even when you don’t feel like it. It’s when we don’t want to read the Bible that we most need to read.
- Pray for “illumination”. We need the anointing of the Holy Spirit to understand the Scriptures (I Cor. 2: 10-14). Pray, which is simply talking with God, while you read His Word. Invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to meet with you and be with you during your reading time.
God knows what a Scripture means, and He wants to help you understand it. We get into trouble and can have wrong interpretations if we use only our human reasoning. If something doesn’t make sense to you, mark it in your Bible and ask God to give you illumination as to its meaning. You will discover over time that He will answer your request.
- Meditate upon what you read. God commends the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:2). Take time to stop and reflect upon what you are reading.
The word “meditate” actually means to “chew the cud”. When cows chew a mouthful of grass, it is then swallowed. Their stomach is made in such a way that a cow will bring the grass back up, chew it some more and again swallow it. We should not hastily “gulp down” the eternal Word of God without allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal insights to us. We should think on what we have read throughout our day, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring it back to our minds over and over again.
- Make your study a “personal” one. It is so tempting for us as leaders to study the Scriptures only for our next sermon or Bible teaching. God wants His Word to get deeply into our soul and spirit. He wants His Word to transform us from the inside out. If the shepherd (you) is not feeding himself, he will never adequately feed his sheep (your church or Bible study group). When we are personally convicted, touched and transformed by the Word, the anointing will truly flow through our sermons.
- Develop “comprehension aids”. Keep a journal notebook of the insights and lessons God speaks to you through His Word, and write each one down. This not only helps reinforce what you have learned, but will be a rich resource for you to refer back to.
Make a “subject concordance” for Scriptures that you read. As you come across Scriptures relating to a particular subject (such as “fear”, “sexual temptation”, “greed”, “worship”), write them down in a notebook. You will soon fill pages with “golden nuggets” of God’s truths!
Don’t hesitate to mark special passages in your Bible. Underline meaningful words you are thematically studying. Make notes in the margin about insights God gives you about a particular passage. Your Bible is a precious tool – and it is a tool that God wants you to be familiar with through using it!
If you have The Shepherd’s Staff, a concordance, or a Bible handbook, use them to study the Bible. If the version of the Bible you read has study-helps, use them! These study aids can provide a wealth of insights that will enrich your study of God’s Word.
- Set realistic goals for your Bible reading. Most of us would love to read through the New Testament every week, but that would be difficult to say the least! Sometimes we “sabotage” ourselves by trying to fulfill a goal that is set far too high. When we fail to reach that goal, we get discouraged.
The goal of reading a certain number of chapters every day is the wrong goal. Our goal should be to meet with God in and through His Word. We should desire a quality reading instead of a quantity reading. But do not develop the bad habit of skipping around in your reading. That will lead to an inconsistent and undisciplined style that will take away from a solid understanding of the Scriptures.
We should read a book of the Bible all the way through to the end before moving on to another book.
A balanced reading schedule might be to read at least a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament every day. Reading one chapter from the book of Proverbs every day would be a good addition.
Proverbs has 31 chapters, just as many months have 31 days. So you could read the first chapter on the first day of the month, the second chapter on the second day, etc. Proverbs is the kind of book that can be read over and over again – even twelve times per year – and you will always get something new from it.
- Keep your Bible study plan simple. This is very important, especially at first, while you are trying to establish a good and consistent habit-pattern of daily Bible reading. We should use a schedule that is easy to follow and keep track of. Even if you miss a day, don’t give up; just simply start again where you left off in your reading schedule.
- Memorize the Scriptures. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ref). An important part of any good Bible study plan is Scripture memorization. The truth of the Word dwelling within our hearts can keep us from deception and sin.
There are many helps for memorizing Bible verses. A passage can be written on a card or paper and carried with you to read over and over again. Also, sing the scriptures. A Bible passage set to music will be long remembered.
KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK WHILE STUDYING THE BIBLE
Here are two simple types of Bible study methods that can help us think correctly about the Scripture we are reading. These studies also give the Holy Spirit maximum opportunity to speak to us using the light of God’s Word: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov 6:23).
THE SEVEN-QUESTION BIBLE STUDY
- What is happening? (or the ideas expressed or results)
- Who is it happening to? (the people involved)
- Where is it happening? (location, situation)
- When is it happening? (historical setting)
- Why is it happening? (the causes, the reasons for it)
- How is it happening? (the process, the flow of events)
- How can I apply it? (how it relates to me and my situation)
THE EIGHT-QUESTION BIBLE STUDY
- Is there a command for me to obey?
- Is there a sin for me to avoid?
- Is there an example for me to follow?
- Is there a promise I am to claim?
- Is there an idea, principle or word I should study further?
- Is there a truth being taught about God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit?
- Is there something for me to pray about? — If so, then stop and pray!
Using either or both of these study methods can greatly assist us in opening our understanding to the profound truths of Scripture.
We must remember that one of the primary purposes of Bible study is to change our lives, not just increase our knowledge! You haven’t truly studied the Bible until you have applied it to yourself! Scripture tells us that God wants us to be ”doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21 kjv), or as the NIV puts it, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Therefore, make the application of truth one of your main goals in studying the Bible.
IN YOUR HANDS…
Our hope is that as you have read this article, you have gained a greatly deepened appreciation for this miraculous “Book of books” we call the Bible.
We have seen that the Bible is truly THE Word of God, substantiated by overwhelming proof. We have learned that God’s plan for mankind throughout the ages is revealed only in the holy Scriptures. We have discussed who wrote the Scriptures and how it was done, and then how it was all gathered into ONE Bible. From there we have looked at how to practically develop a meaningful and life-changing method of studying God’s Word.
The Bible is a vast storehouse of inexhaustible riches already given to us by God. It is the only source of truth in our world that can lead us into an intimate and saving relationship with the God of the Universe. The Word of God is eternal and has outlasted, and will outlast, every effort of man to compete with it.
The sacred text, which God has preserved through His supervision of the copying, collecting and transmitting for over 3500 years, has now been placed in your hands. Countless thousands have suffered at great cost to themselves just to preserve our Bible. Even today, millions are tortured, enslaved and abused – even killed – for having a copy of the Bible. Yet they cannot be stopped, for only one Book has the answers to mankind’s deepest questions – THE BIBLE!
If you are reading this article, you undoubtedly own a Bible, maybe more than one. Then may we “stir up your pure minds by way of reminder” : take your Bible and read it! study it! apply it! . . . BELIEVE IT!