There are so many people that could gain simply by studying God’s Word. In fact, every one of us can and will gain from studying if we apply ourselves in the proper way. What I find more times than not is that people, to put it plainly, don’t know how to study. They have never been taught or shown how to dive into God’s truths and drink from fountains of life and promise and hope. It’s all there. It’s all accessible by His people. He has given it unto us and, unlike the saints of the Old Testament, we have the complete revelation from God through His inspired writers. If you really soak in that thought, it will bring you to a place of amazement and wonder; Abraham, Elijah, John the Baptist, and even Paul did not have the completed Word by which to study, lean on and preach. What a more sure word of hope and prophecy we have! What an amount of assurance we have been measured out! Let God’s word ring through your life and heart and mind at all times.
Study can and is different for all people. We tend to learn at different rates and in different manners but one thing stands true; we must study. There is an eternity’s-wide distance between just reading the Bible and actually studying to gain from it. Let’s look at some practical ways to study. As you read these, seek to apply these principles and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Read the Word
As was already mentioned, reading alone can profit but, often times, very little. You’re not going to sit down to a Calculus book, quickly read through it, then walk away a genius. However, as a newborn baby desires the milk, so must you “desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” (I Peter 2:2) You must sit down to it [the Word] and desire to be fed. This can never be stressed enough. The Lord promises to give you the desires of your heart, if you do one thing; delight in Him. (Psalm 37:4) Like anything we approach in life, if we don’t have a desire to learn it, it will come by the hardest, if learning comes at all. A missionary preparing to go to Japan won’t read a few lines of a Japanese language guide at night. He will diligently apply himself to the study that he might absorb as much as possible. I don’t know why someone thinks that studying the Bible is any different. “It’s God’s word, He will just give you what you need, when you need it,” one might say. If that were the case, why was young Timothy, budding Pastor, told to study? (2 Timothy 2:15) Don’t just read, though. Read with passion! Read with life! Invite yourself into the situation in Scripture – hear the voices, be amazed at what the Bible says; when you see Christ filling a net with fish to the point the boat begins to sink, imagine being there, stand in awe! God says to do all things with His glorification in mind.
The end question is: why read? Read so that your mind is saturated. And read because you love God. Anyone who truly falls in love wants to learn everything about the other - they want to know them deeper. Why should this be any different in our relationship with our Creator and Father and Savior? If anything, it should be more relevant, more motivating! Read to learn who He is!
Chase the Word
Chase, as in run, strive after the Word. Follow hard in pursuit of the Word and holiness. (Hebrews 12:14) What I mean by this is as you survey and open up and feed and consider the verses, allow yourself to pause and circle a Scripture that stands out to you. Wrestle with it until God blesses you! (Genesis 32:26)
Ask three questions:
1. What is this verse saying?
2. What is this verse not saying ?
3. How does this verse apply to other Scriptures?
There are other methods, of course, like word studies. Some of which we’ll mention shortly but for now, ask the Lord, what is this verse saying? Where does it fit with the rest of the chapter? It’s not enough to read John 4:24 and quickly move on. This is food. Move it around in your spiritual mouth and taste what it’s saying.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24
What does this verse say? God is a Spirit and He can only be worshiped in spirit and in truth. But what’s it mean that He is a Spirit? What significance does this have in Jesus saying this? It’s because the woman, in verse 20, speaks of where they should worship, that is, spatially or location-wise. Jesus says, more importantly than location, God is a Spirit and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Those that worship God, who is Spirit, must do so through their spirit and through the truth revealed to them. How better to know truth than to…wait for it…study!
What’s this verse not saying, though? It’s not saying any form of worship is accepted. It’s not saying that location is inconsequential for worship. Why do I mention those things? Because the modern, post-small-local-church movement says God accepts any form of worship. Jesus does not say that. He explicitly tells how we are to worship. I also mention that this verse doesn’t say worship wherever for the fact that many choose not to go to church. I’ve heard a hundred times, “I worship at home on the radio or watching preaching on tv.” While there are moments of worship, private worship, God has, through Christ, established His type of churches and commands that believers meet there on the first day of the week (Sunday according to the Jewish calendar when the first church was established.) Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not forsake the assembling together as a body of Christ for corporate worship.
Lastly, how does John 4:24 apply to other Scriptures? We just saw some of those effects by connecting it with Hebrews. Scripture cannot, does not and will not contradict itself despite what the world’s scholars and other religious cults would claim. Don’t take my word for it. Do some rabbit-chasing as we sometimes call it. See the cross references at the bottom or maybe in the middle of your Bible? Look those verses up in correlation with your verse of study. How do they apply? Look up the references to that verse. All Scripture is woven together by God, that it might display Christ. Let that be the highlighter of every verse’s question and thought. If the Scripture doesn't lead you to Christ, ultimately, you need to dig deeper.
Apply the Word
This may be the hardest thing to do often times - apply the Word to our life. We’ve been trained by society that the Bible is just a book. Whether or not we want to admit it, sometimes we read and all we see is a grand and magnificent story book. Have you ever heard the saying, ‘The Bible is history. That is, His Story?’ What does that even mean? Again, it means the Scriptures point to Christ! And if they point to Christ, we have need and relation to them. You’ve been bought by His precious blood, child of God, when He speaks, listen and use His teachings for your life.
Maybe I should put it this way, add a question to the list above and ask, “How does this verse affect my relationship with Jesus and how can it change my life?” That’s a very good question. Too often, we read and we see the stories, we see the miracles, we even see the awesomeness of His power and grace and love but we don’t see the ageless influence it can have on us.
The Psalmist in Psalm 119:48 said, “My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.” This is how you apply it. You think and meditate on Scripture. Search out what it means for your life in Christ, not what it means to you. Human reasoning can skew the “what it means to me” and that mentality must be kept under subjection by the mind of Christ!
Thinking and meditating isn’t enough. You must commit these things to prayer. Only the Holy Spirit can teach you and illuminate you. God says things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:14) It’s not rocket science. God has given us every mean necessary for studying His Word! We lack nothing but drive and desire to do it. He has given His Son, how will He not give us all else, freely, that we need to know Him better? (Romans 8:32)
There are a hundred more ways, probably many are better ways, that Bible study can be done. You can do word studies where a specific word is traced through the Bible to see how it’s used in the different places. You can do topical studies of certain subjects – the life of Christ, His miracles, the Old Testament prophets, even animals, etc. There are chapter studies, time period studies, the Doctrines of Grace or Five Point Calvinism, and the list goes on and on.
For the sake of this post, if you are one that struggles with study, may I suggest you start with what Paul calls the Milk of the Word? (Hebrews 6:1, 2) This certainly isn't an exhaustive look at studying the Bible. Hopefully, it will cause you to consider what you read, to ask the Lord questions and to seek it's changing effect in your life. Enjoy it. Savor it. Be satisfied with it. Let it form your thoughts and speech. The more you study and grow, the more you desire to study and grow!