Would you like your Bible study to be more meaningful-- even one of the most thrilling aspects of your life? It can be! This article will show you how.
When you hear the terms Bible study or studying the Bible, what comes to your mind? Is it a picture of a scholar pouring over thick dusty esoteric books, taking copious notes and trying to search out some dubiously significant theological discovery?
Perhaps this is what the term Bible study means to most people. But this definition is not entirely accurate. Make no mistake, detailed research and proper academic study of God’s Word is important, and it’s not quite like the stereotype described above.
But there is a deeper, more advanced form of studying the Bible that every true Christian needs to apply.
I Thessalonians 5:21 “Test all things, hold fast what is good.” The word test or prove actually means to test by doing. It means to try out, put to use or experience firsthand. You test drive a new car before buying it, you test or prove the car to see whether you want to own it. Do you remember the biblical example of the man who had just bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to prove them first (Luke 14:19)? He wanted to test them to see if they were strong and healthy and capable of doing hard work.
This is the approach we should take toward the Bible. Paul instructed us to prove or test the worth and value of God’s Word by putting it to use in our lives. When Jesus Christ said man must live by every word of God (Matt. 4:4), He had this concept in mind. God intends that we do more than just read the pages of the Bible.
This is what God’s teaching should do: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe ” ( I Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is to effectually work in us! That is, it is to lodge deeply within our minds, stir us to action, move us to do good works and inspire us to develop the nature of God.
The real key to understanding the Bible is simply this: once you have read and studied God’s Word, you must act on it. You must test it by doing and put it into practice in your life. You are to live the Bible’s teachings with all your being. You can then produce and radiate the glorious fruits of God’s holy character.
This is the ultimate in Bible study. As you apply and inculcate the Bible’s teachings, you will actually experience its miraculous power and inspiration. The written Word of God will begin to live in you and through you, transforming your life into the likeness of God Himself. The Bible will have deeper meaning than it ever had before.
Christ said the application of His words would have this impact in our lives. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). His Word is like food, to be eaten and converted into spiritual character (John 6:48-51).
When we study the Bible in an attitude of worshiping God and then meditate on and apply its principles, we become more like God. His Spirit, His life, works in us. Christ answered and said unto him, “If a man love me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and we will come into him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
The apostle Paul spoke of putting on the “new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10). When we actively incorporate the Bible into our lives, we are incorporating the mind and nature of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God personified (John 1:1). Christ lived God’s commandments, inspired them to be written for our good and has told us as Christians to abide in them.
By living God’s Word and allowing it to transform our lives, we actually live as Jesus Christ lived. We put on Christ and become like Him in thought and action. This process in reality remakes us! Paul said elsewhere that we are “changed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corth. 3:18). There is simply no substitute for the experience of Christian living.
“But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14)
David, a man after God’s own heart, knew the secret of understanding God’s Word: “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Ps. 111:10). Notice that understanding follows the doing. When you practice the Word of God, you will begin to understand it. The Bible will come alive and make sense, because you will have proved to yourself that it works.
A person who likes to tinker around and make minor repairs on their car usually has a manual that explains the basics. The manual is a good book and shows just how to make certain repairs. You can learn a lot from that manual, but until you put it to use, you only have a superficial understanding of its theory and instructions. This need for actual experience is true in most vocations.
God’s instruction Book to man, the Bible, is much the same way. We can read it, research it, analyze it, and even memorize key verses, but until we truly begin to apply it, we will never completely grasp or understand the Bible’s real value and meaning. Unless knowledge is used and acted upon it is of no practical value.
Living the Word of God and seeing its wonderful truths unfold is one of the most exciting experiences available to us as human beings. Through His Word, God has revealed every facet of the powerful, invisible, spiritual laws He has set in motion to govern every facet of our lives: love, interpersonal relationships, health, finance, and success. God’s Word brings deep rich rewards, both physical and spiritually.
Take the law of tithing as an example. A person would have trouble understanding how tithing works if he didn’t put it to the test in his life. But true Christians know from experience that it works. We tithe and God blesses us. As we obey God and trust Him in faith, He opens up doors of opportunity and pours out His blessings. The Bible works because God stands behind it and makes it work.
Jesus instructions in Matt. 4:4 bears repeating: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Note how all-encompassing this verse is. We are to live by every word of God, not just by a few favorite inspirational passages. If we are to grow into the fullness of Christ we must never pick and choose what scriptures we like. We’re to heed and obey every word that God has spoken.
By using this approach in daily Bible study, you will become more well-rounded and balanced. By absorbing the Bible’s message into the whole being, you will start to become perfect, as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48). The Bible isn’t a book to be left on a shelf; it is to be internalized and made a part of your life. Your outward conduct should be a constant reflection of God’s Word working in you.
How do you apply the Bible? The following outline lists steps that can help you bring what you learn in Bible study into living reality.
Attention: Give conscientious thought and attention to what you’re reading as you dig into God’s Word. Think and concentrate. Go beyond the surface, go beyond mere words. Realize that God is speaking to you personally, and that He expects you to give your utmost respect and honor to what He is saying.
Association: Associate every word and every thought you read to your personal life. Think of all the ways you can apply God’s Word to every facet of your existence, to your family, your business, your social life and the entirety of your environment.
Application: It is not enough just to associate the teachings of God’s Word. You’ve got to live them, to apply them, and experience the abundant success they were designed to produce. God’s Word is living. It will bring great spiritual and physical rewards to you, as you practice it.
Repetition: A one-time effort is not enough. You must keep applying God’s Word over and over until it becomes your nature.
Reflection: Being human, you need to constantly consider the progress you’re making. You need to go over the scriptures you have studied and ask: Am I measuring up? Am I forgetting anything? Did I overlook something? Am I really applying the Word of God everywhere in my life as I should? This exercise should take place at least once a day; if not several times to ensure that you do not forget the things that you have learned.
The time to start this practical approach to Bible study is now. The apostle James exhorted us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). David said he made haste and delayed not to keep God’s commandments (Ps. 119:60).
The most important way to learn about the Bible is to live what you find there, and your true depth of understanding will increase. Remember: “Study (be diligent, actively live God’s Word) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).