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Studying the Bible


In This Lesson
About the Bible | What Does the Bible Tell Us?
Why Is Studying Necessary? | God's Word Meets Our Deepest Needs | Attitude During Bible Study


Through the prophet Ezekiel, God tells each of us: "Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears." (Ezekiel 3:10 KJV)

A Short Story
There's a story about a proud young man who went to Socrates asking for knowledge. Speaking with much flattery, he walked up to the philosopher and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge." Recognizing the young man for the pompous numskull he was, Socrates led him through the streets, to the sea, and chest-deep into the water. Then he asked, "What do you want"? "Knowledge, O wise Socrates," boasted the young man with a smile.

Socrates put his hands on the boy's shoulders and pushed him under the water. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" he asked again. "Wisdom," the young man sputtered, "O great and wise Socrates." Socrates pushed him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The boy was gasping. "What do you want, young man?" Between heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful..." Socrates pushed him under again. Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?" "Air!" he screeched. "I need air!"

Socrates replied, "When you want knowledge as much as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge."

The Practical Application
The same could be said about Bible study. Certainly, there is much to be gained from studying God's Word; but first we might ask ourselves, "Why do I want more Bible knowledge?" Is it to make us better preachers, teachers and evangelists? Is it to impress others with our vast philosophical and biblical knowledge? Is it to appear holy and righteous as we spew Scripture after Scripture at any given situation? Or, is it out of a deep hunger and desire to crawl into God's very heart and learn all that He wishes to impart to us — collectively, corporately, and individually?

After all, it's easy to quote Scripture and point our fingers at those who don't measure up. In fact, many in today's church have become experts at that. But to read the Bible from deep within the heart of God does more than simply make us better students and better teachers; it makes us more like Christ — more compassionate, more responsive to people's heartfelt needs, more forgiving, and in short: better equipped to impart life and healing with our words and actions.

Every time we pick up our Bible, we should walk away challenged . . . humbled . . . changed. When we want to hear from God's heart as much as we want to breathe, then His Word will do just that: It will challenge us. It will humble us. It will convict us. It will shape us into men and women like the early Christians ["little Christs"] -- not moralists looking for some societal sin to confront, but compassionate Christ followers whose very lives make a difference in our world.

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About the Bible
As we've already studied and discussed, the Bible is God's Word, recorded by approximately 40 men over a period of 1500-1600 years. Regardless of who or how many men wrote the Bible, must never lose sight of the fact that God is the true Author: "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21)

The Bible reveals God's perfect plan for every person: our redemption through the saving work of Jesus Christ and our acceptance of Him as personal Savior and Lord. The study of God's Word demands our best attention. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit aids and teaches us as we study, but we must also give due diligence to our study. We must remember that we are reading God's personal revelation of Himself -- a letter, really, that tells us all that He wants to be in each of us, and all that He wants us to be in Him. It takes careful study to understand its deep insights into God's character and into our own. We need to allow God's Word to become such an integral part of us that we are ever-changed by it every time we open it.

This lesson presents some very basic methods by which you might organize your study of God's Word.

Without a plan, blueprint or pattern, it would be very difficult to build a house, sew a dress, or graduate from school. A plan makes any task more enjoyable and profitable. Adopting a specific method of teaching yourself will help you to learn the principles in Scripture more easily.

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What Does the Bible Tell Us?
In Proverbs 2:2-5, God tells us:

"...incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God." (KJV)

"Keep in tune with wisdom and think what it means to have common sense. Beg as loud as you can for good common sense. Search for wisdom as you would search for silver or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to respect and to know the LORD God." (CEV)

"...making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." (ESV)

Via the news media, personal correspondence, or perhaps your own personal experience, you are probably aware of people who have faced times when there was no rain for crops and no water for the animals. Maybe they didn't even have water for themselves. If you were faced with a situation like that, you would use every tool at your disposal to dig deep into the ground looking for a hidden stream. When you need something as important as water, you try as hard as you can to get it.

It's the same principle with Bible study. You need to work hard and dig deep into the Scriptures for that life-giving water that can only be found in God's Word and the Person of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus used water as an illustration of our need to allow Him into our lives. "Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'" (John 4:13-14)

In order to experience this living water, you must keep studying the Bible, not once, not just on Sundays, but day after day. And notice . . . we're not saying you need to read your Bible, which of course, you do; but you need to study your Bible everyday.

What's the Difference?
Of course, reading your Bible everyday is a necessary part of Christian maturity. However, studying the Bible involves a specific plan or blueprint. And just as an archaeologist carefully digs into the earth to uncover buried artifacts and treasures, you must dig deeper into the Scriptures, look up cross-references, and make notes and outlines. And, depending on the Holy Spirit to guide you, you keep digging until you uncover more deep insights in the heart of God or into your own.

Why Everyday?
Because "...the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) You drink water everyday. Likewise, you should drink of the Living Water everyday.

Also, the Lord commands us to immerse ourselves in His Word and to incorporate it into every aspect of our lives. "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." (Deuteronomy 6:6-8 emphasis added)

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Why Is Studying the Bible Necessary?
God desires that we love Him above everything else. If we truly love God, we want to spend time getting to know Him better. As we read and study His Word daily, our love for Him increases. No matter how much time we spend in God's Word, none of us can ever claim that we've learned everything there is to know about our awesome God.

Ultimately, our relationship with God grows in direct proportion to the time we spend studying His Word and our obedience to His commands. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)

God's Word also tells us to give full attention to our studies so we can understand the Word of God and be able to teach it to others. "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) Jesus also noted the importance of studying and knowing God's Word. He said, "...'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4).

As we dig deep into God's Word and diligently search for all that He has revealed in His Word, we are fulfilling part of God's great command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37).

In Psalm 119, King David wrote about learning God's law. The word "law" in this Psalm means God's commands given in Scripture. David repeats over and over the idea that learning and obeying go together. He says, "Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing." (v. 6 CEV). God does not ask or expect us to understand and then obey. Rather, He assures that obedience produces understanding and wisdom to know the meaning of God's Word. Only then can we teach it to others.

We are told in 1 Peter 2:2, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation." As we daily study the Bible, it becomes a natural part of us in the way that Colossians 3:16a describes: "Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives." (CEV) Just as we must ingest food to give us strength, our spirits must ingest God's Word to enable us to grow spiritually. Only when we feed our spirits with the rich nourishment of the Word will we grow spiritually. "And he said to me, 'Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat." (Ezekiel 3:1-2)

Thankfully, God has not left us to our own devices and understanding. Rather, He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach and to aid our understanding. Jesus told His disciples: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13)

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God's Word Meets Our Deepest Needs
God made us, He is concerned about us, and He knows our needs better than we do.

Think of it this way: A master craftsman knows his product better than anyone else does. If a product does not fulfill its intended purpose or design specs, the craftsman must repair or replace it.

In much the same way, our lives are broken. We are bitter or sad, we have bad habits, we do not follow God as we should. We need to be repaired by our Master Craftsman with accurate teaching, correcting, and reshaping. God's Word is the only instrument equipped to make these repairs. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

As God's Word makes repairs, it fulfills many needs in our lives.

  • It helps us know the truth about our salvation.
  • It teaches us what our heritage in Christ is.
  • It gives us strength and power through Christ.
  • It tells us how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • It provides true joy and peace that come only from God.
  • It directs us how to live holy lives.

God's Word shows us when our desires or actions are against God's will. It convicts us and helps us to shape our thoughts to be like His thoughts. Our desires and thoughts are at the center of our spiritual life in the same way as joints and marrow are central to physical life.

The more we read and study the Bible, and listen to the Holy Spirit teaching us, the more we are able to know and do God's will. "Understanding your word brings light to the minds of ordinary people." (Psalm 119:130 CEV).

As we study more of God's Word, then more of His light shines on us and changes us into the image of Christ. You "have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator..." (Colossians 3:9-10). Then, the likeness of Christ can shine through us to a lost world who needs Him.

When we truly know God through the revelations contained in His Word, then our spirits are joined with His Spirit, which is the source of Living Water. In this way our greatest need is met -- the need for life itself.

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Your Attitude During Bible Study
The Bible is different from all other books. Just as you can understand a letter from your own family better than an outsider can, true born-again Christians can better understand the Word of God than an unbeliever can. This is possible because, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, you have become God's child and you have His Spirit to guide and teach you.

6"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him' —
10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
16'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ."

Being born into God's family is only a beginning. As we take God's Word into our very beings, we become hungry for more of His truths. As young children who come daily to their parents to be fed, we must come to God to have our spiritual hunger satisfied (see 1 Peter 2:2).

Have an Attitude of Obedience
It is important that we approach God's Word with an attitude of willing and immediate obedience. The child who is obedient receives more affection from his parents. He listens to their commands and they reward him for his obedience. The Apostle Paul was concerned about the disobedience of the church in Corinth and wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians to counsel them. He explained that because of their arguing and other bad attitudes, they were not growing spiritually. "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Be Disciplined
Our attitude must also include discipline. We cannot expect God to reveal things to us unless we make a real effort to learn. The Scripture says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7). This means more than a casual daily reading. Rather, we need to invest time in careful study.

Be Teachable
We must be willing to receive our Heavenly Father's instruction. Too often we try to live life our own way. Both King David and the prophet Isaiah admitted to God their need and desire to be taught:

"I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:102-103)

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught." (Isaiah 50:4)

When we are teachable, we approach God's Word humbly with a willingness, even anxiousness and yearning, to peer into the deep recesses of our hearts where some besetting sin may reside. There may be times when we think we are wise spiritually or self-righteous. But we must remember not to boast for it is God who has made us what we are and not we ourselves. "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

We can never learn everything contained in God's Word. Our study of the Bible is a life-long never-ending process that will even continue into Eternity, for we know that God's Word will not pass away (cf. Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).

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