How Do We Study the Scriptures?
On New Year’s Day, Providence Church kicked off 2017 with a sermon calling us to be resolute about seeking after Jesus, seeking after the church, seeking after the lost, and seeking after eternity throughout the new year.
Making resolutions can be tough and keeping them past a few weeks can be even harder, but as Jonathan Edwards demonstrates, making resolutions can be a fruitful venture in seeking to be disciplined and self-controlled for the glory of God.
Many Christians resolve to be more committed to studying the Bible, which is a worthwhile endeavor. God’s people must have a hunger for His word, and anytime we stop feeling hunger pains for the Scriptures, we should prayerfully seek a greater desire and resolve for studying His word. But as we seek to dive back into our Bibles, how should we study them in order to grow? Here are four things to consider as you study the Bible in 2017.
Ready Your Heart for Worship
First, before reading God’s word, prepare your heart for worship. Reading the Bible should be a worshipful experience where we commune with God, hear from him, and seek Jesus. Before getting started, we should pray that God would show us his wonderful beauty through the text, like the psalmist does in Psalm 119:18. As much as possible, we must fight the tendency to make Bible reading a chore, and instead see it as worship, an avenue for tasting the riches of God’s grace and glory!
Additionally, we should consistently seek to worship Christ through our Bible reading. Jesus confronts the Jews for reading the Scriptures to find life, but missing the fact that they testify to him (John 5:39). In the same way, we must consistently seek to apply every text we read to the gospel, hoping to grow in our love, trust, and worship of him. So, before you get started, spend time worshipping through song, praying that God would open your eyes to the beauty of the gospel, and then expect that he will reveal himself to you through his word.
Read a Book to Completion
Second, read the Bible by picking a book and reading it all the way through. This process is important because it allows us to read every passage in its context, while providing a better understanding of the truths and principles of the text.
As you read through a book of the Bible, here are two good methods to try. First, simply read through the book at a slow to moderate pace, section by section. Most Bibles have section headers and these can be helpful tools in guiding you through a book. With this method, simply spend time reading section by section, or chapter by chapter, until you’re done. Then, once you have a good understanding of the content, move on to the next book! Second, read through the whole book in one sitting, and then repeat the process over a few days. Reading a book in one sitting may be more difficult with larger books, but it’s a great method for reading shorter books of the Bible, as it allows you to understand the main themes of a book from start to finish. The key to this method is to read the book multiple times over a short period so that you gain a familiarity with the text and a strong understanding of its message.
Regardless of which method you use, reading through the Bible book by book can help improve your understanding of Scripture, since you spend more time in each individual book, reading all of the passages in their proper context, and trying to connect everything to the author’s main points. This year, make a plan for what books you’d like to read, and then get started!
Record What You Read
Third, engage with the text by recording your thoughts as your read. Write down key insights that God teaches you, questions you have about the texts, ways to apply the passage, or prayers that flow from the text. John Piper suggests that journaling is a form of stewarding the grace and truth that you receive from reading God’s word, and to this end, finding a method for journaling and capturing our thoughts with God is helpful. To help get you started, consider asking these five questions from Afshin’s sermon whenever you read a text:
- What is this text calling me to do?
- Is there a specific sin to avoid?
- Is there a specific command to obey?
- Is there a specific promise to embrace?
- Is there a specific example to follow?
Lastly, meditate and reflect on what you read. Reflection is the bridge that connects reading and application. As Joshua 1:8 shows, we need to reflect on God’s word as a means of seeking application. Like the wise man in Psalm 1, we should meditate on God’s word throughout the day, connecting how it applies to our lives and every circumstance we experience. Let’s never be content with merely reading a text without embracing and resting in the truth it teaches! Meditating on what we read helps us to rest in the truth throughout the day.
To reflect on God’s word, simply identify a specific verse, theme, truth, or attribute about God that stuck out and think about it throughout the day. Apply the truth to your life and circumstances. Consider how this truth calls you to change. Consider how the passage should affect your emotions, friendships, relationships, work, and anything else. Thinking through a text like this can help us discover valuable applications of God’s word, and through prayerful reflection on God’s word, we can grow in our trust, love, and obedience to Christ.
The beginning of a new year naturally provides an opportunity for reflection, self-evaluation, and future resolution. Since we have been fully accepted in Christ, we can rest in his finished work, knowing that his love is not dependent on our faithfulness to reading our Bibles, or anything else that we do. But the good news of God’s love for us in Christ should drive us further into our Bibles to seek him, know him, and grow in fellowship with him. My hope for myself and our church is that we will all take to heart the call to be resolved in 2017 about seeking Jesus and being in the Word. As Afshin mentioned, take some time this week to plan a consistent time that you will study God’s word and make it non-negotiable. Then, pray for God’s grace and begin seeking him by studying his holy word.
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