If you were asked, "What is the Source of Christian living," you'd likely reply with either The Holy Ghost or The Bible. And you'd be right! Only by God's grace are we capable of running the race set before us. Jesus said, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Therefore we know the answer is abiding in the Word, but how many times have we sat down to the Scriptures and felt completely overwhelmed? To help you grow in your personal Bible study, I'd like to offer a few suggestions.
PURPOSE: Start with why
When it comes to establishing the reasons for studying Scripture, one principle stands above the rest.
Secondly, we are to strengthen our own faith! I believe that so many believers fall away because they never move beyond the starting line. We become frustrated when we don't see personal growth, and eventually give up altogether!
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We don’t approach the Scriptures to prove an idea, we go to prove ourselves. We don't use the Bible to win arguments, we go because it's a Light to my path.
PRACTICE: Commit to working hard
Did you notice that 2 Timothy said that you're proving yourself to be an approved workman? Bible study is hard work! The only people that really study the Bible are the people that are accustomed to making the hard choices. Lazy men won’t put the effort into learning the Scriptures.
The way we approach the Bible’s gold is as if it’s in a treasure chest right before us, and all we need is a special key to unlock it. But really, the gold is in the ground, and we’ve got to mine for it.
Sure, we get freebies, like when the preacher has done the mining and now presents the gold freely, but you can’t be expected to live on handouts, can you?
We've seen the word "study" twice now, and the only other time it appears is in Ecclesiastes 12:12 "and much study is a weariness of the flesh." It's hard work! Commit right now to the mining process.
PROVISIONS: Get the right tools
You couldn't possibly mine for gold without the right tools, right? Maybe the help you need in your study time is still in the tool shed. The great news is that for two millennia, men and women have been creating a vast supply of Bible Study tools to help you dig deeper! Here are a few to get you started.
The Holy Ghost
2. Survey: Read and Re-read
3. Take note of specific words
Look for the use of common words that link thoughts, verses, phrases, or otherwise form proper context.
Take note of unfamiliar words; you'll be able to use a vast array of tools to learn the Bible's lingo.
God will often use and reuse words - right in the very same Passage to convey His thoughts. Be aware of repeated words.
Jesus's words give us freedom, cleanse us, and guide us. Handle them with great care!
4. Bible Study Resources
We'd probably agree that the 66 Books of the Bible are inspired by God, and no commentary or any other book is inerrant. But there are loads and loads of resources to help us study!
Life Application Study Bible. My parents gave me this Bible which I used exclusively for about a decade, and to this day, I'll still reference it. It contains lots of background information, maps, cross references, definitions, indexes, and more. It's been very useful!
Thompson Chain Reference Bible. In the margins of this Bible, you can see where a certain verse is linked to others. This Bible is an excellent tool! For free, you could also search "John 3:16 cross reference" and find useful web sites.
www.BibleStudyTools.com. This web site has commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, devotionals, and much more. This is one of the great resources the internet has to offer!
Software and apps like Olive Tree, Logos, or YouVersion are great ways to have a whole library at your fingertips! With a mouse click, you can easily understand Greek and Hebrew definitions!
PERSPECTIVE: Seeing the Scriptures as God gave it.
Imagine now that you've invested either money or time in some study tools. You've got the right purpose, and now you're setting out to understand God's Holy Word. How do we know we're receiving the Word as God gave it and not as man misinterprets? Exactly. That's our goal! We're seeking God's perspective.
Take it literally.
This doesn’t mean every piece of the Scripture is without hyperbole, or illustration, or allusion. It means we seek to understand this Bible in it’s literary context.
This is how we use the word literally: “I was so mad that I literally exploded.” We can laugh because we understand that statement in it’s literary context - it’s an exaggeration.
Here’s some questions to establish the literal context
Who wrote it?
To whom did he write?
Why did he write it?
When did he write it?
Where did he write it?
Is this narrative, prophecy, poetry, a parable, Old or New Testament?
Write down the meaning.
We should avoid journaling the thought, “what does this Passage mean to me?” and instead ask, “what does this Passage mean?”
Use a computer, tablet, notebook, whatever. Spend the extra effort to investigate and write out the meanings of the Bible. I promise that if you'll seek out what the Bible means, then the Holy Ghost will teach what it means for you.
Thank you for your testimony of faithfulness and desire to grow in the Lord! I trust these principles will help you to dig even deeper in your Bible study!