Study And Be Approved (ATP)
How does one transition from just reading the Bible out of habit to truly studying the Word?
Good question! I would say that simply by asking this question, you have already begun. See, the first and most important thing to growing in faith (which is why one would want to study) is desire. Jesus is called the Desire of nations. He is the longing that is ingrained in every human everywhere.
One very important thing to understand about the Word is that it is living. Hebrews 4:12 tells us it’s living and powerful! We do a great disservice to it to simply JUST pick it up and read or even JUST memorize this wonderful book. God did not give us His Word for entertainment. His Word is living and transforming and if we embrace it as such, it will do exactly what God has said it will do.
Early on in my Christian walk I heard one of the greatest pieces of advice on this topic. Someone said to me, “Don’t just read the Word, read it prayerfully.” What did they mean? Prayer in its simplest form is speaking to God. So His Bible, His Word, is a written account of His voice to humanity. When we go to the Bible imagine it as a conversation with God. Even ask Him, “Father, help me to understand, speak to me today as I read your Word. If you’ve been in any of my services you will note in my opening prayer I almost always pray Ephesians 1:17. “Give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” I am praying from the Word for all of us to receive it in our hearts.
In the Bible we find His will, His plans, His promises, and most importantly the record of His love. Surely God is so much deeper than written words can express, however they are where that relationship begins. It is the mouth of a very deep well. When you go to a well with the intent of really drawing something out, you bring an empty vessel ready to be filled. You should approach fellowship with God the exact same way. Come empty but ready to fill, expecting to be filled! What I mean is don’t come casually during commercial breaks, come with intent to receive from God. You should go to church the same exact way because serious study starts where God has you planted.
This brings me to my next point. Know where God has called you and then be planted or unmoved. I knew a man who came to church. He came for reasons I don’t really know, maybe his wife was making him. They were believers but he never thought he needed a local church. No man was going to teach him, after all he knew some things. See, that’s a vessel that’s already filled with something but that something only tainted the water. He didn’t last long in church and I wasn’t wholly surprised.
So then, one key to study is in recognizing that you cannot get all the material on your own. The very God given direction to all pastors is to feed His sheep. We are to present the word to His people by the Spirit so that they have something to build on. This was God’s design not mine. In life, I would have been just as happy to have this not be so but it is so. God gave us church and He gave us pastors. Therefore, true study cannot happen without those connections. They are not the whole piece of the puzzle but they are a piece nonetheless.
Here we come to the next thing. Listen, take notes, and return to them! Note how your pastor breaks the Word down. Pay attention to connections he or she makes between scriptures. The vein your pastor is led in is the same one that will feed you spiritually. Remember, the Bible isn’t simply a textbook but it is the living word of the Lord. Part of study is receiving from our teacher, the Holy Spirit. I have known of people who have memorized the Word but never understood it! How can this be? 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (discerned or understood). If you believe the Bible is just some ancient writing by wise men, you will never access its depths. So to reiterate, put importance on what you are hearing then build from there.
I could go on and on about this subject. Perhaps we will do a question and answer about this in the near future because there is so much we could still explore. The last part I will touch on is to share methods that I use myself. Start reading trusted commentaries about the Bible. Read scholarly books and materials. Watch videos of trusted content. Note that I said trusted! These avenues help and will increase your understanding but I also put out a warning. DO THE FIRST THINGS FIRST!
Do what I’ve already touched on first and foremost. So many times, baby Christians (usually people who don’t even know they are babies), come to me with questions about scripture. I think to myself, “Why on earth are they studying that?” Not because it’s not good to study the Word, but because some things are for you now and some are for later. This is how well meaning Christians become misled and confused (remember that guy I mentioned earlier?). You don’t give a baby a steak and expect them to not choke. Think soberly of where you are at in your Christian walk and get good at simple things first. If you can’t swim you don’t jump into the deep end of a pool. You know if you can swim or not! Just because you are knowledgeable in one area does not make you knowledgeable in all areas. Just because you can run on land doesn’t mean you can swim in water. However, even if you jump in and find yourself drowning you know you’re in the wrong place so back off for the time being.
In closing, I want to warn you about being critical. As I write this, I don’t know who asked the question, typically I prefer not to know until after I’ve answered it. I say that so if the asker is reading they understand I am not making any judgement of them. When WE KNOW where God has called us we need to be open to what He wants to say. If we sit in every service trying to find fault with the minister, we get ourselves into a dangerous place.
IF YOU KNOW where God has placed you, not because someone else has told you but because you know, then you can trust He will feed you there. Just in case you’re wondering, if God has placed you somewhere it is likely not to change. Change is the exception not the rule but even if it does change it won’t often. Just because you’re bored doesn’t mean God changed His mind. If you find yourself thinking it’s time to change really dig into why. Maybe He is leading you, but if He is there will be good reasons for this. Make sure it’s not just an attack to get you to stop feeding. Know where you get fed and return to that table!