“Jesus provided far more God revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so that you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.” John 20:30-31, Message Believe it’s the theme of songs that tell us there can be miracles if we believe. Believe is the theme of Christmas movies that tell us there can be a miracle on our street. Believe really is that powerful when you believe the truth. I’d like to share with you a method for devotional Bible study that will help you grow in belief. Once when a man ask Jesus for help with his son, Jesus told him all things are possible if you believe. His response was I believe help me with my unbelief. (Mark 9:23-25)
You gain great confidence in your ability to study the Bible when you know the purpose of God for the Bible. Each book of the Bible has special meaning and purpose for our lives. When we read and reflect upon the Scriptures then we are able to hear what God is saying to each of us through His Word.
My son just completed his Architectural degree from a great university. He was blessed with knowledgeable and experienced professors and mentors. He enjoys studying and interpreting a blueprint. God has a blueprint for each book of the Bible. When you use it as God intended you are able with the Holy Spirit’s help to build a successful and prosperous life. And of course you never have to worry that the teachings of the Bible are the latest fad in philosophy, self-help or pop psychology. This is an eternal blueprint that will last for eternity.
“Heaven and earth will disappear but my words will never disappear.” John 13:31, NLT That passage of Scripture makes me want to lift my hands in gratitude. Just think how much God loves us to give His Word. No wonder that evil and wicked people have tried for thousands of years to destroy the Scriptures!
Just a word of caution. Some people try to look for hidden messages or codes, others allegorize passages of Scripture in some fanciful ways. I thought this was the way to study the Bible when I first became a Christian. The books and sermons I read had some good points but very little to do with the Scriptures used to support them. A few years ago a book purported that by using computer software that some uncanny predictions were hidden in the Bible. It was kind of like Bible back-masking. When you start looking for personal messages, hidden codes or allegorical imagery you miss the purpose or reason that God gave us the Scripture. Of course then you miss the comfort and confidence that God gives us in His inspired Word.
So here are some guidelines for fruitful and enjoyable Bible Study.
1. Always begin with prayer. We need the illumination and help of the Holy Spirit. Bible study without prayer is presumptive. This is the Word of God. Ancient Jewish scholars taught that one should wash his hands before holding the Scriptures. Their purpose was to teach us to approach the Bible with clean hands and that these books were to be distinguished from other books.
2. Use a contemporary translation like the New Living Translation, Message, New International Version, or Contemporary English Version. Take advantage of sites like http://www.biblegateway.com or http://www.crosswalk.com. I also like http://www.youversion.com These sites offer multiple translations that you can read side by side, study aids and reading plans.
3. God has spoken unchanging truth to a changing world. It is important to understand who the original message was delivered to, the historical circumstances or occasion and why it was delivered. A good study Bible like the Life Application Bible (LAB) or the Quest Study Bible is helpful for discovering this information. The introductions are interesting, helpful and the LAB points out the Mega Themes of the Bible and the particular book of the Bible you are studying.
4. Read a book of the Bible through in one sitting to get an overview. Look for promises to claim, commands to obey, errors to avoid, lessons to be learned, prayers I can pray, blessings to be received, blessings to give and what do I learn about the Lord. Journal these thoughts. If there is a command to obey, when will you begin, what will it look like when you are obey this command, who will you ask to encourage you here. If you learn new information about the Lord, write it down. The more you learn about Christ the better you’ll love him.
5. Read the Bible normally, you know literally unless it is obvious that you are reading poetry or prophecy. Ask yourself what does this mean. What application can you make from what you read? After you’ve done that then consult the notes in your study Bible.
There are methods that are helpful and interesting too. Topical studies, doctrinal studies, biographical studies, prophetical studies. The Bible the gift that just keeps on giving to the one who wants to discover.
Here are some resources:
1. Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods
2. How to Read the Bible for all it’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart
3. Bible Study Methods by Kay Arthur
Peace and Joy!