Don't Waste Your Life
As followers of Christ, we desire for our lives to count on the landscape of human history for the glory of God and the spread of His name. He has given us His Word for guidance (2 Timothy 3:16). That means that it is fundamental to our seeking Christ to be daily invested in His Word. And not only that, but to read it, study it, and memorize it from the perspective of Scripture being the God-centered unfolding of redemptive history.
PPBC is committed to helping its family members maintain these essential disciplines. Below are some tools for building the disciplines of daily Bible reading, as well as deeper personal study.
Why We Study the Bible
The "great commission" task can seem daunting--maybe we have no idea what to do or perhaps we don't think making disciples is for us. Where are we going to find the guidance to live for the purpose God has us on this earth? The answer is, God has given us His Word. But too often we approach Scripture to find the pieces that benefit ourselves.
The Word of God is something very different than what many Christians have made it. When we dig in, we find that the story is not about us, but about God: our salvation is first and foremost for God. He saved us to glorify Himself! The Bible unfolds a salvation story through all of creation that points us to portray Christ as we walk through this life and to proclaim His name among all the nations. The Bible is therefore central to our lives as Christ-followers.
So what is this Bible that we study?
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward." -Psalm 19:7-11
The Word is perfect, it is relevant, it is good, it is clear, it is eternal, and it is true.1 "For a Christian, nothing should seem more natural than reading the Bible."2 So why don't we? Why do the staggering majority of Christ-followers not long for this precious Word? If we're to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), then this Word must become our priority. As those who are saved, we have been given a glimpse of God's glory, to be fully realized when we stand in His presence for all eternity (Revelation 22:4a). That taste, that morsel, should drive us to want more!
"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." -1 Peter 2:2-3
But how can we ever possibly become doers of the Word, as Christ commands His followers, if we're not even being hearers? Hearers-only are no more living under the authority of Christ than the demons who acknowledge Him (James 2:19). Maybe we don't see how the Bible fits into our lives. Maybe we've tried to read and study the Bible but we're intimidated by it. Maybe we think it is someone else's job, who is seminary trained, to study and feed it to us. Maybe we don't have time. Maybe we doubt parts of it. Or maybe the whole thing just seems boring to us.1
Whatever our reason, we have to let God open our hearts to His Word. We must study this Bible. It is essential for our growth (1 Peter 2:2). We need it; we should want it; we can't grow up without it! It's essential for our spiritual maturity.1 If we don't make God's Word a priority, we will never fully understand the salvation into which God has brought us. The immature thinking of a me-centered gospel will be prevalent in our thinking and living. As long as that is our focus, we'll never understand our mission. We'll view it as an obligation we want to avoid, rather than a privilege to be counted worthy to take part. The Word is essential for our effectiveness in this mission.1 (Further articles on this subject: Why We Study the Bible & How To Read the Bible For Yourself)
"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 complete, equipped for every good work." -2 Timothy 3:16-17
We should not approach this Word with any sense of guilt or to be counted as some "elite" Christian in our knowledge. By no means should wrong motivation drive us to study God's Word. We come to it with humility, understanding that He wants to teach us about Himself. He wants us to glorify Him and exalt Jesus Christ for standing in our place as the price for sin. He wants us to learn about ourselves and the world we live in. He wants to provide a guide to lead us to live godly lives, because He wants the best for us.2
That said, everyone has a next step to take. Maybe it's starting to read your Bible on a daily basis. The plans given above are a great place to start. Don't give up if you fall behind! Just pick back up and keep going! That's more important that actually getting a one-year plan in 365 days. (Further help on this subject: 12 Promises for Perseverance in Bible Reading). When you read, always begin in prayer, asking God to bless the time and ask for the Spirit's illumination and understanding. And always conclude your time with a prayer of obedience.
Maybe you do read regularly but need to dive in for yourself and really study Scripture but when it is time to sit down and start digging, it becomes rather intimidating. You don't need Bible dictionaries and concordances to get started. There are some great methods to begin with just using a cross-reference Bible. Two excellent resources on Bible study methods we recommend include:
Secret Church 3: How to Study the Bible (by Dr. David Platt) - 4 part video series, also summarized below
See the Word of God for what it is: God's revelation to us about His salvation for all peoples for His glory. Let's stop picking out the pieces that make us feel good or shine the spotlight on us. Let's stop asking "what does this verse mean to me" and simply ask "what does this verse mean". Ask yourself this: how can we go on filling our lives with the things that won't last and not fit the Bible into our priorities as the one of a few things that will be eternal? What are we doing to ourselves and what are we teaching the next generation when we fill our (or their) schedules with all the rubbish (Philippians 3:7-8), but don't instruct ourselves (or them) in prioritizing reading and living God's Word?
So toward God's Word: be humble, be prayerful, be careful, be confident, be diligent. Be a doer.
A Simple Bible Study Method
1. what do i see?
- Ask who, what, where, when, why… Don’t read into it yet; just observe…
- Break down sentence structure and word choice: what do pronouns mean, what verb tenses are used, what does the use of conjunctions, prepositions, cause and effect, shifts imply…
- Look for emphasis by length, purpose, ordering, exaggeration…
- Look for comparisons through similes, metaphors, allegories…
- Look for communication in emotion, tone, mood; identify the original audience…
2. what does it mean?
- This is NOT “what does it mean to me?” nor is it application.
- There is only one way to interpret the Bible but many applications.
- The text can never mean what it never meant.
- Minimize personal baggage and subjectivity.
- CONTEXT is crucial: historical, cultural, grammatical - use a reference Bible
- Interpret plainly, meaning literally, unless there is a good reason not to.
3. how does it relate?
- Identify at least one timeless truth from the passage.
4. what do i do?
- Perhaps the most important section, for we are called to be doers, not just hearers. This is the difference between true follower of Jesus and those living under deception.
- Who should I be? How should I think?
- Is there a sin to avoid, a promise to claim, a prayer to pray, a command to obey, a condition to meet, or a challenge to face? (Think SPACEPETS.)
- All Scripture is intended to be understood in the context of mission (disciple-making).
- Learn it in order to give it away!
Download a PDF of this method and a brief overview of the Old and New Testaments
Information for this page was written during a personal journey of one of PPBC's family members, Benjamin Peacock. References used for this article include:
1-"Study Guide - How to Study the Bible". Dr. David Platt. www.secretchurch.org
2-"Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples". Francis Chan. David C. Cook publishing.