When I was asked to be the Interim Student Pastor at Woodmont in 2015, all I had was a New American Standard Study Bible and a set of Warren Wiersbe commentaries that Chad bought me before he left. I had no clue how to prepare a sermon, speak, or really study the Bible effectively. Not the most ideal start, but I knew I could depend on God to teach me. I sat in my office with my Bible open and in prayer for God to help me understand Scripture and be able to teach correctly. Nearly seven years later, I look back on that time as a gift from God. I learned to depend on God through prayer and the study of His Word. He had already gifted me to preach (I had no clue), but He used that time to teach me to depend on Him more than any available resources.
A few months ago, I was asked to come and lead a breakout session for the BCM students on “How to Study the Bible Effectively.” I thought back to those first days in my office, and I was overcome with emotions because of how good God has been to me. He called me into Ministry without any degree, any special skills, or any experience, and He taught me how to spend time with Him, study His Word, and understand it. I just wanted to share the steps I shared with those college students on “How to Study the Bible Effectively.”
First, I asked them the question, Why do we need to study the Bible? In Deuteronomy 6, God commands it and tells us that we need His instruction. “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”
Psalm 19:7-11 Lists seven benefits of studying Scripture:
1. Renews one's life. 2. Makes the inexperienced wise. 3. Makes the heart glad.
4. Gives light to the eyes. 5. Warns us. 6. Causes us to fear the Lord. 7. Rewards us.
Secondly, I asked the question, What are we trying to accomplish?
- To Know Him: The more you read Scripture, the better you know God’s character, and the more you know Him, the more you love Him.
- To Be Obedient: As Christians, we trust what God commands us to do, and we want to be obedient because we love Him. 1 John 2:3 “This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands.” This means if you have been saved, God changes your heart, and you begin to love the commands of God and want to obey them.
- Grow in Maturity: Christians want to know how to live the Christian life, and we are always seeking to glorify God. He tells us how we are supposed to live in His Word. We need the Word to live.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Bible study is the metal that makes a Christian. This is the strong meat on which holy men are nourished.”
So, How do we do it more effectively? (This is not groundbreaking, just a few things I have learned to do over the years)
- Pray- Before I read a Word, I spend time in prayer. I pray God gives me wisdom and helps me understand His Word, guards my heart against misinterpretation, and removes all the distractions that will flood my mind as I begin to study. Pray that God transforms your heart through the reading of His Word.
- Set a specific time- It takes 7-14 days to establish a habit. By setting a time that you will study your Bible every day, you make sure that it is a priority. Everything else is on our schedules; we should schedule our daily quiet times if it is important. I would tell everyone to wake up a little earlier and start their day off with prayer and studying Scripture.
- Read and then reread it- What is the big idea here? What is the main principle of the passage?
- Ask questions- #3 and #4 go together. As you reread the text repeatedly, you want to ask questions. Who was the original author writing to? What was he saying to them? What is the passage teaching? Are there sins I need to avoid? Command? What do I need to do? **Don’t just ask the questions, actually look and find the answers to your questions. Study Bibles are a great help as they provide notes. If you have access to good commentaries, they help a ton. “Ask Pastor John” on YouTube is good to help you understand the meaning of difficult passages also.
- Finish one book of the Bible before starting the next- It helps you fully understand what is going on, and you are less likely to take verses out of context. You read it in the context in which it was written.
Our study of Scripture should not just fill us with knowledge but should change us and cause us to live out our faith. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only.”
Charles Spurgeon said of John Bunyan, “If you cut Him, he’d bleed Scripture.” Has the Scripture saturated your life that much?