I have been a bookworm for almost as long as I can remember. Rarely have I met a good book that I didn’t want to read. I’ve enjoyed everything from pondering the writings of great theologians and thinkers to perusing something as mundane as the sports page. As time has crept by, however, I find that I enjoy nothing more than reading and meditating on God’s written word, the Bible.
Why? I could write a separate, full-length article to answer that question. But here are just a few personal reasons. One, I want to know God’s heart more and more, not just because my own heart is so sinful but, even more importantly, simply because He is who He is. He is my creator and the lover of my soul. Second, the Lord has used His written word to guide me in personal decisions both great and small. Hearing His thoughts on things is therefore important to me. Finally, no other book has encouraged me, comforted me and convinced me of my heart’s true condition the way the Bible has.
As a child, I used to sing a song that went, “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” In short, I have been captivated by God’s love for me, despite whom I am apart from His grace – the Bible has been the means by which I have learned of His love. How has the Lord used His word in your own life? How might He want to use it still more?
What is the Bible? The Bible comprises 66 individual books. Thirty-nine of these books, known as the Old Testament, were written prior to Christ’s lifetime. The remaining 27 books were written from the vantage point of, and in response to, the coming of Christ. These latter books are referred to collectively as the New Testament.
How does God use the Bible to speak to us? Hebrews 4:12 says, “ the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (NIV). God’s Spirit takes the written and unchanging truths found in Scripture and impresses them upon our hearts and minds, as we seek to hear from Him. But this leads to the question of how we read for the purpose of hearing from the Lord.
How do we read the Bible? There are two fundamental approaches to reading the Bible that you must be aware of. The first approach is to read the Bible in order to understand it. The second approach is to read it in order to apply it. Naturally, the second approach is dependent on the first.
Now, neither of these two points is too profound in and of itself, but both are profoundly important, if we are to learn who God is and what His will is for us. Here’s an example of how to understand and apply Scripture.
For this example, read through Ephesians 1, paying special attention to verses 15-23. What is Paul writing here? Without too much effort, you probably came to the same conclusion I did: Paul is writing of how he has prayed for the Ephesian believers. Next, dig a little deeper and ask how, exactly, Paul has been praying for them. Again, you will likely agree with me that Paul prayed for such things as that God would “give [them] the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (verse 17) as well as that “the eyes of [your] heart[s] may be enlightened” (verse 18). There’s more here, but I think you get the idea. This is reading the Bible to understand its message. Now, let’s seek to apply it. This is where Bible study gets personal.
What does this passage tell you about Paul’s heart for the Ephesian believers? Among other things, I sense Paul’s compassion and the importance of lifting up the needs of others in prayer to God. What does this passage tell us about God? For one, He desires that we gain a sense of wisdom with regard to spiritual matters (see verse 17). There’s much more to this passage than we have room to discuss, but you likely see where I’m going with it. Congratulations! You have just done your own personal Bible study! You have made the effort to understand it and apply it.
How can we use the Bible to discern the Lord’s voice? There are endless ways to use His written word to minister to your needs. First, He wants you to realize that you are not alone. Just about everyone experiences feelings of loneliness at one time or another. If you are feeling lonely, the book of Psalms is a great place to “camp out” in. In the Psalms, we discover that David experienced lonely times of his own, but that his God was with him through those times. Second, know that God is concerned with your eternal destiny. If you have come to the stark realization that you are in need of God’s forgiveness for your sin, realize that Jesus’ death on the cross was the means by which God the Father ordained that our sins against Him be forgiven. Third, God desires to use His word to lead and guide you through life’s maze of choices. I have found the book of Proverbs to be one of the best sources ever for learning to make sound choices in life.
I hope you have come away with a deep appreciation of this most precious treasure that God has given us in His written word. I love His word and His heart reflected in it. I love Jesus even more!
As you read God’s word this month, ask yourself how you might consistently apply it to your own life.
Allen can be reached at [email protected]