I once met a Christian man who told me he had already read the Bible once; he didn’t need to read it again. His statement revealed his misunderstanding of the nature of Scripture, which is “living and active,” “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:16).
Did you know studies show that most Christians don’t read the Bible every day? A LifeWay survey in 2012 reported that less than 20% of professing Christians read the Bible daily.
Of those who do ready daily, I wonder how many actually study the Word of God. For a long time, I didn’t. I read a devotion every day, a passage in the Old Testament, a Psalm, and a passage in the New Testament, but I wasn’t engaging the Word through study.
I can’t begin to tell you how Bible study has changed my life.
If you are in a Sunday school class, small group, or life group in your church, then you probably are involved in some type of Bible study. But from my experience, few people in those groups are actually studying the lessons and engaging with the material.
I’m sure many reasons exist for the lack of participation: time constraints, boredom with the material, or not knowing how to understand and interpret the Scriptures.
I want to share with you today why I believe Bible study is so important to us as believers.
First, we can know a lot of Scripture in our heads but not in our hearts.
Take some of the Pharisees, for instance. They really knew the Law, but it never penetrated their hearts. The majority of them didn’t engage with the Word, think about why God gave them those Laws, or seek to understand the heart of God. Jesus had some harsh words for them as he quoted the prophet Isaiah:
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”Matthew 15:8, NIV
We can get just like that in the church. We know the Words. We’ve heard them a thousand times. But have they penetrated our hearts to become a part of us? Do we seek to understand the heart of God in His Word?
That is what Bible study helps us to do. Studying the Word and seeking to understand and apply it to our lives moves the Bible from our heads into our hearts. And that’s where the Word begins to change us.
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”Psalm 119:11
Second, we can listen to the Word in a sermon or even read it in a devotion, but never do what it says.
How many times have we read or heard a message from the Bible that convicted us, but we got over it? You know what I mean? If we don’t take time to think about what we have heard and respond to it, we can push those thoughts aside and move on. I’ve done it.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”James 1:22
Do you know why merely listening is deception? Because we can convince ourselves that we don’t have to obey or God wasn’t really speaking to us. The message was intended for someone else. But God will still hold us accountable for that Word.
“Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.”Galatians 6:7-8
What I love about Bible study is that we become truly engaged in the Word. If we are spending time every day studying God’s Word, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us, and thinking about how that Word applies to our lives, we are much less likely to ignore it when the Word convicts us. Our hearts will become like God’s heart. We’ll start to love what He loves and hate what He hates.
I’m not saying that we can’t love or obey God if we aren’t studying the Bible. But I am saying that the more we study God’s Word and truly seek to understand it, the closer we will be to God.
To know Him is to love Him. We will be more responsive when we read a devotion or listen to a sermon. We will want more of God as He begins to show us more and take us deeper with Him.
Third, we can fall prey to the “Granny Gospel” because we don’t know truth for ourselves.
What is the Granny Gospel? That’s the name my friend Michelle uses for those things we always heard were in the Bible, but they really aren’t. You know, like “God won’t put on you more than you can handle.” Or, “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy.”
The Bible is full of warnings about false teaching. It’s really easy to be deceived when we don’t know truth. If we are listening to a sermon or reading something in an article or a book, how do we discern if it lines up with the Word or not?
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”Colossians 2:8
We need to know how to study the Bible for ourselves. Studying the Bible to discover it’s truths will guard our hearts and minds from deception.
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”Acts 17:11
So what is it about Bible study that’s so great?
When we study the Bible, we look at the background, the context in which a passage is written, who penned the words, who his audience was. All of these things help us better understand cultural and social applications.
Bible study helps us learn to interpret different genres of writing appropriately. We don’t interpret history the same as poetry or parables the same as prophecy.
We can cross reference other passages that shed light on what we are reading. If we are studying a topic, such as forgiveness, we can use a concordance to find other passages on the same topic. With today’s Bible study tools, we can easily do word studies with a Hebrew-Greek dictionary to further enlighten some passages.
My favorite thing about studying the Word, though, is asking God to show me what it means for me. Notice I didn’t say what it means to me. God’s Word can’t mean one thing to me and something else to you. If that were the case, there would be no objective truth.
We search the Scriptures to understand what truth is, and then we ask how that truth can be applied to our lives. It may teach us something about the character of God or the character of people. It may be a promise to cling to or a correction to respond to.
As we study the Word of God, we grow in our relationship with Him because we learn more of His truth and our responsibility in light of it. And that is a beautiful and exciting thing!
So, how about you? Are you a casual reader or a serious student of God’s Word? If you want to grow in your understanding of the Word of God, come join us in the Facebook group, Growing Your Faith.
And, (spoiler) I have a study series coming soon that will give you a broad overview of the Bible and all its parts, how to study it, and how to interpret its different genres. Stay tuned!