A Good News Bible and tiny notepad graced my nightstand through my teen years and college. After climbing into bed at night, I’d read a passage and jot the questions my reading inevitably raised. Questions I thought could only be answered in heaven. I was wrong.
During my senior year in college, a Christian retreat peaked my hunger for God. I joined a Bible study led by one of my girlfriends. The Bible came alive and began to make sense. Instead of coming away with only questions, I began to receive answers and hope.
Three changes transformed my Bible reading.
A Shift in Trust
The years I’d read the Bible and not understood it I’d approached the Bible as if I were the authority. The Bible had to pass through the filter of my understanding. What I agreed with, I kept. What didn’t make sense, I dismissed as antiquated and irrelevant.
I basically treated the Bible as if I knew better than it. No wonder it didn’t make sense! Since God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, this is never a good way to approach the Bible or anything else.I basically treated the Bible as if I knew better than it. No wonder it didn’t make sense! Since God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, this is never a good way to approach the Bible or anything else. #Bible #Wisdom Click To Tweet
The gals in this study approached the Bible as if it was what it claimed to be—God’s timeless word. They filtered their opinions through the filter of God’s revealed wisdom. When I approached the Bible with childlike wonder, the Bible made sense. It became exciting and relevant.
A Shift in Power
Another important change I learned was to lean on the Holy Spirit instead of my intellect to understand scripture.
And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. … But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. (1 Cor. 2:12, 14 NLT).
Just as Jesus had to open the minds of His disciples on the road to Emmaus for them to understand the scriptures, I need Him to open my mind. I ask Him to grant me understanding and read the Bible trusting Him to enlighten me.
At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way” (Luke 10:21 NLT).
A Shift in Structure
Out of college I joined the staff of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). My director taught our team a simple way to study the scripture. (Click this link to download a free pdf from my resource page on “How to Get More from Your Bible.”)
He suggested we dedicate a notebook for our Bible study. He then explained a simple method he used to process his Bible reading by asking three questions.
“What does it say?” (Factual)
This step taught me to notice the context of a passage. Who’s the author, the audience, the circumstances? If we aren’t clear on this, we can draw wrong interpretations and applications.
For example, are believers or unbelievers being addressed? Israel or the church? When Paul addressed slaves and masters, some applications can apply to the employer/employee relationship. But those relationships are not equal.
“What does it mean?” (Spiritual)
Look for timeless lessons that apply to any culture and era. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul wrote Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (NIV).
The imprisoned apostle literally needs his cloak and parchments. A spiritual lesson might be spiritual leaders have practical needs. Another lesson might be it’s appropriate to ask for help from those who can aid us with our practical needs. A third lesson might be, we should be available to assist a saint in need.
“How does this apply to me, my situation, or culture?” (Practical)
Now we get practical. What changes does this passage prompt you to make in your outlook, attitude, or actions?
From the example above you might write, what Christian leader or fellow believer has a practical need I can meet? Or who can I ask to help me with my need? Or I want to bring Aunt Judy a meal.
You can illustrate what you received from you study. This is optional. I’ve found doing this helps me remember my study better.
After I began reading my Bible this way I stumbled across my little notepad of questions, the ones I thought too deep to be answered. I chuckled. They weren’t deep at all. And I rejoiced. No longer was the Bible a confusing book of riddles. It had become my lifeline. I hope this is true for you. If not, review the changes I made to see which ones might help you.
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