I did what I said I was going to do the other day. I started my Bible study yesterday morning… except I never read the Bible at all.
Last year, I scored a discounted copy of the ESV Study Bible. The Bible I used for 9 years before that was the NASB Life Application Bible, but I like the study bible for the maps and other information that comes along with it. I think that the Life Application Bible is great for new believers, but I was looking for something with more substance with this study.
There are a lot of great tools at the beginning of this Bible’s New Testament: a timeline of history between the Old and New Testaments, a timeline of the Roman Empire leading up to the New Testament, a discussion of Jewish sects that were active at the time, a theological discussion and overall timeline of the New Testament, and an introduction to the book of Matthew and the Gospels.
So, I got into the introduction and saw several $10 words that theologians like to throw around like “synoptic” and “eschatology” and “consummation”, and I did what I normally do: I skipped over them. But then, I got to the end of the section and realized that I was studying the Bible the way I’ve always studied it: I stuffed as much as I could into my head into the shortest amount of time.
But then, I got a nagging feeling… why bother going to all this if I’m studying the Bible the same way as always? Why expect different results?
The whole purpose of this new study is to take my time and appreciate the Word of God. Bible study is usually a sprint for me: here’s a reading plan, here are your chapters, read this today and repeat tomorrow.
I had to stop and realize that I’m studying one book of the Bible this year. If it doesn’t take the whole year, that’s fine, but it’s not going to take a week either.
So I did something I’ve never done before: I stopped… and I looked the $10 words up in the dictionary. What a concept!
And now, I know what “eschatology” means… I hear that word all the time and I nod like I know what people are talking about. In reality, I’ve already clocked out in my head. But John 6:60 has become a central verse for me in starting this journey. “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’”
The Word of God is not useful unless it injures me. As a Christian, I need to be confronted with hard teaching so my walk with Christ continues to challenge me. When I got set in my ways and did things the same way (even yesterday, trying to go back to that old pattern of “Beat the Clock” study), I became complacent and even disobedient.
If I skip through the Bible without stopping to take in the “easy” teachings, what am I going to do when I get to the hard teachings?
Thankfully, the Spirit stopped me, reminded me of my purpose, and now I know that “synoptic” means that the Gospels share many of the same stories and “eschatology” means the study of the end-times and “consummation” means completion. But really, at the end of the day, this doesn’t teach me anything new from God’s Word.
However, it has taught me a new way to treat God’s Word.
How do you study the Bible? I could use all the tips I could get!