Bible Study Part 1 (1-9-21)
In this first Going Deeper Bible study of our new year we will be digging into the spiritual discipline of Bible study.
This one is so important that we will also study this discipline next week as well. Each week, we will read about a spiritual discipline or a chapter of Proverbs and then I will send out a Bible study on each Saturday called “Going Deeper.” I pray that this 52-week journey through the holy Scriptures is a helpful way for you to grow in the spiritual disciplines God has ordained for His people to practice and to grow in the wisdom He has given us in the Proverbs. I am praying for you as you prioritize the study of God’s holy word.
Intro to the Spiritual Disciplines:
Before we dig into the discipline of Bible study, here are a few quick comments on all of the spiritual disciplines in general.
The first reality you must come to grip with is: The practice of the spiritual disciplines is a time issue. They are something you do! That means they take time.
One of the biggest errors modern-day Christians make is to think that they will deepen their affections for God and grow in spiritual maturity without spending time practicing the spiritual disciplines.
Think about your normal day. Think about the disciplines you have in a regular day. What are they? You make time to clean yourself—showering, washing your face, brushing your teeth. You make time to equip yourself—clothes, makeup, phone, wallet, lunch, car keys, etc. You make time to feed yourself—coffee, lunch, snack, dinner.
These are all disciplines. They are things you do every day. They are things that take time. They are things you are disciplined to remember to do. Why do you do them? Because you have decided that they are valuable enough to take time to do them, and because you have discovered that when you practice them your life is healthier.
Do you have to brush your teeth? No. Do you have to eat lunch? No. Do you have to put on clothes? Technically, no, but you will be issued an orange jumpsuit if you decide not to practice this daily discipline.
Do you have to practice spiritual disciplines if you are going to deepen your affections for God, have a fruitful life and bright testimony? Yes! The problem is, far too many Christians decide most days not to practice them and they choose to practice something else. To be very clear: do you and I have to work or practice or perfect anything to be saved from God’s wrath and made a new creation in Christ? No!
We have to want to make time to practice the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith. Did you hear me there? You have to make time! I have found that most who struggle making spiritual disciplines a reality in their daily life really do want to do them. Just like when you want to lose 20 pounds, finish your car restoration project, walk two miles every day, or reach out to your distant friends more often.
My point is the spiritual disciplines will always remain a good idea, just out of reach unless you are willing to make time for them. What does that mean? It means you, most likely, will have to give up something else you love.
I pray that you not only learn to know the spiritual disciplines we will cover this year but that you will truly make time to practice them regularly and thereby grow and mature in Christ.
The first discipline we are going to cover today is the discipline of Bible study. Again, this one is so big we will take two weeks to cover it.
Life Doesn’t Happen Without the Word of God
- Physical life begins by the word of God.
… by his Word we were created (Psalm 33:4, Hebrews 11:3)
“He upholds the universe by the Word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3)
- Our spiritual life begins by the word of God.
“By his own will he brought us forth by the Word of truth” (James 1:18)
“You have been born anew . . . through the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Peter 1 :23)
You are born again in Christ. This is not your doing but God’s. He does this by giving you ears to hear the living word of God.
We cannot have faith; we do not have faith without hearing and receiving the Word of God.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ
John 8:31-32 …Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Not only do we begin to live spiritually by God’s word, but …
- We go on living by God’s word.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 and Deut. 8: 3)
Jesus models here that the only way we navigate the lies of the devil is to use scripture!
Do not be fooled to think that you are a Christian who will grow in God if you are not feasting on God’s word! The Word of God is not a book you might do ok without …
If you treat scripture as optional, you abandon the very foundation on which your spiritual life is built.
Turn with me to one of our passages this week in Psalm 1.
Psalms 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The mature man or woman of God longs to get their roots deep into His truth.
Putting it deep into the soil of your heart so that your roots are deep, grounded, and secure in the truth of God so when the wind blows, and the storms rage, you remain!
It is a destructive reality when, instead, we are influenced by the world. Look at Psalm 1 again with me.
Psalms 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
The problem for most of us is that we spend far too much time doing the exact opposite of this teaching. Instead of avoiding the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers, we spend more time with them than in God’s word, mainly, by the media we consume. Just think about the hours of TV, internet, social media, and music you sit with in comparison to God’s holy and living word.
No wonder why so many Christians have been spiritually malnourished and are often distant from God. It’s because, too often we close the door to Him and the word He has for us and we walk, stand, and sit with the voice of the world instead!
I say this not to say that there is no room for TV, social media, games, or music but we need a diet of less of these things and far more of God’s word if we are ever going to truly grow. God did not save us to sit around and wait for Him. He saved us to grow in Him and go out, prepared to fight sin and hell with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
“Holding fast” translated is a word that means to hold your position or to hold your gaze. In 1 Timothy 4:16, it’s translated, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” In Acts 3:5, it’s translated, “He fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.”
So, the idea is holding fast with your attention or with your person, holding your position with the word of life, not leaving the word of life, staying fixed on the word of life, giving yourself to the word of life.
Hold fast to it for the sake of faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Hold fast to it for the sake of your joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Hold fast to it for the sake of your freedom. “If you abide in my word . . . and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
Hold fast to it for the sake of your holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Hold fast to it for the sake of the Holy Spirit. “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5)
Hold fast to it for the sake of life. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
Hold fast to it for the sake of strength and stability and fruitfulness. Your delight will be “… in the law of the Lord, and on his law you will meditate day and night. You will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that you do you will prosper.” (Psalms 1:2–3)
How Do We Hold Fast to God’s Word?
You have to get time in it!
Holding fast is regular time eating at the table of God, listening to Him speak life into you. We make prioritized time to eat food, dress, and prepare ourselves for our day.
The reality is that you will struggle with getting time in God’s word when you don’t find pleasure in it. Our hearts often incline to other things and do not incline to the word, and so it is not a delight. Again, I point you to Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man … [who’s] delight is in the law of the Lord …
One of the testimonies I read in a book years ago that still resonates with me today:
“The testimony is of a man in Kansas City who was severely injured in an explosion. His face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He had just become a Christian when the accident happened, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read Braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in Braille. But he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been too badly damaged to distinguish the characters. One day, as he brought one of the Braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, ‘I can read the Bible using my tongue.’ At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had read through the entire Bible four times. If he can do that, can you discipline yourself to read the Bible?” Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, page 35
I needed this testimony when I was younger as it helped inspire my taste buds for God’s word. I continue to need my brothers and sisters to reorient me to the delight that God’s word is by sharing with me what they are reading, learning, meditating on.
There is an opposite side to this coin. In the same way, it is so good to be reminded of the goodness and delight that God’s word is to us.
Why Is It Important That We Hold Fast to God’s Word?
1. God’s word revives the soul.
The reality is that every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. David says in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” We just studied in Psalm 23:2-3 where David says, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
Our joy is only consistent when the truth of the life-changing, satisfied gospel is fresh in our minds and heart. Without the word reminding us and reorienting us, we wander from the life of the vine and pursue the lies of the temporary, fallen world, the deception of the great deceiver, and the peril of self-vanity.
God’s word is the kindling to keep the fire of our affections for Christ burning white hot. Even on days when every cinder in our heart feels cold, if we crawl to the word of God and cry out for ears to hear, the cold ashes will be lifted, and the tiny spark of life will be fanned.
When our spiritual fire of life in Christ seems cold, and the cinders are cooling to ash in our heart, the kindling of the word of God revives us, deepens the temperature of the coals, and it preserves the joy found in Christ from being extinguished.
If the word of God is that central to our “soul fire” burning bright, practically, we must hold fast to the word of life!
2. God’s word is the source of our sanctification.
So that you can, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2)
God’s word is the source of our sanctification. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
3. God’s word is the light for our path.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
So, when the word of God is in my life, it is now a “living word” that brings me into the bigger story of God. It illuminates my understanding of who God is, and therefore who I am in relationship to Him.
God’s word helps illuminate the depth of my depravity, my wickedness, and my rebellion from God; at the same time it raises within me a deep appreciation for, and great fullness for, His grace, love, and new life that Jesus brings through His life, death, and resurrection.
Here is the key: when this deeper understanding and relationship happens, now I can make a deeper connection by faith and worship into Jesus who is the vine, who is life, and by whom the power for change comes!
Do you see it? When I hold fast to the scriptures, it pulls me into Him. He is now at work in and through me. He is my power; He is my authority; He is my hope; He is my life! I worship Him; I trust in Him; I lean on Him. I enjoy Him!
4. God’s word is the authority of our lives.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
John 14:23-24 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
Our full and right submission to the authority of God’s word is so serious that the scriptures give warning for those who don’t submit themselves to it.
Proverbs 13:13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
It is essential that we study, believe in, abide in, teach accurately, and hold to every word of God.
The problem is that in the flesh our tendency is to submit to the rationale of our human mind instead of the authority of the almighty, eternal God’s holy word. As a result, we form views of who God is and how He acts or doesn’t act based more on our personal feelings or logic instead of the divine and perfectly written words He gave us in scripture. This is so dangerous and detrimental.
Instead, we need to take very seriously the words of God, submit to God’s authority and conform to His image, and not try to make Him conform to our ideas or will.
Do you want God’s word to change you, to conform you into His likeness? I am asking you to take this verse seriously:
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
There is a way to look to the Bible just to itch your ears in order to make you feel good about yourself and what you know and where you want to go, or you can submit yourself to it!
We are at war with our sin, selfishness, and self-reign. We must realize that we are desperate for the authority of God’s word to correct our futile view of God, self, this world, and everything in it. We are desperate for His word to lead us with authority.
The question is: Do you submit yourself to it fully or with reservation?
Next week we will continue to look at Bible study and get even more practical about how to do it. But, this week, consider your practices and disciplines. What will it look like to change your priorities and make holding fast to God’s word something you cannot do without?
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine