Mind if I ask you some questions?
When you open your Bible to read, do you often feel confused? Do you struggle with knowing how to understand it’s words and how to apply it to your life? Do you want to be a better doer of the word of God? Do you want to know how to approach the Bible in right and worshipful way?
It’s come to my attention that some people aren’t equipped with the proper knowledge when it comes to observing, interpreting and applying the Bible to their lives. I mean… I’ve grown up my whole life with the Bible — memorizing verses, reading it at church and at home. Yet, it wasn’t until a few years ago and my intensive Bible classes that I now have a solid method for understanding the Bible!
Maybe you’re new to this whole reading the Bible thing. Maybe you’ve been reading the Bible for awhile now, but you’re not sure how to really get into it and dig deeper.
Friends — I’ve come to offer you some encouragement. The Word of God is not a collection of words that can never be understood. It’s not a story that only professors, pastors and scholars can understand. You and I can understand it too!
If you’re willing to take some time out of your day, I hope that the Holy Spirit will use these words to inspire your journey to knowing the Bible more. As you work through this method, I hope you will feel confident, excited and hopeful in your reading. I hope you become a Bible-studying boss after this 😉
STEP #1: Observe
First things first. Observe. Granted, this may seem like a really boring term to you, but hang in there…
What I mean by observing is this: “What do you see?” When you come to the Bible or a specific passage of Scripture, take a look at it: a really good look at it. Look with the eyes in your head and the eyes of your heart.
In observation, the first thing I like to look for is key terms and people. I grab my Bible, journal and pen. I begin to read and find all the important terms in a verse (i.e., John 3:16 terms: “loved, believes, eternal, God, Son”) and write them down. Anything that sticks out to you as a technical word, new word or a complicated word: write it down! Then, I use my computer and/or a study Bible and look up the meaning of these words if I’m not sure.
Observing first lays the groundwork for this quest. It opens your eyes to all the small details, so that later, you can put them all together and make sense of it. Know what makes up the bigger picture. This part is essential!
STEP #2: Interpret
What does “interpreting” a passage of the Bible entail? It comes down to two words: understanding and explaining. Every book, paragraph, phrase and word has meaning in the Bible. There is purpose in every single word! God didn’t just inspire these words to confuse you… He aims for you to understand it.
This may seem kinda sticky, but interpreting is basically re-creating the scene that was set when it was written long ago.
Here are a few things you need to look out for when you’re trying to understand a text.
Be aware of the context. Read each book in the culture, time, setting and place it was written in. Use a study Bible and find out the history of the book. Find out how the time period influenced the writing.
Be careful of misinterpreting. What I mean by that is, be careful not to make the Bible say something that it doesn’t. Train yourself to be a careful and effective reader. Read slowly, accurately and with precision. Seem like a lot of work? Yeah, it is. But I promise that it’s the most worthwhile work you will ever do!
Here’s my last tip in interpretation. Know the genre of the book you’re reading in. For instance, Matthew is considered a “gospel narrative”. It’s a story of the events in Jesus’ life. Look up different types of Biblical genres. Why is knowing genres so important? It’s important because genres help us know how to interpret the Bible. You read each genre differently. If I thought Matthew was a poem, I wouldn’t be reading it the same way, and I’d be misinterpreting it, yeah?
STEP #3: Apply
I’m going to begin my explanation of the last step with a story I heard awhile ago.
A man once told me, “Professor, I’ve been through the Bible twelve times!” The Professor thought to himself, “That’s wonderful, I guess. But how many times has the Bible been through him?”
Although I’ve come up with a great method for Bible study, this task is often daunting and frustrating to me. It’s easy to get confused and upset by it’s details and want to throw in the towel. It’s easy to get excited about the information you read and forget to actually do something with it in your life.
That’s what application is all about. Before we do anything, we have to get into the Word for ourselves. Then we must allow the Word to get into us, to make a real change in our lives.
Do you believe that the Bible has the power to transform? That’s what application is, in a nutshell. Application is the process of taking the words of God and letting them transform you with time.
Here are a few steps that are very simple to do if you want God to use the Bible to transform you.
First, you must come. Come to the Bible in prayer and surrender. Observe and then interpret. It’s impossible to apply the Word without first doing those steps.
Second, you must be convicted. Once we read the Bible, we should be convicted by it. There should be a stirring in us from the Holy Spirit. The Bible has amazing power to show us what’s ultimately wrong in our lives and point us to Jesus — who is all that is right in our lives. Guys… we’re not perfect, sadly. There’s always something wrong, but God always offers the answers.
Third, you should be convinced. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that the Bible is used to “train in righteousness”. The Bible points us in the way we should go and we should be convinced that it is the only way. I often have to lay down my own agenda and desires to surrender to Jesus when coming to the Bible. I’m guilty of trying to fulfill my own agenda, when God just wants me to trust Him and His Word to do the work.
Lastly, the goal is to be changed. God is in the business of transforming lives! So is His Word. Conversion is when we begin to live differently because of what we have read and put into practice. When you believe in Jesus, you’re transformed but true conversion is an ongoing process. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t felt a huge “change” in your life. It is an on-going process. Ultimately, a real heart change in response to the Word should overflow from a love for God. Then amazing things start to happen: Behaviors are changed because of a changed heart.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Lord has really been putting this topic on my heart. He has been nudging at the corners of my soul to write about this. Honestly, I could go on and on and on about the “nitty-gritties” of studying the Bible… but these are just three important steps to get you started or re-inspired!
May you run to the Lord everyday, seeking His presence and resting in His Word. I pray your journey in studying the Bible is sweet! Stay strong and keep on — it’s worth it, you guys! 💗