Would you like your Bible study to be more meaningful — even one of the most thrilling aspects of your life? It can be! This article will show you how.
When you hear the terms Bible study or studying the Bible, what comes to your mind? Is it a picture of a bespectacled scholar poring over thick, dusty, esoteric books, taking copious notes and trying to search out some dubiously significant theological discovery? Perhaps this is what the term Bible study means to most people. But, this definition is not entirely accurate. Make no mistake, detailed research and proper academic study of God's Word is important, and it's not quite like the stereotype described above. But there is a deeper, more advanced form of studying the Bible every true Christian needs to apply.
The practical approach
I Thessalonians 5:21: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The word prove actually means to test by doing. It means to tryout, put to use or experience firsthand. You test-drive a new car before you buy it — you prove the auto to see whether you want to own it. Remember the biblical example of the man who had just bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to prove them first before following Christ (Luke 14:19)? What he meant was that he wanted to test them to see if they were strong and healthy and capable of doing hard work. That is the approach we should take toward the Bible. Paul instructed us to prove or test the worth and value of God's Word by putting it to use in our lives. When Jesus Christ said man must live by every word of God (Matt. 4:4), He had this concept in mind. God intends that we do more than just read the pages of the Bible. This is what God's teaching should do: "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (I Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is to effectually work in us! That is, it is to lodge deeply within our minds, stir us to action, move us to do good works and inspire us to develop the nature of God: The real key to understanding the Bible is simply this: once you have read and studied God's Word, you must act on it. You must test it by doing and put it into practice in your life. You are to live the Bible's teachings with all your being. You can then produce and radiate the glorious fruits of God's holy character. This is the ultimate in Bible study. As you apply and inculcate the Bible's teachings, you will actually experience its miraculous power and inspiration. The written Word of God will begin to live in you and through you, transforming your life into the likeness of God Himself. The Bible will have deeper meaning than it ever had before. Jesus said the application of His words would have this impact in our lives, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). His Word is like food, to be eaten and converted into spiritual character (John 6:48-51).
Living the Word remakes you
When we study the Bible in an attitude of worshiping God and then meditate on and apply its principles, we become more like God. His Spirit — His life — works in us. "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). The apostle Paul spoke of putting on "the new man, which is renewed in knowledge [of God, the Bible and the Christian way of life] after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10). When we actively incorporate the Bible into our lives, we are incorporating the mind and nature of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God personified (John 1:1). He lived God's commandments, inspired them to be written for our good and has told us as Christians to abide in them. By living God's Word and allowing it to transform our lives, we actually live as Jesus would. We put on Christ and become like Him in thought and action. This process in reality remakes us! Paul said elsewhere that we are "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Cor. 3:18). There is simply no substitute for the experience of Christian living. "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use [a living application of God's Word] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). David, a man after God's own heart, knew the secret of understanding God's Word: "A good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Ps. 111:10). Notice that understanding follows the doing. When you practice the Word of God, you will begin to understand it. The Bible will come alive and make sense, because • you will have proved to yourself that it works. I know a man who likes to tinker around and do minor repair work on his car. He's got a manual that explains the basics. It's a good book and shows just how to make certain repairs. He's learned a lot from it, but until he put it to use, he only had a superficial understanding of its theory and instructions. This need for actual experience is true in most vocations. God's instruction Book to man, the Bible, is much the same way. We can read it, research it, analyze it and even memorize key verses, but until we truly begin to apply it, we will never completely grasp or understand the Bible's real value and meaning. Herbert W. Armstrong has said many times that unless knowledge is used and acted upon, it is of no practical value.
How to live the Word of God
Living the Word of God and seeing its wonderful truths unfold, is one of the most exciting experiences available to us as human beings. Through His Word, God has revealed every facet of the powerful, invisible, spiritual laws He has set in motion to govern every facet of our lives: love, interpersonal relationships, health, finance, success. Living God's Word brings deep, rich rewards, both physically and spiritually. Take the law of tithing as an example. A person would have trouble understanding how tithing works if he didn't put it to the test in his life. But true Christians know from experience that it works. We tithe and God blesses us. As we obey God and trust Him in faith, He opens up doors of opportunity and pours out His blessings. The Bible works because God stands behind it and makes it work. How could one ever know the truth of the promise of Proverbs 3:6 unless. he took God at His Word and tried it out: "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths "? The proof of understanding comes from doing. Christians do God's will and they understand. God always follows through with His promises when we respond to His instructions. Jesus' instruction in Matthew 4:4 bears repeating, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Note how all-encompassing this verse is. We are to live by every word of God — not just by a few favorite inspirational passages. If we are to grow into the fullness of Christ, we must never pick and choose like those people Mr. Armstrong has termed a-la-carte Christians. We're to heed and obey every word that God has spoken. By using this approach in daily Bible study, you will become more well-rounded and balanced. By absorbing the Bible's message into the whole of your being, you will start to become perfect as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48). The apostle Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect [complete] thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17). It is by living the whole of Scripture that we come to know God and grow in His fullness. The Bible isn't a book to be left on a shelf — it's to be internalized and made a part of your life. Your outward conduct should be a constant reflection of God's Word working in you.
Bring the Bible alive
How do you apply the Bible? The following outline lists steps that can help you bring what you learn in Bible study into living reality. It's a step-by-step plan that's easy to follow and it works! I call it the Three-A-Three-R-Formula because the first three steps begin with the letter A and the last three steps begin with the letter R. 1. Attention: Give conscientious thought and attention to what you're reading as you dig into God's Word. Think and concentrate. Go beyond the surface — go beyond mere words. Realize that God is speaking to you personally, and that He expects you to give your utmost respect and honor to what He is saying. 2. Association: Associate every word and every thought you read to your personal life. Think of all the ways you can apply God's instructions to every facet of your existence, to your, family, your business, your social life and the entirety of your environment. 3. Application: It is not enough just to associate the teachings of God's Word. You've got to live them — to apply them — and experience the abundant success they were designed to produce. God's Word is living. It will bring great spiritual and physical rewards to you, as you practice it. 4. Repetition: A one-time, effort is not enough. You must keep applying God's Word over and over until it becomes your nature. Live again and again whatever precept or principle you're trying to inculcate, until it becomes an unconscious habit. 5. Reflection: Being human, you need to constantly consider the progress you're making. You need to go over the scriptures you have studied and ask: "Am I measuring up? Am I forgetting anything? Did I overlook something? Am I really applying the Word of God everywhere in my life as I should?" This exercise should take place at least once a day — if not several times — to ensure that you do not forget the things that you learned. 6. Review: Whereas reflection has to do with specific daily applications of God's Word, review deals with your general, overall progress. Often you need to take a bigger view of what you are hoping to accomplish and whether you are growing. Looking back over the material you have covered as a weekly review can be extremely valuable to your growth. In other words, are you staying on track? Is everything coming together in focus? Are the pieces falling in place? Are you starting to assemble the superstructure of character? The time to start this practical approach to Bible study is now. The apostle James exhorted us to be "doers of the Word, and not hearers only" (Jas. 1:22). David said he made haste and delayed not to keep God's commandments (Ps. 119:60) Searching out truths in commentaries and Bible helps can be helpful — these tools can round out your knowledge. But the most important way to learn about the Bible is to live what you find there, and your true depth of understanding will increase. Remember: " Study [be diligent — actively live God's Word] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15).