The Importance of Bible Study
When my children were younger a neighbor of ours invited my children to a birthday party at Adventure Park in New Market, Maryland. We rode go-carts, ate birthday cupcakes, and sang happy birthday. As part of the birthday the parents of the birthday child gave us a swipe card to go and play video games.
Kimberly went with Joshua and Hannah-Grace, and Isaac, and I went with Caleb. Caleb loves video games but his attention span then won’t let him play for more than minute per game. So we would swipe his card, he would play for about a minute, and just take off. So on one of the games he did this with was dance revolution.
Well after swiping the games and then running, I started playing the games instead. On dance revolution you chose the style of music and the skill level. Arrows float up the screen and are colored coded so you know where to put your feet. So I started out on level one (which looks like this), then I went to level two (which looks like this), and then level three – now with level three, you have to throw in one of these.
Our spiritual habits will help you grow closer in your walk with the LORD. Did you know that who we are and who we will become are based on habits and commitments that we have made or will make?
There are many Christians who desire to grow spiritually but they just simply do not know how, or where to begin. They may even find themselves in a cycle of sin and asking for forgiveness only to return to same sin over and over – How do we break this cycle?
Bible Study God is like Dance Revolution, you start slow, and learn the moves, then you can go faster and faster – but many want to start on level 10, and they get lost (like studying Revelation or Leviticus, when they may need to start with the gospel of John).
You begin your time with Jesus by having good habits that will change who you are over time. With any relationship, time spent together is very important. Back in July of 1997 I married a beautiful young woman named Kimberly Sue Roberts, but what if I told you the only time we ever talked or saw each other was Easter and Christmas, maybe Mother’s Day – how would describe our marriage?
If it has been that long since you have spent time in God’s Word, then your relationship with him is just as bad. And Communication, openly talking with others is just as important as being there. God desires to talk to us, spend time with us. Some of you may say “I have a habit already – I’m here at church, just about every week.” That’s great! And it’s part of the steps we encourage with our 4 G’s (Gather– worship service attendance, Grow – be in a small group in community, Give – financially and in service, and Go – take the gospel outside the walls of the church and engage the community), but to grow with the Lord we also need these habits we will look at over the next few weeks.
You may ask, “Why should I want to study my Bible?” Because we become like the people that we hang out with. We begin to take on some characteristic of the people that we surround ourselves with.
We are also having this Simplify series because we want you to learn some skills so that you can do these things on your own. So let’s say today we are having a fellowship meal after church, and I was in charge of the food – but the only time you ate again was next Sunday when I made mac-n-cheese again? Would you be healthy? Spiritual growth is not about coming and being fed, it’s learning to feed yourself, on your own. You learning to cook something other than mac-n-cheese, everyday.
Let’s Pray – Jesus we thank you that you are willing to wait for us. You are the Creator and sustainer of all of creation, and you want to spend time with us. That was why you died on the cross, not so that we can do stuff for you – but so that we can talk and grow in our relationship. Show us this morning how we can deepen this relationship and grow to become more like you. Amen.
Why Should I Spend Time In His Word?
So That We May Grow Up
1 Peter 2:2-5 “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
You do not have to have a newborn home for very long before you realize what this word crave means. They will scream, wiggle, flail, they will do all that they can to get milk. Every three to four hours a timer goes off inside the child and you had best not ignore it. Does a timer go off in your heart?
This verse says that we should crave God’s Word – but to be honest it is an acquired taste. 3 types of Quiet Times– There’s the caster oil quiet time – yuck, but good for what ails you. Then there’s the shredded wheat quiet time – nourishing but dry. Then there’s the strawberries and cream quiet time – delicious can’t get enough, time flies, etc… How do you go from caster oil to strawberries-n-cream? You spend time with God everyday.
Psalm 19:9-10 “the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”
Notice in the 1 Peter passage it says “so that by it you may grow” not “so that you may know.” We spend time with God and study His word so that we may change. Spending time with God is not about knowing more about Him, that’s great, but it’s knowing and changing. Taking what we know and applying it to our lives.
We have the Bible not to satisfy our curiosity, but to help us conform to the image of Christ. Not to give us loopholes to sin, but to make us like our Savior. It’s not about facts, but transformation.
The Prince of Granada, the heir to the Spanish crown was sentenced to life in solitary confinement in Madrid’s ancient prison called the Place of the Skull. The fearful, dirty, and dreary nature of the place earned it the name. Everyone knew that once you were in, you would never come out alive. The Prince was given one book to read the entire time – the Bible. With only one book to read, he read it over hundreds and hundreds of times. This book became his constant companion. After 33 years of imprisonment, he died. When they came in to clean out his cell, they found some notes he had written using nails to mark the soft stone in the prison walls.
The notations were as follows. Psalm 118:8 is the middle verse of the Bible. Ezra 7:21 contains all the letters of the alphabet except the letter “J.” The ninth verse in the eighth chapter of Esther is the longest verse in the Bible. No name or word of more than six syllables can be found in the entire Bible. For all we know about this prince, he never made any commitment to Christ or had any religious experience, but he became an expert in Bible trivia. Reading the Bible is not enough, learning is not enough, spiritual growth is about a change in our lives.
The analogy between a human baby and a spiritual baby breaks down when we realize how each baby matures. A human baby is fed by his parents and growth is natural. But a baby Christian will only grow as much as he or she purposefully reads and obeys and applies the Word to his life. Growth is up to him.
So That We May Mature
Hebrews 5:11-14 “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
The key word in this passage is “time,” by this time – Spiritual growth takes time. You cannot implement the various spiritual disciplines that we are going to talk about and one week later become a mature Christian.
This passage shows that time does not make you a mature Christian. Unlike natural growth, spiritual growth requires a concerted and constant effort. There are many people who wrongly assume that just because they have been Christians for many years automatically makes them a mature Christian. I have seen youth outgrow their parent’s spiritually because of the effort they put into it.
When we do not have a steady intake of God’s Word we find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over. Paul says that someone has to teach them “the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.”
Who is mature? Those who “by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” If we are immature in our faith, then someone else has to show us the ABC’s of Christianity – over and over and over…..
Have you guys ever been to a restaurant that has a buffet? The kind where someone stands behind the counter and dips the food out for you and hands it to you on plate or bowl? Well Kimberly and I went to this one restaurant and I asked for some chicken, some fried okra, some corn bread muffins, some peach cobbler – then we got to the end of the line and there was this vat of disgusting looking ooze. I asked “what is that?” and the lady responded this is food that has already been chewed up and spit back into this container – in case you don’t want to chew it yourself.
The mature Christian is the person who says, I want to chew on God’s Word myself – they are willing to spend time with God past the milk stage and want the steak, the meat. Spiritual maturity is all about application– applying God’s word to your life and coming back for more.
Another way of thinking of spiritual maturity is to be “built up.” Acts 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” We are learning more about God, applying his truth to our lives, and therefore we grow and are built up into the person he desires for us to become.
God’s Word takes us to places we never thought we could or would. He takes us on a journey that has twists and curves and is anything but predictable. You are moving from one point to another, you are taking steps, moving toward becoming like Christ.
So That We May Be Effective
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Bible “is useful” for four things – first for teaching. The bible teaches us how to think, what we should believe. If we are not thinking correctly, then we are not living correctly. Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Secondly the Bible tells us when we have “crossed the line.” It is useful for rebuking us when we are doing wrong. It tells us what sin is. It tells you what God’s plan is for your life and where you have gone astray.
Third, it is useful for correcting – it tells us of Christ and how our sins may be forgiven. He doesn’t just tell we were wrong, but it tells us how to get back in a right way of living. And Fourthly, “training in righteousness” – the Bible shows us how to live.
A five-step plan for what to do when you have your quiet time:
Start with prayer. Ask God to prepare you to meet with Him. If there is something in your life that you know displeases Him, confess it. Let Him forgive you so that nothing will hinder your communion together.
Read a specific passage of Scripture–perhaps a chapter or two. If you are not very familiar with the Bible, you may wish to start with the New Testament. Many people think that the Gospel of John is a good place to start. Perhaps you would enjoy reading one or two of the Psalms every day.
Meditate on it for a while after you have read a passage. Think about what you read, and ask yourself what it means. What does God want you to do? Remember, even though you may not understand all you read in the Bible, you can still obey what you do understand.
Write down questions about the passage as you read. It is good to write down the things you learn and the questions you have. Later you can search out the answers from someone who knows the subject or Bible commentaries. You can ask the question, “what did this teach me about God?” and “what did this teach me about myself?”
Journaling is simply writing your thoughts and reflections about your life and relationship with the Lord in a notebook. Spend some time writing your thoughts as you spend time with God in His word and prayer. It can be as simple as writing what’s on your heart.
You can write about what God is teaching you in your Bible reading time. You can also write about how you are feeling and struggling with. Develop the habit of writing. This habit reinforces what God is trying to tell you in your mind and heart. I believe it is part of a good quiet time because it is a way for you to remember what God is revealing to you during that time.
Finally, respond and take action. Respond with praise and thanksgiving – “I praise you God for…..” Respond in repentance and confession – “I confess my sin of ……” Respond by asking for guidance – “Lord, lead me today by…..”
Respond with obedience – “I will obey you in……”
I have discovered that anything that is an “ought” in my life I will always be a failure at, for “ought” is a lousy motivator. Anything that is an “ought” I may in time do. I will do it out of compulsion, guilt, or duty – it will do it begrudgingly but I won’t do it often.
There are many of who understand our salvation to be in terms that Jesus has saved me so that I may serve Him. Didn’t Jesus say, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We become disciples of Christ, so that we may become His fishers of men (and we serve, and we work, and we toil).
What we miss is that Jesus’ invitation simply says, “Come, follow me,” – meaning to be in a relationship with Him. Being a fisher of men was not the purpose of my salvation (it happens, it is an outcome) – but the relationship with Jesus, the following comes first.
We serve, and in our minds we “I ought to have a quiet time” “I ought to spend time with Him” — and we get burn out, and tired, and disillusioned by life, all the while we work, and serve, and toil – and Jesus says, I said “Come and follow me.” Jesus invites us to a relationship first (service comes later as an outflow of the relationship). He simply wants to know you, and for you to know Him.
He did not die, so that you can serve Him, he died so that, you can have a relationship with Him. He doesn’t really need our help anyway, He’s God!
This picture was taken at Caleb and Joshua’s birthday party a few weeks ago (Caleb was about to go for his second time on the roller coaster). We were at Adventure Park for a little over three hours and had a blast. As the day went on Caleb told me that he couldn’t stop smiling. He screamed with delight riding the roller coaster, spun in the whirl-a-hurl, and was shot with water canons in the bumper boats. Â It is a wonderful feeling to know that as a parent you have orchestrated something that is truly bringing your kids happiness.
Matthew 7:7-11Â â€œAsk,Â and it will be given to you;Â seek, and you will find;knock, and it will be opened to you.Â 8Â For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Â 9Â Or which one of you, if his son asks him forÂ bread, will give himÂ a stone?Â 10Â Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?Â 11Â If you then,Â who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more willÂ your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
I love to give my children good things, and to bring them joy. It is unlike any feeling that I have ever experienced. The Bible is true that I am evil, make mistakes, and will fail more times than I succeed. But what a joy to know that God, my (perfect) Father, delights in blessing His children with “good things.” It’s not about getting more stuff, but the relationship. God knows what you need, and He delights in giving it to you — but he desires the relationship so He requires that you ask. He does not give you what you need from afar, He delights in seeing your face, talking with you in the cool of the day, and hearing from your heart. His delight is you and your relationship with Him.
I went on the roller coaster with Caleb, I go to the beach on vacation and build sand castles, and I sit beside him in Cub Scouts. I delight in my relationship with my son (and all of my children). It brings my heart joy to know that God does the same thing (but infinitely more) when He thinks of me as His child. Â Go and spend some time with your Heavenly Father today, He is waiting with a smile on His face.
We live in a culture that seems to shun predictability as being boring, or even pensive. Culture says we should be unpredictable, spontaneous, and carefree. In Daniel chapter six we find the famous story of Daniel and the lion’s den. Daniel’s co-workers couldn’t stand him, and they had gotten some inside information that he was about the be promoted (over them). What was it about Daniel that with each new king, and each new turn in his life, something enabled him to move up, and up, the political ladder?
The newest king (Darius) desired to put him over the entire empire. We see that when his enemies desired to point out his flaws, but they couldnâ€™t find any, â€œthey could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.â€
Daniel didnâ€™t come in to work late, he stayed his entire shift, he did his job with excellence, and he always did a great job. When they observe his job performance, there is nothing there they can point to as being inadequate, negligent, or faulty.
In our lives, one of our most powerful “witnessing tools” (church word meaning; “to tell of Jesus”) and way of showing our God to be mighty is how we perform our jobs. Do we work with excellence day after day, year after year, (Daniel was over 80), or do we do just enough to draw a paycheck? Or is our work performance based on how we are treated at work?
Along with his faithfulness to his job, was his surpassing steadfast devotion to his God. Daniel was so habitual in how he worshipped that they were able to craft a plan specifically based upon this faithfulness. If Daniel had not been faithful in his prayer and worship life, then their plan would have fallen apart. Are we so faithful that plans can be made against us? Are we so faithful to our quiet time (church word meaning, “to study God’s Word in a quiet place”) that everyone knows where to find us and what we will be doing.
Man, I love Daniel, but he is a man whose presence is very convicting. Sometimes we just don’t like to be around these kind of guys (or read their books) because they are so faithful that it makes our unfaithfulness really stand out. Let me encourage you today in your walk with God, to pray and ask God to show you where you could be more faithful and predictable in the things of God. Instead of focusing on how others seem to be more faithful than you, focus on Christ and seeking to please Him with your life. It’s ok to be predictable, faithful, and steadfast.