Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Basics of Christianity (Pt.2)

In our study yesterday, I gave you the first basic of Christianity and that is prayer. Today I want to talk about Bible study. Prayer and Bible study go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other. As we talk about this today, I want to address only the first feature of Bible study and that is reading. When we read the Bible we are answering the question, “What does the Bible say?” Charles Spurgeon has some good words to say about this. He said, “How often do we open the sacred book and read a chapter through, perhaps at family-prayer, or perhaps in our own private devotions, and having read from the first verse to the last, we shut up the book, thinking we have done something very right and very proper, and in a vague way somehow profitable to us. Very right and very proper indeed, and yet, right and proper as the thing is, we may really have gained nothing thereby. We may, in fact, have only drilled ourselves in the merely external part of religion, and may not have enjoyed anything spiritual, or anything that can be beneficial to our souls, if we have forgotten the divine Spirit through whom the Word has come to us” (Spurgeon, C. H. (1998). Vol. 58: Spurgeon's Sermons: Volume 58 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Spurgeon's Sermons. Albany, OR: Ages Software). To keep from that happening, I want to suggest five ways you should read the Bible. The first is prayerfully. The psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” He knew if he was to understand God’s Word it would only come from God opening His eyes. So as you read your Bible pray—pray for God to open your eyes to His Word.

The second, which should be a prayer in of itself is to read undistractedly. After Jesus fed the five thousand, Matthew 14:22-23 says, “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening had come, He was alone there.” Nothing can replace your time alone with God. If you’re already praying for God to open your eyes to His Word then you need to be in a place where you’re alone with Him. When my kids were younger, I didn’t have many places I could go to have this time, so I had to learn to deal with the noises and distractions. It didn’t take me long to realize that time alone is essential in spending time alone with God. Suzanne Wesley used to throw her apron over her head while at the kitchen table and had her devotions. I know this can be hard if you have little ones always crawling at your heels for attention, so the best time may be when their asleep. I soon found that was it for me.

The third way to read is for it to be done daily. I love what John MacArthur says regarding this. He says, “Sophisticated and ingenious Bible study methods books are fine, but they should never come ahead of fundamental steps. And there is no more fundamental step than systematically reading God’s Word, line upon line, precept upon precept, absorbing its total truth and cohesiveness” (How to Get the Most From God’s Word, p.156). Of course, there are a number of reading plans. I would encourage you to read through the Bible at least once a year. Right now our church is engaged in this kind of reading plan and it has been so beneficial especially if you’re like those who stumble through the Bible unsure of where to read.

The fourth step in reading the Bible is somewhat similar to the last and that is to read it repetitiously.  John MacArthur is again helpful on this point. He suggests taking a book in the New Testament and reading it over-and-over for thirty days. You can select one of your choice or read the one we’re studying. Break larger books into smaller sections and read each section for 30 days (eg. Revelation has 22 chapters - divide it up into 8, 7, 7). If apply this process to every New Testament book, you will have read it repetitiously in about two-and-a-half years.

All of the things we have mentioned so far are important to remember as you read but I think the most important is the last one. You should read carefully. “Don’t hurry as you read the passage. Take as much time as is necessary.” Hans Finzel says, “The process of observation can be divided into three steps of study, following in logical sequence. First, we look at the whole; divide that up into parts; and finally scrutinize the details” (Unlocking the Scriptures, p.35). If you’re hurrying through this process you will miss many important truths.

So what is the best way to read the Bible? Read it prayerfully, undistractedly, daily, repetitiously, and carefully. Try it today! As we continue to look at the basics of Christianity, you will see how important these first two steps are and why you should return to them often.

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