Updated: Jun 3
In teaching others how to study the Bible, I share practical tips for reading God’s Word in a way that helps us personally know and enjoy Him. These tips include: "Slow down, slow down, slow down." Use a good Bible dictionary or concordance. Look up cross references, as these are invaluable for helping Scripture interpret Scripture. However, an even more valuable resource exists. Without this resource, knowing and enjoying God through His Word is impossible. What do we need?
The Holy Spirit.
How easily we overlook the gift of the Holy Spirit! At least I do. God reminded me of this gift of His companionship on a recent solitude retreat.
Being a maximizer, I often function on auto-pilot. I think, speak, live and even study the Bible in "Carmen" power. Yet Paul didn’t teach that the fruit of Carmen or the fruit of "(put your own name here)" is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Nope. Carmen, in and of herself, is far from loving or joyful or patient. She can be grumpy, anxious, impatient, bad, harsh and bouncing all over the place!
Paul points us to a beautiful fruit that belongs to one and only one, the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
The Holy Spirit is not a thing, but a Person, the third person of the Trinity and the very Spirit of God who transforms and empowers God’s people.
He is the Helper that Jesus promised:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26
As the Helper, the Spirit advocates for Jesus.
An advocate is a person who acts as a spokesperson or representative of someone else’s policies, purpose and cause. In this case, the Spirit acts as Jesus’s spokesperson in furthering the kingdom of God. The Spirit does not glorify Himself; we would never find Him posting photos of Himself on Instagram. Rather, the Spirit shines a huge spotlight on Jesus. He'd be posting photos of Jesus.
Observe again what Jesus says:
“He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you.”
When we open up our Bibles to know Jesus, we need the Spirit.
The Spirit highlights, teaches and reminds us of Who Jesus is. On occasion, Scripture does show us the dramatic and powerful works of the Spirit. Yet more often than not, the Spirit simply empowers God’s people to live very daily lives in a new way, with a new identity that honors God.1
I regularly witness this first-hand. Through the course of a Simply Bible study, the Spirit empowers His own to know and enjoy Jesus through His Word. Little by little, He gently (and sometimes not so gently) transforms our thinking, speaking and daily living to honor Jesus. This work of the Spirit is not necessarily dramatic, but often a step-by step process that fans the flame of hope within our hearts:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
Hope. What a gift of God!
When the Spirit breathes His life into us, just as in the beginning God breathed life into Adam, we come alive. There is nothing in our own power we can do to breathe life into ourselves. Our job is simply to seek after God, to be faithful to open up His Word in order to know Him. When we do this consistently - even for a short period of time each day, the Bible becomes a powerful tool in the hands of the Spirit.
In his sermon titled How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit, A.W. Tozer explained and challenged his congregation:
Let’s just be plain Christians. Let’s open the Bible, spread it out on the chair, and meditate on it. It will open itself to us, and the Spirit of God will come and brood over it. So be a meditator. I challenge you: Try it for a month and see how it works. Put away questions and answers and the filling in of blank lines about Noah. Put all that cheap trash away and take a Bible, open it, get on your knees and say, “Father, here I am. Begin to teach me.” He will begin to teach you, and He will teach you about Himself and about Jesus and about God and about the Word and about life and death and heaven and hell, and about His own presence.
My heart resonates with Tozer. Using God's Word, the Spirit has worked this way in my own heart and mind. I have seen His transformation in countless others. Although Tozer uses strong language to describe any words and extra help outside of the Bible as "cheap trash," I do think he compares and contrasts God's Words versus my own words (or the words of any author) correctly. The golden part of Simply Bible studies are not any words of mine, such as those day five questions. Rather, God's Word alone drips with gold. My words are fleeting. His Words will remain forever. Simply Bible books are intentionally designed to remove my voice and focus on God's Words themselves to guide us into a conversation directly with The Author Himself through His Spirit.
As we draw near to Jesus through His Word, as we slow down, meditate, ponder, consider the context, learn to ask our own questions, define, compare and contrast, relate and connect, the Holy Spirit - our Helper and Ever-Present Friend - quietly cultivates our hearts and grows the fruit. To be filled with hope and the fruit of the Spirit, we need the Bible.
And to understand the Bible, we need the Spirit.
Father God, Jesus, Spirit, Three-in-One,
Thank You for the gift of Your Spirit. Thank You for the gift of Your Word. You provide all that we need to make knowing and enjoying You so simple! Thank You for Your friendship to us. Lord, keep us from functioning on auto-pilot, especially when reading Your Word. Through the power of Your Spirit and the promises of Your Word, transform us anew to be Your friend. Restore to us and our dear ones the hope, peace and joy that come from pondering and conversing directly with You through Your Word.
We provide Simply Bible resources because we believe that everyone deserves a simple and effective way to know and enjoy God directly through His Word. Come and be on mission with us! Contact us here or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simply Bible Jonah is a perfect summer study! You can find Carmen's daily study videos on the Simply Bible YouTube channel or register below to receive the remainder of the study videos directly to your email inbox.
1. Craig Keener, “Holy Spirit,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).