Why do we read and study the Bible?
That’s a fundamental question. And even though I grew up going to church and reading my Bible, I never asked that question.
That’s a problem.
When I hop in a car, I know where I am going. When we pull out our Bibles, we want to keep our eye on the prize.
How would I have answered the why question in my early days? Probably something like: “To be good.” When I look back on my own personal journey with God’s Word, I see that my Bible study has been pretty self-serving.
I’ll try to explain.
God called me to Himself as a little girl. When I was seven, my grandparents gifted me my first Bible. I loved reading that Bible. This turned into a daily habit. Some things, like a Proverb made sense:
Keep your mouth closed and you’ll stay out of trouble. Proverb 21:23
Yes! Please laugh with me! God gifted a little girl with good marks but “talks too much” on her report cards with clear, practical and much needed advice. I highlighted and underlined that verse:
Yet just because I read and highlighted some things in my Bible did not mean I understood God and His Word. If I didn’t understand something, I conveniently skipped over it. Let’s face it: some stuff is confusing! Why the weird laws? Why didn’t people just obey God? Why did Jesus really die? And so many more questions. Curiosity about God and His Word abounded, but I lacked understanding to find answers.
As a teen, instead of being curious and asking God questions, I became proficient at making the Bible all about me. I remember opening my Bible to wherever it landed and simultaneously praying, "Lord, I NEED a word from you!" For all practical purposes, I was saying, "God, I demand a word from you!" Oh my. Unless I finagled it, my Bible usually opened to Psalms or Proverbs right smack in the middle!
At that point in life, I had a way of making life all about me. So it’s not surprising that I made Bible study all about me, too. I wish I could say that I outgrew that habit.
Since college I have led countless Bible studies. I became proficient in having “all the right answers” about the Bible. After years of reading and studying the Bible, I have a fair amount of knowledge about God and His Word. Knowledge can be good. But knowledge can also puff up. Thinking we know a lot about God helps us feel good, and feel competent. Again, the focus is on self. Me.
Interestingly, nowhere in Scripture does it say: Blessed are those who feel good. Or blessed are those who feel confident. Rather, Jesus says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
Blessed are those who recognize they are void and empty of anything the least bit good. In other words, blessed are those who recognize their neediness and brokenness. Blessed are those who recognize that in and of our own selves, we are hopeless. We need Jesus.
Why do we study the Bible? The answer cannot be “to be better at being good.” We are not good to begin with! We must seek to know the One Who is Good.
Many of us have used and taught a popular Bible study method called S.O.A.P. One website explains SOAP as a simple method for reading and applying God's word to our lives. We are encouraged to follow this acronym:
Scripture – Read a short Bible passage.
Observation – What do you notice about the verses?
Application – Ask God how he wants you to apply the verse to your own life.
Prayer – Pray for yourself and/or for others.
Inadvertently, this method encourages us to focus on ourselves. Do you see it?
Read and apply God’s Word to our lives.
Ask God how He wants you to apply the verse to your life.
Pray for yourself and/or others.
It’s subtle. Do you see how easy it is to make the Bible about me? About us? Our human tendency leans towards self-help, even in Bible study. SOAP skips right over understanding what the passage says about God. I’m not here to disparage the SOAP method. Despite its flaws, SOAP has helped many get a nibble of God’s Word.
Rather, I am here to point out our propensity to focus on self when approaching the Bible. And this includes using Simply Bible.
Friend, to be clear, this is not how the Bible works. The Bible is not about me. And when I make the Bible about me, I fall short on hope. Remember? In and of myself, I am hopeless and fall short in everything… hope, joy, peace, goodness, etc.
The Bible is about God.
What is the purpose of Bible study? Reading the Bible is intended to help us know and enjoy Him. In Him, we find our Living Hope. Our Peace. Our Righteousness. The Bible is not intended to be a moral hand book. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s not a book about being good. The Bible is about God. It’s His revelation to us. When we better know Him and His heart for us and His Kingdom, we will better understand ourselves and how to live.
Why read and study the Bible? To know God.
Not just in our heads, but in our hearts. To intimately enjoy Him, to experience Him, to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others.
Practically, what does it look like to keep the goal of Bible study fixed on God?
Pray. Express your neediness to God. Perhaps confess your propensity to focus on self. Simply pray, “Lord God, I am here to know You and enjoy You. Help me see, to know and love You through Your Word.”
As you study, continue that prayer asking Him the golden question: What does this passage say about You, God? It can be helpful to write this question at the top of your observe column in your study.
That’s a heart surrendered to God.
God offers us a gift: His Word. Let's receive it with humble hearts that long to know and commune with Him.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17
Lord, we are poor and needy. Look at how we take Your Word and make it about us. Give us hearts that hunger and thirst to know You. As we study Your Word, may we see You and all Your glory, grace and love. Unite our heart with Yours.
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