Let’s be clear. Your bible study must be practical. The bible exists to help you grow. God’s intent for you is that your life would look more and more like the life of Jesus. The bible is one of God’s primary tools to get that job done.
Do you want to know God better? Do you want to have a better handle on this life? Do you want to see real life change? The bible is essential.
As the new year begins, many of us are renewing our committment to be in God’s Word. Last week, we talked about how the right motivation can make all the difference. You can read that here. I want to continue to offer some help with bible study by sharing the approach that literally changed my life.
The following is an article that I wrote for Discipleship Journal years ago. It was also published in the book Best Bible Study Methods. Invite God in through his word. You will see him work. Feel free to use the comment section to ask questions. My joy is to help people mine the gold of the bible.
The Timothy Method (Published by Discipleship Journal, 1998)
Try this simple yet life-changing approach to Scripture.
Since becoming a Christian 10 years ago, I have known that the Word of God was the key to my spiritual development. As a young believer, I simply read through the Bible, hoping that something would stand out to me. This approach was hit and miss. So was my growth. I also relied on devotional books that explained and applied the Bible for me. But this left me more dependent on the teaching of man than on the Holy Spirit. In seminary, I learned technical methods of studying God’s Word in depth. But these methods were burdensome to apply to my daily walk with Jesus.
Frustrated one morning over my devotional life, I asked a very simple question: “What is the Bible for?” God’s direct answer changed my devotional life forever. The Lord brought to mind the definitive verse on the purpose of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” In addition, He opened my eyes to a simple yet powerful way to apply this verse to my personal Bible study. Asking key questions about the four purposes of Scripture – teaching the truth, rebuking sin, correcting spiritual deficiencies, and training in godliness – can effectively guide us as we evaluate and apply Scripture.
Begin with the first purpose of Scripture listed in 2 Timothy 3:16, teaching. Ask yourself, “What does this passage teach?” Boil it down to a simple statement (or statements) of truth. To help crystallize what is taught, ask these clarifying questions. “What does this passage say about God? What does it say about man? What does it say about my relationship with God and others?” Everything in God’s Word relates to these simple questions. Jesus declared that all the Bible hangs on the two commands to love God and love others (see Mt. 22:34-40). Scripture becomes incredibly practical when you look at it in the light of these questions. To help cement the truths you find, write down everything you discover. Writing out your thoughts will do wonders to clarify your understanding of God’s Word.
The second purpose of God’s Word that Paul describes is rebuke. Scripture rebukes us by revealing our sin and the ways we fall short of God’s standards. Once you see what a passage teaches, prayerfully ask if there is any way that you are violating this truth. Ask, “Am I falling short in this area? If so, how?” If you sense conviction, ask yourself, “Where and how is this sin taking place?”
It’s critical to identify clearly how you fall short. For example, it’s not enough to know you have a problem with anger. Responding properly to rebuke means specifically confessing where sin is rearing its head. Don’t just say, “I have a problem with anger.” Instead, identify how you sinfully express that anger: “When I’m angry, I tend to be critical of my spouse.” Finally, ask yourself, “Is this sin the problem or just a symptom of a deeper issue?” Many times, sin manifests itself in our lives as a response to other, less visible problems. Criticizing my spouse may be the result of my frustration at work or some other cause. Unless we deal with the root, the weeds will grow again. Real change demands that we go below the surface.
The third purpose of the Bible is correction. The Word of God not only rebukes us when we get off track, but it shows us the on-ramp back to the right road. Correction begins by asking, “What is the opposite of my sin?” For example, if I have a problem with uncontrolled anger, God desires patience and self control. Next, ask yourself, “What action do I need to take to get back on track?” Write down specific ways that you could display right behavior. For example, I will listen to my wife’s point of view before I respond, and I will respond with a calm tone of voice. Pray that God would enable you to begin to make changes you’ve recognized are necessary.
Training in Righteousness
Finally, God’s Word trains us in righteousness. The goal of the Christian race is to finish well. We must not only get back on the right track, but we must stay there. Hebrews 12:1 instructs us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and. . .run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The Word of God trains us to run with perseverance. Ask, “What do I need to do to stay on track?” The answer may be revealed in the passage you’re studying. However, you may also need to consider other scriptures to answer this question. Maybe you need to commit to pray about the issue at hand or memorize certain verses on the subject. Long-term change demands that we transform our minds and hearts. Use this final question as a catalyst to help you develop a plan of action.
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