A Plan and Process for Reading the Word of God

January 5, 2008 Psalms 19:8

 

This year our church Theme will be “Seeking God’s Plan”.

So many people in churches like ours need direction. They are in a state of lostness and they might not even realize it

Introduction

It reminds me of a story told by Joe Stowell about his son Matthew:

We were on our annual Christmas trek to Chicago. Each year we brought our family to spend time with Grandpa and Grandma and visit the museums. This year we decided to finish our Christmas shopping at suburban Woodfield Mall. In the midst of all the fun and excitement, one of us noticed that little three-and-a-half-year-old Matthew was gone. Terror immediately struck our hearts. We had heard the horror stories: little children kidnapped in malls, rushed to a restroom, donned in different clothes and altered hairstyle, and then swiftly smuggled out, never to be seen again.

We split up, each taking an assigned location. Mine was the parking lot. I’ll never forget that night—kicking through the newly fallen snow, calling out his name at the top of my lungs. I felt like an abject fool, yet my concern for his safety outweighed all other feelings. Unsuccessful, I trudged back to our meeting point. My wife, Martie, had not found him, nor had my mother. And then my dad appeared, holding little Matthew by the hand.

Our hearts leapt for joy. Interestingly enough, Matthew was untraumatized. He hadn’t been crying. To him, there had been no problem. I asked my father where he had found him. “The candy counter,” he replied. “You should have seen him. His eyes came just about as high as the candy. He held his little hands behind his back and moved his head back and forth, surveying all the lucious options.” Matthew didn’t look lost. He didn’t know he was lost. He was oblivious to the phenomenal danger he was in. This is a candy-counter culture, where people who don’t look lost and don’t know they’re lost live.

And so it is with so many, lost and without direction in life; clueless.

God’s word gives direction. It opens our eyes so that we can see clearly.

Psalm 19:8

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 119:130

The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

But like an unused map in the glove box can not give direction neither can a unread Bible.

So how can we help?

 
   

This week our goal is to assist our students in developing and implememtnng a reading plan with the objective of reading throught the Bible in a year!

There are lots of reading plans, we will suggest one, but do not feel oblligated to use our suggestion, find one that works for you and your class.

However merely “reading” the Word of God is not the endpoint. We must read with the goal understanding what we are reading and then make practical application. John MacArthur says

“It is my conviction that the Bible is not difficult for the believing heart to understand. And the more I understand, the more unshakable is my conviction that the Bible is the living, authoritative, inerrant Word of God.

 It has this remarkable effect on me: the more I study it, the more I hunger to know. So God’s Word not only satisfies my appetite, but also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

I want you to experience that hunger too. I want you to live in the joy of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ that comes only through knowing the meaning of Scripture. Here’s a simple process to get you started.

Today’s lesson follow’s MacArthurs process. I hope you find it benficial for you class.

Lesson

Step 1 –Reading

  • Understand that reading God’s word is a discipline of great gain.

John 8:31-32

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Joshua 1:8

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

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.

Matthew 4:4

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ”

John 6:63

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

Romans 15:4

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

John 14:23-24

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

  • Begin by developing a plan on how you will approach reading through the Bible.
  • Just by reading the Bible you become familiar with its themes, history, and contexts.
  • There is simply no replacement for Bible reading.
  • Unlike most books, you will probably not read it straight through from cover to cover. There are many good Bible reading plans available. Here is what I recommend:
  • Read through the Old & New Testament at least once a year.
  • As you read, note in the margins any truths you particularly want to remember, and write down separately anything you do not immediately understand.
  • Often as you read you will find that many questions are answered by the text itself.
  • The questions to which you cannot find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.
  • As you read you must constantly be asking the question

What does the Bible say?

There are many other plans avaivalbe. In fact at     bibleplan.org     you can find a plan that you can make work.

Rembember the goal: 

Psalm 119:11

Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

Step 2 – Interpreting

  • In Acts 8:30, Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch,

Acts 8:30

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

  • “Do you understand what you are reading?” Or put another way,

 “What does the Bible mean by what it says?”

  • It is not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application—you must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.
  • As you read Scripture, always keep one simple question in mind: “What does this mean?”
  • To answer that question requires the use of the most basic principle of interpretation called the analogy of faith—interpret the Bible with the Bible.
  • Letting the Holy Spirit be your teacher

1 John 2:27

As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

search the Scripture He has authored, using cross references, comparative passages, concordances, indexes, and other helps.

  • For passages that remain unclear, consult your pastor or godly men who have written on the issues involved.

Step 3 – Evaluating

  • You have been reading and asking the question, “What does the Bible say?” Then you have been interpreting, asking the question, “What does the Bible mean?”
  • Now it’s time to consult others to ensure that you have the proper interpretation.
  • Remember, the Bible will never contradict itself.
  • Read Bible introductions, commentaries, and background books that will enrich your thinking.
  • As you evaluate, be a true seeker.

Be one who accepts the truth of God’s Word even though it may cause you to change what you have always believed, or alter your life pattern.

Step 4 –Applying

  • Jesus made his promise to those who carry their personal Bible study through to this point:

John 13:17

“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

  • Having read and interpreted the Bible, you should have a basic understanding of what the Bible says, and what it means by what it says.
  • But studying the Bible does not stop there.
  • The ultimate goal should be to let it speak to you and enable you to grow spiritually.
  • That requires personal application.
  • You must let God’s truth penetrate and change your life.
  • Studying Scripture without allowing it to penetrate to the depths of your soul would be like preparing a banquet without eating it.
  • The bottom-line question to ask is: 

“How do the divine truths and principles contained in any passage apply to me in terms of my attitude and actions?”

  • If there is a command to be obeyed, obey it.
  • If there is a promise to be embraced, claim it.
  • If there is a warning to be followed, heed it.

This is the ultimate step: submit to Scripture and let it transform your life.

Step 5 –Correlating


  • This last stage connects the doctrine you have learned in a particular passage or book with divine truths and principles taught elsewhere in the Bible to form the big picture.
  • Always keep in mind that the Bible is one book in sixty-six parts, so its truths and principles are taught over and over again in a variety of ways and circumstances.
  • By correlating and cross-referencing, you will begin to build a sound doctrinal foundation on which to live.

Conclusion

Now, get to work!

  • As you dig in to God’s Word using those five simple steps, you’ll be amazed at the rich treasure your study yields.
  • My prayer is that the Lord will use this plan to revitalize your Bible study, increase your appetite for knowing and understanding His Word, and further conform you to the image of His beloved Son.