If you read approximately 4.25 chapters a day, you will be able to complete the Word of God in a year. Okay. But the more significant questions are, “How much of that reading is changing you? Is God’s Word transforming you, or are you a duty-reader, assuming you read the Bible at all?
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Biff reached over and hit the snooze button for the second time. Finally, his wife came in and shook him from his dream state. He glared at her and squinted toward the clock.
With a start, he jumped from the bed and dashed for the bathroom to get ready for work. He had 20 minutes. He made it, just in the nick of time. What’s impressive is he also did his Bible reading—on the way to work.
He “read” one of the Psalms, which “equipped” him spiritually for his day. With coffee in his belly and the Word of God in his heart, Biff was ready to take on the world.
A Little Dab Will Do Ya
Perhaps you cannot relate to Biff. Maybe you’re one of those meditative-reflective individuals, who spends an hour a day perusing God’s Word, personally applying it all along the way. Because of your spiritual disciplines, you’re living a transformational life rather than an informational one like Biff.
How about it? Does the Word of God transform you? Are you doing more than your rote-Bible-reading-duty? Are you finding pleasure in your daily readings? Like a man in a desert, you approach God’s Word as though it’s the first time you’ve had water in a long season?
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food (Job 23:12).
I dare say most Christians are like Biff than Transformational Man. Most of us mirror the Brylcreem commercial from the late ’50s. Their catchphrase was, a little dab will do you.
There will never be a shortage of Bible studies. I meet Christian after Christian, who is in a relational or situational difficulty, and they have a solid working knowledge of the Word of God. Rarely is Bible information the primary problem with struggling Christians.
Typically these believers read and study the Bible for informational purposes. They are thrilled to know what the Bible says, but they don’t experience inside to outside transformation. Are you an informational reader or a transformational one?
There are at least seven essential components to useful transformational Bible reading. They are in this order: (1) salvation, (2) affection, (3) context, (4) study, (5) memorization, (6) application, (7) discipleship.
1 – Salvation
Though this point is a no-brainer, I must say it. Bible reading is a spiritual discipline, which means the Spirit must be active in and illuminating your soul. Without the Spirit, who brings transformation as He engages the soul with the Word, there will be no transformation.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
No Spirit, no light. The Spirit brings His illuminating light to your mind as you read God’s Word. Without Him, the Bible is still an excellent informational read, like reading a history book. With the Spirit, you can enjoy the transformational benefits of His-empowered illumination (John 3:7; 16:13).
2 – Affection
Being a Christian is not the only thing you need. Though it is an essential step, you must be more than just born again (John 3:7). I’m not downplaying salvation, but I am saying none of us are entirely sanctified. Salvation is the beginning of the transformation process.
There are many Christians who do not have an affection for the Word of God. These individuals read by rote. (Think Biff here.) They will do their duty, but what they read does not affect them.
You must have affection (ontology) to experience affection (result). Affected is what happens to you, and affection is what is in you. If you have affection in your heart for the Word of God, you will be affected by it. Do you have affection for God’s Word?
My question is vital. Perhaps you don’t have this kind of affection for God’s Word. If not, this is where you need to start praying. Ask the Father to give you love for His Word. Ask Him to work in your heart until you are an affected person.
Having affection for something is how you will become affected. Maybe you can recall the season when you met your spouse and how you began to grow in affection for that person. The more you grew in your love for your spouse, the more he (she) affected you.
Most assuredly, that was my situation. The more affection God gave me for Lucia, the more I wanted to be affected by her. It was hard to stay away from her. I wanted to see her, talk to her, and hang with her. I was an affected man because I had affection for her.
3 – Context
If you are born again and you have affection for His Word, you need a context to study His Word. This key means you need a physical space, your space—the place where you meet God in His Word.
Bible study can be just as haphazard as our prayer time: we catch it when we can. While there is merit to “on the fly” study, it will not sustain or change you over the long haul. You need dedicated time in a dedicated spot for an extended period.
Biff caught up on his Bible reading at all the traffic lights between home and work. His study time was distracted time. Whatever he put in his head was flushed out by a car horn, a street person asking for money, and the hectic driving as everyone is battling for a position so they won’t be late.
Biff lived in a delusion. He felt good about himself because he was reading his Bible (nearly) every day. The misconception was him thinking that was enough. It was not close to enough.
Personal Bible study time has to be like personal prayer time: you need a non-distractive and non-invasive environment. If you don’t have this, you will not be able to compete with the noise in your world. Other things will press into your mind as you seek to hide God’s Word in your life. Busyness is a Bible study killer.
4 – Study
Once you have the place, you can begin the work of studying the Bible. There are many ways of doing this. I’ll not mention them here, but only say there are several, and you should use many. Don’t be loyal to just one way to study the Bible.
My most effective method of studying the Bible is journaling. I read a verse or passage, and then reflect on it for a while—sometimes for days. Then I’ll start writing. Writing forces me to think profoundly and substantially about God’s Word. Writing is harder and more concise than talking. It also takes more self-control and discipline. Journaling has been the most effective means of grace regarding my Bible study habits.
You can ask your friends and pastors how they study their Bible. They will give you ideas, and don’t be afraid to try their suggestions. You do not have to stick with any single method, but you want to find out what works for you.
5 – Memorization
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11).
Need I say more? I have never met a person who has memorized vast portions of Scripture and regretted doing so. I have met many people who wished they had more of the Word stored in their hearts.
You don’t have to be that regretful person. You can begin memorizing today. Take a 3 x 5 index card and write a verse on it to remember it. Read it over and over until you own it—until it is in your heart.
Every counselor who counsels biblically has this experience: they were caring for someone, and the Spirit of God brought a verse to their attention so they could share it with the person they were serving.
He may not bring a verse you memorized to mind, but He will bring something you stored in your heart, in a moment when you need it most. The Bible is not a magic book. It does not work through osmosis.
What goes in will come out whenever the Spirit finds pleasure to bring what you have stored in your heart. This concept is one of the mysterious ways God works. He brings to mind the things you placed in it.
If you choose not to put anything in your mind, don’t be surprised if you are not changing. Memorization is a crucial part of Bible study. When you memorize it, you’re taking ownership of it.
6 – Application
- Are you a Christian?
- Do you have affection for the Word of God?
- Do you have a context to study the Word of God?
- Do you study the Word of God?
- Do you memorize the Word of God?
Now it is application time. Knowledge without practical application can make you intelligent, but not make you mature in God. The practicalization of the Word of God is one of the most prominent missing links in any Christian’s pursuit of God through His Word.
This problem happens when an individual shows up for counseling. He may be Word-centered, but he is at a loss on how to apply God’s Word to his life. Though he can do a half-hearted job on the first five steps, he cannot respond half-heartedly on this one. He must be tenacious about applying God’s Word to his life.
If he is not serious about the application and does not have several sure means for doing so, he will not experience transformation by the Word of God. And what is the most significant breakdown when it comes to a lack of application? That’s easy: people are not willing to open themselves up to others who can competently care for them.
Most people seek to apply the Word of God to themselves, by themselves. While this can do some good, it is not enough. It can’t be. It was never meant to be this way exclusively. This critical need is why you see so many One Another passages in the New Testament.
The most under-utilized group of people in the body of Christ is the body of Christ when it comes to helping each other apply the Word of God to their lives. We’re all like the Ethiopian eunuch, more than we realize or are willing to admit:
So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8:30-31).
This need is a huge missing link in the churches of God. For example, you see things in people that need your help, and they see stuff in you too. But we don’t make an effort to do anything about it—not until the person is in a crisis. It’s not uncommon for someone to say something along these lines:
I saw it coming. I told my husband last year that Biff was having marriage problems. I knew it. Something was not right with him and Mable.
Every person reading this has thought private thoughts about someone but never sought to position themselves in such a way to help a fellow believer. There are many reasons for this not happening. Here are four of the common ones.
- We do not have quality sanctification contexts in the local church.
- We do not have sanctification small group meetings.
- We struggle with the fear of man.
- We look down on those who struggle.
7 – Teaching
The teacher learns more than his students. Biff was like a student who crammed for a test on his way to work. A teacher cannot get away with such immaturity. The teacher has to “become the material” that he is teaching. He has to own it.
The best way to own the material is when you can teach it to another person. And I’m not talking about rote teaching here, where it is just the transfer of information. Wikipedia can do that. I’m talking about an affected individual discipling another person.
If you have been affected by the Word of God, and you are willing to teach the Word of God, then the Word you teach will grow deeper inside of you. Jesus was the most affected teacher of the Word of God. Of course, He was the Word (John 1:1).
The biggest key to transformational Bible study is when you become the Word. When the Word of God is so deep in you, and you can take what was put inside your mind and place it into another person, that is when you know you’re studying rightly.
Too many times, we learn just to be learning. The Pharisees did this. We should have an “eschatological-missional perspective” when it comes to Bible study. Christ did not come to show us how much He knew. He came to transform us. He had a missional perspective.
Our study of the Bible must have the second great commandment in view: loving others more than ourselves. This kind of thinking gives you a proper purpose for studying the Word of God. The most effective Bible students are those who do these two things:
- They insist that the Word of God transforms them (1-6 above)
- They seek to help others to experience a similar transformation by the Word of God (7)
- How are you doing? Are you an informational reader or a transformational one?