Studying the Bible can be a very absorbing activity. It can be intellectually stimulating to discover connections and doctrinal truths that we hadn’t been aware of before. It can help to confirm our belief that it is indeed a wonderful book with magnificent thoughts and ideas in it, and help us to look forward to the day when those thoughts and ideas will be reality. This is all good as it is not likely we could come to an end of finding new things to interest us and spur us on if we are trying to understand and know God.
However, the purpose of God’s Word is not merely to inform, but also to search our hearts and transform us. If what we learn is simply feeding our hunger for knowledge, and not changing who we are and what we do, then it is not accomplishing its purpose.
“The purpose of Bible study could well be defined as to increase and develop our knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. Knowledge is a vital thing… The truth is that knowledge of God needs to be assimilated by the whole man. It needs to reside in the spiritual centre, the place where mind, emotion and will all meet. The mind is illuminated, the emotions are stirred, and the will is energized… It is when the knowledge of God touches a man’s spirit that it communicates life and growth.”
Since human beings are all so different, it is possible to have an inclination to emphasize slightly different things: to be more attracted to the “head” bit of Bible study (how to think), or to be more inclined to the “heart” bit (how to be), or the “hand” bit (what to do). This is why it is beneficial to study with others, even if that just means reading what others have written, so that we don’t get caught up in our own ways of thinking. The truth is all these bits are important. God wants us to think properly, but He also cares what we do, and what we are like inside.
If we want our Bible study to change who we are (internally) and what we do (externally), then we have to make a point of finding the application and working it into our lives. We can ask “What am I being asked to do?”, “How should this influence the way I interact with others?” We need to take the main points of what we are studying and try to come up with ways to put it into practice in our lives.
For example, Psalm 1 tells us the importance of delighting and meditating on the law of the LORD. We can explore application in the areas of the Head, Hand, and Heart.
Inward – I need to submit to the authority of God’s Word.
Outward – In my speech I need to show that God’s Word is my guide.
Inward – I need to take time daily to read and meditate on God’s Word.
Outward – I need to put what I meditate on into action in my life.
Inward – I need to delight in God’s Word and store it up in my heart.
Outward – I need to joyfully obey what God’s Word tells me to do.
Once we know what these applications are, we can make a plan to add them to our life. Sometimes it may be helpful to memorize a section of Scripture so that it is in our minds when we need to be reminded that it is our authority. We can decide at what point in the day we will spend some time with God’s Word and then do it. And we can be reminded that it is not drudgery but a delight to do so.
The Lord Jesus was the Word made flesh because he thought the thoughts, spoke the words, and did the works of his Father in heaven. As his disciple, this is the example that we must follow so that we can become like him.
“True religion aims at having the character of Christ so formed in us, that in our most common acts His temper and disposition shall show themselves.”