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Essentials In Bible Study For Personal Spiritual Growth

By Ruth Paxson

    I would mention three things which to me seem essential for the kind of Bible study which will lift a Christian to life on the highest plane. They are an adequate objective, a right attitude, and an obedient response.

An Adequate Objective

    The reason why the Bible "has no taste" and why it is so unproductive of spiritual harvest in our lives is partly due to the lack of an adequate objective. To read the Bible aimlessly, to read it because one has signed a pledge promising to read a chapter a day or because of the desire to please a parent, teacher or friend, but without the purpose to remember what is read and to reproduce it in character and conduct, while it may bring blessing, will not lift one to life on the highest plane. To read it spasmodically, to desire comfort in sorrow, to obtain strength in trial, to find wisdom in perplexity and to receive guidance in uncertainty, while all are legitimate motives, yet they are not the highest nor those most productive of spiritual gain.

    There is, in fact, but one objective that is altogether adequate and it is that through the Word of God, we may know the Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the central fact, and the commanding figure of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation He is to be found. No book of the Bible will be fully understood until Christ be seen in it. He is the pivot upon which everything in the divine revelation turns and He is the fountain from which everything in spiritual experience springs. To know Him is eternal life, to know Him better and better is life abiding and abounding.

    "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (Phil. 3:8, 10).

    "That I may know Him""that I may win Christ" – this is the objective that will challenge one to earnestly, eagerly search the Scriptures.

    What is your objective in Bible study? Is it merely to satisfy intellectual curiosity? Is it only to know the contents of the Bible and to appreciate its literary value as one of the great books in the world’s library? Is it even for a purely selfish enrichment of your own life? Or do you come every day to the written Word of God that you may better know the eternal, incarnate, risen, living Word of God as He is revealed in its pages? Your goal will very largely determine your gain. Will you today enter the company of those who, emulating the Apostle Paul’s example, approach God’s Word daily saying, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may win Christ and be found in Him" (vv. 8-9). There will surely be a divine response to such seeking and God will give "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).

A Right Attitude

    The second essential in Bible study for personal spiritual growth is a right attitude. What we get from the Bible is determined very largely by what we bring to it.

    The first secret of Bible study is faith born of humility. He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He does. He must come believing that through the Word God speaks and therefore he must come humbly and reverently.

    But we must not only approach the study of God’s Word in faith but in love. It will not yield a very abundant harvest to the one who comes to it merely from a sense of duty. To enrich the life Bible study must be regarded as a delight. How well the psalmist knew his Lord. The secret is not hard to discover.

    "And I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved" (Psa. 119:47).

    But how contrary is such an attitude to that of most Christians. In what a purely perfunctory, desultory manner many Christians study or read the Bible. It is like a bit of distasteful medicine that is needed for the sake of health but the quicker taken the better. The Bible is opened in a haphazard fashion to any place; the reading is done with no relish; the Book is gladly closed and what was read makes little impression.

    The Word of God is a living thing and accordingly responds to the treatment given to it. What a difference it makes when one truly hungers for the Bread of Life; when one thirsts for the Living Water; when one comes to the Word of God with a keen appetite for a full meal. The Word of God becomes food to such a one and honey to his taste.

    "Thy Words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts" (Jer. 15:16).

    "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips: I have treasured up the Words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).

    "How sweet are Thy Words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psa. 119:103).

    What a difference it makes when one approaches the Bible as on a quest, when one is really hunting for something as the gold digger hunts for the gold. Then he is content with no superficial reading but he systematically searches; he seeks for great spoil; he diligently digs for the deepest truths. Such an one is saved from intellectual laziness and stands ready for the concentration and meditation required of one who deeply knows God. The Bible becomes a gold mine to such a searcher after truth.

    "Therefore I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold" (Psa. 119:127).

    "I rejoice at Thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil" (Psa. 119:162).

    What a difference it makes when one truly loves the Book and longs to know Christ! Then he does not study with an eye on the clock but rather rejoices to find an extra hour or two that he may spend upon the Word. He loves the Book of God because he loves the God of the Book.

    "Thy Word is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it" (Psa. 119:140).

    "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).

An Obedient Response

    We must approach the Word of God not only in faith and in love but in a willingness to obey. To learn and then not to live is deadly and disastrous. Disobedience to what God said through doubt kept the children of Israel out of Canaan and later took their posterity into captivity and exile. One must become a doer of the Word.

    "Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it" (Deut. 6:1).

    "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23).

    The Bible will never really become ours until we have the consistent and persistent purpose to live what we learn. We might make a very careful study of the constituent elements of foods and know just how much of each we need in our system to ensure health, but that knowledge will not give strength of body. Only as we eat, digest and assimilate the food itself does it minister to our bodily needs. So we need to beware of mere head knowledge of the Bible. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s inworking of the Word of life into the very fabric of our being it has no saving nor sanctifying power. This He cannot do unless there is an obedient response on our part.

    The Word is not given to us to make our intellects treasure houses of heavenly wisdom but to make our hearts the sanctuaries of the heavenly One. God’s warnings have no value for one unless they are heeded. His precepts profit nothing unless they are followed and His commandments can only bless as they are obeyed. "If ye keep My commandments." The whole force of what follows draws its meaning from that little word "if." If we take food into the body, it becomes blood and muscle, so if we incorporate the Word of God into our life, it becomes character and conduct. When studying God’s Word we should say to ourselves constantly, "How can this be worked into the very woof and warp of my life?" The Bible to yield its full fruitage demands not only consideration and meditation but application.

    Some one has told of a Korean Christian who was examined on the Sermon on the Mount and was able to repeat it without mistake. When the missionary asked, "How did you manage to learn it so perfectly?" the reply came, "I learned it a verse or a few verses at a time. I would learn a verse and then go out and find some one to practice it on."

    It is the man who obeys the truth as he knows it whose capacity is enlarged to receive larger and fuller revelations of truth. The man who steadfastly lives out what he learns is ever learning more.

    Disobedience to the known will of God as revealed in His Word is the cause of much of the stagnancy and slothfulness in the churches of today. What a revival would take place in the corporate body of Christ, the church, and what a revolution there would be in the individual members if every Christian began to live what he has learned of the Word of God.

    – From Life On The Highest Plane.