3 Lies about Bible Study
Let’s be honest, it’s a big book. And it doesn’t matter if it’s got a cute cover or readable font or devotional snippets splattered across the pages — the Bible can seem quite intimidating. Research shows that 9 out of 10 people own a copy of God’s Word (and get this, those same people own an average of 4.4 copies of the book), but around 10% of those people admit to reading it daily.
I’m not writing this to cause guilt. I’m writing this to inspire questions about this reality. Is it because people feel that the Bible is irrelevant? Confusing? Unnecessary? Too overwhelming for the average individual to tackle on their own?
For such a large group of people to actually own a copy of the Bible but remain completely unconcerned about it’s contents should cause us to ask some serious questions. I know there are spiritual factors at play here, such as Satan “blinding the minds” (2 Corinthians 4:4) to prevent people from seeing and savoring Scripture. But how do we engage in the battle for people’s hearts, knowing that God alone can spark the soul to crave holy words, yet set our lives in such a way as to break down the barriers between people and the dusty Bible lost under their bed?
I think it can start with revealing some lies we believe about studying the Bible. I have both believed and witnessed some of these lies below. My hope is that by untangling some of these common misunderstandings about Bible Study we will be encouraged to open Scripture with less intimidation and appropriate expectations.
Bible Study should be easy.
Have you ever opened your Bible to some random spot in the middle and stumbled into frustration when it didn’t make sense? Perhaps you were preparing for a huge test at school or recovering from a painful relationship or cleaning out from under your bed and discovered your Bible and thought, “Hmm. I wonder if God has anything to say to me?” and in just a few lines it feels like God is being way too complicated.
If someone discovered any other piece of literature under their bed, we would laugh if they got frustrated by jumping to some random part of the text and complaining that they didn’t understand what’s going on. But somehow we expect the Bible to instantly make sense like some article on Facebook. The Bible has a flow of thought, a purpose, a timeline, and a context that is important to understand before we start making conclusions (or getting frustrated) about what God is saying. Understanding that framework takes time and effort, something we might be unwilling to give.
The word “study” means “to apply oneself, to examine or investigate carefully and in detail.” It’s not easy sometimes. It takes effort, time, and devotion to begin mining the treasures found in these pages. But it’s completely worth it. Trust me on that fact.
Bible study doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s not effortless.*
The Bible is all about me.
We might not think we believe this, but our frustration and disinterest in Scripture may prove us wrong. The Bible is not about us, it’s about God. Once we learn who He is, we will understand who we are. But the goal of Bible Study isn’t to learn more about us . . . it’s about encountering Jesus. Approaching Scripture looking for/at Jesus will radically change the way you interact with the Bible, plus it will bless your socks off. We need to shift our expectation of Scripture from “who am I and how does this help me?” to “who is Jesus and how should I respond to Him?”
We confuse ourselves with the Main Character of the story. If the Bible is all about me, then Jesus was just some pawn used solely for my benefit. It becomes all about MY good, MY kingdom, MY pleasure, MY authority. And that is a terrible, destructive mentality. I am well acquainted with my own corruption and I need salvation to come from something other than myself. I need rescue and hope and peace and protection and authority. So I come to the Bible looking for Jesus — because in Him I find the treasures of life and meaning and future. (check out John 5:39-40)
The Bible should make me feel better.
This is kind of a spin-off of the last point, but I think it deserves to be spelled out. But first some disclaimers: Has the Bible ever made me feel better? Most definitely. Is my emotional well-being why the Bible was written and should I come to it with this expectation? No.
Again, it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. And sometimes what Scripture reveals does not make me “feel better”! I see my sin, I see a heart obsessed with pride, pleasure, and position, I see a God that brings judgement and hope to sinners like me, I see that I am not in control, I see that His kingdom (not my kingdom) will advance. The Bible isn’t full of “happy-go-lucky” feelings like some Pinterest board.
But it’s truth. And it’s sturdy. And I can lean on it with all that I am.
I think we expect Scripture to be a sweet little text message from God with all the appropriate emojis and warm wishes so we can go on with our merry little way knowing God’s got our back and everything will work out just the way we want. What a fragile, selfish world we would live in if that were the case. God’s message is much wider, deeper, fuller, more costly, and beautiful than any self-focused message we would wish for. Let your heart be exposed when you approach Scripture. Let Him speak for Himself. Confess your emotional frailty and your desire to control your life. Admit you need peace. Admit you need hope. And then open the pages and look for Jesus. Watch who He comforts, who He reaches for, how He loves.
Then ultimately you will lose yourself in His character, His plan, His mission . . . and find peace that surpasses understanding.
Scripture always surprises me. It always gives abundantly more than I expected.
The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference. — Tim Keller
[This blog was originally posted on Kaysie's personal blog.]