It has taken me a bit to get around to this fourth and final installment of the Bible study skills series. I’m sure my life is no different from yours in the fact that there’s so much to do and so very little time to accomplish it all. So let’s just get right down to it, shall we?
If you’re just popping in and you haven’t yet had a chance to read the other installments, you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with them before you read this one. Here are some links to them:
the final step
The final and most important step in conducting a thorough study of any passage is Application. In this step, we take all that we have studied, all that we have gleaned, every morsel we have mined from the depths of Scripture and ask ourselves “how does this apply to me?” Or a better question is “Lord, how do You want to use these truths to change, mold, and transform me to look more like the person You have designed me to be?”
“the lucky dip” method
Unfortunately, though, the application step is where many people start their study. I used to do the same thing before I learned how to thoroughly study. I would perform what I like to call “the lucky dip” method of Scripture reading. I would pray for understanding, then open up to a random passage and just be certain that passage was the Lord’s answer to whatever question I had.
Christian comedian Tim Hawkins describes this method very well in the following clip. Take a break and enjoy it, then COME BACK so we can discuss the Application step a little more.
See what kind of trouble we can get ourselves in when we – 1. Do the “lucky dip” – and – 2. take verses out of context? 🙂
The “commentary first” method
Another temptation to jump straight to the Application step is to start with – instead of finish with – a commentary. I find this is done more often than not by well-meaning Christians. I established my case about commentary use in point number four here as well as a paragraph titled “no commentaries” here, so I won’t repeat that information. After all the elements of the Interpretation step are completed, it is then safe and useful to check trusted commentaries. If you have thoroughly completed your own study, then a trusted commentary should help solidify your understanding. But a commentary should never be your starting point. Scripture should always, always be the starting point.
The Application step is simple. You take all that you have diligently studied before the Lord in prayer and open your heart wide for Him to reveal what action steps He wants you to take in light of what He, Himself has taught you. Psalm 119:102 says “I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me.”
When we learn about the Lord directly from Him through His Word, we are so much more willing to allow Him on the throne of our hearts rather than placing ourselves on the throne. When HE is the Lord of our lives, then it is a natural step to not “turn aside” from His ordinances. But when we are making ourselves lord of our own lives, we are prone to turn aside over and over. Making the time to spend at His feet in His Word humbles us to a point that we willingly de-throne ourselves.
It is my prayer that this series has been a blessing and an encouragement to you. And that you have learned some practical skills that you feel confident you can now implement in your own study. Start with one key word and let the Lord teach you from that. You will be amazed at what you can learn from just marking and listing one simple key word, for instance, every occurrence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Just let me be an encouragement to you that, as a believer with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, you CAN know and understand the Bible for yourself. You don’t have to wait until your pastor’s message on Sunday morning. And you shouldn’t. Thirty-five minutes a week is not enough to keep you sustained in your Christian walk. That’s barely enough to keep you on life-support.
Study. Study. Study.
So you can Grow. Grow. Grow.
As you grow, you will CHANGE. CHANGE. CHANGE.
And THAT’S the point of study. Change. Drawing closer and closer to Christ so you can become more and more like Him. And so that you can show others how to do the same thing.