Well this is week 2 of a series I have entitled: ‘Inspired’ How God Speaks Through Scripture
And what I’m hoping will be accomplished in this series is that we’ll return to a place of gratitude for this amazing thing we call the Bible.
And we’re going to talk about: What it is and how to get the most out of it.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. (John 14:23a)
Pretty straightforward. Jesus says anyone who loves him will obey his teaching.
He says something similar in verse 15 of the same chapter:
“If you love me, keep my commands. (John 14:15)
And then in the 8th chapter:
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (John 8:31b)
That’s what a disciple really is. Disciple means ‘learner’. So Jesus is saying “You can call yourself my disciple if you do what I say. But if you just say you’re my disciple but you don’t really care much about doing what I say, you’re not really my disciple.”
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We love that line. But it’s not just truth in general that Jesus is talking about here, he’s talking about his teaching specifically.
And then he says in Luke 6:46
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
Which raises the question: How to we know what Jesus said? Well that’s why as people who are committed to following Jesus, we love scripture. Not in an ultimate way, but a penultimate way. We’re not people of the book, we’re people of the person, and because we’re people of the person, the book is very very dear to us because it the best and ultimate place for us to learn about and in turn, follow Jesus.
Bible – great loves The Bible for me is one of the great loves and great passions of my life. Right out of high school I went to bible college with no plans to ever be in ministry of any kind, but I simply loved the Bible. And I STILL love the Bible and have devoted a significant portion of my life to being a bible teacher.
Title: Study Guide
Grandpa Eiffert Passed away Jan 15, 2012 – age 90
My grandpa went to, dad tell me if this is right, Lutheran church for most of his life.
(Marks in his bible)
You know, church movements come and go. Meaning that church looks different now than it did 50 years ago. It and will look different in 50 years than it does today.
But across time, and denomination, and age, and language, studying scripture and letting God speak to us through scripture, that has never changed and it will never change.
Generation after generation after generation, Christians have linked their discipleship to Jesus with studying scripture.
Now not all of what he wrote in his bible makes sense to me. But it’s not supposed to. Those were notes for himself.
And some day when I die, maybe one of my bibles will be given as a gift to my grandson who could flip through my bible and try to read and understand the notes that I took. And even if he doesn’t understand some or most of what I wrote, hopefully it will be something that encourages him in his faith and encourages him to study scripture for himself.
Last Week Review
Last week, by way of review we said that the Bible is:
- Our most reliable and trustworthy source to learn about the life and teachings of Jesus
- An inspired gift from God and the church. – What do I mean by that? Well I mean that scripture is absolutely an inspired gift from God. It’s how the gospel (the good news of Jesus) is spread through the world. But it’s also an inspired gift from the church. Last week we talked about the unbelievable effort put in by the historical church to provide you with the Bible that you have today. When it came to Jesus preparing the writers of the Bible, to the writer themselves, to the copiers, to the people deciding on the final canon, to the translations, it’s all a beautiful gift that you’ve received firstly from God, and secondly from the Christians that came before you. So we can never be people who say “Yeah the bibles cool I guess, a little boring, but fine.” No this book is a miracle. The fact that you have one in your lap and on your phone right now is something that should just fill your heart with gratitude. Gratitude for God and gratitude for the Christians that came before you.
Paper Better than Screen We also said last week, that a paper bible is better than a screen bible when it comes to learning. We talked about how the 3 dimensional aspect of a paper bible helps you in remembering and how much bible you have in your left hand vs your right hand is a good reminder of where you are in the story.
Team translation is better than individual. I personally love “The Message” by Eugene Peterson. But I want you to know that I understand a paraphrase like the message as an opportunity to have one brother in Christ show me how he understands and interprets scripture. Which is a great thing. But for deeper study, we want a team translation, where the translators work together to be a bit closer to the original than one man’s paraphrase.
Study notes are better than none. So a Bible that has some extra notes, explanatory notes, as well as the text will allow you not to have to carry a second book with you all the time. So you can have answers to your questions.
But then the bottom line we said is What you will use is better than what you won’t.. So whatever kind of Bible you will use, that’s beautiful and fantastic. We just want to be a people who love to get into the book, because we want to see Jesus, and then we want to follow Jesus.
My Bible A number have people have asked me about what kind of bible I personally use. So I’m glad to show you but I’ll let you know that this bible is quite costly. But worth it for me. But keep in mind that is my profession. (Show Bible)
And I want to say right out of the gate that we are banishing the shame that comes with not knowing things. Where the tendency is to feel ashamed for not knowing more about scripture than you do. Well, feeling embarrassed about that is hereby forbidden.
You can be honest and authentic about your need to grow, and to learn scripture. And I’m officially forbidding the shame that comes from feeling like you should be farther along in your understanding.
I want this week to be very practical. People always say that church sermons aren’t practical. Well, this sermon is as practical as it gets.
I’m going to show you 3 different bible study methods and they are all great and they all act as great launching pads for study.
I’m not gonna spend any time this week on convincing you that studying scripture is a worthwhile pursuit. If you need that, go and rewatch last weeks message. But this message we’re going to get into the HOW. And it’s 3 methods, starting with the LEAST practical, to the MOST practical.
Tying Shoes Raise your hand if you know how to tie your shoes. Well, when you were first taught how to tie your shoes, one of two methods was probably used. The first being “Loop, Swoop and Pull” and the second being “Bunny Ears”.
Now I’m sure the vast majority of you are not reciting “Loop, swoop, and… oh gosh, what’s the last step? Oh, right! Pull” or “There’s 1 bunny ear, and where’s the other bunny ear? Oh there it is!”. You don’t need that anymore. But you still “DO” the moves you were taught. Well for me teaching people how to read scripture is much the same way.
That for lots of people, they have their own routine down and they don’t need some catchy little method to follow, but I promise you, in these methods are principles that pretty much everybody that benefits from scripture uses.
The first 2 methods are Acronyms that can be helpful. And some of you may know one or both of them but lots of you don’t so I think they’re worthwhile.
The first is “SPECK” which you should see on your handout.
This is 5 questions you can ask about any portion of scripture that you open up and begin to read.
Does this show me:
S – Sin I need to avoid or repent of?
Am I being convicted as I read this?
There’s plenty of this in the sermon on the mount for example. Which is Jesus’s most famous sermon. It’s found (amongst other places) in Matthew 5-7.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7:1)
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)
P – Promises I can be encouraged by?
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
E – Examples to follow, or avoid?
So that’s one great thing about the bible is that it shows an uncensored look into the lives of people following God.
And it shows you great examples to follow and it also shows you “Anti-Examples” of things to avoid.
In pretty much every major character in the Old Testament (for example) you can find both examples to follow and examples to avoid in the same person.
So let’s take what it probably the most detailed character study in the Old Testament – King David – as an example. Well in King David’s life we can see plenty of things to model and plenty of things to avoid.
So something to model: Let’s think about when David is faced with the task of fighting Goliath. That would be scary, fighting to the death with a trained warrior giant who outweighs you by 300 pounds. How does David build up his faith? Well, he remembers how God helped him defeat the Lion and the Bear.
The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37a)
When David is about to go a do the scariest thing he’s ever done, he pictures in his mind the things he has seen God do before.
So that’s an example that I can follow.
But at the same time, there’s plenty of examples in the life of David to avoid. Go read 2 Samuel 11 to learn about David and Bathsheba.
C – Commands I need to obey?
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, (Matthew 5:23)
leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:24)
K – Knowledge of God, the world, or myself?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Oh wow, ok so this verse teaches us something about the world. That in the world we WILL have tribulation.
Ok the next one is SOAP. Which sounds ridiculous, but I promise you, it’s simple but very powerful.
- S Scripture
- O Observation
- A Application
- P Prayer
Back of Handout So if you flip to the back of your handout, you can see a very basic template.
4 Steps. Easy. If you do this, I promise that the bible will make an impact on your life.
S for Scripture
Take time reading and allow God to speak to you. Highlight, underline or do something to mark the scriptures that stand out. When you’re done, reread the verses you marked, look for one that particularly spoke to you that day, and write it down.
Where to start?
Youversion Plans – So my personal preference would be that you’d get the reading plan for YouVersion and then read it in your paper bible, but like we said whatever bible you use, it’s great. Youversion has reading plans for all kinds of topics: Joy, Trust, Forgiveness, Guilt, Finding Strength in Suffering, Why does God love me?, Grief, Dating and Relationships, Addictions, Depression, Confidence, Loneliness
Sundays Sermon I’ve also mentioned that taking the handout, or jotting down the verses from that weeks sermon are a great place to start.
O for Observation
What is this scripture saying? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Write the scripture down in your own words.
What is that really saying? In my own words.
A for Application
Personalize what you have read by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Maybe it’s instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this scripture can apply to you today.
How does this apply to me?
P for Prayer
This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He’s revealing to you. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say. Then, write it down.
Let’s try one — Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, (Hebrews 12:1)
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
S – Hebrews 12:2 – For the joy set before him he endured the cross
O – Jesus was able to go through incredible pain and even a brutal execution because he focused on the joy ahead of him.
A – When I’m struggling, it’s important for me to remember the beautiful future God has in store for me. So I’m gonna keep my head up and keep believing that God has great things planned for my life.
P – God, help me to focus on your promises instead of being poisoned by the negativity of the world. I believe in you, and I believe that you’re faithful to your promises. And as that becomes real to me, it empowers me to go through challenges and not lose my joy. Thank you Jesus.
Done. So this is what your piece of paper might look like after a SOAP bible study. That’s more bible study than 75% of us are doing.
If I was to go to your house and see you had a notebook filled with SOAP bible studies, I would know for a fact that God is working in you.
A lot of people are doing this. Even without SOAP. But these principles are principles that most everybody who benefits from scripture are doing.
Radiating from Jesus
Now this last one is another method that really just came out of my own bible study. I have never taught this before. And I was talking with my friend Jayme about this last week.
She came up to me after service and said “So should I just read the Bible beginning to end?” And I said, “You definitely could. But most people end up hitting the eject button somewhere around the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy. I think after you’ve read about 10 pages on how to properly render the fat on a burnt animal sacrifice, you’ve just about had enough pain.”
But let me show you a way that I personally like to study scripture. This is not the only way, but I think it’s a really cool way.
Like we talked about last week, ALL scripture is doing one of 3 things:
- Pointing forward to Jesus (Old Testament)
- Presenting Jesus (The Gospels)
- Modeling life with Jesus (New Testament)
And so because of that, we look at scripture through Jesus-colored glasses.
And so what I often times like to do is start with Jesus and then kind of fill-in the context of what he’s saying. This is where a bible with study notes can be super helpful.
So it starts with Jesus, and then I let what Jesus says and does TAKE ME to different parts of the Bible.
It’s like Flashbacks. You know in movies where you’re watching a scene and it’s like this doesn’t make sense, and then there’s a flashback to “5 years earlier” and there’s a scene there that causes you to understand the scene that’s happening present day. Well it’s like that for bible study.
Let me show you.
So this is your fill in:
Start with Red Letters.
Not all bibles have the words of Jesus in red, but lots do.
But if you still need to drill down more, go to the sermon on the mount. Matthew 5-7. It is the most well known ‘Speech’ is the history of the world. And as Jesus talks, you’ll notice he references other stuff.
And then I’ll go read the other stuff to get a fresh context on what Jesus is saying.
So let’s do an example.
I’m gonna flip over to Matthew 6. Smack dab in the middle of the most influential sermon ever preached. Look at what Jesus said beginning in verse 5.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling[e] like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words [f]. (Matthew 6:7)
Ok now hold up. What the heck are those extra letters?
Well those are your next fill-in and they are called ‘Cross References’.
2. Follow Cross-References to Provide Context
Not all bibles have them but many do. And if for whatever reason your bible does NOT them, you can easily find them online for free.
What is a cross-reference? Well A cross-reference is another verse or section in scripture that it linked thematically. So it’s a verse that maybe is being referenced in that scripture. Like maybe Jesus says “you’ve heard it said….” And he’s quoting something in the Old Testament. Well the place in scripture that he’s quoting will be in the cross-references. OR it’s verses that are linked thematically. So verses that say something similar. Just listed for you right there, ready to go. How amazing is that?!
Ok so notice there’s that little “E” there. Well when I need to do is locate somewhere on that same page where the cross references are listed (pic). Often times it’s at the bottom of the page, or sometimes (like in my bible) they’re list them between the 2 columns on the page.
So we’re looking for ‘E’ – Ok here we go – E – Ecc. 5:2
Ok so that’s another bible verse. How interesting! Let’s flip over there and see what it says:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. (Ecclesiastes 5:1)
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
Oh wow. But then you might go “Who in the world is even talking here?”
Well this brings us to our next fill it:
Use Study Notes and Book Intros for additional clues and tips
And then I’d go to the beginning of Ecclesiastes to see if there’s anything there. Nope, darn. But then I remember I have a Faithlife Study Bible and it has introductions to the books. So I’m gonna go grab that one and read the introduction to Ecclesiastes.
(Faithlife Study Bible Ecclesiastes Intro)
Ok wow. So here we have LIKELY Solomon, and he calls super long wordy, bla bla bla prayers “The sacrifice of fools”. Wow how interesting. That really goes along with what Jesus was saying.
And remember there was also another reference: “F”.
So we go back to the cross references and find “F” and we see: F – 1 Ki 18:26-29
So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. (1 Kings 18:26)
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27)
So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. (1 Kings 18:28)
Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. (1 Kings 18:29)
(Faithlife Study Bible Blurb)
1 Kings 18:20-40 records the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The miraculous burning of the sacrifice to Yahweh serves a double purpose: It turns Israel’s heart back to him and results in the deaths of 450 prophets of Baal.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Paul is saying the person who has no interest in relationship with God, isn’t going to truly understand scripture. They might understand it in an academic way, but it’s not going to have the life changing impact that it can have on someone who is pursuing relationship with God.
And so I want to encourage you, as you seek to study and understand scripture, don’t just do it in an academic way, but do it in a way where you’re trying to deepen your relationship with God. And if you do that, then the Bible will facilitate that deeper relationship just like it has for millions of people over almost 2000 years.
But if you’re just reading scripture as an academic or religious exercise with no interest in relationship, all you have is a useless tool, to be perfectly honest.
And so I want this series to be an opportunity, for you to start to dig in and understand the Bible, but also to reengage with Jesus on a relational level. That bible study is something that you do WITH HIM.
Or maybe you for… (Invitation)