Grow in Christ through Deeper Bible Study
Okay, stop me if you've heard this one before: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ." Yeah, me too. Romans 10:17 is one of the most quoted passages in all of Scripture. It carries a mutually understood take home point: If you want faith that overcomes the world, you need the message that comes down from heaven.
Everybody knows this. That is to say, everyone knows this is true. However, many people really struggle to actually do it. Maybe they read the Word some, but don't see any results. They listen to sermons at church, but it doesn't change their lives. Maybe you are one of these people. Instead of evaluating your method of interacting with God's Word, a little voice inside of you starts to whisper: "maybe God's Word isn't the answer."
It is. He is. God has done incredible things in people's lives through the Bible. Think about it: this book is the divine language of the eternal God. The perfect One sent this perfect law of liberty to free us from sin, sadness, and Satan. So, let's get this out there right now: your method of interacting with the Word may need to be replaced, but the Word of God must never be replaced. It is God's guaranteed ticket to deeper faith. For everyone.
Can I share with you some tried and true tips that have worked for me? The podcast episode this week introduced four key elements: READ, WRITE, MARK and SHARE. Let's dig in on these with some additional information to help you get the most out of each.
Is there a wrong way to read the Bible?
For a long time, I would have said "no." So long as you have the Word open, you can't go wrong. I don't believe that anymore. If you have poor, unfocused, unwise, unprofitable interactions with the Scripture, it can lead you to stop reading it. Let me explain. Imagine each of these scenarios.
#1 - I get up an hour before I have to be anywhere. I pour the coffee and sit down in a quiet living room, opening the Word. I read a chapter. I read it slowly. I read it with my lips moving, sometimes even softly saying the words out loud. I stop and reread sections when my mind wonders. But it wonders little, because there are no kids nor cell phones in sight.
#2 - I wait until after dinner. The house is bustling with every form of noise. The television is on in the living room. I sit on the couch in the middle of all of that and knock out the "required" chapter per day I've signed on for. I do it quickly. My mind is drawn in many directions, and I even pause a few times to check my phone. I get speedily to the end and close the book.
Which of these two experiences was good? Only one. The Word was good both times, but I was not. And by adjusting the way I interact with God, the Spirit has more room to work!
Is it a sin to write in the Holy Word?
You might be surprised at how often I am asked this question, whether on the topic of making notes in the margin, or color marking. Of course it is not a sin - I mean, your publisher has all kinds of superscripts, marginal references, or even chapter headings all over the place. Letting some publisher make the notes for you... now that may be the real sin (I am kidding. Relax).
If you sit in a quiet place to read His Words, and you notice things or learn things or want to follow up on things: WRITE IT DOWN! Write it in the margin if you think it will be helpful the next time you are in the text. Write it in a journal or notebook if it sparks your interest. At the very least, you are taking what you are learning in your mind and writing it with your hand, while also seeing that with your eyes. This helps you to remember! But also, those notes, at least in my life, have become extremely valuable years later!
Tip: Use a pencil, preferably a mechanical pencil. Pens can bleed through, and you can't correct mistakes (even those pesky theological ones that you notice years later). Mechanical pencils have an eraser, but they also provide a nice even stroke for consistency. Yes, they do fade after about 10 years. I've often erased things that were fading, or retraced points that still held value to me.
Is Color Bible Marking really a thing?
Why yes, yes it is. There are many ways to go about applying color systems to your study. In fact, some Bibles come with systems already prepared for you to follow. As for me, I started using a color system about 22 years ago. Steve Fontenot, the preacher where I grew up, taught it to me. I've been using it, refining it, writing workbooks on it, recording videos on it, and teaching it, ever since. If you want to hop on board, we are currently demonstrating the New Testament system in a video series in First John. The first half or so of that 9 part series is already available here:
You can also head to the Lindale church of Christ website, click on the Color Bible Marking box, and find all kinds of material, bookmarks, and videos from recent years.
As I spoke about in this week's episode, it may not be for everyone. Except, it is. 😉 If you want to know where important elements are found, be able to find them super quickly, and place hold your study so you can pick right up next time you are there... then check it out!
Can I do all of this alone? Should I?
I think the answers here maybe be a "yes" and a "no," in that order. Yes, you should start this on your own. All three steps we have discussed need to begin between you and God. You need to make the time. You need to write down your thoughts. You need to get familiar with the text. Make this about your connection to Christ, your fellowship with God, your daily faith growth.
But don't stop there. The real joy of learning is sharing what you learn. A super cool validation for learning is hearing that others are learning the same things. A bonus benefit is when someone shares something with you that you didn't realize and you get to learn from their personal Bible study! Amazing things happen when people share in studies with others. Find a way to do that.
You and your family could be on the same reading program. You could start a Bible app reading program and share with friends. You might get an accountability partner for the First John Color Marking videos. God built us to share. The opportunities are endless. If there is even a tiny part of you saying, "well, nobody will want to do that," then read this next line or two carefully. You are wrong about that. Many, many people want to be better Bible students but don't know how to do it alone. They are waiting for someone like you to join in with them, so that you can encourage and help each other!
It really is that simple: Read, Write, Mark, and Share. But strive to do all things well. Read at a time and place that will benefit you most. Write things that matter, and things that will be useful to you later. Mark carefully and consistently, to create patterns in the text. And share optimistically and lovingly. After all, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ" Romans 10:17.
Thank you for supporting our program. If you believe this blog can help someone you care about, be sure and click a link on the right to share it on social media or email to friends. Have an amazing weekend! And always remember: whatever you choose to do today in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, excel still more.