Today Dr. Jody Dean joins us to talk about “The Spiritual Discipline of Study”. Jody serves as the Director of Mentoring Programs in Christian Education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s been a student minister, a children’s minister and has served churches as interim pastor. He’s a brings a wealth of experience to share in today’s post.
So as we dive in let’s answer the question: what is study? Webster’s Dictionary gives us a couple of fine definitions and you’ll probably remember these from school. On is a state of contemplation. That’s when you just literally contemplate some things that are before you – some information, maybe it’s history, maybe it’s math, or like today when we’re talking about the Bible. It’s those times when you really get into a season of contemplating.
If you don’t like that definition, try this one: application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge. So you get into your mind the reality of what the word is really saying to you through the Word of God.Perhaps you have a built-in room devoted to
Perhaps you have a built-in room devoted to study. You might even call it the study in your house or at your church. Well, we’re talking about more than just a room here. It would be good for you to have a place to go to study the word of God on a daily basis, but it doesn’t have to be called the study so don’t get hung up on that definition.It could have to do with when a person learns or memorizes something. That’s probably how you did testing throughout your existence as a student. You probably memorized facts, read over facts, listened to audio recordings of facts with textbooks or different things to help you engage with the material in such ways you could memorize to recall it for an exam or something else.
It could have to do with when a person learns or memorizes something. That’s probably how you did testing throughout your existence as a student. You probably memorized facts, read over facts, listened to audio recordings of facts with textbooks or different things to help you engage with the material in such ways you could memorize to recall it for an exam or something else.As we consider this topic of study I hope it means much more to you when it comes to the Word of God. What does the Bible say about
As we consider this topic of study I hope it means much more to you when it comes to the Word of God. What does the Bible say about study? Well there’s a few verses, but Donald Whitney has a definition of study that I think would be appropriate for us to unpack for just a moment. He says that “most churches are filled with devoted Bible admirers but not daily Bible readers.” Reading and meditating on scripture are two disciplines that flow together. So as we talk about studying today, study is going to flow into another session that we are going to be doing on meditation later.The reality with
The reality with study is the Word is truth. In John 17:17, God’s Word is truth. So if you’re going to know the truth you got to be studying the Word. Not only that but in Matthew 12:3 Jesus calls out the Pharisees and says, “Have you not read?” So if you’re going through something in your life and you’re struggling and you don’t know where to turn, the Word of God should be the first place. The Bible should be the place we literally go to study to find the truth so we know how to live.
Consider Colossians 3:16. How can we let Christ dwell in us if we’re not studying His Word? If we’re not opening up to what He has for us? So I believe the Bible talks to us about studying.
Here are a few things that I want to unpack for you in benefiting your walk as you study. How do you study the Bible? Here are three steps that I’m going to leave you with today that I hope help you: observation, interpretation and application. Let’s start with observation. First you need to ask, what is this verse? What is this passage saying? At this point in your studying you are like the investigator. You are the detective. You are just trying to find out the facts. You are trying to find the clues so you can know the who, what, where, when and why of this verse and of this passage.
So when you’re observing you ask a lot of questions. Maybe you are on a historical site and you’re on vacation. You want to know when it was built. You want to know the major events that happened there. You want to know the place and the major players and all that kind of stuff. You’re doing exactly that with a passage or scripture. So who’s the author? Why did he write? What was written? Who was the audience? What’s the historical setting? What literary form was used? What message is being conveyed? Are there any important terms that are being repeated? Is there a verb or something that you need to observe in that passage?
Let’s move to interpretation. Here you ask, what does it mean? Now you know all the details, but what does it really mean? We’re trying to get as close as we can to the author’s original meaning. So as you interpret you have to consider whether there is a continuity of the message. You see, we must be looking at the whole counsel of the Word of God. So is there a continuity of the message, not just one verse or one statement, but how does this fit into the bigger narrative? And is there a context to this material? What was going on in that surrounding, in that setting, in that time? Is there a customary meaning?
So as you go with interpretation there are few rules of thumb that I want you to make sure you hear from me today. Scripture never contradicts Scripture. You always seek the full counsel of the Word of God and know that some truths may seem paradoxical. So observe the text and then interpret the text. As you continue, never use an obscure passage to contradict a clear teaching. You’re going to have to be sure to know the difference there. Consider the type of literature that the author is writing, always know your context because it is crucial, and always try to find the single meaning of that passage.
In addition, as you interpret you’re going to have to ask a lot of questions. You’re going to have to continue to do homework and you may begin to use study tools or commentary and different resources that are out there.
Let’s finish with application. In this passage is there an example I need to follow? Is there a sin I need to avoid in my life? Is there a promise that I need to claim? Is there a promise I need to hold on to? Is there a prayer I need to repeat? Is there a command I need to obey? Is there a condition I need to meet in my life? Is there a verse that I just need to memorize and internalize? Is there an error that I need to mark down so that I don’t make that same mistake? And is there a challenge I need to face? Is there a challenge that I need to be ready for and I need to engage?
Howard Hendricks provided us with those questions in his work and I believe those are vital for you to ask as you apply. Study is just a habit like studying for an exam, so how do you apply this to life? Take those three aspects – observation, interpretation and application – and begin daily to just get in the Word, study and know what God has for you that day and continue to live your life according to His Word, and I hope as you minister to people that you also teach them to study the Word of God.