According to John 10, a disciple of Jesus hears and knows the voice of the Lord and follows that voice. But how do we learn to hear and know the voice of the Lord? We certainly don't want to obey a false prophet or false voice, or even our own voice mistaken for something of greater authority. What are we to do?
One of the best ways is to read and study what God has already said (the Bible). There's a right and a wrong way to study the Bible. In fact, there are lots of wrong ways to apply the Bible to our lives and they typically come from an incorrect study process. However, chances are good that if you learn to read and study the Bible well, you will start hearing from the Lord better. The more and more you practice studying the Bible the right way, the more familiar God's voice will become. And the more you obey what God says in your reading and study, the more natural you will find it.
So what's the right way to study the Bible?
Without getting too bogged down with this question, I'd like to propose a very simple way to start reading and studying your Bible. You can do it on your own or in a group. You should do it every day. It can take 10 minutes or hours. It even makes for a simple way to lead a group.
Asked to lead a devotional, preach a sermon,give a talk, or teach on a text? This method words well for teaching the Bible too. It is often the format I use for my sermons.
To start, select a small section of the Word. This is often called a percipi. You can also do this with a chapter or even an entire book, but I recommend starting with small sections. Read the text. Pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes. Ask him to show you something from God's Word today.
"What do you see?" What do you find interesting. Was there repeated words or ideas? What was it saying when it was written? Start listing observations. These are the facts and things you notice. This is not application time to resist the urge to start applying these observations to your life. Just sit in the text. Be a detective and see what's there. There could be hundreds of observations.
Next, ask the question, "What does it mean, today?" I like to ask, "What is the timeless principle?" What does this say to all people, of all time, in all places on the earth. Boil it down to a sentence. If you can't boil it down, keep working on it. Also, if it doesn't apply to all time and all cultures, you might not have it worked down to the timeless principle yet. This is a truth statement from God for all people so work at it until it is timeless. It should also be anchored to your observations. If you've got a statement that's no longer anchored to your observations from the text, you might not have a timeless truth from that text yet.
Finally, take that timeless principle and ask, how do I apply this to my life in tangible ways. Or how does this principle speak to my church? What is God's Word (from that timeless truth statement) speaking into my life, my family, and even my world today, in my reality?
These three questions, if worked in this order, will often yield some remarkable insight into what God is saying. To help, I've listed the three questions below with some additional clarifying and helping questions. The additional questions should help get you answers for that primary questions. Pick a portion of Scripture and give it a try. Then try it with another text, and another. Try it again tomorrow and the next day. With more practice you will have a greater chance of recognizing God's voice. When you hear that voice, follow it. Because disciples know the Lord's voice and follow him.
Bible Study Essentials
What do you see?
- What do you find interesting or curious?
- Are terms, places, or ideas emphasized or repeated?
- Are there people, things, or statements alike or different?
- What is true to life?
- Is there anything that seems out of place?
- What are the key turning points in the story?
What does it mean?
- What are the timeless principles?
- What truths can be stated that apply to all people, of all time, and all places?
- How can things that applied only to the past culture speak to today's cultures?
- What else does the Bible say about this timeless truth?
What and I going to to with this truth?
- How do the timeless principles speak into my life?
- How should this timeless truth alter my behaviors and thoughts?
- Is there an example for me to follow?
- Is there a promise to claim?
- Is there a prayer to repeat?
- Is there a condition to meet?
- Is there a verse to memorize?
- Am I willing to apply the timeless truth today?
Study on and be transformed by God's Word!
Pastor Bryan Catherman