The Big Deal“You’ll see God’s gracious love throughout the entire Bible, and you’ll encounter how Jesus rescues us!”
Why is the Bible such a big deal, anyway?
It is “a lot,” and difficult to understand. Besides, how can anything so old be relevant to our lives today?
To learn how to study the Bible, it helps to know what it actually is. God wants an intimate relationship with every person. The Bible is God’s interpersonal self-offering; through it, He invites us into cherished belonging with Himself. God knows everything about us. He also wants to be known by us. In the Bible, God is revealing what is real, and He is offering to us through His own Word, not only information about Himself, but His mind and very Life.
In the Bible, we find answers to our most significant questions: who God is, what He is like, how, why and where He entered into history from outside creation to be with us. The Bible also clarifies what it means to be human, where we came from and why we are here.
The Source of the Bible is a personal God Who speaks with us. He helps us know how relationship with Him has been damaged, and how He, through Jesus Christ, rescues every person from destruction, and reconciles them with God. Only in the Bible will we know God’s ways for us, how to respond to what He reveals as truth and how to live in the light of His truth. We cannot depend upon feelings to decide truth. We cannot manipulate God’s Word to suit our preferences. There is a way that things are supposed to be, independent of our thinking and feeling about it. Only in the Bible will we find that way.
It is intimidating to approach learning what’s in the Bible! God knows that. He is so pleased that you’re trying. Ask Him in prayer, “Meet with me and help me understand.” He will! I promise, you are created for the Word of God. His Voice in His Word is the most beautiful, powerful sound you will ever hear! You will become able to sit in face-to-face conversation with the Lover of your soul, and He will transform your being into everything He ever intended you to be.
Here are some tips to help you understand the Bible.
1. Familiarize Yourself With The Whole Story
The Bible is one unified narrative. It’s a library with 66 books. Some books are historical, biographies, poetry or teachings. But it’s all one message with a beginning, middle and end.
I doubt you would watch a new movie on Netflix by immediately fast-forwarding three quarters of the way in, and then watch 10 minutes over and over, never watching the beginning or the end of the story. That would be ridiculous. But many people read the Bible like that.
I suggest getting a Chronological Bible (the entire Bible in historical order) in the NLT version. Read for 20 minutes each day until you’ve finished it. Then you’ll be able to make better sense of why all humans are in such a mess. You’ll see God’s gracious love throughout the entire Bible, and you’ll encounter how Jesus rescues us!
Find a friend who will take this adventure with you and talk about what you’re discovering. Pray together, “God, what are you saying to me in these chapters?” Plan a celebration party for the finish!
Before studying an individual book of the Bible, read it all the way through several times before you do any other study on it. In this way, you’ll understand the context of its individual verses or paragraphs.
2. Look For Recurrences
This is a helpful beginning place in Bible study. When a word, phrase or idea is repeated, that’s an indication that it is significant to the author. Highlight or underline these words, phrases or ideas.
I’ve kept a notebook for decades in which I keep track of words and ideas that I’ve noticed recur all over the Bible. I try to read the whole Bible each year, and it’s been amazing to see God’s consistent Voice and concerns that become clear to my heart.
In each individual book, you’ll also find recurrences that will help you identify that author’s important themes.
3. Look For Contrasts
Draw a box around every “but,” “however,” “yet,” etc.
These indicate that something different—right or wrong—is coming. Often, this is critically important in learning God’s perspective.
4. Look For Causes & Effects
Draw a circle around every “then,” “because,” “therefore,” etc.
Here we learn consequences—good or bad—that result from thoughts and actions.
Spoiler alert! God wants to live in intimate mutual belonging with you! There’s nothing He won’t do to rescue you and bring you to Himself, which is fullness of joy (Psalm 16). He will transform your life and make you a person of holy love.
for further study
- 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders. Feel free to take much longer than 30 Days in this book.
- 40 Days in the Word by Rick Warren. This includes group study guides and is great to do with others.
- Discover the Bible for Yourself by Kay Arthur teaches you how to do personal Bible study.
- What The Bible Is All About by Henrietta C. Mears. This contains extremely helpful summaries of each book in the Bible.
- www.theosu.ca/ includes in-depth teaching that’s not condescending about your intellectual ability.
Diane is a soldier at the Raleigh, NC Corps. She works at the Salvation Army National Headquarters as the National Ambassador for Holiness. She holds a BA in Sociology, and an MA in Theology. Describing the depths of what Jesus’s love can do in any person’s life is her greatest joy.