One of the hardest parts of digging deeper into Scripture is knowing where to start. We live in a busy culture where we are used to multi-tasking. This leaves us with a feeling that devoting time to studying the Bible will be next to impossible. We don’t want you to be paralyzed with fear and/or ignorance when it comes to nourishing yourself on Scripture (1 Timothy 4:6), so here are a few ways that you can dig deeper into God’s Word and experience growth and transformation.
At August Gate Church we teach through sections or whole books of the Bible. This allows for us to hear from God’s Word in context. It forces us to deal with difficult texts. It also allows us to know where we are going next. One of the best ways to dig deeper into Scripture is to practice Scripture memorization. It really is as simple as a few easy steps. First, either write out or print out the verses we just studied or will be studying as a group on Sunday. If you feel like the section is too big, pick out one or two verses that contain a main point. Keep that somewhere you will see it over and over again throughout the week. Tape it to a mirror, put it on your desk so it peaks out just below your keyboard or write it on a note card and keep it in your pocket. Make sure you look at it, say it to yourself and say it out loud several times a day. At dinner or breakfast every night, spend time quizzing your family or roommates or call someone in your Gospel Community every day at the same time to see if they can say it without help.
Some people can hear and retain information. Some can’t. Some people can read and retain information. Some can’t. Still others need to write so that they can retain information. For these people, journaling is a great option for getting into God’s Word. The “old fashion” way of journaling is reading a text and spending a few minutes writing your thoughts or what you learned about the text in a notebook with blank pages. But this isn’t the only way to journal. You can keep a file on your computer so that you can type your thoughts. You can create a personal blog. Or you can start an ongoing email conversation with someone from your Gospel Community about the text you study each week. Likewise, we have found that there are also some great printed resources for journaling.
- ESV Journaling Bible- This Bible is bound like a Moleskin, printed with smaller text and formatted with large margins so that you can make notes right next to the text you are studying.
- Journible- These journals are made specific for Scripture learning. The right pane is formatted for the journaler to hand-write Scripture while the left pane is for thoughts and reflections. This type of journal is perfect for someone looking to multi-task with memorization.
Daily Devotion Books
In some circles these books have lost their luster but we should not neglect the many gems that have been created by authors who love Jesus, have submitted to His Word and have expounded on it for our benefit. If you use the right one, these books can be meaty without being overly time consuming yet not fluffy and a waste of time. Here are a few suggestions:
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon
- Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur G. Bennett
- More daily devotion books
Methods of Meditation on Scripture
Begin by selecting a passage for meditation from your time of reading in God's Word. Choose a verse or phrase that attracted your attention, or a theme verse or key verse from the passage.
- Repeat the verse or phrase with emphasis on a different word each time.
- Whatever He says to you do it (John 2:5). Whatever He says to you do it.
- Whatever He says to you do it. Whatever He says to you do it.
- Whatever He says to you do it. Whaterver he says to you do it.
- Rewrite the verse or phrase in your own words.
- Look for applications of this text--what should you do in response to it?
- Ask how the text points to an aspect of the law or the gospel.
- Ask how the text points to an aspect of the the person or work of Jesus Christ.
- Formulate a principle from the text.
- Ask what question is answered or problem is solved by the text.
- Pray through the text.
- Ask the Philippians 4:8 questions.
- What is true or what truth does it exemplify? What is lovely about it?
- What is honorable about it? What is admirable or commendable about it?
- What is right about it? What is excellent about it?
- What is pure or how does it exemplify purity? What is praiseworthy about it?
- Ask the "Joseph Hall" questions.
- What is it (define and/or describe what it is)? What are its qualities and attachments?
- What are its divisions or parts? What is contrary, contradictory, or different to it?
- What causes it? What compares to it?
- What does it cause (its fruits and effects)? What is its titles or names?
- What is its place, location or use? What are the testimonies or examples of Scripture about it?
- Discover a minimum number of insights into the text (set the number in advance).
- Find a link or common thread between all of the chapters or paragraphs you've read.
- Use Meditation Mapping. (see The Mindmap Book by Tony Buzan)
- Put the verse(s), phrase, word or topic to be meditated upon in the middle of the page.
- Allow insights, ideas and thoughts to come quickly and freely.
- Use key words to represent your ideas.
- Connect your key word ideas to the central focus with lines.
- Use as few words per line as possible.
- Print all the words for easier reading.
- Use color for emphasis and recall.
- Make frequent use of symbols and pictures in addition to words.
Hermeneutics is the science or art of interpreting Scripture. This method comes from 2 Timothy 3:16 where Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” According to this method (and Scripture), we can ask the same four questions of every text to find out how God wants us to apply it to our lives.
What does it tell me to believe (teaching)?
What does it tell me to not believe (reproof)?
How does it tell me not to live (correction)?
How does it tell me to live (training in righteousness)?
To use this method, read a section of Scripture. In a narrative book you may have to read a larger section to answer one of the questions. In a poetic book or epistle you may only need to read a few verses to find several answers to each question. Take a piece of paper and made 4 columns. As you read take notes whenever one of these four questions is answered. Then spend some time expounding on each of these answers and how they can be applied to your life in specific ways.
Last but not least (and certainly not exhaustive) is what is called Christ-centered exegesis. It is just a fancy way of saying that you read every text through the lens of the person and work of Jesus Christ. This method of bringing out the truth of the Scriptures (exegesis) was first used by Jesus Himself, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” In other words, Jesus is the crux of it all. As we look at the Bible as a whole we see that everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus and everything in the New Testament points back to Jesus. Does this mean that every verse of the Bible explicitly uses the name of Jesus? No. But implicitly, every text points to God’s plan, our need for, the work of or the glory of the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a word of caution…doing this too much without help or setting up parameters can lead to serious error in over-allegorizing all of Scripture. For instance, some people have been made famous by there errors in taking every detail about every element of the Old Testament Tabernacle and comparing it to some prophetic element of the ministry of Jesus. This method is often best paired with the Submissive Hermeneutic, as it can be the final word in your study. After you have answered any of the four questions that stem from the text you can end it with this: “How does this text point forward or back to Jesus?”