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Chapter 31 - Bible study
If someone is completely unfamiliar with the bible, starting with a children’s bible can be a helpful way to learn about bible stories. For those who have been through Sunday school and may already be familiar with the bible stories, a study in one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) can be a good starting point.
Many churches offer a weekly bible study. Many Christians conduct a bible study in their homes. Making a few phone calls can usually turn up a bible study that would have open enrollment. It can be intimidating to show up cold at an established group. However, often the person contacted by phone would be willing to provide a point of entry.
Christian bookstores often carry commentaries where a scholar has collected various views on each verse of a particular bible book. For example reading a commentary on the Gospel of John might have a verse presented with four or five different views on its interpretation. This can be a good exercise in discernment by seeing how ones own interpretation measures up against others.
With the Internet, one can now view various bible studies online. Like anything else, there are a wide variety of opinions. Even a good teacher will have some peculiarity or pet issue, but it can be helpful to see the shortcomings of others as it inclines us not to lift them up as 'super' Christians.
As a Christian grows in the use of bible study tools such as commentaries, concordances, and lexicons, he can do word studies, topic studies, or other approaches to letting the word of God wash over him and reach increasingly deeper within him.
There are two basic approaches to bible study. The first is the traditional scholarly more intellectual approach using study tools and aids. The second is a meditative approach that touches the heart and produces reverence, awe, and devotion. Some who have taken the first approach have neglected the second and end up as sort of Christian 'smarty pants' (puffed up with knowledge but deficient in love).
If a Christian finds the attempt to study the bible boring, tedious, incomprehensible, or nonsensical, he might want to make sure he actually has saving faith.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
The person who has stopped breathing will be dead soon. If he receives artificial respiration, he can continue in a state of potential vitality. However, the ideal state is for him to begin breathing on his own. This can be illustrative of bible study for the Christian. We can be sustained by the instruction from the bible by others, but we are in better Christian health when we are able to be filled from the word directly.
This illustration can perhaps help us get rid of the association many of us have of bible study with school work. The bible is not a subject to master, but a source of life sustaining vitality.
And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. - Luke 4:4
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. - John 6:35
Christians have often been led to believe that they are required just to be passive receivers of what the 'clergy' has determined what it is that they should know. The bible tells us we have the responsibility to judge those who would presume to teach us and reject those who are in error. This responsibility cannot be fulfilled until we have a solid understanding of truth, the bible.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, - Colossians 2:18
The bible is truth. It is our protection from those who would deceive us. It is a source of spiritual life. It is active and transformative. The Christian drawn to make radical changes in his life is encouraged to have this solid foundation as the reference point to which all else is compared.
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