Study—That We Might Believe

The following is excerpted from the sermon “Lent: Discipline of Study” by Todd Hunter.

Why don’t we study the bible?

  • The Bible is too hard to understand—and I have limited time and intellectual ability.
  • We wonder if the Bible remains reliable, relevant to our modern world?

What happens when we don’t study?

  • We lose contact with God’s Voice; lose our way under pressure from family, peers or media.
  • We lose confidence for living, discerning, deciding; we lose trust.

Why the Discipline of Study is Core to Discipleship:

  • The purpose of study is the transformation of our entire being into the image of Jesus and obedience his Gospel of the Kingdom of God…
  • We need to know the narrative of scripture from Divine intention to telos; knowing the story gives us a source of basic discernment—of fundamental patterns for living as an actor…
  • Know how our fore-parents dealt with God and the world—their worldview or lens for living…
  • Study is a source of comfort, encouragement and exhortation for followers of Jesus…
  • Study gives us increased ability to share the content of faith and to give a rationale for faith… Jesus used scripture to orient his work, describe his actions, defeat temptation and make his points to adversaries…
  • Study teaches us to form our deepest values, to ask and answer life’s great questions, to interpret life’s critical events and to make crucial judgments from a biblical basis…

Recommended reading:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition
How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour


Click here to listen to sermon Lent: Discipline of Study.

 

Why do you read the Bible?

Why do you read the Bible? What do you expect to gain from reading it? Is it something you do because you feel like you have to? Do you read looking to mine out timeless truths claims that you can believe? Are you looking for existential comfort or encouragement? What is it that draws you back? Or are you drawn back? Do you lack desire to meditate on Scripture? Do you find it dry and boring?

You might find yourself on one end or the other of this spectrum (and, for that matter, anywhere in between). But wherever you are, I hope you might entertain a different idea with me for a moment. As Christians, we believe that Scripture possesses a unique authority in our lives. It is the norming norm by which all other knowledge of God is weighed. Reason, tradition, and personal experience all find their better in the deliverances of biblical revelation.

Right? Yes, I think we could all agree with that.

Unfortunately, I think the next move we often make is mistaken. Because we believe the Bible is authoritative, we’re often tempted to scour it looking for essential truths that we can live by. To our chagrin, those truths are often buried under fluffy narrative and anecdotal “Sunday school” stories, so we try to sidestep the story to get to the “really good stuff.” This isn’t a malicious move we make – I think it’s done more unaware than anything else. However, I think in doing this we might actually be missing out on something HUGE that God is trying to communicate to us.

Don’t forget, God could have chosen to reveal himself to us any which way. He could have written the “Top Twelve Things to Know About God” on a piece of parchment and disseminated that to the whole world. He could have had a voice from the heavens eternally repeating the Ten Commandments. But he didn’t do anything like that. He gave us records of a narrative.

A story.

A drama.

So what does this suggest to us? What might God be inviting us to by revealing himself in such a way?

Well, I think Scripture as narrative unreservedly draws us into the throws of an unfolding cosmic tale. It offers a redemptive background for us to discover ourselves against and a foundation for us to anchor our lives to. We each have a personal history; a sequence of past events that have made us who we are. Scripture offers us an opportunity to tether that personal history onto the unfolding Divine plan. The message of Scripture is not at its core a list of “15 fundamentals” or “6 Essential Beliefs.” Instead, it is a narratival invitation to an experiential relationship with God the creator. Jonathan Edwards captures something of this necessity of experiencing God in his Religious Affections when he says, “He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.” Story engages our affections and pulls us into truth via our hearts in a way that propositions cannot.

It strikes me that God is keenly aware of the effect that story has on us. Don’t you think he chose to reveal himself in this way for a purpose? I welcome you to meditate further on the narratival form of Scripture and ask the Lord how your reading of the Bible might afford you the opportunity to be further caught up into His grand narrative. Who knows? Maybe this exercise will change the way you read the Bible. Maybe it will help you see that God is after your heart and not just your head.

– Dave Strobolakos

A Clearer View

Jesus seemed to have rich and full life. One might even say he was busy. But he was never out of control, never in a hurry. He maintained his pace and his poise through an ongoing conversation with his Father. He said:

  • I only do the things I see my father doing… (John 5:19)
  • I don’t do anything on my own… (John 5: 30)
  • I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me… (John 6:38)
  • I only say the things I see hear my Father saying… (John 12: 49, 50)

Jesus was alert to God and others. He noticed people—especially the least, the last, the left out and the marginalized. He naturally and organically pulled this off. He was never awkwardly self-conscious about it or affected in his speech or mannerisms.

How did he manage to do this? A rhythm of private prayer and public love—that is willing the good of, and working for the good of others.

Do you sometimes feel that your truest self and God are getting buried under the clutter of life? Ever wonder what can strip away day-to-day distractions, yielding to us a clearer picture of God and ourselves? Do what Jesus did: retreat from life in prayer for the sake of re-engaging with it with a clearer view. You have a point of view. I have a point of view. Jesus has view. He got it from his Father. We get it from him.

 

This week see if talking more to God can slow you down and make you more present to the people and events of your life.