Hebrews 4:12-13 (New Living Translation)12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
You cannot approach the use of the Bible as a text without a basic understanding of how to go about studying it. Yesterday we explored why the Bible is relevant for our study, and that is has been proven authoritative and valid due to its manuscript evidence, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy, and overall continuity of story. One need only commit to taking time to studying God's word, and they will be amazed how the words can reveal what is in a person's heart. Our text above, which has been attributed to Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews , describes how this takes place.
How should we go about studying God's word to achieve the greatest revelation and understanding? Here are a few tips on how to:
1. Select a Bible - There are many good translations of the Bible that are in use today. The one you use depends on your current level of understanding. A beginner will find that the New Living Translation or The Message are paraphrased and amplified in today's manner of speaking, and these will be fairly easy to understand. If you wish a more accurate translation that adheres more to the word for word meaning in the original Hebrew or Greek, The New International Version(NIV), American Standard Version(ASV) or New King James Version(NKJV) are good to use.
2. Select Study Tools - You will want to arm yourself with a few good tools that will help you make sense of what you are studying. These will include a Bible Dictionary for word clarification, Bible Study Guides that will help you plan your study, Commentaries that are interpretations of the textual meaning by scholars, a Concordance that allows you to find passages that you might be loooking for, and the Internet that allows you to find anything on the topic. You do need to be careful that what you use and read are from reliable and reputable authors that have extensive knowledge of the Bible.
3. Select a Location and Time - You will want to find a location and time that is most convenient for consistent study. Free yourself from distractions and obstacles that will keep you from meaningful time with the Bible for at least 15 minutes. You will be suprised how much will happen to distract and discourage you, but if you remain faithful and dilligent, you will get past this. You will find more time and desire to keep up your study program.
4. Pray - Before you get started reading, begin by praying and asking God to give you spiritual understanding. Seek God's direction through His Spirit asking Him to reveal His will and meaning of the words to you.
5. Select a Place to Start - This is really up to you. Some people start from the beginning in the Old Testament, while others start with the New Testament accounts of Jesus's life. Others will start with the books of the Bible that give a good synopsis of the message and reason behind the Gospel, such as John or Romans. You will want to limit yourself to reading chapter or book. Read it, then read it again. Meditate on what the words are trying to tell you. Use the study tools to help you dissect the the meaning. Be sure that you complete the chapter or book before moving on to the next. It is difficult to gain real understanding of context and purpose if you do otherwise.
6. Live it - After you have taken time to read and dissect the Bible, actively apply what you have learned. Living out what you have come to understand is God's direction and purpose for your life can be truly life changing. You will find opposition at times, but you will find that God's word will provide comfort and peace. Become a "doer of the word" and you will be blessed by the results.