HOW TO “DIG DEEPER”
INTO THE BIBLE
The American Bible Society tells us that 88% of all Americans own a Bible. 80% of Americans say that the Bible is a sacred book and 61% say they wish they read the Bible more. But only 21% of people actually read the Bible on a regular basis…at least 4 times a week. And the number of people who say that they have a “good working knowledge of God’s Word and how to apply it to their day-to-day lives” has fallen below 10%.
What do these statistics tell us? Obviously, many people have access to a Bible, but far too many of these Holy Books are just collecting dust on a shelf. And lots of people who are reading the Bible are just skimming the surface, not really “digging in” and studying the life-changing messages that the book contains.
The Bible is our “handbook for life!” It is our guide and a roadmap for our daily walk with Jesus Christ. And, as pastors and other often say, if you don’t know the handbook, how can you know how to live your life in the way that God wants you to live?
That’s why it is so important that we don’t just mechanically go through the motions of reading a few verses of the Bible every once in a while. To really get the most out of wat this great book has to say, you must truly “dig in” to it, study it and apply its messages to your life.
To encourage people to dig deeper into God’s Word, we have created the “Bible Study America.org” website. Through the website, we hope that Christians and others will be encouraged to read their Bible more often. And we hope that they won’t stop there, but that they will truly strive to “dig deeper” into The Word, to discover the messages, meaning and inspiration that it contains, and how to use what they discover as a guide for their lives. With these goals in mind, we would like to suggest that you consider the following ideas that might help you “dig deeper” as you read and study the Bible.
STEP ONE: READ THE BIBLE
This first step is rather obvious. The place where you need to start is by actually reading the Bible. But there are several things that you need to consider.
First, what will you read? Many people prefer to go through the Bible one book at a time. They don’t necessarily start at the beginning and go from front to back. Many people choose a particular book because of the current interest or just something that catches their attention. But you might also follow a suggested Bible reading guide or scriptures that are suggested as a part of your weekly Bible study group.
Some people also follow a “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” guide. However, many Bible study leaders do not suggest using one of these guides. Why? Because they say that many people who follow these guides - where people are reading a number of chapters from several different books of the Bible each day – find themselves reading a lot of material, but not necessarily taking the time to really “study” what they have read. Our goal should be about the quality of our time with God’s Word, not just about the quantity of material that is read.
One other note about reading the Bible: We also suggest that you use a variety of translations as you read. It’s important to have a good study Bible as one of your primary sources as you read, but it is also important to get a fuller understanding of what you have read by reading the same passage from other translations. And, today, it’s not even necessary for you to own a number of different Bibles to do this. You can use your computer or smartphone to have easy access to an amazing number of different Bible translation “apps”…most of which will be free.
STEP TWO – THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE READ
Once you have read all or part of the scripture passage that you are planning to read for that day, it’s time to think about what you have read. Dr. Howard Hendricks, in his book “Practical Christianity, suggests that once a passage has been read, the reader should do two things – “observe” what they have read and then “interpret” the message of the passage.
First, “observe” what you have read by asking questions like, “What do I see in this passage?” “What is really happening here?” “Where is this taking place?” and “Who are the people involved?”
Next, “interpret” what you have read by asking questions like, “What does this passage mean?” Why is this passage or story in the Bible?” and “How does this passage fit into the overall teaching of the Bible?”
STEP THREE – ASK “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME?”
After you have read the passage and have taken a few minutes to really think about what you have read, you also need to think about what the message actually is saying to YOU. We must always remember that God speaks to each of us through His Word. God doesn’t just want us to read the Bible to learn what’s right and what’s wrong, and about the people who followed Him and those who rejected his leading. Through the Holy Spirit, God also wants to speak directly to each of us – to give us that special message that He wants each of us to hear and follow.
A good question to ask here is “What does this passage say to me?” Again, we need to keep in mind that the Bible is a very personal book. It is not a random collection of history, morality, poetry and other styles of writing. The Bible is God’s “Holy Word!” Every book, every chapter, every verse and every word has come to us from the inspiration of God Himself. And, if we truly believe that the Bible is God’s personal message addressed to each and every one of us, then we have a responsibility to try to discover the message that God has for us in the passage that we have just read.
Discovering what a passage says and means to the reader is very important, but we shouldn’t stop there. It is also important to ask, “How can I apply this passage and its message in my life?” Applying what you have just read to you own life is a vital part of “digging deeper” into God’s Word.
One of the goals that every person should have as they read their Bible is that they want to “learn” something. But what exactly does that mean? What is “learning?” Learning is “change.” Learning should bring about a change in our knowledge, our understanding, our thinking, our perception and/or our actions. For a scripture to really have an impact on our lives, we need to “learn” something from it and that means that it should bring about some sort of “change” in our lives – a change in our thinking, our understanding our knowledge and our actions!
STEP FOUR – PRAY!
You’ve heard the slogans: “There’s power in prayer,” “Prayer changes things,” and others. But what do these phrases really mean to you? Are they just words or do you really believe in the power of prayer?
Earlier we noted that God speaks to each of us as we read and study His Word. But It is important to remember that He also speaks to us as we speak to Him through our prayers. That’s why it is essential to pray about what you have just read and studied. As you pray, ask God to give you a full understanding of what you have just read and ask Him to help you apply the lesson of the passage in our own life. And, as you pray, be sure to thank God for the great gift that is His Word, and for the inspiration, instruction and other benefits that you have received from its pages.
STEP FIVE – STRIVE TO DIG EVEN DEEPER
Did you ever receive a love letter from a special person? If you did, what do you do with that letter? Did you quickly glance at it and then throw it away? Of course not! We are sure that you treasured that letter, reading and re-reading every word as you attempted to learn as much as you possibly could about that special someone who sent you the letter. Well, guess what? The Bible is a “love letter!” It is a love letter that has been sent to us by the one that should be the number one love of each of our lives – Jesus Christ! And, if Jesus is truly that number one love of a person’s life, won’t they want to read and re-read His “love letter” – the Bible – to find out all that they possibly can about Him and His will for their lives?
As Christians, we should never stop learning, and we should never stop trying to deepen our faith, love and commitment for Jesus Christ. Our goal each day should be to strive to live in a way that is totally pleasing to Him. It goes without saying that we are never going to fully succeed and totally reach that goal, but it is certainly a worthy target for each of us to have in our lives. And reading and studying the Bible each day should be an important part of that endeavor.
Reading the Bible, studying and thinking about what you have read, working to apply the lessons of the scripture to one’s day-do-day life, and then praying about what you have read are all essential as a person strives to really “dig deeper” into God’s Word. But we don’t think you should even stop there. Here are several other things for you to consider:
- Get involved in Sunday school or a similar Bible study group. These groups are important because they encourage students to discuss, ask questions, and share personal experiences and insights to get students looking and thinking even deeper into the meaning and application of God’s Word. And they also encourage fellowship among the class members and service t both God and our fellowman.
- Talk with a Christian friend about what you have read. Perhaps the two of you could even work to establish a plan where you are both reading the same passages each day. Then, once a week or so, you might get together for coffee or lunch to discuss what you have read and learned. This type of relationship with a fellow Christian will also help to hold both persons a greater accountability in their Christian walk with the Lord.
- Go to your Christian bookstore or go online to find personal Bible study guides and materials that will help you in your time of daily devotions and study. These guides are available for each of the books of the Bible and guides for particular topics and areas of concern are also available.
- Share what you have learned and your live for the Bible through your social media contacts. You might also be able to get a Bible study discussion started through these contacts.