Sanctification involves being made holy and equipped for God’s service, and while we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), we must remember that human effort is part of the sanctification process, for it is evidence of whom we serve (John 14:15).
In previous articles, the focus was on the importance of developing the sanctification habits of daily surrender and constant prayer. To briefly review, the first habit to develop is daily surrender. Luke 9:23 and 1 Corinthians 14:31 make it clear that we must daily die to self. Surrendering to Christ as soon as you open your eyes is the best way to start the day. You can stay surrendered to God throughout the day by practicing the second habit, “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and making conscious decisions to follow Jesus by acting on your decisions to obey Him. We suggested modeling the prayer found in Matthew 5:8-13, which can be summarized and remembered with the acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and confession). Or, we could also use the “Five Finger Prayer” to specifically remind us of individuals to pray for. Both are useful in helping us deepen our own prayer lives, and develop intercessory prayer habits for other people.
The Third Habit: Regular Bible Study
Why is Bible study so important? Psalm 19:7-11 expounds on its many benefits: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Psalm 119:165 promises great peace to those that love (and study) the Word of God.
In addition to converting our souls, making wise our simple minds, rejoicing our hearts, and enlightening our eyes, Bible study is critical to being an effective witness for Jesus. John Wesley famously said, “You have one business on earth – to save souls.” In order to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) of saving souls, we must be more than merely familiar with the Word of God. We must know the Word of God. We must study it in order to rightly handle (interpret and share) the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
How should we begin Bible study? We should always start this time with prayer! The famed reformer, Martin Luther, who spent a year translating the New Testament into German, wisely stated: “We cannot attain to the understanding of Scripture either by study or by the intellect. Your first duty is to begin by prayer. Entreat the Lord to grant you, of His great mercy, the true understanding of His Word. There is no other interpreter of the Word of God than the Author of this Word, as He Himself has said, "They shall be all taught of God" (John 6:45). Hope for nothing from your own labors, from your own understanding: trust solely in God, and in the influence of His Spirit. Believe this on the word of a man who has experience.”
Are there different ways to study the Bible? Yes, there are two different kinds of Bible study, devotional and doctrinal, both of which are equally important. Devotional is more meditative. It consists of prayer and the reading of a few verses or chapters. Some Christians like to use a Bible-based devotional books. Many publications cater to specific groups, like men, women, fathers, mothers, teens, etc. While these devotionals can be a helpful tool to understanding Scripture, they should never take the place of Bible study. During devotional time, the focus is on praying, meditating on the Word of God, and applying it to one’s life. Many find that choosing a chapter from the Psalms or a parable or episode from the life of Christ are wonderful devotional selections.
Another type of Bible study is doctrinal, which consists of prayer and the studying of a particular topic. Examples include the State of the Dead, the 2300 Year Prophecy of Daniel 9:14, or the Three Angels’ Message of Revelation 14:6-9. The study of these topics can be quite intensive, for it involves cross-referencing other texts to gain a clear understanding of what Scripture teaches. However, it is incredibly rewarding to become familiar with these great truths, commit them to memory, and be able to briefly explain them if they come up in conversation with both friends and strangers.
A blending of devotional and doctrinal Bible study is best. If one focuses just on devotional meditation, they will miss out on the powerful Bible truths that millions of Christians throughout the Dark Ages gave their lives for. Righteousness by faith, baptism by immersion, and the infallibility of the Word of God are just a few areas of doctrine that our spiritual ancestors were willing to give their lives for. However, if we focus solely on doctrinal studies, we will miss the devotional aspect of sitting at Jesus’ feet and applying His teachings to our lives. Both methods of study are equally important!
Call to Action
As for the timing of Bible study, Jesus’ practice was to rise early in the morning to commune with His Father (Mark 1:35). We too should commune with God first thing in the morning. This is the perfect time to surrender to Him, pray, and immerse our minds with the Word of God. And if we also spend time with God studying in the evening, we have ample opportunity to engage both in devotional and doctrinal study. For Christians trying to retain Scripture by memory, many find that reviewing it throughout the day and even speaking it out loud to themselves aids them in committing these truths to memory. Some like to keep handwritten notes, index cards, or bullet points on a phone to review what they are studying. This enables them to wisely use any free time that they may have throughout the day.
And, if you don’t know what to study, just ask! The Holy Spirit led Jesus’ brother, James, to write: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV). Many Christians like to go through the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Gospels for their devotionals. In fact, Proverbs has 31 chapters, perfect for reading a chapter each day of month!
For free Bible studies on these topics, consider those done by Amazing Facts: https://www.amazingfacts.org/media-library/read/c/2/t/bible-study-guides.
Remember that God desires that we search the Scriptures, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Like a puzzle, there are precious gems scattered throughout its 66 books. If you haven’t already made a commitment to daily Bible study, why not make a plan now, and begin today? Not only will you reap the benefits of peace, renewed physical and emotional strength, improved moods, and the ability to focus on God and others instead of self, but you will also be able to share these beautiful truths with others as God uses you to win souls for Him!
Unless specified, all Scripture verses are taken from the King James Version.