My purpose in Constructing Faith is to help you improve your faith. There may be many ways to accomplish that, but my focus so far is to provide help in Bible study. I’m not coming from a place of perfection here, just some experience and lots of experimentation. This has been a slow process of learning, but I’ve greatly enjoyed the process so far! I want you to experience the same spiritual richness.
I understand that this process is challenging. I’ve practiced this in some form or another (however inconsistently) for about 19 years, and it’s still challenging to me. The challenges are different, but still there. I think it’s similar to belt systems in martial arts. Black belts have challenging materials to learn just like white belts. The thing to remember, however, is that the results are worth the efforts. There is a thrill involved in finding and understanding the truths of the Bible. It is faith-affirming to see the passages unfold before you, revealing precious jewels that can change your life for the better if applied. Peter meant it when he wrote that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
There are many principles related to Bible study, but there are two that stand out. If you apply these you will be able to be much more successful in your efforts. Without a good grasp of these two principles, you will have a much more difficult time finding truth. In fact, it might just be impossible.
Believe it or not, the Bible is designed so that you cannot grasp the deeper treasures unless you first have the proper motivation. To illustrate this, consider a situation where Jesus heard that people were perplexed about His teachings.
The religious elite of the day (the Pharisees) enjoyed great power. The people looked up to them. They had the moral authority to dictate all kinds of restrictive laws that reinforced their hold on the people. But Jesus challenged them at every turn. It’s not that Jesus came to become a thorn in their sides. He was simply teaching the truth, and it contradicted the philosophies and ordinances of the elite.
Jesus had keen insights and a remarkable mind, and it confused some people. In John 7, statements were made about Jesus that express this confusion. How is it that Jesus could know so much and have such keen insights considering that He was never trained in the religious schools of the day? It’s a great question to consider.
The equivalent would be a high school graduate who contradicted Einstein’s theory of relativity and exposed errors in it. How could it happen?
Jesus’ answer was that He did not teach something He invented. He taught what His Father told Him to teach. All the insights and information Jesus gave came directly from His Father. There’s no need to go to school and learn from students when the Author of Knowledge is instructing you!
But What Jesus said in response to their confusion teaches a great principle.
“My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:16-17).
Notice the if-then clause. “IF anyone wills to do His will [THEN] he shall know….” What we have here is the principle of motivation.
The simple truth is that if we don’t want to obey, we’re probably not going to “get it”. Now consider that. It’s not suggesting that we must first decide to believe it before we can believe it. That would not make sense! It’s unfortunate that some people base their faith on just that. “I choose to believe it; therefore, I am convinced!” That’s not faith as described in the Bible.
In order to understand the Bible, we must first WANT to understand it.
That might seem simplistic, but it’s a vital component of Bible study that is sometimes overlooked. WHY you are studying is as important as WHAT you are studying.WHY you are studying is as important as WHAT you are studying. Click To Tweet
Consider all of the reasons we might study the Bible besides wanting to understand it. Why study if we’re not seeking understanding? Here’s a short list.
- To prove something I already believe
- To impress people with interesting facts of the Bible
- To teach some popular idea that will help gain a following
The Bible has several passages that teach the importance of motivation. Here’s another one to consider: 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
You can see the importance of motivation. So what’s your reason for studying the Bible?
Undoubtedly, this second principle is not as important as the first one, but it’s a big one! The difference between a good Bible student and a great one lies in this principle.A great Bible student asks great questions. Click To Tweet
Don’t shy away from questions. Some religious bodies actually teach their members that asking questions is not proper. Do you want my advice if you are a member of a church that discourages honest questions? Run. Don’t walk. Don’t hesitate. You cannot afford to stay there one moment more.If your church doesn't allow you to ask questions - RUN. Click To Tweet
It’s true that you might ask questions you will never answer. We’re dealing with spiritual information that we cannot fathom in some cases. But don’t let that convince you not to try! You’ll never answer the questions you never have the courage to ask.
One of the scariest questions you will ever ask is, “Why?” Try it out! It could change your life.
Creative questions are not simply important, they are vital. They also come with practice. Ask the question, “What possible questions can I ask about this?” Just keep your eyes open and think about what you are learning. The more you learn, the more questions will be available to ask.
Obviously there must come a time when you accept the limitations and stop asking questions. Even though you could theoretically spend the next several years plumbing the depths of a passage, you’ll miss great information in other places. In fact, there are no topics in the Bible that are explained entirely in one particular passage. I can’t tell you how to determine it, but it will be obvious at some point. You’re brain will say, “I’ve had enough.”
I regret that I did not keep notes. I kept records. I kept sermon outlines, but I did not think to keep my notes showing the process. You’ll want those later. Trust me. I’m really kicking myself for my lack of vision about this in the past. Since I’ve started my podcast, however, I have LOTS of pages of notes you’ll probably never see. But they are there for my edification later.
These two principles will make you a better student of the Bible. That means you will increase your faith and improve your relationship with God. But there is a caveat. You have to apply what you learn.
Thankfully, this process of study that I am defining and sharing through Constructing Faith includes that step. If you will go through the steps as they are outlined, you will be prepared to take God’s word and put it to use in your life. That’s how you can construct your faith. I’m not trying to take God out of the process, in fact, the way to include God is to be sure you understand and apply His WORD.
What other principles do you consider vital to study? Comment below!