by Trevor Marsteller
Perhaps the greatest trouble the Church faces in this age is a dearth of the knowledge of God. Adam was right to sound the alarm earlier this week. But am I talking about the same thing Adam was? Didn’t he say, “The Bible is not being taken seriously”? Are those the same things – the knowledge of God and taking the Bible seriously? No, but only in the same way a box of matches is not a forest fire. The beginning of the knowledge of God starts with the spark of taking the Bible seriously. There could be much said here about the necessity of the reader to submit to some level of the Bible’s authority, but let’s assume that you agree with the following, “The Bible is the word of God.” Or in other words, as the dramatically-converted Christian-killer Saul said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). You think that God spoke in a variety of ways in former times, but in the later times, these times, God has spoken through his Son (Heb. 1:1). By the miracle of faith, you believe that. Good.
But why do our lives still seem like poorly rebuilt ruins? Why are we plagued with dark shadows of sin, unbelief, and foolishness? When we don’t know God, we veer off several different cliffs and plunge into various stupid ways of living. We think we can atone for our sin through spiritual activities. We make poor and unplanned decisions. We defend our sin as “ok” and “not a big deal”. We fall in league with unbiblical teaching or heresy. We focus on living only for ourselves and neglect the care of others.
I proffer that these sub-surface problems find their root in not taking the Bible seriously. And if we are not taking the Bible seriously, then isn’t the problem a little bit deeper? Don’t we fail to take God seriously if we don’t take him at His word? Think about it. The Bible is God’s word. God. Take a moment and ponder that and see if you aren’t shocked that you can know words that came from the Creator’s lips. With that weighty truth, let’s consider two things that will help you know God and master the Bible…
1. Book By Book
Simplicity and regularity are the keys to mastering the Bible. How often have you made some grandiose spiritual commitment? Getting up at 5AM to pray for an hour? Journaling through the book of Hebrews in a week? Ever followed through on those? Yeah, me neither. To make legitimate, real, beneficial progress in mastering the Bible, I recommend starting small and keeping regular.
Pick a book and read it twenty times – slowly. Or pick a book and read it again and again for a month. I did this with 1 Peter in 2011. I decided to read through the book twenty times and however long it took me to do that, well, that’s how long it took me. (It took about two to three months, reading slowly and often digesting only a verse at a time after reading one chapter per day.) My daily times in 1 Peter looked like this: read one chapter, pick a verse/passage in that chapter, and journal about it until you exhaust your understanding of the verse. The goal of this method is to thoroughly understand what is happening in the book. You want to be able to think alongside the author’s train of thought, think of the next verse before you read it, and become saturated with the Bible so that it pops up in your mind like a crazed, malfunctioning Whack-A-Mole game. Think of this as biblical saturation.
2. Two Questions
Ok, so now you are reading the Bible and beginning to become saturated with God’s word. Good. But do you know what you are reading? We shouldn’t want to remain like the unaided Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), so here are two bottom line questions you need to ask the Bible:
“What is the point of this text as it was written in its original context?”
“How does this text confront me?”
You must determine the authorial intent, i.e. the main gist of the author. What was the point for the original audience? Do this before you tackle the application to your own life. Bad things happen when we try to apply a text to ourselves without first understanding the original meaning.
I can’t underscore the importance of the two questions laid out here. To the best of my ability, the full thrust of biblical exegesis and the hermeneutical task (go over to dictionary.com right about now) lie in those two questions. Interrogate your Bible and consider this: “[Wisdom] is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire can compare with her” (Prv. 3:15).
Try this out for a week; if you have discovered something new about God, and I don’t mean mere factual nuggets, but if you get a taste of what the Puritans called “experimental theology”, tasting and seeing the goodness of God, then keep at it. Dig deep. The treasures of God’s grace will never be uncovered by casually raking the pages of the Bible like a pile of dry leaves, but they will be found when they are sought like buried treasure. I challenge you to try this for a week. Pick a book, slowly read it multiple times, determine the meaning and apply. Get digging, saints.
Trevor Marsteller has contributed to WOTG before. You can read more about him and other writers for WOTG on our About the Authors page.