Bible study is important, but not just as a way to gain more knowledge in my head. Bible doctrine is important, but not as a way to line up what I believe against what others believe. Bible theology is important, but not as a way to superimpose a belief system over what God is actually saying and doing in the world today.
Every insight gained through prayer and Bible study is an invitation to encounter God personally. Each point of Bible doctrine or theology is an invitation to step into his very presence, to intimately know his nature, to experience him in all his goodness, and to know what he is saying to me right now, today, in this very moment!
Psalm 103:7 tells us that God “made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the children of Israel”. God revealed his nature to Moses (his ways). Moses had regular personal encounters with God and knew him personally. But the people of Israel settled for seeing what God did at a distance (his acts – things like parting the Red Sea, providing manna for food every day, providing water from a rock). When the opportunity came for them to experience a more personal encounter with God they said, “No thank you!” That prospect was too scary for them at the time (see Exodus 20:18-19).
Like many of us today we read about what God did, or we hear testimonies about what God is doing today, and we believe it. And yet perhaps we have not experienced this same power in our own life.
- We know he has forgiven our iniquities but we may doubt the part where he heals all our diseases (see Psalm 103:3).
- We may believe in the love of God, but we haven’t experienced that in a way that heals us from our past.
This intimate, experiential knowledge of God doesn’t occur because we have correct doctrine about God’s love. It comes when we experience a personal encounter with the God who is love.
Here’s a tool that will help us study the Bible not just to learn about God (knowing his acts), but to experience him (knowing his ways).
Read a paragraph or a chapter in the Bible and answer the following questions:
1. What does it say?
Ask, “What does it say?” When something begins to stand out, write it down.
Example: In Matthew 5: 14 Jesus told his followers, “You are the light of the world…”
2. What does it mean?
Ask yourself “What does it mean?” Consider what the original writer was saying to the original audience. Consider the biblical and cultural context. Then write it down.
Example: Jesus was telling his followers that just as he came to bring light and reveal the true nature of His Father in heaven and to show what God is really like, (John 1:4-5), that calling is now given to them. His disciples were to be the light of the world!
3. What does it mean to me?
This is where the Holy Spirit will apply this word to you personally and present an opportunity to step into a place where you encounter him and experience his presence and power. Write it down.
Example: That calling to be the light of the world, to reveal the true nature of our Father in heaven, is also my calling. I’m called to bring to others illumination and revelation of God and his nature so that people around me can know him personally.
4. What am I to do?
This is where I yield my heart to God’s spoken word, experience his presence, and receive his grace (the willingness and power) to do what he’s asking me to do. My obedience connects with his power and resulting in a manifestation of his kingdom around me as his will is being done “on earth as it is in heaven”.
Example: v. 16 says “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” As I listened to the Holy Spirit the thought came, “My neighbor is sick. I know that he likes Chinese food. I’ll order a big take out bowl of war wanton soup and take it over to him.” When I did this I encounter God’s presence and connected with his power and joy. By serving in this way, I also prophetically declared God’s nature as a servant in my neighborhood in way that others can see him and sense his presence as well.
5. Who am I to tell?
This is where God will use me to speak to others. By sharing this word and testimony of what God is doing, I am bringing the kingdom of God to others. God will use my testimony to speak to others and encourage them to be light in their world and serve him in similar ways.
Click here to print out the Transformational Bible Study tool.