Approximately two months ago, I took a leave of absence from the internet. I took the month of August and devoted my time to anything BUT the internet. That was a new experience for me. I spend quite a bit of time on social media, especially since I blog and co-host a radio program. So the idea of separating myself from the world wide web was surprising. In fact, several of my friends were quick to assert I wouldn’t last a week. They have no idea how close that came to being true. There were quite a few times I grabbed my smartphone out of sheer habit to see if I had messages or comments, only to realize that I had logged myself out of all my apps. However, the alternate effect was that, for the first time in quite a while, I had a lot more time to do the things I should have been doing all along. Chief among those things was my time of personal bible study. I won’t say that I never read my Bible, but I found that I was not making the time necessary to be a diligent student of the Word.
As I took the time that I so often spent on Facebook or Twitter to devote to other things, I began to realize that, while I had an operating knowledge of Scripture and theology, I saw that I could not readily point to the verses I needed to know to explain my position on a doctrinal matter. In fact, like many Christians, when I read my devotions, I found that by the end of my reading time, I could not easily tell you what I had read. I could read multiple chapters in a short period of time, but I found my retention was not what it should be. As I began to spend more time in the Word I began to realize that much of my own understanding of theology was informed from what I have learned from my pastor, from what I have gleaned from para-church resources (podcasts, websites, etc), and from books written on those topics. While all of these have great value, they should support my personal study of God’s word, not be the primary source.
As I became determined to become more proficient in my reading and understanding of the Bible, I decided to use a technique that John MacArthur teaches. This method involves taking one book of the Bible and reading it through daily (or for a larger text, a portion of it) for an entire month. While I would not say that this is a technique every Christian must use, I found that by reading and re-reading a text multiple times, I began to see and understand aspects of doctrine unfold and was making the connections I had always assumed based on what I heard others teach. This had a profound effect on me.
As a blog writer, a radio co-host and someone who makes YouTube videos to teach a Christian worldview, I began to realize that much of my own biblical knowledge was not gained through the constant study of God’s word. Now, I am not saying that those sources that I learned from were insufficient by any means. I am grateful beyond measure to those who take that time and energy to educate people in theology and doctrine. However, never should I make an effort to teach something, be it here on DefCon or on Cross Encounters Radio, that I haven’t thoroughly sought out in scripture myself. This understanding actually paralyzed me for a brief time as I began to question my right to do anything given my lack of personal scripture knowledge. However, I understood that God was not calling me to cease my efforts to proclaim His gospel, but to call me into deeper study of His word. His intent was not to shame me for my ignorance, but to desire more strongly to know Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
I write this because I as I began to delve into the pastoral epistles, I learned that God commands us to be diligent students of the Word. Repeatedly Paul writes to Timothy, commending him to be bound to the word of God. In 1 Timothy, Paul first warns against engaging in the irreverent pursuits of those who would be teachers of the law that have no true understanding of it. He also establishes the standards for those who would be teachers within the church. Paul then writes in 1 Timothy 4: 6-8, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Paul commends Timothy to avoid that which is worthless and to train himself up in the scriptures.
Later, Paul writes his final letter to Timothy, the last instructions he would be able to pass on to his son in the faith. In 2 Timothy 2: 15 writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Knowing that he will no longer be able to stand along Timothy to teach and guide him, Paul instructs the young preacher to present himself as one who so thoroughly knows the word of God that those who hear him know he is rightly teaching and applying it.
In the following chapter Paul says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3: 14-17). Paul makes it clear that Timothy had been a student of the word since his youth and instructs him to preach from the word alone to the church. That in the word he would find all that he needed to instruct, commend and correct those who sat under him.
As I have poured over these pages repeatedly, I have come to this understanding: that while Paul’s letter primarily instructs a young pastor in the commission of his calling, they have great application in the life of the believer. If the calling of a pastor is to know the word of God so thoroughly that he may shepherd the sheep of Christ, how much more should we, the sheep, be diligent students as well. All that we need for life and godliness are found in the 66 books of the Bible. We need not consult any other source for our daily lives. Yet today, many Christians look to outside sources and spend scant little time delving into the very words our Savior inspired.
Far too often we seek comfort in self help books, or psychological counseling to treat depression, anxiety and many other issues. Yet, God has created us and knows our hearts and minds far more intimately than we ever can. How is it we will trust other sinful creatures to give us the words of comfort and yet neglect the One who gives us the words of eternal life? We take child training courses and go to seminars on how to raise up loving, respectful children. However, those worldly minded speakers, no matter how well intended they may be, believe we are all good by nature and just need to create the right environment to cause our children to blossom. God declares that we are conceived in sin and there is nothing good about us outside of Christ. To raise up our children, we should be turning to the word of God, not Oprah, teaching them they need to repent before the blood stained cross of Jesus Christ. Our personal relationships are not about learning each others’ love languages, but knowing that, despite how much our spouse has grieved us, that we have sinned against God all the more. Our love can only grow and our relationships have true meaning when we learn to forgive one another in the manner that Christ forgives us.
Not one of these examples can occur rightly if we do not become students of the Word. We cannot understand and apply the principles found in the Bible if we have not read them. We cannot understand those principles rightly if we do not understand the context in which they are taught. We cannot understand the context until we have spent more than just a few minutes reading the one verse out of a devotional that was given to us at Christmas. Please understand, I am not saying that we must spend every single minute of everyday reading the Bible cover to cover. However, if we only give the scriptures a token review, a chapter reading here or there, how can we ever expect to understand the deep and wonderful truths that God has revealed to us in His word? How can we hope to live godly lives, marked by repentance and holiness if we do not even learn what is meant by those terms in scripture? God has bestowed upon we who believe the greatest gift of all, His mercy and forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son. And He has given to us all that we need to live in accordance with the gratitude that we should be showing in the gift of His revealed word. I beg you to read these words, consider the time and study you have given that gift thus far. Have you, as I did, taken it for granted and relied solely upon what you have heard? Or are you willing to be a good Berean, studying the word to see if these things be true? I commend you, be a diligent student of the Word.