You don’t have to rely on Bible studies and commentaries to help you understand God’s Word. God designed His Word so that you could read it and know it on your own.
“What are you doing for Bible study this summer?”
I have asked and answered this question repeatedly for most of my adult life. If you participate in group Bible study regularly, you have realized the real and lasting benefits of using a guide or curriculum to study the Bible. God uses the gifts of writers and teachers to provide helpful roadmaps as we seek to apply His Word to our lives. In addition, utilizing a Bible study in a group setting provides the needed accountability and encouragement to keep us engaged and showing up for each other in this process.
I wonder, however, if the habitual practice of using Bible studies year after year can create a dependence on these resources. Christian books can also be easily substituted for Bible reading. In all of this, it’s possible to arrive at a point where we don’t have the confidence to engage God’s Word on our own without question prompts, commentary, or reading someone else’s discoveries.
Admittedly, there is a time and place for such books and studies. As an author myself, I’m convinced there is a need for good Bible studies. But what if you committed this summer to reading only your Bible in your personal study of His Word? What if you laid aside the Bible studies, books, and podcasts and, with a notebook and pen in hand, asked the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you?
If this endeavor intimidates you, perhaps it is wise to take a moment to ponder the sufficiency and power of God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is alive and powerful! Additionally, the Word promises wonderful benefits in our lives: “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 3:16)
In Psalm 19:7-11, we also see a beautiful description of what God’s Word produces in us: refreshment, wisdom, joy, illumination and blessing.
The compelling story of Christopher Yuan serves as an example of the transformative power that God’s Word alone can have in a person’s life:
Christopher Yuan grew up in the United States, the son of Chinese immigrants. He was small for his age and was often picked on as a child. His early years were characterized by hurt and brokenness and, because his parents were not Christians, he never understood unconditional love and security.
Christopher excelled in school, however, and eventually pursued his doctorate in dental school. But by then, his increasing brokenness was reflected in his promiscuous homosexual lifestyle which led him into the dark world of drug dealing. He was leading a double life. Eventually, it all caught up and he was expelled from dental school just four months shy of graduation. Then, when 12 federal drug agents showed up at his front door, he was caught red-handed and found guilty of drug possession. Christopher was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
Three days into serving his sentence, something caught his eye in a trashcan. After fishing the object out of the trash, he discovered it was a Bible. Out of sheer boredom, Christopher began reading the whole gospel account of Mark. As he read more, his heart softened and Scripture became alive to him. He experienced the power of the Gospel and God’s good story. Coupled with the unceasing prayers of his parents who had become believers, Christopher’s life was transformed. After he was released, he attended Moody Bible Institute and received two masters’ degrees. He is now an author, speaker and professor at Moody Bible Institute. His story beautifully highlights the power of God’s Word.
So, if we are convinced of the transformative nature of God’s Word and we want to read it, where do we start? Using a helpful tool, the acronym S.P.E.C.K., we can engage almost any biblical text and glean something useful in our Bible reading time. After reading the passage, you simply ask a few good questions.
S – a sin to confess?
P – a promise to claim?
E – an example to follow (or avoid)?
C – a command to obey?
K – knowledge of God (character/attribute of God)?
Not every passage you read in Scripture can answer all of these questions, but there will always be a couple that do apply. Your unique discoveries will whet your appetite for more. As my old seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, used to say: “Self-discovery [in your Bible reading] is the key to motivation.”
Lastly, we can end our study by asking the all-important question: “How does this passage point me to the Gospel?” Ending with this question keeps us Christ-centered as we realize that all Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, points to our Savior and Redeemer.
Bible studies and Christian books can be beneficial for our spiritual growth, but we don’t have to be participating in a formal Bible study to gain wisdom from God’s Word. Let’s remember the Bible itself is the bedrock everything else is based on and it is sufficient to transform us simply because it is God’s very word.
Courtney Garrett is an author, Bible teacher and the founder of 101 Christianity, a ministry that creates tools to equip people in every stage of faith to both know the truth and share the truth. She is the author of 101: Exploring the Basics of the Christian Faith and 101: Discovering the Character of God. She holds a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary and served as the Director of Women’s Discipleship at her home church, Grace Bible Church, in Houston, Texas for several years. She is married to John and loves being the mother of two boys, Jack and Camp. For more information see 101christianity.com.