“There Must Be Knowledge of God Before There Can Be Love to God” — Charles Spurgeon

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Charles Spurgeon

Certainly, the benefit of reading must come to the soul by the way of the understanding. When the high priest went into the holy place he always lit the golden candlestick before he kindled the incense upon the brazen altar, as if to show that the mind must have illumination before the affections can properly rise towards their divine object. There must be knowledge of God before there can be love to God: there must be a knowledge of divine things, as they are revealed, before there can be an enjoyment of them. We must try to make out, as far as our finite mind can grasp it, what God means by this and what he means by that; otherwise we may kiss the book (ie: the Bible) and have no love to its contents, we may reverence the letter and yet really have no devotion towards the Lord who speaks to us in these words. Beloved, you will never get comfort to your soul out of what you do not understand, nor find guidance for your life out of what you do not comprehend; nor can any practical bearing upon your character come out of that which is not understood by you.

(excerpted from: How to Read the Bible, Sermon No. 1503, delivered by C. H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle)

(HT: ND)

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Sound Doctrine Foundational to Sound Living — R.C. Sproul


R.C. Sproul,

God…commands us to progress in doctrinal understanding. Let us follow the apostle Paul’s exhortation to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11) so that we might press forward to the goal of Christian understanding. In evil we are to be babes, but in understanding we seek mature adulthood (1 Corinthians 14:20). We don’t do this to become arrogant in our knowledge, but that we might grow in grace. Mature understanding is the foundation for mature living.

Growing in the knowledge of God is a great joy and privilege. It is a matter of delight for us. Yet it is more than a privilege; it is also a duty. God commands us to grow up into the fullness of Christ. Consider the Shema of Old Testament Israel:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

At the heart of this sacred command is the solemn duty of learning the law of God, of mastering His revelation. It is by no means a casual or cavalier enterprise. To master God’s Word is to be deeply immersed in the study of theology. . . .

. . . .It is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology. In this sense, theology must never be viewed as an abstract science. It is a matter of life and death, even eternal life and eternal death.

R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1992), introduction, xx–xxi

Renewing the Mind by Meditating on God’s Word — Dr. Richard Mayhue


Dr. Mayhue,

To hear something once for most people is not enough. To briefly ponder something profound does not allow enough time to grasp and fully understand its significance. This proves to be most true with God’s mind in Scripture. Psalm 119 testifies to the importance and blessing of lingering long over God’s Word.

The idea of meditating sometimes lends itself to misunderstanding. Meditation involves prolonged thought or pondering. The American figure of speech for meditating is “to chew” on a thought. Some have likened it to the rumination process of the cow’s four stomach digestive system.

The most vivid picture comes from a coffee percolator. The water goes up a small tube and drains down through the coffee grounds. After enough cycles, the flavor of the coffee beans has has transfered to the water, which is then called coffee. So it is that Christians need to cycle their thoughts through the grounds of God’s Word until they start to think like God and then act godly.

Scripture commands that believers meditate in three areas:
1. God Ps 27:4; 63:6
2. God’s Word Josh 1:8; Ps 1:2
3. God’s works Ps 143:5; 145:5

All 176 verses of Psalm 119 extol the virtue of knowing and living out the mind of God. Meditation is mentioned at least seven times as the habit of one who loves God and desires closer intimacy with Him: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day….My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (vv. 97, 148; see also vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 99).

Meditating on God’s Word will cleanse away the old thoughts that are not of God because meditation places and reinforces new thoughts from Scripture. Also, it puts a protective shield around the mind to block and reject incoming thoughts that contradict God. That is the Scriptural process of renewing the mind. A part of Eve’s fall can be attributed to her failure to adequately meditate upon God’s clear and sufficient Word (Gen 2:16-17).

Taken from Think Biblically: Recovering a Christian Worldview by John MacArthur (general editor) et.al., © 2003, pp. 49-50. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Dr. Richard L. Mayhue is Executive Vice President and Dean of The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California, and serves there also as a professor of both theology and pastoral ministry (read full biography at The Master’s Seminary homepage).

The Bible: Safeguard Against False Teaching — J.C. Ryle


J.C. Ryle,

What is the best safe-guard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was given to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm. 119:105.) The man who reads it aright will never be allowed greatly to err. It is neglect of the Bible which makes so many a prey to the first false teacher whom they hear. They would have us believe that “they are not learned, and do not pretend to have decided opinions.” The plain truth is that they are lazy and idle about reading the Bible, and do not like the trouble of thinking for themselves. Nothing supplies false prophets with followers so much as spiritual sloth under a cloak of humility. (excepted from commentary on Matthew 7:12-20 in Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew) (RT: Grace Christian Quotes and J.C. Ryle Quotes)

Related Posts:

♦ Practical Instruction for Meditating on God’s Word — Charles Spurgeon
Sola Scriptura: The Apostle Paul’s “Method” For Sanctification — James Montgomery Boice
How To Interpret Scripture — J.C. Ryle
“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Practical Instruction for Meditating on God’s Word — Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)


Charles Spurgeon with some helpful advice,

It is an admirable plan to fix your thoughts upon some text of Scripture before you leave your bedroom in the morning—it will sweeten your meditation all the day. Always look God in the face before you see the face of anyone else. Lock up your heart in the morning and hand the key to God and keep the world out of your heart. Take a text and lay it on your tongue like a wafer made with honey and let it melt in your mouth all day. If you do this, and meditate upon it, you will be surprised to notice how the various events of life will help to open up that text. If that particular text does not seem suitable to some special occasion, steal away into a quiet place and get another one—only let your soul be so full of the Word of God that at all the intervals and spaces when you can think upon it, the Word of God dwelling in you richly may come welling up into your mind and make your meditation to be sweet and profitable! (excerpted from: Loving the Law of the Lord, Sermon #3090, delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, on Lord’s Day Evening, May 10, 1874)

John MacArthur: On The Fallacy Of “What Does This Verse Mean To Me?”

Link to audio —> What’s wrong with the “what does this verse mean to me” approach to interpreting the Bible?.

“How to Enjoy Bible Study” by John MacArthur

“How to Enjoy Bible Study”

John MacArthur

There’s nothing I enjoy more than studying the Bible. Yet it has not always been that way. My real passion for studying Scripture began when as a college student, I made a commitment to explore the Bible in earnest. I found that the more I studied, the more my hunger for Scripture grew. Here are three simple guidelines that have helped me to make the most of my study time.

Read the Bible

First, I begin with reading the Bible. That seems obvious, but quite frankly, it’s where many people fail. Too many Christians are content with a second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They read books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. Books are good, but collateral reading can never replace the Bible itself.

There are many good Bible reading plans available, but here is one I’ve found most helpful. I read through the Old Testament at least once a year. As I read, I note in the margins any truths I particularly want to remember, and I write down separately anything I don’t immediately understand. Often I find that as I read, my questions are answered by the text itself. The questions to which I can’t find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.

I follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. I read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. I began doing this when I was in seminary, because I wanted to retain what was in the New Testament and not always have to depend on a concordance to find things.

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what’s in that book. Write out on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you’ll begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you’ll develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

Divide longer books into short sections and read each section daily for thirty days. For example, the gospel of John contains 21 chapters. Divide it into 3 sections of 7 chapters. At the end of 90 days, you’ll finish John. For variety, alternate short and long books and in less than 3 years you will have finished the entire New Testament–and you’ll really know it!

Interpret the Bible

As I read Scripture, I always keep in mind one simple question: “What does this mean?” It’s not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application; we must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.

Gaps to Bridge
The first step in interpreting the Bible is to recognize the four gaps we have to bridge: language, culture, geography, and history.

Language
The Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Often, understanding the meaning of a word or phrase in the original language can be the key to correctly interpreting a passage of Scripture. Two books that will help you close the language gap are An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, and Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, by Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr. You don’t need to know Greek or Hebrew to use those books effectively.

Culture
The culture gap can be tricky. Some people try to use cultural differences to explain away the more difficult biblical commands. Don’t fall into that trap, but realize that we must first view Scripture in the context of the culture in which it was written. Without an understanding of first-century Jewish culture, it is difficult to understand the gospels. Acts and the epistles must be read in light of the Greek and Roman cultures. The following books will help you understand the cultural background of the Bible: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, also by Edersheim, and The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, by Ralph Gower.

Geography
A third gap that needs to be closed is the geography gap. Biblical geography makes the Bible come alive. A good Bible atlas is an invaluable reference tool that can help you comprehend the geography of the Holy Land. Of course, nothing helps like seeing the land first-hand on a tour.

History
We must also bridge the history gap. Unlike the Scriptures of most other world religions, the Bible contains the records of actual historical persons and events. An understanding of Bible history will help us place the people and events in it in their proper historical perspective. A good Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia is useful here, as are basic historical studies.

Principles to Understand
Four principles should guide us as we interpret the Bible: literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis.

The Literal Principle
Scripture should be understood in its literal, normal, and natural sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they were intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms, and we must allow it to speak for itself.

The Historical Principle
This means that we interpret Scripture in its historical context. We must ask what the text meant to the people to whom it was first written. In this way we can develop a proper contextual understanding of the original intent of Scripture.

The Grammatical Principle
This requires that we understand the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original language. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? You’ll find that when you ask some simple questions like those, the meaning of the text immediately becomes clearer.

The Synthesis Principle
This is what the Reformers called the analogia scriptura. It means that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself. If we arrive at an interpretation of a passage that contradicts a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, our interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its full meaning.

Apply the Bible

Having read and interpreted the Bible, you should have a basic understanding of what the Bible says, and what it means by what it says. But my Bible study doesn’t stop there. I never study God’s Word just to get a sermon. My ultimate goal is to let it speak to me and enable me to grow spiritually. That requires personal application.

Bible study is not complete until we ask ourselves, “What does it mean for my life and how can I practically apply it?” We must take the knowledge we’ve gained from our reading and interpretation and draw out the practical principles that apply to our personal lives.

If there is a command to be obeyed, we obey it. If there is a promise to be embraced, we claim it. If there is a warning to be followed, we heed it. This is the ultimate step: we submit to Scripture and let it transform our lives. If you skip this step, you will never enjoy your Bible study and the Bible will never change your life.

Bible study is not optional in the Christian life. It is both the obligation and the privilege of all believers. If you are not involved in regular, systematic Bible study, you are missing one of the primary means God uses to bring us to maturity (1 Peter 2:2).
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Related Resources:
How to Study the Bible – Audio Series
How to Study Your Bible – Booklet
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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John MacArthur: Enjoying Intimate Fellowship With Christ

“Intimacy with Christ”

by John MacArthur

The apostle Paul perfectly expresses the most earnest desire of every true follower of Christ: “That I may know him” (Phil. 3:10).

“Knowing Christ,” in the Pauline sense is not the sort of mystical relationship many people imagine. Paul wasn’t longing for some secret knowledge of Christ beyond what is revealed in Scripture. He wasn’t asking that private messages from Christ be whispered into his ear.

In fact, the knowledge of Christ Paul sought was anything but mystical. What he longed to know was the power of Christ’s resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and conformity to His death.

We err greatly if we think of intimacy with Christ as some lofty level of mysterious, feelings-based communion with the Divine–as if it involved some knowledge of God that goes beyond what Scripture has revealed. That idea is the very heart of the gnostic heresy. It has nothing in common with true Christianity.

Just what do we mean, then, when we speak of intimacy with Christ? How can we pursue knowing Christ the way Paul had in mind in Philippians 3:10? Scripture suggests at least five aspects of true intimacy with Christ:

The Intimacy of Faith

Notice what prompts Paul’s comment about knowing Christ in Philippians 3:10. He had already spent several verses describing his life before Christ (4-6). He cited all the spiritual advantages he enjoyed as a Pharisaic Jew. But then he declared that he had discarded all those spiritual advantages for Christ’s sake: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (vv. 7-8).

As a Pharisee, Paul had sought to earn God’s favor by legal obedience. But he came to realize that the law sets a standard he could never meet. And so he scrapped all his own works of righteousness as if they were filthy rags (cf. Isa. 64:6). This does not mean that he ceased doing good works, of course, but that he gave up trusting in those works for his salvation. Instead, he put all his faith in Christ–and was clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness instead of his own imperfect works.

This is the doctrine known as justification by faith. Scripture teaches that our sins were imputed to Christ, and He paid the full penalty for them in His death. Now Christ’s own righteousness is imputed to us, and we receive the full merit of it. Without this reality we could enjoy no relationship whatsoever with a holy God.

Moreover, justification by faith–because it means we are clothed in Christ’s own righteousness–establishes the most intimate imaginable relationship between the believer and his Lord. It is an inviolable spiritual union. That’s why Paul often described believers as those who are “in Christ.”

In other words, all true intimacy with Christ has its basis in faith. In fact, no relationship with Him whatsoever is possible apart from faith (Heb. 1:1). As the apostle Peter points out, we love Him by faith, even though we have not seen Him (1 Pet. 1:8).

The Intimacy of True Worship

In Hosea 6:6 the Lord says, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

That verse means we should not imagine that worship consists of rote acts of religious ritual–like sacrifices, burnt offerings, and other ceremonies. Instead, we need to realize that real worship is grounded in the true knowledge of God.

If we want God to delight in our worship, we must think rightly about Him. The very essence of idolatry consists in wrong thoughts about God. And conversely, true knowledge of God means knowing Him as He is revealed in Scripture.

To put it another way, sound doctrine, not liturgy and ritual, is the litmus test of whether our worship is acceptable.

Right thinking about God is therefore essential to true intimacy with Him. Anyone who would know Him intimately must know what He has revealed about Himself. And again, this does not mean we should seek some mystical knowledge about God. All we can know with any certainty about God is what is revealed in Scripture. Those who would know the true God in the true way must therefore seek to be thoroughly familiar with His Word.

The Intimacy of Prayer

Jesus himself taught us to seek intimacy with God through private prayer. Prayer is where the worshiper pours out his heart to God. And Jesus Himself stressed the importance of private prayer: “when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matt. 6:6).

He was confronting the practice of the Pharisees, who loved to pray publicly, for show. Jesus was not teaching that prayers should never be offered publicly, for there are obviously times when Scripture calls us to corporate prayer.

But the true Christian seeking intimacy with God will pray most often, and most fervently, in private. The true audience of all our prayers is God Himself. And if we understood what an incomprehensible privilege it is to be invited to come boldly before His throne of grace, we would surely spend more time there, pouring out our most intimate thoughts, fears, desires, and expressions of love to Him.

The Intimacy of Obedience

Jesus said to the disciples, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 15:14). Thus Christ Himself made obedience to Him an absolute requirement for true spiritual intimacy.

Let no one claim intimacy with Christ whose life is marked by disobedience rather than submission to Him. Those who refuse to obey Christ as Lord cannot claim to know Him as a friend. Scripture plainly declares that He is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), and He is therefore entitled to demand our allegiance to His Lordship.

As a matter of fact, those who withhold that allegiance are His enemies, not His intimates (cf. Jas. 4:4). That’s why true intimacy with Him is utterly impossible without unconditional surrender to His divine authority.

Again, this takes the matter of intimacy with Christ out of the realm of the mystical and defines it in terms that are intensely practical.

The Intimacy of Suffering

Returning to Philippians 3:10, we note once again what kind of intimacy with Christ Paul was seeking: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

Of course, we easily understand why Paul wanted a share in the power of Christ’s resurrection. But why did the apostle desire to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and be conformed to His death?

We can be certain that Paul had no perverse love of pain and suffering. Elsewhere he testified how he repeatedly besought the Lord to deliver him from a “messenger of Satan” that was like a thorn under his skin (2 Cor. 12:7).

In the midst of that experience Paul discovered that God’s grace is sufficient to see us through all our sufferings. Moreover, God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (v. 9).

God gives a special measure of grace to those whom He calls to endure suffering. In a familiar passage in the Beatitudes, Jesus said this about suffering:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).

There is a special blessedness known only to those who suffer for Christ’s sake. Those who would desire true intimacy with Him must be willing to endure what He endured.

Add all those things together to get the full picture: True intimacy with Christ involves suffering, obedience, much prayer, a good knowledge of God’s Word, and a life of faith.

Notice that those are not advanced skills for second-level Christians. They are the most elementary issues of the Christian life. That underscores the truth that intimacy with Christ is not some sort of mystical secret. It is the whole point of our life in Christ. Indeed, it is the chief end for which we were created: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

This article here originally appeared at Grace To You – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.

“The Final Authority, Period.” – John MacArthur

“The Final Authority, Period.”

1 Peter 4:11

John MacArthur

Anyone who faithfully and correctly proclaims the Word of God will speak with authority.

It is not our own authority. It is not even the ecclesiastical authority attached to the office of a pastor or teacher in the church. It is a still greater authority than that. Insofar as our teaching accurately reflects the truth of Scripture, it has the full weight of God’s own authority behind it. That is a staggering thought, but it is precisely how 1 Peter 4:11 instructs us to handle biblical truth: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.”

Of course that is a profound threat to the tolerance of a society that loves its sin and thinks of compromise as a good thing. To speak boldly and declare that God has spoken with finality is neither stylish nor politically correct. But if we truly believe the Bible is the Word of God, how can we handle it any other way?

Many modern evangelicals, cowed by post-modernism’s demand for latitudinarianism, claim they believe Scripture, but then shy away from proclaiming it with any authority. They are willing to give lip service to the truth of Scripture, but in practice they strip it of its authority, treating it as just another opinion in the great mix of post-modern ideas.

Neither Scripture nor common sense will allow for such a view. If the Bible is true, then it is also authoritative. As divinely-revealed truth, it carries the full weight of God’s own authority. If you claim to believe the Bible at all, you ultimately must bow to its authority. That means making it the final arbiter of truth — the rule by which every other opinion is evaluated.

The Bible is not just another idea to be thrown into the public discussion and accepted or rejected as the individual sees fit. It is the Word of God, and it demands to be received as such, to the exclusion of all other opinions.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
www.gty.org
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“Seeking After God” – R.C. Sproul – Morning Devotion

from R.C. Sproul

How many times have you heard Christians say (or heard the words from your own mouth), “So-and-so is not a Christian but he’s searching”? It is a common statement among Christians. The idea is that there are people all over the place who are searching for God. Their problem is that they just haven’t been able to find Him. He is playing hide-and-seek. He is elusive.

In the Garden of Eden, when sin came into the world, who hid? Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost. Jesus wasn’t the one who was hiding. God is not a fugitive. We are the ones on the run. Scripture declares that the wicked flee when no man pursues. As Martin Luther remarked: “The pagan trembles at the rustling of a leaf. The uniform teaching of Scripture is that fallen men are fleeing from God.”

People do not seek God. They seek after the benefits that only God can give them. The sin of fallen man is this: Man seeks the benefits of God while fleeing from God Himself. We are, by nature, fugitives.

The Bible tells us repeatedly to seek after God. The conclusion we draw from these texts is that since we are called to seek after God it must mean that we, even in our fallen state, have the moral capacity to do that seeking. But who is being addressed in these texts? In the case of the Old Testament, it is the people of Israel who are called to seek the Lord. In the New Testament, it is believers who are called to seek the kingdom.

Are you seeking the benefits God can give you or seeking after God alone?
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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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“How Do I Increase My Love For God?” – Morning Devotion From John MacArthur

This is a short 2 minute audio of John MacArthur answering just this question. Definitely worth your time, as he packs a lot into 2 minutes —> How do I increase my love for God?.

Meditation On Scripture – Charles Spurgeon – Quote Of The Day

“A man who wants to see a country, must not hurry through it by express train, but
he must stop in the towns and villages, and see what is to be seen. He will know more
about the land and its people if he walks the highways, climbs the mountains, stays
in the homes, and visits the workshops; than if he does so many miles in the day, and
hurries through picture galleries as if death were pursuing him. Don’t hurry through
Scripture, but pause for the Lord to speak to you. Oh, for more meditation!”
– C.H. Spurgeon

“How to Enjoy Bible Study” By John MacArthur

“How to Enjoy Bible Study”

-John MacArthur

There’s nothing I enjoy more than studying the Bible. Yet it has not always been that way. My real passion for studying Scripture began when as a college student, I made a commitment to explore the Bible in earnest. I found that the more I studied, the more my hunger for Scripture grew. Here are three simple guidelines that have helped me to make the most of my study time.

Read the Bible

First, I begin with reading the Bible. That seems obvious, but quite frankly, it’s where many people fail. Too many Christians are content with a second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They read books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. Books are good, but collateral reading can never replace the Bible itself.

There are many good Bible reading plans available, but here is one I’ve found most helpful. I read through the Old Testament at least once a year. As I read, I note in the margins any truths I particularly want to remember, and I write down separately anything I don’t immediately understand. Often I find that as I read, my questions are answered by the text itself. The questions to which I can’t find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.

I follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. I read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. I began doing this when I was in seminary, because I wanted to retain what was in the New Testament and not always have to depend on a concordance to find things.

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what’s in that book. Write out on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you’ll begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you’ll develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

Divide longer books into short sections and read each section daily for thirty days. For example, the gospel of John contains 21 chapters. Divide it into 3 sections of 7 chapters. At the end of 90 days, you’ll finish John. For variety, alternate short and long books and in less than 3 years you will have finished the entire New Testament–and you’ll really know it!

Interpret the Bible

As I read Scripture, I always keep in mind one simple question: “What does this mean?” It’s not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application; we must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.

Gaps to Bridge
The first step in interpreting the Bible is to recognize the four gaps we have to bridge: language, culture, geography, and history.

Language
The Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Often, understanding the meaning of a word or phrase in the original language can be the key to correctly interpreting a passage of Scripture. Two books that will help you close the language gap are An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, and Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, by Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr. You don’t need to know Greek or Hebrew to use those books effectively.

Culture
The culture gap can be tricky. Some people try to use cultural differences to explain away the more difficult biblical commands. Don’t fall into that trap, but realize that we must first view Scripture in the context of the culture in which it was written. Without an understanding of first-century Jewish culture, it is difficult to understand the gospels. Acts and the epistles must be read in light of the Greek and Roman cultures. The following books will help you understand the cultural background of the Bible: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, also by Edersheim, and The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, by Ralph Gower.

Geography
A third gap that needs to be closed is the geography gap. Biblical geography makes the Bible come alive. A good Bible atlas is an invaluable reference tool that can help you comprehend the geography of the Holy Land. Of course, nothing helps like seeing the land first-hand on a tour.

History
We must also bridge the history gap. Unlike the Scriptures of most other world religions, the Bible contains the records of actual historical persons and events. An understanding of Bible history will help us place the people and events in it in their proper historical perspective. A good Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia is useful here, as are basic historical studies.

Principles to Understand
Four principles should guide us as we interpret the Bible: literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis.

The Literal Principle
Scripture should be understood in its literal, normal, and natural sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they were intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms, and we must allow it to speak for itself.

The Historical Principle
This means that we interpret Scripture in its historical context. We must ask what the text meant to the people to whom it was first written. In this way we can develop a proper contextual understanding of the original intent of Scripture.

The Grammatical Principle
This requires that we understand the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original language. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? You’ll find that when you ask some simple questions like those, the meaning of the text immediately becomes clearer.

The Synthesis Principle
This is what the Reformers called the analogia scriptura. It means that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself. If we arrive at an interpretation of a passage that contradicts a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, our interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its full meaning.

Apply the Bible

Having read and interpreted the Bible, you should have a basic understanding of what the Bible says, and what it means by what it says. But my Bible study doesn’t stop there. I never study God’s Word just to get a sermon. My ultimate goal is to let it speak to me and enable me to grow spiritually. That requires personal application.

Bible study is not complete until we ask ourselves, “What does it mean for my life and how can I practically apply it?” We must take the knowledge we’ve gained from our reading and interpretation and draw out the practical principles that apply to our personal lives.

If there is a command to be obeyed, we obey it. If there is a promise to be embraced, we claim it. If there is a warning to be followed, we heed it. This is the ultimate step: we submit to Scripture and let it transform our lives. If you skip this step, you will never enjoy your Bible study and the Bible will never change your life.

Bible study is not optional in the Christian life. It is both the obligation and the privilege of all believers. If you are not involved in regular, systematic Bible study, you are missing one of the primary means God uses to bring us to maturity (1 Peter 2:2).
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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Related Resources:
How to Study the Bible – Audio Series
How to Study Your Bible – Booklet

Does Living Worthy Of The Gospel Mean Sinless Perfection? – Morning Scripture Exposition From John MacArthur

“To live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ is to live a life consistent with God’s revealed Word. That includes living a life that corresponds to the divine truth Christians profess to believe, preach, teach, and defend. In other words, it means living with integrity in every facet of life. This mandate is expressed elsewhere in the New Testament as walking ‘in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called’ (Eph. 4:1), ‘in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’ (Col. 1:10), and ‘in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory’ (1 Thess. 2:12; cf. 4:1). It means ‘showing all good faith so that [believers] will adorn the doctrine of God [their] Savior in every respect’ (Titus 2:10), demonstrating ‘holy conduct and godliness,’ and being ‘diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless’ (2 Peter 3:11, 14).

The church’s greatest testimony before the world is spiritual integrity. When Christians live below the standards of biblical morality and reverence for their Lord, they compromise the full biblical truth concerning the character, plan, and will of God. By so doing, they seriously weaken the credibility of the gospel and lessen their impact on”……..continued at MacArthur Commentary Page (Link here)

John MacArthur: Correct Living Can Only Come From Correct Doctrine

“What Does This Verse Mean ‘to Me'”?’

Titus 1:9, Romans 12:1-2

By: John MacArthur

That’s a fashionable concern, judging from the trends in devotional booklets, home Bible study discussions, Sunday-school literature, and most popular preaching.

The question of what Scripture means has taken a back seat to the issue of what it means “to me.”

The difference may seem insignificant at first. Nevertheless, our obsession with the Scripture’s applicability reflects a fundamental weakness. We have adopted practicality as the ultimate judge of the worth of God’s Word. We bury ourselves in passages that overtly relate to daily living, and ignore those that don’t.

Early in my ministry, I made a conscious commitment to biblical preaching. My first priority has always been to answer the question, “What does this passage mean?” After I’ve explained as clearly and accurately as possible the meaning of God’s Word, then I exhort people to obey and apply it to their own lives.

The Bible speaks for itself to the human heart; it is not my role as a preacher to try to tailor the message. That’s why I preach my way through entire books of the Bible, dealing carefully with each verse and phrase-even though that occasionally means spending time in passages that don’t readily lend themselves to anecdotal or motivational messages.

I am grateful to the Lord for the way He has used this expository approach in our church and in the lives of our radio listeners.

But now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.

Practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.

Too many Christians view doctrine as heady and theoretical. They have dismissed doctrinal passages as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical. A best-selling Christian book I just read warns readers to be on guard against preachers whose emphasis is on interpreting Scripture rather than applying it.

Wait a minute. Is that wise counsel? No it is not.

There is no danger of irrelevant doctrine; the real threat is an undoctrinal attempt at relevance. Application not based on solid interpretation has led Christians into all kinds of confusion.

No discipline is more sorely needed in the contemporary church than expositional biblical teaching. Too many have bought the lie that doctrine is something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily life.

It is in vogue to substitute psychology and spoon-fed application for doctrinal substance, while demeaning theological and expositional ministry.

But the pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they’re not attached to divine principles. There’s no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God’s Word.

There are only three options: We teach truth, error, or nothing at all.

Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.

Romans provides the clearest biblical example. Paul didn’t give any exhortation until he had given eleven chapters of theology.

He scaled incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Then in chapter 12, he turned immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian’s responsibility to the truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. There, building on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship-giving oneself as a living sacrifice. Doctrine gives rise to dedication to Christ, the greatest practical act. And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain the many practical outworkings of one’s dedication to Christ.

Paul followed the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message came first. Upon that foundation he built the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:1) or then (Col. 3:1; 1 Thess. 4:1).

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

No believer can apply truth he doesn’t know. Those who don’t understand what the Bible really says about marriage, divorce, family, child-rearing, discipline, money, debt, work, service to Christ, eternal rewards, helping the poor, caring for widows, respecting government, and other teachings won’t be able to apply it.

Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about salvation cannot be saved. Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about holiness are incapable of dealing with sin. Thus they are unable to live fully to their own blessedness and God’s glory.

The nucleus of all that is truly practical is sown up in the teaching of Scripture. We don’t make the Bible relevant; it is inherently so, simply because it is God’s Word. And after all, how can anything God says be irrelevant?

This article here originally appeared at Grace To You – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.

“Does Doctrine Really Matter?” – Morning Scripture Teaching By John MacArthur

“Is it enough to “believe in Jesus” in some amorphous sense that divorces “faith” from any particular doctrine about Him, or is doctrine–and the content of our faith–really important after all?

Scripture plainly teaches that we must be sound in the faith–which is to say that doctrine does matter (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:2-3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1). It matters a lot.

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4, emphasis added).

Sound, biblical doctrine is a necessary aspect of true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feelings or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith at all, even if it masquerades as Christianity. It is actually an irrational form of unbelief.

God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we think about the truth He has revealed. All Scripture testifies to the fact that God wants us to know and understand the truth. He wants us to be wise. His will is that we use our minds. We are supposed to think, meditate, and above all, to be discerning.

The content of our faith is crucial. Sincerity is not sufficient.

Consider, for example, these well-known verses. Note the repeated use of words like truth, knowledge, discernment, wisdom, and understanding:
“Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psa. 111:10).
“Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Thy commandments” (Psa. 119:66).
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:2-6).
“The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
“We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9).
“In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that He wants us to use our minds. And one of the most vital duties facing every Christian–especially in an era (such as ours) when the church is overrun with contradictory ideas and spiritual confusion–is the duty of discernment.

In the days and weeks to come, we are going to consider what Scripture has to say about discernment. We’ll look at some common pitfalls that often ensnare the best of Christians, and we’ll look at some popular ideas circulating in the church today that demand careful biblical analysis and discriminating wisdom.”

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