How to Study the Bible
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 28, 2007
than 90% of us has a copy of it. The average household has 3. It’s the
all-time bestseller. There are so many copies sold each year that an
exact number is impossible to calculate. There are at least 20 millions
copies sold, and that doesn’t even include the tens of thousands that
are distributed freely each year. About two-thirds of the population
believes the Bible holds the answers to the basic questions of life. It
seems that the Bible is important in our society.
Fewer than half of us can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis).
a third of us know that Jesus is the one who delivered the Sermon on
the Mount. In fact, many people think it was Billy Graham.
A quarter of us don’t know why we celebrate Easter.
of people think that the Bible includes the statement; “God helps those
who help themselves.” It doesn’t. It actually comes from an old myth
We’ve all seen people at sporting events holding
up a sign saying, “John 3:16”, but 65% of us don’t know that John 3:16
teaches that whoever believes in Jesus can have eternal life.
Only 52% of us can name at least 5 of the Ten Commandments.
10% of people believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
We claim to value what the Bible says, but culturally we don’t.
probably familiar with Gallup Polls. They’re conducted by George Gallup
and his organization. In fact, that’s where some of those statistics I
just told you comes from. Listen to what George Gallup concluded:
"We revere the Bible, but we don't read it."
~ George W. Gallup
I want to propose to you this morning is that we need to revere the
Bible AND read it. It should have a central place in our lives. We need
to read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, and allow it to
transform our lives.
Starting this morning and for the next
several weeks we’re going to be talking about habits that can help us
to grow spiritually. And obviously today we’re going to be talking
about reading and studying the Bible.
So let’s start with something very basic: How the Bible’s put together.
is the Bible put together?
Bible is separated into two testaments, also called covenants. You’ve
got the Old Testament, which contains writings before the birth of
Jesus, and the New Testament, which contains writings about the life of
Jesus and the formation of the early church.
If you flip through
your Bible you’ll see how the Bible is really one book comprised of
several smaller books. Some are written as historical documents, some
are written as letters, some are written as poetry, some are written as
prophecies. There are sixty-six books in all, 39 in the Old Testament
and 27 in the New Testament.
The Books of the Old Testament were
compiled by the Jews. They were basically the writing of Moses, the
prophets, and the poets. These books were written over the span of
about a thousand years, but despite this great time span, there’s an
incredible consistency throughout all the books as one story unfolds.
Books of the New Testament were all written during the first century
AD. And they include the four Gospels, which are historical texts about
the life of Jesus. There’s the book of Acts that tells about the
formation, the ministry, and the expansion of the early Church. There
are the letters, written to various people and churches by the
apostles. And there’s the book of Revelation, written by the apostle
John about what God has revealed about the unfolding of the future.
so that’s the Old Testament and the New Testament. 66 Books in all.
Each book in both Testaments is further broken down by chapter and
verse. This was not part of the original writing but was added sometime
later to help us find our way around the Bible. So instead of saying
something like, “turn about a seventh of the way into the book of John)
we can say, turn to John 3:16. That means, turn to the third chapter in
the book of John and then locate the 16th verse.
Okay. So we’ve
got this big book of 66 smaller books written over a span of about 1100
years, the oldest of which were originally written over 3000 years ago.
And they’re all nicely bound together into what we call our Bible. Big
deal. I mean, why should we even care? Why should we study the Bible?
Why is that important?
Should I Study the Bible?
God Speak to Me Through His Word
me explain it this way. Every June, here at Sunrise, we take the time
to recognize the people who are graduating from one level of schooling
to the next. And we present to the graduates a Bible that’s appropriate
for their age level.
Well, we’re not the only church that does
this. There’s a story about a six-year old girl in Boulder, Colorado.
Her church held a Presentation Day when she was given her own Bible.
And then later on after the service people were hanging around having
some coffee (much like we do here) and people were congratulating her.
A man who attended the church asked if he could take a look at her
brand new Bible. And she said, “Okay, but don’t open it.”
“Don’t open it? Why shouldn’t I open it?”
“You’ll let God out.”
Well, that’s exactly what we want to do. We want to open the Bible and
let God out.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NLT)
have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have
given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in
Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach
us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It
corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God
uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
Two keywords in there… the word “inspired” and the word “useful”.
Underline those two words.
Bible is inspired. It’s the way that God has chosen to reveal Himself
to His people today. He used to speak through His prophets… And then
Jesus Himself came… and then the apostles… and then through the pages
of the Bible. That’s why we call it the Word of God. It’s not the Word
of Moses, or the Word of Peter, or the Word of Paul… it’s the Word of
Back when I was in college, I got involved in a long
distance relationship. I was dating someone who lived in Nebraska. This
was back before I even heard of email, so we sent regular mail to each
other. We’d write each other these incredibly sappy love letters…
disgusting really… but that’s what we’d do. And whenever I got a letter
from her in the mail, what do you think I did? I tore it open as soon
as I could and I pored over every word.
You know, the Bible is
God’s love letter to you. So open it and pore over every word. Discover
the things He wants to tell you. Let God speak to you through His Word.
Bible is inspired by God. And the second word was “useful.” It’s
useful. But it does no good just sitting on a shelf collecting dust.
For it to be useful you’ve got to open it. You got to read it. You’ve
got to study it. The rest of that passage tells us how it’s useful—it
teaches us, it corrects us, it directs us, it prepares and equips us.
It’s Inspired – God reveals Himself to Me through His Word
It’s Useful – God uses it to teach me, correct me, prepare me, and
not rocket science. It’s about as simple as it gets. God speaks to you
through His Word. That’s one reason you should study the Bible.
I want you to take ten seconds and do something for me. For just ten
seconds I want you to sit there and think of anything else other than a
pink elephant. Okay? Think about whatever you want to think about, but
don’t think about pink elephants. And I’m going to time you for ten
seconds. Don’t think about pink elephants. Go.
time’s up. How’d you do? Anyone not think of pink elephants even once?
Kind of a stupid little exercise, but the point is this: What goes in
is what you think about. You heard me say “pink elephant” and you
couldn’t help but think about a pink elephant.
What goes in is what I think about.
there is nothing better for you to think about than the Word of God
because it has the power to transform your life. It helps you connect
to the Creator of the universe and discover true meaning in life. As
you read the Word of God, as you study the Word of God, as you meditate
on the Word of God, it will infiltrate your thinking more and more, and
you will be left with a better understanding of who God is, a stronger
relationship with Him, better relationships with friends and family, a
better self-esteem, more direction and purpose in life, a clearer sense
of right and wrong, and more. It will improve every area of your life,
guaranteed. That takes us to the next reason…
The Word of God Has the Power to Transform My Life
W. De Gruchy is a minister from South Africa, and he tells a story
about a time when he was travelling through Heathrow Airport in London.
Let me read it for you:
“My hand luggage emitted the ominous
sound which alerts police to the presence of a hidden weapon. Having
been taken aside by a police office, my luggage was searched, and
eventually the officer confronted me with the offending article. It was
a Bible with a metal zipper. My immediate reaction was to protest:
“that’s only a Bible,” to which the officer with some theological
insight replied: “Maybe, but the Bible can be a very dangerous book!”
(from Leonard Sweet’s AquaChurch, p.63)
That’s right, it can be dangerous. It has the power to transform your
It is the Foundation for a Growing Relationship with God
discover God’s likes and dislikes, you discover how you can live a life
that pleases Him, you can discover how He has arranged for you to enter
into a relationship with Him, you can discover how that relationship
can grow and how you can become more like Him.
don’t just read the Bible as an ends in itself. You read the Bible to
connect with the author. You read the Bible because it directs you
toward God. The Bible is not what’s holy; it’s the One it directs you
to. Don’t get that confused. Don’t worship your Bible. But use it as a
tool to get connected with God Himself. That’s what’s important. That’s
why you should study the Bible.
Okay. So if we’re going to do it, how should we do it? How do I study
do I Study the Bible?
Let me give you some tips.
Choose a version I can understand
you go down to the Canadian Bible Society on University Avenue you’ll
find what seems to be an endless supply of versions of the Bible that
you can either buy right there or have ordered in. In fact, there are
so many options that it’s hard to keep track. But that’s a good thing.
The reason there are so many versions is so that people can find one
that they can understand, that’s written in their own language, and
that might have some added features that help them make even better use
of their Bible.
The original manuscripts for the Bible were
written in Hebrew and Greek over a period of about 1100 years from the
time of Moses to the time of Jesus and his disciples. Of course, if we
were still reading the Hebrew or Greek versions we’d have a couple
problems. First of all, I couldn’t read them. Secondly, you couldn’t
understand them. But thankfully, we don’t have to deal with that
because the Bible has been translated from those original manuscripts
into English for us.
In fact, as for the New Testament, it
started out as a translation. Jesus spoke what? He spoke Aramaic. And
so did His disciples. That was the language they would have been most
But when it came to writing down what they had
seen and what they had heard, what language did they use? They used
Greek. Why? Because it was the language that would be most readily
understood by the people in the surrounding areas. It was important
that the people had a version of the Bible they could understand.
the most popular translation of the Bible today is the King James
Version. It wasn’t the first version of the Bible in English, but it
became the most accepted. And it has certainly served its purpose over
the years. It was a beautiful translation which could remind you a lot
of Shakespeare’s writings, which would be fitting since Shakespeare was
alive when the KJV was first published in 1611.
changes over time. I remember hearing on a documentary once that
language changes 20% every 100 years. So it’s understandable that the
KJV isn’t as understandable as it was 400 years ago. So every once in a
while a team of scholars gets together and translates the Hebrew and
the Greek into a more understandable version for us today. Here at
Sunrise we primarily use the New Living Translation. Some other
suggestions would be the New International Version or the Contemporary
English Version. If you prefer to listen rather than read, perhaps you
should look at getting a version or CD. Or pick up a Children’s Bible
done in comic book form. Or get a DVD Bible. Or Podcast it at
There are lots of options available, and the
important thing is that you choose one that has a good reputation
(meaning that it’s accurate) and that you can understand it. You don’t
need a theology degree to understand the Bible.
Recommended Sites: BibleOnRadio.com;
Start with an easier section
if you’re new to reading the Bible, you’ll want to start with a passage
that’s easier for you to read. I believe that the entire Bible is
important. But there are some parts that are more relevant for you and
that are more understandable for you and that are more interesting for
you. So you don’t have to start in Genesis and read straight through to
the end of Revelation. If you’re brand new to scripture reading, I
would suggest you start with one of the Gospels in the New Testament,
possibly the book of Luke which is the third book in the New Testament.
Read for application, not just knowledge
heard that Pamela Anderson teaches Sunday School. I’ve heard her
interviewed where she said that she thought everyone should read the
Bible. And that’s true; that’s good advice. But I’ve got a problem:
Pamela Anderson doesn’t seem to mind posing for Playboy and has
appeared on more covers than anyone else in the history of the magazine
(9). She doesn’t seem to mind sleeping around with people she’s not
married to. She doesn’t seem to mind making movies that make a mockery
of morality. She doesn’t seem to be applying what she’s reading.
Ashley Judd is someone else who’s been known to loose her clothing or
use profanity in movies. She said:
“I don’t go anywhere without my Bible.”
~ Ashley Judd
Paris Hilton served time recently, she took her Bible. And she’s been
seen carrying it around since. I really hope and pray that she’s taking
it seriously and that she applies it to her life. Time will tell.
the problem with both Pamela and Ashley isn’t that they read the Bible;
it’s that they don’t apply it. You can read the Bible all you want but
until it makes a difference in your life it’s not worth the paper it’s
written on. Neil Anderson heads up a ministry called Freedom in Christ,
and he has written this…
“Christian maturity is not
understanding the principles of the Bible; Christian maturity is
character. If what we come to accept as truth doesn’t affect our love
for God and man, something is radically wrong. ‘Knowledge makes
arrogant, but love edifies’ (1 Corinthians 8:1).”
~ Neil Anderson
Five Hindrances, Devotional for Sunday, November 12, 2000
words. So here’s the key for you. While you’re reading, ask yourself,
“So What?” It’s fine and dandy that you’re reading it, but… so what?
What difference does it make? How can you put it into practice in your
life. God’s not looking for inflated brains, He’s looking for changed
more important that you understand and apply what you read than it is
that you get through it in record time. I know someone who read through
their Bible in five days. But honestly, I don’t think they took much of
Last year, all across the Wesleyan Church we encouraged
people to read through their Bible in the span of one year. Which seems
to be a reasonable rate for many. But if that’s a bit too fast for you,
then go slower. Take a couple years. But don’t ignore it or neglect it;
Combine my Study with Prayer
Before the crucifixion, Jesus told His followers that He would be
leaving them. But then He told them…
John 14:26 (NLT)
when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the
Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of
everything I have told you.
Holy Spirit will help you understand and remember and apply the Word of
God. So pray that the Holy Spirit will teach you, pray that He will
help you understand, and pray that He will help you put the Word of God
into practice in everyday life.
Ask myself key questions
Remember this: “Say-Mean-Apply”
Say? How can I summarize this passage in my own words?
Mean? What is God saying to me through this passage?
Apply? What action should I take in response to God’s Word?
book is the inspired Word of God, and it’s useful for you and for me in
our lives each and every day. But in order to experience that, we need
to read it. We need to study it. We need to learn it. We need to
memorize and internalize it.
If you’re already reading your
Bible regularly, then you already know all this. If you’re not, then my
challenge for you today is to start. Start your day by reading the
Bible. Or if you’re not a morning person, finish your day that way. Or
take a few minutes during a break at work. Or listen to it on a CD or
Podcast while you’re driving. However you need to do it, start to
explore the Bible and discover the difference it can make in your life
and your relationship with God.
Bonus: To Go
Underline or highlight passages that are especially meaningful to you.
Write notes in the margins of your Bible. It’s not a bad thing to
wear-out your Bible. You may want to keep a journal. You can record
your insights, questions, feelings, and your response to a particular
passage. You could even rewrite a portion of Scripture in your own
words to help you internalize it.
Memorize Selected Verses.
Start with one short verse per week. (Perhaps the verse in your Sunrise
Update.) Then reflect on it throughout the day. “I have hidden your
word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, NLT)”
Make use of Study Bibles, Concordances, Bible Encyclopedia, Study
Guides, Devotional Books, Maps, Charts, and Timelines. Check out the
Canadian Bible Society or Maritime Christian Bookstore to see what
resources are available.