Bible Study is Not Enough

Bible study

The title of this post is probably not what you might expect from a Bible teacher.

Bible study is important. No, it’s more than important, it’s critical. But studying the Bible for the purpose of quoting it or making memes or posters with Bible verses isn’t enough. Memorizing it or parsing Greek and Hebrew verbs is not the end game for the Christian.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course we should memorize Scripture. And studying the original language is often helpful in understanding our modern English translations. But why do we memorize it? Is our goal to build intellectual storehouses of facts to establish our expertise in all things biblical?

What does the Bible say about what we should do with its content?

  • “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV).
  • “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9 ESV).
  • “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV).
  • “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22 ESV).

Jesus had much to say on this subject, including:

  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 ESV).
  • “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 ESV)
  • “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV).

So where do we get the idea that God is pleased when we study and memorize His Word without obeying it? I’m the first to plead guilty as charged. Still, I don’t want to just admit my fault. I want to change the way I live, starting today. To quote a popular advertisement, I want to “just do it.”

Francis Chan illustrates this beautifully in this video clip. When he tells his daughter to clean her room, he does not expect her to return an hour later, proclaiming, “Dad, I memorized what you said.” Or announcing that she invited several friends to come study what he meant by that. And he certainly doesn’t expect her to brag that she can translate his command into Greek or Hebrew. No. What he expects is that she’ll do what he told her to do: clean her room.

We are called to speak the truth in love. But in order to speak the truth, we must know the truth and live the truth. No one said it would be easy. But it’s not optional, either.

What are you doing with your Bible knowledge?

Secret Knowledge

Kids love to play hide-and-go-seek. Even as adults, we enjoy making discoveries or being the first in our circle to learn new information. But what happens when that discovery is related to the Bible? Is new information always a good thing?

Not always. 

The apostle Peter spent much of his second letter in the Bible detailing the dangers of false teachers and how to recognize them. Yet, two thousand years later, we’re still often fooled. Perhaps it’s because false teachers and false teaching are not always easy to identify. If they were, Peter would not have needed to give us this information.

Often the easiest way to get people to believe a lie is to mix it with a little bit of truth. A blatant lie might be easily discernible. But a lie mixed with truth is more difficult to detect. 

It’s even more difficult to evaluate teaching that involves prophecy – things that haven’t happened yet. If they haven’t happened, how do we know who is correct?

With our society becoming more and more post-Christian, interest in end-time events and timelines is growing among believers in Jesus Christ. Some of the most popular studies these days are studies of the Old Testament book of Daniel and the New Testament book of Revelation, both of which have a strong focus on prophecy. 

I recently became aware of a book written about Revelation. The author claims to open the secrets of the book of Revelation by revealing information hidden for generations and now being made manifest. He goes on to say the book of Revelation has been reserved for an end-time generation of apostles and prophets who will explain the language that has veiled all previous studies.

SecretClaims of secret knowledge are not new; they’ve been around for more than 2,000 years. The early church dealt with a heresy called Gnosticism. Gnostics believed matter was evil and knowledge was the path to freedom from the limitations of the physical world. Gnostics searched for – and claimed to have – special spiritual knowledge that surpassed what everyone else knew. They taught that for true salvation, people needed to come to them for the special, mystical knowledge they possessed.

So when I hear someone claim to have a special revelation that no one else has, you may understand my concern. Philippians 1:9-10 tells us to grow in knowledge and discernment. And James 1:5 (ESV) reminds us that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

God will give us what we need to understand and apply His Word; we don’t have to seek out someone with secret knowledge or revelation.

Have you read something in the Bible that you don’t comprehend? Ask the Author to open your understanding of His Word. That’s a request He delights in answering! Study together with other Christians. But if someone claims knowledge no one else has…run as fast as you can in the opposite direction!

The Weekly Reader is No More

Sigh. Another one bites the dust.

Every Friday afternoon for most of my early elementary school experience, I received a copy of The Weekly Reader. Long before I read newspapers for updates on current events, the Weekly Reader alerted me to news in age-appropriate language.

In fact, the Weekly Reader was the first “newspaper” for me and millions of other students nationwide.

But like many things from our childhoods, the Weekly Reader is no more. It stopped printing this week.

While I don’t want to live in the past, I mourn the passing of an institution. Did it die on a digital altar, its few pages not dynamic enough to hold the attention of children mesmerized by flashing lights and split-second timing?

Today, even adults are addicted to sound bites and 140-character posts. So how can we expect children to be satisfied with getting their news from a newspaper – albeit a kid-friendly one?

And what does this signify for the newspaper industry? Will these children grow up to seek news offered in those same sound bites and “tweets”? Will they become adults who prefer the pithy quotes of spin doctors instead of reading news accounts in full, digesting the facts, and forming educated opinions?

But it doesn’t stop at the news. The sad truth is that people who want their news in sound bites often become Christians who avoid in-depth Bible study. It’s too hard. It takes too much time. We’d rather hear sound bites from a pastor than dig into God’s Word for ourselves. The worst part is that we miss out on the joy of mining for treasure and discovering gems to apply to our lives – gems that are all the more precious because of the effort we put into their discovery.

The world is continuously changing, and the death of the Weekly Reader is a small event in the grand scheme of things…or is it?

What do you think?