September 2, 2009
He Speaks—Part II
"I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."
Psalm 119: 16 (NIV)
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this life defining question is asked, "What is the chief end of man?" The answer is simple yet profound. It says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." One way we can bring Him great glory is by using our gifts and fulfilling our calling - by serving. It's too easy to fall short, though, by forgetting the second part of our chief duty. We are called not only to work for Him, but to enjoy Him.
John Piper takes this thought a step further in his philosophy of "Christian hedonism." Piper summarizes the idea this way, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." Christians aren't to pursue pleasure as its own end, but we are to pursue with all our might the pleasure of knowing God. When our need for pleasure is satisfied by Him, only then are we able to bring God the glory He deserves.
One way God has been developing my ability to know and enjoy Him lately is through deeper Bible study. Too many years I'd race through passages without taking time to reflect and digest. I'd like to share a method that has helped me gain greater understanding and has given me more personal application than my past methods of study. I picked up this tool at an Anne Graham Lotz crusade, but it is also used by Bible Study Fellowship. It's very simple and contains just three questions that I write at the top of three columns on a page.
What does it say?
The rule of thumb is to begin by looking at exactly what God says in the passage without our own interpretation. Act like a reporter in this section, and just write the facts and major details. This includes answers to the "w"s (who, what, when, where). Write each fact in a brief summary sentence. Do not paraphrase, but use significant words straight from scripture. (i.e. holiness, redeemed). Underline repeated words or phrases. Important things start to jump out.
What does it mean?
The next step is to find the lesson in the passage. Ask yourself the question, "What are the spiritual truths or principles in this verse?" The Bible is meant to be interpreted as a whole, so sometimes single verses are confusing or seem contradictory. If that happens, look at the verse in the context of the whole chapter or entire book. If I'm still unsure, I also read several commentaries to make sure I'm avoiding error.
This is a great acronym to look for spiritual truths:
S—Is there a sin to confess?
P—Is there a promise to keep?
A—Is there an action to take?
C—Is there a command I need to heed?
E—Is there an example to follow or to avoid?
How do I apply this?
The final step is applying God's Word to your own life. This is where something very exciting happens. If you are studying with a group, the group's first column would be very close to identical. The second column might vary a little, but many would come to the same conclusions. On the application column, though, every member of the group might have a different application. That's God speaking directly and personally to you!
Ask yourself, "How will I act on this lesson?" Create open-ended questions for yourself. For example, "How can I become a man or woman after God's own heart like David?" or "In what area do I need to cry out to You like Hannah?" Finally, take time to pray and listen. Write a response to each question that is an action to take in your own life.
My notebooks with 3 handwritten columns headed by these questions may look messy and elementary to others, but they have led me to a deeper knowledge and more joyous walk with God. He still speaks, and He is just waiting for you and me to listen.
Dear Lord, Your Word is a lamp to my feet. Please place within my heart a deep desire to know Your Word and the self-discipline to carry through. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
by John Piper
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Pray about what scripture with which to practice this method and try it.
How do my perceptions of God's Word change when I start with His words and thoughts instead of my own?
How might my life change as I start to apply His Word in my everyday life?
Psalm 119 12-15, "Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways." (NIV)
© 2009 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.
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