Your Spiritual Instruction Manual
What happens when we do not follow instruction manuals? Typically we become lost and confused. But this disorder is only temporary. When we choose to ignore the greatest instruction manual—the Bible—we are lost for eternity. The Bible contains God's plan of salvation, and without it we have no hope of reconciliation.
This instruction manual also contains directions for daily living. It shows us how to love God, how to treat other people, and how to become testimonies for Christ. Yet we cannot haphazardly read the Bible and expect to gain its full wisdom. There are some basic guidelines to properly studying God's Word:
We must be careful to study the Bible in the context of the whole passage so we will not misinterpret God's purpose and meaning. We cannot randomly pull out verses that seem to fit what we're searching for.
While the truths and histories of the Bible are to be taken literally, we must also recognize its usage of metaphors. When Jesus said, "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out" (Mark 9:47), He was not instructing us to physically blind ourselves.
We also need to understand the historical and cultural settings of the Bible. We need to discern what is mandated for all believers and what was unique for certain individuals. When Elijah confronted Ahab and Jezebel, he did not set a precedent for all of us to literally call for fire from heaven when standing up for righteousness.
When purchasing a Bible, look for a version that is both true to the original meaning, yet also easy enough to understand so that it encourages study. Perhaps also acquire a concordance, Bible dictionary, a chronological Bible, or a commentary series for a fuller understanding.
We must be on guard against reading what we want into Scripture. We cannot randomly flip through the Bible and declare that whatever page we land on will provide us our answers. We cannot pull verses out of context to support our false ideas. The Bible is the infallible Word of God, not a tool to twist for our own purposes.
We will gain the most benefit from the Bible when we read it with the Holy Spirit's guidance. Without His help, we may overlook key insights, misunderstand meanings, or ignore the rebukes in a passage.
We must also apply what we read in our daily lives. When we simply read the words but do not follow them, then we are missing out on the transforming power of God's Word. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25).
As you begin studying God's Word today, ask yourself three questions regarding the passage: What does the Bible say to the original reader? What does the Bible mean by what it says? How can this apply to me today?
Pray for a hunger to study God's Word and for the Holy Spirit's discernment as you read the words. Pray for a desire to share what you learn with others and to use the Bible's transforming power to be a light in this darkened world.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105
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