To view video of this sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01ui3XQmMq0
“Observation- Bible study keys” 2 Tim. 2:14-16
Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. (The Message 2 Tim 2:14-16)
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2 Tim. 2:14-16)
Since we have started on this series we have talked about the trustworthiness, power, and illumination of the scripture. Today we will look at the keys to studying the Bible.
When our children were small we told them when they got to a corner to stop, look and listen- and then go. I remember the railroad had a safety program in which they told people to stop, look, and listen. The key to understanding the Bible is the key to a lot of things in life: Stop, Look and Listen- and then Go. This is basically what I use every time I come to scripture.
I. STOP- OBSERVATION- Our passage says “Focus” or “Concentrate”- The Psalmist said “Be Still and Know that I am God.” Jesus was the great observer. He said, “Look at the birds of the air… look at the lilies of the field.” Verily verily I say to you is sometimes translated as “Look you” or “Observe you.” The truth of God’s Word is found in the truth of reality. Observation is not trying to interpret it, you are simply trying to see what it says.
Our great problem is we don’t observe. We are going too fast to observe God at work. If I asked how many of you in here today feel like you are too busy and have been going too fast, most of you would raise your hand. Our children are scheduled to be too busy, and when we wonder why we are not enjoying life- it is because everyone else is busy, and so we are too. An article in the NYTimes this year said that our busyness was to keep us from feeling existentially empty. The first step to Bible study is to stop. Take a breath, take a minute, don’t just smell the roses, but strengthen your soul for your day’s journey. The first step to reading the Bible is to plan on stopping and plan on observing- maybe the night before. Know what you are going to look at, and then stop to look at what the scripture says. Ask who are the characters? What is the main point? What happened?
The tallest deck on the ship is called the observation deck. The tallest point on a passenger railway car is the observation lounge of the car. The observatory is the place-usually a high place away from lights to see the stars. It is where we get our best view. Stop and observe is an important first step that involves looking out and seeing what is there. God’s Word gives us a better perspective on life away from the distractions and influences- to enable us to see right, wrong and take a breath. God has a Word for us- but we must be able to quit running at break-neck speed in order to hear what He has to say to us.
2) LOOK- INTERPRETATION- To Look is to take in the meaning. Concentrate on doing your best; Study to show yourself to be approved is what our passage says. The difference between Bible reading and Bible study is concentration and study. It is the word in our passage- diligence- do your best.
Give God your best. Give God a chance.
The Medieval church believed there were four senses to each thing- a moral-lesson, a faith-lesson, and a heaven lesson; They valued the allegory and didn’t care much about the literal intent. They almost over-interpreted. So the word “Jerusalem” referred to civil society, the church, and to heaven- and they really didn’t care about its referring to a real city in Palestine. Similarly in Jesus’ day the Pharisees over-interpreted so that the plain sense of God’s Word was veneered so much that the root of it could not be seen. But Jesus was always calling us to call a spade a spade and quit making up excuses to avoid what the scripture actually says. So he rebuked the Pharisees for saying that honor your father and mother didn’t mean to show them respect as long as you gave a gift in their honor.
What did the passage mean in their day; What is the timeless truth. Critical thinking can be important here- looking at style, from where it was written, and what issues were being dealt with.
But this is not the end of interpretation. We must, we absolutely must put God into the interpretation of scripture- praying over the words, asking God to show us the meaning. We must NOT remove God from our interpretation and study. Too many see the Bible as a textbook simply to be analyzed. We must use our minds- but let God be in our minds too. Use your God-given-mind to interpret. We are so used to separating God from everything- that some even separate faith from the Bible. But we are called to link Spirit and truth.
A friend of mine was telling me that his son in college was always asking for money. He said he had come home for fall break and left his English book there. So he mailed him his book back. He said he sent him $1,100, but said he didn’t think his son would spend it. He put $100 on the cover and $1,000 on the inside. God has given us a treasure in the Bible, and it is not found by just looking at the outside. We need to stop- look inside and interpret what is in there.
3) LISTEN- CORRELATION- Listen to what other passages say. Contextualization- Read the Bible in context. Always interpret scripture with scripture. Listen to what other passages have to say. This is rightly dividing the word of truth. The word used here is of plow lines- furrows dividing up the soil. Just as we would not read one part of J.K. Rowling’s book section on Harry Potter without referring to the book as a whole- otherwise you might think Harry died and evil wins. We must look at other passages in the context of scripture as a whole, to find out the right meaning. So an eye for an eye- must also be seen in light of love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus, our Lord whom we follow, did this when he used Genesis 2:24 (a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife) to point out that Moses’ law of divorce was no more than a temporary concession to human weakness. The Reformers termed this principle the analogy of Scripture; the Westminster Confession states it thus: “The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” So when we study scripture- which has different facets- like a many-faceted diamond, we need to look at cross references and topical studies and commentaries to get a full viewpoint. So we should consider other gospel writers who were like four witnesses to the same event. Or we should look at Kings when we look at Chronicles.
In a passage we studied in our Disciple Study as well as the Forty Days in the Word it says (Acts 17:11) 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Most of the Thessalonians just tossed out God’s Word as not being true because they didn’t want to believe it. They didn’t even look at it. The Bereans were described as more noble because they at least looked at scripture to see what it said. We should always test what others say- not by how we feel, but by the standard of scripture. The world will tell you that you are God but do not believe them- listen.
4) GO- APPLICATION- It is not enough when you come to an intersection to stop, look, and listen. You must also go. Apply it to your life- if you do not apply it, it makes little difference. In fact, if all you do is learn what to do but don’t do anything about it, then you are inefficient, unproductive.
Jesus said how can you call me Lord and not do what I say? He said if you love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:26). Do not be just a hearer of the Word, but also a doer.
We need to ask- SPECT- is there a sin for me to forsake; a promise for me to claim; an example for me to follow; a command for me to obey; a thought for me to keep.
The ultimate goal of all Bible study is not interpretation but application. The Bible wasn’t meant to fill our heads with knowledge but to make us more like Christ. Knowledge puffs up, but we are called to love which builds up.
Our passage says that just learning “words if they are not backed up by a godly life are poison to the soul.”
This year off Long Beach California a woman was surfing with her friend and the friend had a seizure and started to drown. The lifeguards told the news that they went in and resuscitated the woman. But the friend says an unknown guy did it. That he actually yelled at the lifeguards for help- but apparently they were too busy talking to each other to listen. These lifeguards had the courses, the training, the right suits, the equipment, they were there at the scene- but they did not apply what they knew. Do not be training to be a lifeguard talking on the sideline. Train yourself to get in the game- and apply what you know. Stop, Look, Listen- yes- but then apply. Study yourself to be approved by God.