I now begin nearly every unit of teaching with a lesson focused on the why's and wherefore's of Bible study: why are we here? What are we doing? What are our goals and how do we propose to accomplish them? What makes what we do important?
I think it's critical that we identify the reason we engage in a particular activity, especially given that for most of us time is a precious commodity and we want and need to use it well. Not only that but casting a vision and setting goals clarify the activity's purpose and serve as a reminder of its relative importance, not just in terms of Bible study but in any task we undertake.
So as I endeavor to offer to my fellow Bible students a vision of our motivations and goals for Bible study, I am indebted to Kathleen Nielson and her book Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word. I had the opportunity to meet Kathleen at The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in July. I was glad for the opportunity to share with her that this is what I do at the start of each study I teach and I thanked her for helping me succinctly encapsulate what our group strives to be about.
So what are our motivations and goals for the study of God's Word? Here in abbreviated form, with props to Kathleen, is a portion of the vision I will set forth in my Bible study group next week. These goals are framed in terms of truths about the Bible:
The Bible is God speaking therefore Bible study is personal! Our goal then is to know God by hearing Him speak through His Word. Also because the Bible is God speaking, it is authoritative and our goal is to submit to it as authority in our lives.
The Bible is powerful. It is able to make us wise for salvation, it exposes and judges and convicts, it accomplishes the Lord's purposes. Therefore it is a sufficient Word! It is enough! Thus the Bible will be our primary focus and our main text.
The Bible is understandable. Therefore we will devote ourselves to seeking and searching and engaging ourselves in the diligent and careful study of God's Word, confident that the Spirit will teach us and grant us understanding.
The Bible is one story so we will study each passage in context with an effort to discern the author's original intent. We will also seek to understand each passage in terms of this single redemptive storyline of the Bible. We will not immediately seek direct application to our lives but we will first ask what we learn about God and Jesus and the gospel.
To keep it real, I have to tell you that setting forth a vision for Bible study was not an idea that had occurred to me right from the start. It actually began out of an offense.
Years ago I taught a community Bible study much as I do now but on Monday nights. One such Monday evening I was preparing to leave my son's basketball game a little early to make it to Bible study in a timely manner. Seeing me about to leave, one of the parents of a player on my son's team asked where I was going. After I told them about our community Bible study group this individual asked me in all honesty and--to give full benefit of the doubt--without snark: what's the point?
"What's the point?!!?!" I fumed later, to myself and probably to my husband, though I'm sure I offered some nice, nonsensical answer at the time invoking something about Jesus and women and the Bible. Truth be told, I was deeply offended to have my motives so questioned. However, after I recovered from my initial anger, I saw the question's validity. In fact, it has rung in mind ever since though I am quite certain the person asking it had no idea of the lingering influence it would have.
What is the point? Do we have a point?
Yes, friends, we do. In our study we hold the Bible to be God's spoken Word, powerful, understandable, the full revelation of Himself through history, the story of the redemption of a people for His own glory through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. We want to know this living Word so that we may know the God it reveals. We want to know God and know His Son and we want to love Him more and we want others to know Him and love Him.
This is our goal. This is our motivation. Yes, Lord, by Your mercy may it be so.