The Internet is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Abraham Lincoln stated in 1874 that “[t]he problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.” If you didn’t catch it the first time, re-read the previous sentence again. The first time I saw that meme, it made me laugh; however, there is definitely a truth to be learned here. Fake news is increasingly common, and we love to get in on the hype. Fake news isn’t limited to politics and entertainment, however. False gospels celebrating self-empowerment and prosperity are also on the rise. It is critical that we learn to study the Word for ourselves, not only for our own good but for the good of others around us as well.
We must always be lifelong students of the Word.
If we look at the life of Ezra, we can see the importance of what it means to be diligent in studying the Word. Ezra was a scribe of the law, was well educated, and is believed to have authored the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. As the Jews were returning to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity, Ezra documented two of the three returns. Note what is stated in Ezra 7, where we first meet Ezra:
Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 CSB)
Ezra was never satisfied with what he knew. He didn’t just sit back, content with being someone who could quote bits and pieces of Bible; he determined in his heart to study it.
But he didn’t just stop there. The more he studied, the more he was determined to obey, and he didn’t keep what he learned to himself but took it to the people of Israel. We must decide in our hearts to do the same thing.
When we determine to study the Word, we must do it prayerfully. We can’t just decide in our own strength that we are going to become Bible scholars because when we determine to study, Satan will do everything in his power to distract us. We will become lethargic, we will become distracted, and we will be satisfied with snippets here and there.
What happens when we get satisfied with the snippets? We are prone to take things out of context and then blame God when the things we “claimed” didn’t come out the way we wanted. One common example of this is Psalm 37:4, which states, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires” (Psalm 37:4 CSB).
If we look at this verse without context, we can claim that God will give us a million dollars because that is what our desire is or even, “God will heal my ailment.” In context, though, if a person is truly seeking God, their desires will line up with His. There is a big difference in the way we can interpret this verse. Another example is in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”Paul actually wrote this from prison, modeling contentment in all situations for his readers.
I could continue on with several examples, but the point is this: we must be students of the Word or we will not only be led down a dangerous path, but we could also lead others away from the truth as well.
Another reason we must learn to study for ourselves is that an almost truth is still false.
Marketing conventions have taken our country by storm. We have conferences that feature speakers who speak on empowerment, self-love, and confidence. We are putting people on a platform and taking their words for the truth and running with it. It breaks my heart to see self-focused social media hashtags coming from dear friends who are so far away from biblical truth, especially when their empowerment comes from a “Christian” event. Speaking the truth in love sometimes means having difficult conversations. 2 Timothy 2: 15 -17 states,
Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. Avoid irreverent and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness, and their teaching will spread like gangrene.
People who don’t study the Word for themselves will have a conviction to do what other people tell them instead of a conviction to be led by the inerrant Word of God, and we can easily fall prey to the almost truths.
One of my prayers for my daughter is that she makes her faith her own. I don’t ever want her living out her life assuming she has a relationship with God because it is simply inherited from me. I want to shepherd her, teach her, and help her grow; however, I don’t ever want her to believe God just because I told her so. I want to guide her to seek the truth for herself and be there to help her along the way.
We must learn to study the Bible for ourselves so that we can help others do the same.
Acts 17 introduces a noble group of people called the Bereans. It states, “As soon as it was night, the brothers and sisters sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. Upon arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. The people here were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men” (Acts 17:10-12 CSB).
People who are like the Bereans are eager to learn. When we speak about our faith, many times people will listen, sometimes with glad and discerning hearts and other times simply to prove us wrong. What is great about being a student of the Word is that when we speak the truth, people will seek it. The Bereans were attentive, they received the Word with all readiness of mind (which in this day and age people are ready to refute), they searched for themselves, and God moved.
Studying the Word for ourselves isn’t easy, but it is imperative. We must be prayerful, we must be consistent, and we must be able to stand on the truths we discover in it. If we do this, not only will we continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge, but we will also grow closer to the very Creator who divinely inspired the Word. Let’s not hesitate; let’s make the decision to get into the Word today.