May 2017 – If the kingdom of heaven is indeed like a precious treasure worth more than all a person owns, (Matthew 13:44), then shouldn’t Christians make good use of every opportunity and every resource to understand what it means to live as kingdom citizens?
And yet, that is not a simple undertaking. While believers often experience times of insight and inspiration in their personal Bible study, at other times, the words lie flat on the page. A Christian may wonder: “Why does my Bible study seem so shallow? Why don’t I feel the fullness and refreshment other Christians experience from reading the Word? Am I doing this right? What am I supposed to be looking for in the Bible?”
The path to deeper understanding of the Scripture begins with a fundamental, but sometimes overlooked premise.
The goal – finding Jesus
Brian Dembowczyk, managing editor for the Gospel Project, encourages the Christian who desires to take full advantage of the Bible: “Remember the goal is to find Jesus. I believe when we keep that focus, and we start seeing Jesus, and how amazing God’s story in Scripture is, the depth will follow. That is often the fuel needed for us to spend even more time and effort digging in, with the result of bearing more fruit.”
The Gospel Project is a chronological Bible study for kids, students, and adults, with the goal to show how all Scripture is concerned with the person of Jesus Christ. It is the understanding that the Bible is first and foremost about Christ – that the Gospel Project is built on Him – and it is this understanding that is essential for deep study of the Word.
“It is critical that we study the Bible through the lens of the gospel,” Dembowczyk told AFA Journal. “We have to read the Bible with the understanding that it is God’s story of His plan to redeem people to Himself through Jesus. Every time we look at a passage, understanding what that passage teaches us about Jesus is our primary goal. Only once we understand that can we go to the next step of considering how our lives can and should change in light of the passage.”
Christians can often be tempted to gloss over what a passage teaches about Jesus and go straight to the application – but that is like building a house without a foundation.
The challenge – staying motivated
Searching for Christ in the continuity of the Bible is the goal – but it is often easier said than done. Alongside the challenges of finding time and energy to go into an in-depth study of the Word are the challenges encountered in one’s own heart.
“Studying the Bible takes time,” said Dembowczyk. “We need to be patient to allow the Holy Spirit to implant the gospel deep down into our souls. Then we need to be patient as we allow Him to work in our lives and transform us. And that ties in with our second big challenge – we are far too self-reliant. We believe that what we do is most important and that we actually have the ability to please God. We have to put both our impatience and self-reliance to death in our minds and hearts to experience meaningful, gospel-transforming Bible study.”
A desire to find Christ at the heart of the Bible, humility to recognize one’s sins, and patience as God deals with those sins – these are all necessary in order to dive into the deep end of the Word. Simple discipline and routine, while helpful, are not enough. There are many practical helps and tools to aid the Christian in the search for Christ in the Scriptures. Studies such as the Gospel Project are an excellent place to begin.
The perspective – a Christ-centered view
Aaron Armstrong, brand manager for the Gospel Project, said the study is unique in several different ways.
“The first is its focus on gospel transformation,” he said. “Every session points to the gospel as the source of life-transformation and foundation of spiritual growth. Second, each session challenges participants to consider how they can live on mission each day. Finally, the Gospel Project helps participants understand the key themes of the Christian faith by introducing them to 99 essential doctrines as they are found throughout the Scriptures. We want Christians to see that, from the very beginning, God always had a plan to rescue His creation, and that plan was always the gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus.”
The main focus of the Gospel Project is a study of the Bible from a perspective that is Christ-centered.
“To study the Bible from a Christ-centered perspective,” explained Armstrong, “is to seek to understand how the Scriptures give testimony about Jesus (John 5:39). It is to follow Jesus’ example following His resurrection, where ‘beginning with Moses and the Prophets’ Jesus led the Emmaus disciples through the Scriptures interpreting to them ‘the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:27). This approach encourages us to ask ‘What does each passage tell us about Jesus, how does it point to the promise of His coming, what does it reveal about our need for Him?’”
The Christian struggling with his or her study of Scripture may face many challenges, but there is one true solution: Christ is the point of the Bible. It is not a medicine cabinet for Christians to find something to help them feel better, or a way to earn favor with God. It is the story of a truth that transforms minds and hearts because the main character, Jesus Christ, breathes life through its pages.
When studying Scripture, ask …
▶ What does the text mean? No matter our approach, we must always seek to understand what any and every Scripture means in its original context.
▶ What does this text tell me about God? Every passage we study tells us something about God – His character, nature, authority, plans, and power.
▶ What does this text tell me about humanity or myself? Just as we seek to understand God, we should desire to understand ourselves. We should be looking to see how the Scriptures challenge our views of the human race and ourselves.
▶ How does this text point me to Jesus or my need for the gospel? Because all Scripture gives testimony to Jesus, we need to consider how that is apparent in every Scripture passage we study. That does not mean that we try to force Jesus into a passage, but there are always themes that connect.
▶ How does this text challenge me to live differently? Bible study should not leave us without some sort of action to take. As we are confronted with the gospel, there should be an action that flows from it.
Adapted from Aaron Armstrong, the Gospel Project, gospelproject.com