e-Literature

Is Two Percent Enough?

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Jesus in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:17 prayed this to His Father about us, Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is truth. Those of us who have been Christians for some time can begin to understand a little what this means. God sanctifies and justifies us initially at conversion in the name of the Lord Jesus (1Co 6:11). The Holy Spirit continues with progressive sanctification. I believe the chief agent He uses in doing this is His sword, the Word of God. Sanctification is an absolute essential to the true believer. Without sanctification, we stay immature in our Christian life and will certainly eventually fail of the grace of God.
Today we are familiar with the Bible. Many of us have multiple copies. We have free access to the Word. We also have a host of commentaries, study guides, search engines, and other techniques certainly more readily available through technology. Yet are we more sanctified as a result? Sanctification through the Word is not achieved by the availability of study resources. Too many have failed in personal Bible study, and we see the results in the worldly churches around us. Divorce, troubled homes, suicide, depression, addictions, and countless other problems abound. We see troubling trends even in our own Anabaptist circle even as the availability of the Bible and all its study helps increase. Certainly, we know that all this potential in the Word of God to sanctify us will only happen with daily, sincere, enthusiastic, personal study of the Bible.
The older I become, the more I realize the limited amount of energy in a lifetime. We spend our effort and enthusiasm on the things that we decide are valuable and bring the most returns. If you spend twenty minutes every day reading and meditating personally on God’s Word, that is 2% of your day, excluding eight hours for sleeping. What is sapping us of our energy for Bible study and stealing our enthusiasm for research in the Word of God? I am going to suggest that too many of us have fallen for counterfeits and outright lies. We have bowed at the altar of success, and it has robbed us of our desire of the Word of God. We have become distracted by the myriad options of entertainments and hobbies: sports, hunting, travel, and vacations, etc. Our obsessions with Ford, Chevy and Ram, and Samsung and Apple, and such like have lessened our appetite for the truth of the Scriptures. This is idolatry and spiritual adultery. When our heart is truly right with God, we will have a thirst for the Word like the apostle Peter described in 1 Peter 2:2 …As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby:.
It takes concentration to study the Word of God. That means no distractions. For me, it means rising early. And that means self-discipline and endurance. Instead, too often, I have used my self-discipline and endurance putting in consecutive 9-hour days at work, which leaves me too exhausted to rise early and spend time in the Word of God and prayer. Subconsciously I have made a trade, a bad trade, similar to a bowl of pottage for a birthright. Can we say like Job, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food”? Would I actually skip breakfast and choose reading the Bible over eating because I didn’t get out of bed in time to do both?
Once we have become genuinely convinced of the value of personal Bible study, we will change our ways. We will put our feet and our hands where our mouth is and the results of increased quality time in the Word of God will be evident. Subsequently, we will see results in progressive sanctification, which in plain modern-day English means, we will become more Christ-like in our thoughts and actions. This will result in happier homes and kingdom-focused church life.
Brotherhood accountability is a tremendous motivator that we can tap into to help us establish good Bible study habits. Please allow me to share my personal testimony. For years I settled for a mediocre and sporadic devotional life. Sometimes I would mention it at Counsel Service and then try harder for a while and later relapse. A few years ago, I joined a men’s accountability group that strives to meet monthly. After repeatedly reporting on my lousy personal Bible study performance, I finally reached out for more intense daily help. We formed a daily reporting group that tracked our length of time spent in reading the Bible and prayer among other things. When I first timed my prayers and Bible reading, I was appalled. I thought I averaged much longer times spent in the Word then what the clock showed. Reporting these short devotionals, and especially days when I totally missed my devotions was humiliating. While I am ashamed to admit that my love for the Lord was not strong enough to automatically produce a hunger and thirst for the Word, I am glad that I received help. I believe this blessing of Brotherhood accountability is one of the benefits that too often we do not fully use to its fullest potential. It is also a good use of technology. I do not share this to glorify myself but to help others who may be struggling similarly.
Another thing that has helped me to absorb what I read has been to scribe. Reading the Bible through in one or two years is good for getting an overall view of the Bible. However, it is difficult to absorb everything, and many important details can get overlooked. Writing God’s Word down on paper as the scribes of old is tedious but can be helpful. By scribing, less is missed in the tremendous amount of details hidden in the Scriptures. I challenge you to take paper and pen some morning soon and write a chapter down. You might start a habit that could change your life for the better.
Let’s look briefly at some different techniques of Bible study that can be a blessing. One approach is to study the Bible, book by book. Each author of the Bible has his unique writing style and purpose for writing. Taking the time to search this out is helpful for understanding verses in their proper context. Too often we take a topical approach for Bible study before we understand what the author was trying to say. After receiving a speaking assignment, we do word searches for specific keywords and phrases that will prop up what we are trying to convey and then try to make that verse fit into our speaking assignment. While this may feel good at the moment, it is not beneficial for us or anyone else, to twist the Scriptures to suit our fancies. Our desire to understand and apply the truth should be stronger than our desire to look and sound good in front of others.
Another important aspect of Bible study is word definitions. The KJV Bible we love and use has words and phrases that are archaic. We should not assume we know the definition of each word. Take for instance the word “communicate” in Heb 13:16. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. A casual reading of this verse might lead one to believe that the writer here is encouraging us to be faithful in holding conversations with other believers. While that is certainly included, it is interesting to note the meaning of the Greek word 2842. koinwnia koinonia, koy-nohn-ee’-ah from 2844; partnership, i.e. (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction:--(to) communicate(-ation), communion, (contri-)distribution, fellowship. Also seen here in the definition is how the same Greek word is translated in other verses. Now we know from this verse in Hebrews and others that God is telling us to also reach out to the emotional and physical needs of others as we communicate in a brotherhood. This is just one example of word meanings that have changed over time. All this research is now exponentially easier with technology. While it is still important, I believe, to have a basic knowledge of how to use Strong’s concordance, all of us who have access to Bible software and Bible apps can now with ease and speed research these definitions and hopefully come to a more accurate understanding of what the Word of God means.
This brings me to my final point which is a solemn warning to me. This availability of the Word and all these study helps at our fingertips, carries with it a solemn responsibility. Many believers are still without Bibles, and even more, do not have access to study helps. Jesus said in Luke 12:48 For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. We have no excuse for this lack of spiritual growth in our lives. The Word is available to progressively sanctify us. We must daily, humbly and reverently, immerse ourselves in personal Bible study so the Word can have this positive effect on our lives. This will result in God receiving more glory from our lives. After all, this is the reason why He created us. God bless us all as we strive towards perfection in this area.