Beloved, I beg you, set your goal and your heart on that goal down the road that you will be a better student of the Bible two or three years from now than you are right now. When you first begin to study the Bible, it can feel a little bit like you're an ant trying to understand the Internet.
Hello, I'm Bill Wright. Welcome back to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today, Don shows us that studying and comprehending God's Word doesn't have to be a frustrating and confusing ordeal if we'll simply make the effort to apply some time-tested foundational study methods. Here is Don Green to continue teaching God's people God's Word on the Truth Pulpit. In God's providence, and by your own choice, you attend a teaching church. Our emphasis in this ministry is to teach God's Word, and that's where you find yourself. Well, let your church's pulpit help shape some direction for you. This is very simple. What a great thing it would be if once a week, every other day, twice a month, pick the frequency.
I don't care. You just read through the book of Ephesians and you kept the message of Ephesians fresh in your mind, and the words of the text are fresh in your mind when you come in to sit down on a Sunday morning. Well, if you're doing that periodically and things start to stick from your own reading and from the preaching of the Word, and then the book of Ephesians starts to really build into your life rather than just coming in cold and, you know, you're trying to remember what was said the prior Sunday.
That's perfectly attainable. Ephesians, you can read that in 15 minutes. That's one place to start, to just read the Word before it's preached on so that it's set in your mind. And that's a simple thing to do that will make the preaching of God's Word in your chosen church more effective in your life. So start there, and just engage your heart in what your church is teaching. Well, you know, that's a good place to start.
That's one way to go about it. Look for Bible teachers rather than people who are simply commenting on current events or simply focused on single issue matters. Look for someone who's teaching you the full counsel of God in order for you to be a student of God. You know, today's headlines are going to be tomorrow's newspaper that wraps up the dead fish. And so keep in mind that you're looking for an eternal perspective rooted in the whole counsel of God rather than somebody who's simply giving you commentary that you probably already agree with on modern political issues or whatever.
So use what you already have. You need an eternal perspective from the whole counsel of God, not simply a view on headlines, which are going to change tomorrow. Do you have any idea what the primary news item was of three months ago? Do you have any idea what was big in the news, you know, six months ago?
Whatever it was that was agitating people in the country and the world and locally. You know, you forget these things. Why? Because ultimately they're passing and they're not of significance to someone who wants to be a student of God's Word. And so keep a perspective in mind.
Use what you already have. That's the first point, first helpful suggestion, thus sayeth Don rather than thus sayeth the Lord. Secondly, now this next point, I'm sorry to give you such a complicated point at the end of a long day where your stomach is full and your eyes are heavy. I am sorry to give you a really complicated point, but listen closely. Point number two, read the Bible. Read the Bible.
All right? That may sound too simple, but don't despise the simple things. It reminds me of the man that Elijah, I think it was, commanded to go and wash in the river seven times and to be free from his leprosy. And he didn't want to do it because the simplicity and the humbling nature of it was an insult to his pride. But his helper said, no, go and do it. If he'd told you to do some great thing, wouldn't you have done that?
Well, why not do the simple thing? Well, reading the Bible may sound too simple, but I want you to remember, and this is all connected with everything that we've said here over this weekend, the Bible is clear. You have the Holy Spirit to help you have understanding as you read. And so take advantage of what God has done and recognize that you will profit by reading God's Word systematically. You will be honoring the principle of context as you read the Bible from cover to cover, as you read it over time.
Because as you do that, here's what happens. As you do that, you will start to develop, God will build into your mind a mental framework, the superstructure of the Bible that will help you have a framework to understand individual texts as you go along. One of the great things about reading the Bible from cover to cover, starting in Genesis and going through Revelation, that's not easy to do until you've done it a few times, and then it starts to come more naturally. But one of the great things about it is that you start to see how Scripture, as it unfolds over time, was honoring principles and things that were said in the early chapters of Genesis. And so as you start to read through the historical books in Joshua and going on through there, or you get into the prophets and you're reading Micah, all of a sudden it starts to stand out to you the many times that God refers to the covenant that he made with Abraham. And you realize that that is a central rail on which the train of Scripture is running. And you say, I remember reading that. It was just a few weeks ago that I was in Genesis, and here it is, and I know what this part of Scripture is talking about because I read it just recently.
There's a lot to be said for that. In the back we have provided little packets here in white. And inside there are four different Bible plans that you can choose from. This is just something simple. If you don't do this, the elders aren't going to come knocking on your door in the middle of the night saying, why didn't you take one of these packets and why aren't you reading one of these Bible plans?
That's not going to happen. This is a thus saith done. Here's something to help you. There's one that will take you from cover to cover, Genesis through Revelation, the entire Bible in a year. There's another one that will alternate passages if you think the Old Testament will get kind of old before you get to the Gospels. There's an alternate in there. There's a more simple plan. You could call this the Gideon plan in honor of Gideon's Bibles, the New Testament Psalms and Proverbs. This would be another place, an easier, less demanding place to stop. There's a nine-week Bible reading plan there. I feel like I'm on the shopping network at this point.
But that's not the point. The point here is for your well-being and for your spiritual up-building and for you to realize that there are ways for you to take a step forward. That's what I want. I want you to find an attainable, sustainable step forward from where you're at to where you need to go. And so these packets are out on the table out back there. You pick one up, send us a note, and we'll send you the PDFs.
Go to our website truthcommunitychurch.org and we'll try to help you out that way. But look, I recommend following a plan. And here's the key thing about it. Whatever you choose, here's one of the key things that I want you to understand. It's not about complying with an external standard.
That's not it. In one sense that hardly even matters. But why a plan?
Why is that so important in my humble opinion? Here's why I say you need a plan. Based on bad personal experience for a long period of time, it is very discouraging to have in your heart a desire. You want to follow God, but first of all you're inconsistent and you know that. And so that starts to weigh on you. And then you get up and you sit down or maybe it's after you get home at work tonight and you open up your Bible and it's 1,268 pages and you say, I don't even know where to begin. You don't even know where to start.
That's frustrating. And you spend your energy saying, well, should I go to a gospel? Should I go to a psalm? I'm kind of hungry.
Let's all start tomorrow. You know what that's like. You know the spirit of that. That's discouraging and your energy goes day to day just trying to find a passage, just trying to choose a passage to read. Well, a plan, whatever the plan is that you use. There's a lot of other plans, not those four that you could find. What a plan does is that you don't have to rethink that every single day. It's already set out before you what your next reading is going to be because you've chosen a path and you say, okay, I'm going to follow this path until I get to the end of it.
Very simple. And by following a plan, you simply trust God's providence that the next passage is the one that He has for you that day. And you keep in mind the bigger picture that I'm trying to become a student of God's Word over time and even if this seems a little bit dry and I don't understand it right now, that's okay because there's a bigger goal that I am achieving and that I'm growing on.
Remember what we said many times. In the realm of raising children, the growth of children is imperceptible moment by moment and day by day. But over time, you start to find that that sun that at one time was an infant in your arms is now four or five inches taller than you are.
And you say, where did that happen? Well, there was growth over time and it becomes evident and it manifests itself down the road rather than immediately. Beloved, I beg you, set your goal and your heart on that goal down the road that you will be a better student of the Bible two or three years from now than you are right now. That's attainable. You can do that.
Take the long view and here's the thing of it, attainable consistency is far more important than setting goals that will impress somebody else but that you don't have the capacity to keep. You won't get this all in a week but you can do it in a year or two without feeling any pressure to perform. Now, I didn't bring this one resource.
We got out of the house a little too quickly here this morning. But there is a resource that I recommend to you for reading the Bible. And it goes along with some of the things that I've said about verses and chapter divisions and all of that. If you're interested in becoming a reader of the Bible, I highly recommend that you pick up, that you order a copy of what's called the, T-H-E, the ESV Reader's Bible. The ESV Reader's Bible.
It's not available in NASV. But it formats the biblical text in paragraphs rather than in separate verses. It does so without study notes. And suddenly what you have is you have the pages of scripture in front of you in a format that is not distracting. And you can read it and it helps you read it in context and it draws you in and you're not seeing all kinds of numbers and little notes and all of that. That is a great resource if you want to become a reader of the Bible. So the ESV Reader's Bible.
You can't have my copy because I use it every day. So the ESV Reader's Bible. Read the Bible. Use what you already have. Read the Bible. And then thirdly let me just give you some other tools as we wrap this up here. As you read through the Bible, what I want you to see is how step-by-step you can build into this.
That you can grow into this and walk into it. If your only starting point here was to say, well, I can read Ephesians before I come to church on Sunday. I haven't been doing that.
I could do that. That's a step forward. And you know what? I know that if you start doing that, God will really bless that. And it will enrich your Sunday morning worship and give you a sense of anticipation. If that's your next step, great. If you haven't been a Bible reader, getting a plan and saying, okay, I'm going to start somewhere and I'm going to read here and I'm just going to follow this plan until I get it done, however long that takes. That's progress. That's growth.
It may be imperceptible to others, but you're acting on desires that are consistent with what should be formed in your heart after this time we spent together. And so there's kind of some stages here really that you can go through. Thirdly, final thing. One final thing to say is other tools.
Other tools. And that's not a very good point, but I told you in advance this wasn't really a sermon, so don't hold me to my lack of alliteration of the points or they don't rhyme or anything like that. We don't care about that. We're sitting around in a living room just trying to help each other grow in Christ.
That's all we're doing here today. As you read through the Bible, you will find things that you want to explore. Something will strike you. Maybe you read about the nation of Assyria and you see some things and say, you know, I'd like to know a little bit more about that. Or, you know, you get into the life of the apostle Paul and say, you know, I wonder how do we fit together everything that the Bible says about his life?
What could I learn about Paul? Well, a good Bible dictionary is invaluable for things like that to help you fill out gaps of history or culture or geography to fill in and to just let your natural curiosity as you're reading Scripture, let your natural curiosity lead you into that which you study next as you explore some of the background of the Bible. And if you want a recommendation – by the way, I get no commissions on these recommendations. If you go out and buy a thousand copies of the ESV Reader's Bible, it's not going to do me any financial benefit at all. Same for this big, heavy thing here.
If you want a recommendation for a Bible study, you might start with this one, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Here's why I recommend this. I'm not thrilled with everything that's in it. In fact, I only recently got it because I had its – I have its two predecessors. There's actually like three or four predecessors to this dictionary. And I have those and I've come to trust those and I turn to them.
They're not available anymore. They're out of print and as happens with resources like this, some guy comes along and revises them and updates the information which is good and it gives the publisher another thing to sell which is good for them as well. I'm not thrilled with everything in this Bible dictionary, but overall it will help you greatly with those kinds of questions. And it's one pretty good resource, pretty heavy resource.
It's weighing on my wrist right now as I try to hold it up here for you. But this would be a good – that would be a good place if you don't have any resources like that, you might start with that. And so you could go with that as another tool to help you as you start to want to go deeper, drill deeper into Scripture. The other thing that I would say, make good use of your MacArthur study Bible. You know what, that is one outstanding resource and I would say that even if I hadn't worked for him for 15 years. That is one great study Bible with a lot of helpful things and it will almost always point you in the right direction if you come to particular verses and you say, I need some help understanding this verse.
That seems controversial, I don't get that. To have the MacArthur study Bible there to pick up as you're reading the Bible and to open it up and look for help on understanding something immediate, that's a great resource. And if you use it in tandem with this Bible dictionary, some of the stuff in the MacArthur study Bible will help correct the things that I would not agree with in the Zondervan dictionary here. Here's the thing beloved, use those two resources in tandem and you'll be off to a really good start. You don't have to go out and buy 20 books. Some of you have but you don't have to go out and learn Greek in order to study the Bible profitably.
You don't. The Bible, why can I say that? Understand that there's a theological reason why I say that. The Bible is clear.
And the Holy Spirit dwells within you. And a NASB or an ESV or a New King James Version, those are good translations that show you what the original text said. And if you read those as an earnest Christian, someone who is turning away from sin and desiring God's Word, I promise you based on the authority of God's Word that you will grow. That you will be able to understand. And what I want you to see is that these things are attainable.
You can do this. We can grow together as a congregation. Maybe some of us are a lap ahead of others who are newer Christians.
That doesn't matter. Let's just all get on the track running in the same direction and as we circle around we'll encourage each other as we go. Now, there are many other valuable and necessary resources. As I've said, I'll say it one last time. Our goal here is to help people get started without setting an unrealistic bar to clear. If you were ever in track and did a high jump, it didn't do any good for somebody to set the bar at seven feet, you know, when all you could do was barely jump over a yardstick. You know, we need to set the bar where we can meet it.
In fact, at track meets they set the bar where they know the guy can clear it and then they gradually raise it. Well, let's set the bar where people can clear it and have a sense of success and progress. That's what we want.
And so sometimes less information is better because too much information will paralyze you into inaction and I don't want that. I want you to grow and I want you to have the sense. Every one of you, every one of you without exception that's in this room, you should be walking out of here with the sense, you know what? There's a way forward for me. There's something here that I can grow in.
This doesn't take a lot of money and this doesn't require me to make a commitment that I know I can't keep. And so we can all take steps forward here. And what we've seen in these four sessions beloved will change your life if you act upon it over time. It's awesome to think that you as a young Christian that there could be ahead of you a mature understanding of God's Word based on simple steps that you take and are faithful to now.
I invite you to it. The most wonderful thing in the world is to have a knowledge of God's Word and to be able to turn to it in times of distress, times of discouragement, to be able even more to be able to know it well enough to be able to help someone else in their problem and say, you know, let me share with you what God helped me with. Let me give you the comfort with which God has comforted me in a similar trial. Let me show you God's Word. Well, the way that we do that is that we're reading it and we're exposing ourselves to it consistently over time. As a closing encouragement, turn to Romans 15, verse 4.
Romans 15, verse 4. In one way, in one way, I feel like we're just getting started and we're actually coming to an end. Here you go. Here's your assignment. Here's your next step. Here's how you can take this and take the next step. And since this is more of a little bit of a personal informal time, I just want to say this. There's something really sweet about what's happening right now, what I'm feeling in my heart.
It's hard to, you get started on this stuff and for me as a teacher, you want to keep going, but we're at the end of our time. That's a bummer in one sense. But you know what the sweetness of it is? Is it almost all of you belong to our church? Well, this was just one step together on a journey that we're walking together. We're united together. We're going forward. We're not saying goodbye to each other. We're really not saying goodbye to each other as we close this. This is just another aspect of God binding us together around His Word and we get to continue on in this together going forward.
It's not like when you travel to another state and you spend a couple of days in a place and you teach a few times and you're never going to see those people again. Ah, you know what? We're together. We're in this together.
I think that's pretty cool. I'm really grateful for each one of you because I know you love God's Word like I do. And with that in mind, brothers and sisters in Christ, let's just read Romans 15 four as a way to encourage us and set us on the right note. Why did we spend time considering why the Bible can be understood? Who can understand the Bible? Why did we take time to consider how we should interpret the scripture? Why did we spend time today saying how can we get started? We did it for this reason.
It comes down to this. Romans 15 verse four. For whatever was written in earlier times, the Old Testament from Paul's perspective, from our perspective now, the Old and New Testaments, the 66 books of the Bible, why were they written?
They were written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope. Praise God for His perfect Word. It's Don Green bringing today's message to a close here on The Truth Pulpit. Well, friend, if you'd like to get a free copy of today's lesson for yourself or maybe for a friend, or you'd like to find out how you can support this ministry with a financial gift, we invite you to visit thetruthpulpit.com. Once again, that's thetruthpulpit.com.
And now just before we go, here again is Don with a closing thought. Well, my friend, I have a simple request for you today that would really help our ministry. Would you please go to our website, thetruthpulpit.com, and simply let us know where you hear our broadcast? Is it on a terrestrial radio station? Do you get it via podcast?
Whatever the delivery mechanism might be, it would help us so much to know that our resources are being used effectively. So please just go to thetruthpulpit.com and send us a note to let us know where you hear us. Thank you so very much, and God bless you. Thank you, Don. And friend, we'll continue our series called Effective Bible Study next time. Meanwhile, I'm Bill Wright. Join us then as Don Green continues teaching God's people God's Word on the Truth Pulpit.
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