I began a study on the Sermon on the Mount last Monday. I downloaded Jen Wilkin‘s study guide from the Village Church website and plan to work through it over the course of the summer. No group, just me and the daily discipline of exploring God’s Word. Summer is generally a time when my spiritual disciplines slip into spiritual lazinesses–I think mainly because I haven’t the accountability of leading a group. Anyway, I’m one week plus two days in and so far, so good. I’m also making the attempt to memorize portions of the sermon beginning with the Beatitudes. Memorizing is more difficult the older one gets (ahem) but the discipline will do the mind (and heart) good.
I like how Jen has framed the study. In the introduction she describes the sort of approach she’d like participants to adopt:
The Bible study you are about to begin may be different from studies you have done in the past. It will not cover a specific topic from all angles. It will not have poetry or stories that leave you laughing, crying or inspired. It will not focus on answering the question, “What does the Bible say about me?” It will not aid you in self-discovery, at least not as its primary intent.
What it will do is teach you an important passage of the Bible in a way that will stay with you for years to come. It will challenge you to move beyond loving God with just your heart to loving Him with your mind. It will focus on answering the question, “What does the Bible say about God?” It will aid you in the worthy task of God discovery.
You see, the Bible is not a book about self-discovery; it is a book about God-discovery. The Bible is God’s declared intent to make Himself known to us. In learning about the character of God in Scripture we will experience self-discovery, but it must not be the focus of our study. The focus must be God Himself.
This focus changes the way we study. We look first for what a passage can teach us about the character of God, allowing self-discovery to be the byproduct of God-discovery. This is a much better approach because there can be no true knowledge of self apart from knowledge of God.
Yes and amen. I like her emphasis on learning about God first and foremost and “allowing self-discovery to be the byproduct of God-discovery.” How often we do the reverse and call it Bible study! She goes on to encourage the use of a non-study Bible to complete the homework. As I work through the day’s questions, I’m finding how much I depend on such study notes! Of course there is nothing wrong with using a study Bible (I have the ESV Study Bible) but being forced to think for myself and to reflect on the passage at hand is a worthy discipline. In other words, I’m being challenged to love God with my mind, as Jen’s quote above highlights. Anyway, it’s good stuff so far!
Are you doing an organized, systematic Bible study this summer either on your own or with a group? What are y’all studying? Let’s encourage each other to press on toward God-discovery through the study of His Word this summer, this fall, and for the rest of our lives!