The Spiritual Walk
Some call it "spiritual formation," "discipleship," or "character transformation." Essentially it's God's work as He transforms our characters to reflect the image of Jesus. This occurs by getting to know God, appreciating Him and being willing to do His will.
"This is the way to have eternal life--to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one You sent to earth. John 17:3 (NLT).
The Apostle Paul speaks of "walking in the Spirit." Our lives can be a "spiritual walk" only if we begin our days with God in conversation: Listening to His Word, responding to him in prayer, confession, praise and gratitude.
Developing a consistent devotional life requires a certain amount of self-discipline. Developing a habit is the easiest way to make it a regular part of our lives. So find a time and place that works for you. It might be early in the morning before breakfast or evenings just before bedtime. Once the habit is developed it becomes easier. Here are some suggestions that might help you find a method that is meaningful to you.
Reading Through the Bible
Reading the Bible through will give you an overview of God's dealings with mankind through the centuries. You will see the conflict between good and evil and how God has patiently been drawing us to Himself.
It is possible to read the Bible from beginning to end within one year by reading an average of 23 chapters a week. That would be just 3 chapters a day and a couple extra over the weekend. Many people begin with Genesis and work through to Revelation. If you get bogged down in the Old Testament, you might alternate between Old and New Testaments. There's no rule that says you need to read straight through the Bible.
If you would like a check sheet to check off chapters you have read, try one of the Bible reading checklists on the right. For variety you might like to use a fresh modern translation.
The "Encounter" series on the right allows you get a view of the history of salvation by reading the Scripture along with one of the five books in the "Conflict of the Ages" series: Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, Desire of Ages, Acts of the Apostles and Great Controversy. Print front and back on a sheet (landscape), trim 1/4 inch from each edge and fold into 3 or 4 columns as is appropriate for that schedule.
You may find a benefit by trying one of these variations during your Bible reading:
- Underline passages that have special meaning for you while you are reading. Carefully choose a marker that will not bleed through the thin Bible paper. (Christian book stores have special pens and pencils for this purpose.)
- Keep a few 3X5 (or similar) cards to jot down your thoughts as God speaks to you through the Word. Note the passage in an upper corner, and then write out in a few words the ideas to describe the new understanding that comes to mind.
Devotional Bible Reading
Here our intent is not so much to get through the Bible as to just spend time with God. As you read prayerfully, always be asking, What might God want to say to be based on this passage? It might be an example to follow, an attitude to avoid, a reason to praise.
When you read a passage of Scripture, stop and listen. Let God speak to you. Respond to Him in a divine conversation.
Some people call it "Praying the Scriptures." The Psalms are the songs and prayers by the Bible. You may find they provide the words that express what you feel about life and about God. As you read, you may find yourself saying, That's the way I feel.
God has revealed Himself to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospels reveal the kind of person Jesus was (and therefore what God is like). The Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament provide fertile soil for growing into His likeness.
More help in Christian meditation can be found on page 4 of A Bible Study Method. (Print it front and back on the same sheet for a folded brochure.)
Focusing on a Book of the Bible
You can work your way through a Bible book just like you eat an elephant — one bite at a time. Pick any book. If you are just beginning this type of personal study, try one of the Gospels or a New Testament Epistle. A commentary can help you understand the history and cultural background of a book. But to get the most benefit from God's word, we urge you to study the Bible for yourself.
As you select a section of scripture to study, choose a unit of thought - a story or paragraph (rather than verse by verse). You will get a better understanding of the meaning of a verse by studying the context of the complete section. Be sure to study with paper and pencil. It will help you think. Jot down any ideas or questions that come to mind while you are studying.
Remember, we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) (The New Living Translation says "We are God's masterpiece"). Our Spiritual Transformation is His work but we must be willing and place ourselves in His hands. So stay close to God.
Other Bible Study Methods
Major Chapters of the Bible
If studying a whole book of the Bible seems overwhelming, you might prefer to start with one of the great chapters of the Bible. This can provide some variety for you also. Here are a few suggestions:
|I Corinthians 13||Matthew 5|
|Luke 15||John 17|
|Isaiah 53||Hebrews 11|
|2 Peter 1||Isaiah 58|
|Psalm 1||Psalm 91|
|Psalm 46||Exodus 20|
|John 1||1 Corinthians 15|
Use the same methods as studying the Bible Book by Book.
A Bible concordance (a book with an index of all words found in the Bible arranged alphabetically) would be helpful for studying Bible words. Focus on significant biblical words. For starters here are some suggestions: grace, kindness (in relation to God), forgiveness, faith.
How was the idea of "redemption" used in the Old Testament and what might it mean in relation to Jesus? The Bible is full of metaphors from everyday life that have been used to describe spiritual realities. You will be blessed as you dig into their deeper meaning.
A profitable method of study is to research into the lives of Bible characters. You might study about Peter, John, Andrew or the patriarch Abraham or one of the kings. Again a Bible Concordance would be helpful to discovering all the passages that tell something about the character and personality of your chosen study project.
Studying the great themes of Scripture can be a very profitable study project. What does the Bible say about the second coming of Jesus, who was Jesus, prayer, and faith?
There is great value in memorizing some of the verses or even chapters that have meant so much to God's people through the years. You might combine this with your Bible reading.
For starters there are some you probably already know by heart: John 3:16, Psalm 23, 1 John 1:9, John 1:12. But you might want to add additional passages like Psalm 1, 63, 91, The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). You can also select from your Bible reading or the great chapters above. Write the passage out on a 3X5 or similar card so it is available for easy review. All it takes is repetition.
It's also helpful to study the Bible with other seekers. Often you can benefit from the thinking of different minds as all focus on a common passage or topic of Scripture. Usually a group uses a study guide so the group can study in advance of the group session..
Our church offers several options for group study of scripture for children, teens and adults. The children's classes are age appropriate. All groups offer study guides.
Find the method that works for you. But spend time with God's Word which is the guide for LIFE.