Sweeter Than Honey: Part Three

Sweeter Than Honey: Part Three

A Guided Bible Study

by Guest Writers, NR Johnson | August 22, 2018

My friends' eyes were wide with disbelief as they stared back at me.

I sat slightly embarrassed at the admission of a secret I feared to make public. But there it was, out in the open. Exposed for all to hear.

It may sound trite to you, but I confessed what few guys would be willing to declare out loud — I like Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables. A lot. I love being engrossed in the pull of their stories and still find myself giddy with excitement when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy finally get married or when Gilbert kisses Anne in the picturesque bridge scene.

There is just something about a good story which not only stirs you but can also teach you something.

Think of that classic scene with a heroine locked in a dungeon, the bad guys are nearly there, and a keyring holding dozens of keys is only inches away from the heroine’s grasp. As the sound of shoes echo down the corridor, she makes one last heroic effort, finally reaching her proverbial “key” to freedom. With mere seconds to escape, she pushes a key into the lock, tries another, and then another. With dozens to choose from, knowing only one will fit the lock, how will she get out in time? With hope nearly lost, she finds the right key, escaping mere moments before being overcome by the bad guys.

Perhaps this type of story doesn’t stir you like it does me, but it can teach us both a lot about Bible study — the key to Bible study is the right … ahem … key.

A Person of The Word

In the previous two issues of Set Apart Girl Magazine, we discussed the purpose and process of Bible study. While there can be a lot of reasons why you might study the Bible, the purpose of Bible study should be to know Jesus Christ and to be transformed by truth. Studying God’s Word isn’t merely an academic endeavor, it is an intimate pursuit of the Living God — we want to get to know the Author. And there is a simple process you can use in your own study: observe the text (observation), discover what the author intended his audience to know (interpretation), and apply that truth into your life (application).

But the right methods without the right character will only lead to wrong or fruitless results. 

There are a lot of books about the Bible written by unbelievers. College classes around the country abound with studies about the Bible, examining it as they would study Plato or Homer. So what is the difference between an academic, dry, lifeless study of the Bible and the life-changing, life-giving, thrilling adventure of studying God’s Word that you and I can have?

It all comes down to the person who studies the Bible.

If you truly desire to study the Bible, be transformed by truth, and become a woman of the Word, there are seven “key” attributes you must possess.

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1) Alive

Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned. The Bible is not a book to be academically studied as much as it is the living and active Word which must be experienced. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words which I have spoken to you are spirit, and they are life.” Just as we must worship God in spirit (see John 4:24), so too, we must approach Bible study through the Spirit, allowing Him to open our eyes, give us understanding, and change our lives. It is true that unbelievers can academically study the Bible, and many have come to find salvation in Christ through their study. But a veil covers their understanding and their study is hindered and considered “foolishness” for they are spiritually blind. You must, therefore, be spiritually alive in Christ. (Go Deeper: 1 Corinthians 2:4-14.)

2) Open to Truth and Transformation 

Read through the Gospels, and you’ll quickly notice that the usual response of the Pharisees to Jesus and the truth was closed, unwilling to listen, rejecting, and accusing. It was like their arms were crossed while they gritted their teeth and refused to listen and see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Even when presented with infallible truth, they concocted a lie so they could remain as they were. (See Matthew 28:11-15.) If you want to study the Word, we must be open to receive truth and be transformed by the Holy Spirit. This means we won’t be able to stay as we are. He will likely confront our presumptions, our theological positions, our attitudes, and our actions. Are you willing to be open to truth and allow Him to change anything in your life if it is exposed by the truth of God’s Word?

3) Hungry

Seek and you shall find. Knock and it will be opened. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. The Word is filled with promises to those who hunger after God’s Word and diligently seek Him. (See Hebrews 11:6.) In talking about new believers, Peter explains that growth in Christ comes through the hungry desire of God’s Word. (See 1 Peter 2:2.) Are you seeking, desirous, obsessed with, and hungry for God’s Word? 

4) Humble

A prideful, haughty, know-it-all attitude will not discover the riches and richness of God’s Word. We must not come to the Word as if it's beneath us and we know better. Nor are we to see the Bible as a buddy, a mere friend who has no right to tell us what to do. The proper position of a believer in the study of God’s Word is humility — seeing the Word as the authority in our life and bending ourselves beneath it. The Bible is the foundation and standard of our lives. When we are wrong, we must be humble to confess it, surrender our lives afresh, and embrace the truth.

5) Honest

In a similar tone to “humble” — we must be honest with the Word and ourselves. Thinking we are better than we are and refusing to change will not produce transformation. We must be honest with where we are at and what we struggle with so we can allow the Word and the Spirit to confront, convict, and change our lives. We must also be honest with the Word. It may be uncomfortable, it may challenge our thinking, our emotions, our past, what we always thought was true — but are we willing to see the text honestly and live accordingly? We do not bend the Word around our lives as if the Bible has to conform to us; rather, the Word is an unchanging rock which we must bend and conform to. We change, not the Word.

6) Obedient

What is the point of study if when we are confronted with truth, we refuse to obey? Not only should you be ready and willing to obey, I encourage you to have a “pre-decided yes.” The pre-decided yes is a decision you make even before you study God’s Word which declares, “God, even before I start studying, I make the decision that if You show me anything I need to do, change, surrender, or confess, I will do so, no strings attached.” Too many of us wait to be confronted before we decide if we want to obey or if we should negotiate with God. Decide now that you’ll obey whatever He reveals in your life, no strings attached. Then do it.

7) Author-Focused

Though written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit, we know the Author of the Bible is, in fact, God Himself. It is, in truth, His words. And every page of Scripture focuses upon Christ and His redemptive work upon the Cross. Every page reveals the character and nature of our God. Isn’t it interesting that God did not give us a systematic theology textbook or simply a book of doctrine? What He gave us was a book that reveals Himself personally. More than history or biography, the Bible is a revelation of the Author, and we must keep Him at the center of our focus when we study.

Put It Into Practice

Are you willing to be a person of the Word and allow God to make you alive, open to truth and transformation, hungry, humble, honest, obedient, and Author-focused?

When these seven attributes come together, like seven grooves in a key, it opens the lock of God’s Word. And it is only when we are people of the Word that the Bible comes alive; we discover it is truly living and active, and our study goes beyond just words on a page as the Author reveals greater understanding and insight while He transforms our lives.

In this eight-week Bible study guide, I want to guide you through each of these seven key attributes of a person of the Word and give you the opportunity to study each a bit deeper in the Word.

I invite you to join me on this exciting journey of diving into God’s Word to know Him more. Though this guide may appear simple, it has the potential to radically change your life as you seek to grow in intimacy with Christ through His Word. Know I am praying for you and cheering you on into the endless depths of Jesus and His Word.

Ready to Get Started?

Week One: Rightly Handling God's Word

Read 2 Timothy chapter two several times this week (though every day is preferable). This will help you with the overall context. (Note: reading the entire book is even better!) Focus specifically on 2 Timothy 2:15.

Key prayer: Ask God (the Author) to prepare your heart and give you insight into His Word.

Questions to ask & thoughts for study:

  • What does it mean to "study" or "be diligent" in this context?
  • How does one show herself "approved by God"?
  • Why and how can Timothy be "a workman who need not be ashamed"?
  • What does it mean to "rightly handle/divide the word of truth"?  What is the "word of truth"?
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today ... this week?

Paul, in his final exhortation to Timothy, tells him to “be diligent” or to “study.” The Greek word gives the sense of an intentional eagerness or zeal toward something. It could be understood as “do your best” or “give your all toward a pursuit.” What was the pursuit? Paul lists three things: to present yourself approved by God, be an unashamed workman, and rightly handle the word of truth. The word here for “approved” (dokimos) means to be tested and considered genuine. The word was often used of gold purified of all dross in the fire. As such, if Timothy gave his all in such a pursuit, he would be considered a laborer/workman (usually used in reference to a laborer in agriculture) for God and would have no reason to be ashamed for lazy or ill work. Paul then states that Timothy should rightly divide (or handle) the word of truth (the Scriptures). The word “rightly dividing” (one word in Greek) is only used here and in Proverbs 3:6 and 11:5. It gives the idea of cutting or guiding along a straight path. It can also mean to interpret or analyze correctly. It is also important to note that the phrase “word of truth” is in contrast with the phrases “words of no profit” (v. 14) and “godless chatter” (v. 16).

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Week Two: Alive

Read Romans 6 several times this week (though every day is preferable).

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, and to enable you to fully experience what it means to be "alive" in Christ Jesus.

Questions to ask and thoughts for your study:

  • “Reckon” (v. 11) is an accounting term that means to take into account, consider, or to calculate. How can you reckon yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus? What does this look like practically to live out daily in your life?
  • What does it mean to be “alive” (v. 11) in Christ Jesus? What is the evidence of this life? Is it possible to grow and cultivate greater “aliveness” in Jesus? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Since you are alive in Christ, Paul says in verses 12-14 that there is a practical outflow that should be apparent in our lives. Walk through these verses and make a list with a simple overview/description of each thing Paul mentions. (i.e. “Do not let sin reign” — do not give any allowance for sin, don’t give it kingly authority in my life, stand guard against sin … otherwise, if sin reigns in my life, I will obey it in its lusts.)
  • I encourage you to use the three Bible study questions we discussed in the last magazine to dive into Romans 6:11-14 as much as possible. Observation: What does it say? Interpretation: What does it mean to the original audience? Application: What does it change in my life?
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today … this week?

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Week Three: Open to Truth & Transformation

Read the following passages and do a topical study on truth and transformation: John 1:1-5; 1:14; 8:32; 14:6; 15:1-5; 16:13-14; 17:17; Romans 12:1-2; 13:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 1:21-22; Psalm 12:6; 19:7; 51:10.

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, reveal truth, and to make you open to greater transformation and sanctification in your life.

Questions to ask and thoughts for your study:

  • Truth is more than facts and information. Truth is a Person and God’s Word is not only true but also declares that Truth (Person). (See John 14:6 and John 17:17.)\
  • What does it mean to be “open to truth”? How can you practically embrace Truth as a Person rather than mere information and data?
  • Based on the passages above (and any others you can find), what does it mean to study the Bible with a desire to be open to Truth?
  • How are you transformed? What does transformation mean and look like practically?
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today … this week?

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Week Four: Hungry

Read the following passages: Matthew 5:6; 6:33; 7:7; Luke 11:9-13; John 6:35; Hebrews 11:6

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, and make you hungry for His Word, Truth, and greater intimacy with Himself.

Questions to ask and thoughts for your study:

  • According to Matthew 6:24-34, what is the difference between what the world (i.e. “Gentiles”) seeks and what you as a Christian are to seek? What does it mean to seek?
  • Use the three Bible study questions to study Hebrews 11:6 in depth. Specifically, what does it mean to “diligently seek Him”? What is the reward of doing so?
  • Use the three Bible study questions to study Matthew 5:6 in depth. Why does Jesus say hunger AND thirst? Why not just one or the other? Why righteousness? What is the promise contained in the verse?
  • One of my favorite illustrations for hungering after God and His Word is a little child in a pool of chocolate. If I found myself in a pool of rich dark chocolate, my only prayer would be “Lord, increase my capacity!” Are you that way with God’s Word?
  • Andrew Murray once said, “You will ask me, are you satisfied? Have you got all you want? God forbid. With the deepest feeling of my soul I can say that I am satisfied with Jesus now; but there is also the consciousness of how much fuller the revelation can be of the exceeding abundance of His grace. Let us never hesitate to say, ‘This is only the beginning.’”
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today … this week?

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Week Five: Humble

Do a study on the topic of humility. Look up and read every passage you can find that uses the words: humility, humble, and lowliness. Make sure you look at the surrounding verses to understand the context of how the word is used.

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, and to make you humble as you approach His Word.

Questions to ask and thoughts for your study:

  • Based on the passages you read, what is the general biblical concept for humility? How do you become humble? What does humility look like? Why is humility a chief defining characteristic of a Christian?
  • The Greek word for humility (tapeinophrosynÄ“) comes from two main Greek words — understanding and low (or) low to the ground. How can that help you understand the concept of humility?
  • 1 Peter 5:5 says we are to be “clothed” with humility. Peter is referring to the white scarf or apron that slaves wore, which distinguished slaves from freemen. In other words, to be clothed is to be marked, defined, or distinguished as something. What does this mean for you as a Christian being clothed with humility?
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today … this week?

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Week Six: Honest

Using the three questions of Bible study, do an in-depth study of Job 31:6 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, and make you willing to be measured by the perfect standard of His Word.

Questions to ask and thoughts for your study:

  • Job is asking God to measure his life upon honest scales — something God already delights in. (See Proverbs 11:1.) In essence, Job is asking God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
  • The Bible is often called the “Canon” — literally a rod or branch — which is used for measurement, as a tool for discipline and correction, used by shepherds to gently guide, comfort, and lead their sheep, or as a scepter of a king symbolizing  authority and power. Explain how each of these four uses of a rod is symbolic of the Bible in a Christian’s life.
  • In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul says that the Word is for the end result of “completeness” and being “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The way that happens is through doctrine (teaching/thinking), rebuke (defining boundaries), correction (purification, cleansing, and conforming us to His will), and training in righteousness (training in how to live like Christ).
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today … this week?

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Week Seven: Obedient

Read the following verses and do a study on the topic of obedience — specifically what it means to be obedient to the Word of God: John 14:15; 14:24; 15:10; Matthew 7:16-20; Acts 5:32; Romans 5:19; 6:12-16; 16:19; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Galatians 3:1; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 3:20-22; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 3:13-14; Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 4:17; Jeremiah 7:23-28.

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, and to enable you to be obedient to His Word.

Questions to ask and thoughts for your study:

  • Why do the New Testament writers mention the obedience of Jesus? Why did He need to be obedient? What does this mean practically for the life of a Christian? (See Philippians 2:8 and Hebrews 5:8.)
  • Why does Jesus tie obedience to His Word to loving Him? (See the passages in John above.)
  • For a branch to abide in the vine and produce fruit (John 15), it must surrender and obey to the vine. How does this concept correlate to Matthew 7:16-20?
  • How can you specifically and practically apply this truth to your life today … this week?

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Week Eight: Author-focused

Try it on your own: Do a biblical study on what it means to be “Author-Focused.” 

Remember, all of the Bible is a revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ and His work upon the Cross. The Christian life is a life focused on, filled with, and dependent upon Jesus Christ. It is a purposeful progression to ever-increasing intimacy and oneness of relationship with the God of the universe. It is being filled with and sourced by the Spirit of God. It is plunging headlong into the endless depths of Jesus, desiring more and more of Him. Simply, a Christian’s call is to be absolutely surrendered to, continually dependent upon, and faithfully abiding in Jesus. You are called to delight, find joy, and be obsessed with Him.

Key Prayer: Ask God to prepare your heart, give you insight into His Word, and to keep your focus on Himself.

Application: When you finished your study, make sure you bring it to the point of practical application in your life.

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NRJohnson is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps Christians build their lives around Jesus Christ. His passion is for believers to gain greater intimacy with Jesus, understand God’s Word, experience the victorious Christian life, and transform the world through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is an avid fan of Set Apart Girl Magazine and proudly showcases them on his living room coffee table. Connect with his ministry and learn more about how to study the Bible at: deeperChristian.com/Bible.