The official “end of summer” marker- Labor Day weekend has come and gone. School has started. Backpacks have been purchased, pencils sharpened, and if your house is anything like mine, you are still trying to figure out how to get out the door on time.
Lately, I have been thinking about how I, too, am still a student. A lifelong student of the Bible. Let me backup and explain:
I am teaching one of our elementary school Bible classes this quarter, which has been great! It always takes me a few weeks to get my groove going and then I hit my stride.
One week, I was reviewing a lesson when I realized the material seemed very familiar. In fact, I had taught this material, THIS lesson to THESE kids- three years ago! Now don’t be impressed that I knew it was three years ago, our curriculum takes the kids through the Bible every three years so at least I am able to remember that!
As I was reviewing, I began to get irritated with myself. A bit sad even. Even though I had taught this lesson- this entire lesson book before, I was still having to study and prepare for my class. I was still being reminded of facts, names, places, and the sequence of events in a way that maybe a long time Christian shouldn’t have to be reminded. If I have studied this portion of the Bible before, even three years ago, shouldn’t I remember everything?
I’ve been going to church all of my life and yet- I still need to study and prepare to teach my class. I still forget things. I am still learning new things! Learning new things from a book I have read before, time and time again.
Why is this? Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Let’s explore the idea and importance of being a “Lifelong Bible student”.
We Can’t Follow God if We Don’t Know What He Has Commanded Us to Do
Have you ever tried to put together a piece of furniture without the instructions? Or cook an entree you’ve never made without a recipe? Perhaps you would luck out and be able to put together something that you can sit on or something edible without having instructions. If so, I envy you.
Chances are though, it would be a struggle and not turn out the way it is supposed to.
This is the idea of living life without God and without knowing what He wants us to do. We need instructions! We need to know the expectations so we can strive for them.
Without having these instructions, we are just floating along, doing what we think is correct. Why guess when we have a book (the Bible) to tell us what God wants from us?
Following the material my elementary students and I have been studying, the example of King Josiah comes to mind. Cliff notes version: God made Israel a great nation- delivering them from adversity, protecting them, and providing for them. They were His people and He wanted them to love and follow Him.
However, the people sinned against God by not following what He asked and by worshiping other gods. During several hundred years, there were a handful of “good” kings who followed God’s commands and many more “bad” kings who were evil and worshiped idols.
One of these good kings was Josiah, who became a king at eight years old (!). He followed a line of bad kings and yet chose to follow God (2 Kings 22:1-2).
After reigning for 18 years as king, Josiah wanted to repair the temple of God. He had money collected from the people for the repairs. While the temple was being repaired, the “book of God’s law” was found and read to king Josiah. It was a copy that had been long put away and forgotten about. People were not reading God’s law and therefore not practicing it. How can you follow instructions if you don’t know what they are?!
“When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest…. “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for the wrath of the Lord that burns against us is great, because our fathers did not listen to the words of this book, to act in accordance with everything that is written regarding us.”2 Kings 22:11-13
Josiah tore his clothes out of grief. Now having heard the law it was clear that he and the people were not following it and he knew there would be consequences from God for being unfaithful. If we read further into 2 Kings, we see that instead of allowing his grief to swallow him up, Josiah used his sadness to make positive changes- positive changes back to following and honoring God.
“And the king went up to the house of the Lord and every man of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, the prophets, and all the people, from the small to the great; and he read in their presence all the words of the Book of the Covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments, His provisions, and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.”2 Kings 23:2-3
After making the covenant with God, Josiah sprang into action: burning utensils used to serve idols, getting rid of idolatrous priests, tearing down the high places used to worship idols, etc. He knew what he needed to do to please God and nothing was going to get in his way.
It is often said “knowledge is power” and Josiah used his knowledge and then his power as King, to follow God.
Without knowing what God wants from us, we can’t live lives that please Him. We will live a life of using our flawed human minds to decide what God “wants”, which is truthfully more of what we want. The Bible is our instruction book on how to live lives that glorify God.
To Love God is To Know God. To Know God is to Read His Words.
Many people view the Bible as an instruction book of limitations. A book of “shall nots”. They chose to focus on what God does not want us to do instead of what God has done for us.
However, to love God is to know God. How can we get to know God, or anyone for that matter, if we don’t spend time with them? One of the ways to spend time with God is by talking to Him in prayer and another is by reading His words in the Bible. When we read about God in the Bible, we get to know Him. We get to see His character.
The Bible is full of examples of God’s love and His character, who He is. When I think about examples of how God took care of His people, I often think of how he delivered Joseph through the twists and turns of life (Exodus 37-50) or how God gave Hannah, a son (1 Samuel 1).
The greatest example of God’s love for us is allowing His perfect and blameless son, Jesus, to be crucified on a cross for our sins. We can read accounts of his death in the gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In case you haven’t recently studied what a Roman crucifixion is like, it is a very painful and gruesome way to die.
The easy thing for God to do would have been to stop the crucifixion. To halt the pain, to free his innocent son. Instead God chose to do the hard thing, to let Jesus endure the hard thing. The very real human pain of death.
Now God knew how this would end. He knew Jesus would rise from the dead. That the physical death, the pain he experienced would only be temporary. Jesus would rise again three days later and then join God in heaven shortly after.
A love this deep, a love that offers eternal life is not one to take lightly. Yes, God’s love is a free gift and even though it is free, it is not without stipulations. To be able to see and understand God, we need to know Him. The Bible will show Him to us if we spend time in His word.
Are You a Lifelong Bible Student?
So. This lifelong student idea. Is it ok for us to be lifelong students of the Bible? Or should we just read it once, or maybe twice and then consider ourselves Bible scholars?
Let’s go back to the recipe idea. I’ve been making banana muffins with my kids for a few years now. The first time we made them, it took forever. Ingredients were everywhere, we destroyed the kitchen. I’m sure someone cried at some point (it was probably me).
We made it through though and even produced something edible and dare I say, tasty. We’ve made these muffins probably a dozen times since then and each time, the process and the product has gotten better. We know what ingredients we need to get out, the tools we need, and we have found ways to minimize the mess.
Sometimes though, I still need to check the recipe or notes I wrote to myself- like get the butter out first so it can start softening while you get everything else going.
This is the same idea with studying the Bible. The more we do it, the better we get at it. We may know the general principles and we may need to go back and make sure our memory lines up with God’s Word.
The more we read our Bible, the more we remember, the more we learn, the more connections we make in our mind. Christians should always be studying and working to deepen our understanding and Bible knowledge. We should be proud to be “lifelong students” because this means we are constantly striving to know God and live a life that honors Him.
I am a proud lifelong Bible student and I hope you are too.
If your Bible knowledge could use some strengthening or if you want to have a Bible class with us to learn more, we would love to study with you. Find out more about our weekly services here or request a Bible class by filling out the “contact us” form at the bottom of the page.