I teach Bible study, a responsibility and privilege I have loved and feared for fifteen years or so now. I currently teach a community-wide study on Tuesday mornings. We resumed this week after our holiday hiatus and I was as nervous as I was when I first took my place in the teacher's chair all those years ago. In fact, I was so very nervous Tuesday that I was only half joking when I wondered to my friend if it was too late to cancel the whole thing, this mere minutes before I was to teach! It was surely too late, she informed me, and there was nothing for me to do but to cast myself on the mercy of the Lord and just do it.
All my weird insecurities and panic attacks aside, I love the start of a new study. I love the anticipation of the Lord's sure work among us, as well as the zeal and excitement that accompany a fresh beginning. I type out a course outline and I wonder as I do about the blessings and challenges that await. It's exciting to me!
Years ago I was leaving my son's basketball game early in order to get to Bible study. Upon hearing where I was going, an acquaintance asked me what was the point. I do not know if the question was to the point of Bible study in general or to the specific group I was leading at the time (also a community study). I can tell you I was quite offended and I haven't yet forgotten the question nor my indignation.
But whatever the reasons behind its asking, I find it a good question. What is the point? What is it we are doing? What makes that hour and a half on a Tuesday morning worth our time? My acquaintance's question rings in my mind as I seek to define the goals and motivations not merely of Bible study in general but also of our specific group and course of study.
There are many reasons I could give for why I study God's Word. I have found it powerful to effect change in me as I confront what it says about me and sin and grace and mercy. Its truth makes sense of my world, both my small world of home and family and the larger world of culture and society and politics and philosophy and the like. It is in Scripture I find hope and promise and inspiration and challenge.
But my main motivation extends beyond the therapeutic. I study God's Word because by it I know Him. The more I know Him, the more I love Him, the more I love Him, the more I want to know Him--it's a self-perpetuating cycle, glory to God! Theology, doctrine, these are not merely academic pursuits but avenues for a passionate pursuit of God Himself. I engage in Bible study not just because of all its wonderful benefits and helps--and there are many--but by it I discover the knowledge of the Lord.
John 5:39 puts the fear of the Lord in me and I do not engage in hyperbole when I say so. There Jesus indicts the religious leaders who have diligently, even passionately, pursued knowledge of the Scriptures and yet for all their scholarship they missed the main point: Jesus. Knowledge of the Scriptures does not impart life; they point to the One who is Himself the way, the truth and the life. This warning sobers me. How many Bible studies have I participated in--have I taught--through which I gained factual knowledge and yet missed Jesus?
So here's our goal: we want to see Jesus. We believe the Bible is God speaking and we will set ourselves to hear Him. We will ask for ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to understand. We will trace the gospel story in Old Testament and New. We will pursue the knowledge of the Lord with diligence and discipline; we will cry aloud for understanding and we will seek for it as for silver and gold. We will do so in faith, knowing that those who seek the Lord will surely find Him. Make us more like Jesus, we will ask, and we will submit ourselves to the Spirit's good work of conviction and sanctification.
So what's the point? Jesus! It's about Him and for Him and through Him and because of Him. Because of the Lord's great faithfulness, we will see Jesus and we will rejoice in the gospel grace He has lavished on us and we will worship Him who loves us so.
Yes and amen.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. ~2 Cor. 4:6
We love because he first loved us. ~1 John 4:9