I've been a Christian most of my life. I was encouraged to read the Bible from a very young age, but no one taught me how to study the Bible. As a result, I had no clue about the basics of interpretation. Context? Genre? Author's intent? Original audience? What was that? I thought the Bible was supposed to help me make decisions and give a daily emotional boost?
Consequently, I favored the Carly Simon method AKA "You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Text is About You." I cast myself as the good guy in every passage, and the bad guy stood for whatever difficulty I was facing. I was so busy making the text say something it never said that I completely overlooked the fact that the Bible was God's revelation of Himself.
I realized what I was missing when I joined a local church and began to sit under regular expository preaching. When the pastor went through Hebrews verse by verse, I felt like a starving woman who was served a good square meal for the first time in a very, very long time. Before the sermon, Pastor Ryan would often pray that we would place ourselves under the text and not make the text subject to our ideas. This was radically different from my previous understanding or lack thereof, but this steady diet of sound preaching began to change my approach to the Bible.
I purchased my first study Bible, a larger-print ESV as big and heavy as an old Sears catalog. I began to read books on Bible study. My pastor spent about 12 weeks teaching hermeneutics, principles of interpretation, to the women in the church. To borrow from the psalmist, this opened my eyes to behold wondrous things in God's law. (Psalm 119:18) It was like reading a brand new book because I was looking for the author's intent in the text, not my own. It was neat to look at the context of a verse within a chapter within a book and then see how it related to all of Scripture. Learning about the different styles of writing and their proper interpretations added to the beauty of the God's Word - a book unlike any other book.
There are times when I regret the years I mishandled the Bible, but I'm so thankful that it's never too late to learn.
Bible study resources:
40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer, Kregel Academic, 2010.
Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word by Kathleen Buswell Nielson, P&R Publishing, 2011.
Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul, IVP Books, 2009.
Living Word Bible Studies by Kathleen Buswell Nielson, 10 Bible studies published by P&R Publishing.