Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down…Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can only come from discipline.
~ V. Raymond Edman The Disciplines of Life ~
Our main objective this year is to find encouragement as we study, meditate, and learn how to apply the spiritual truths and gospel principles in our own lives. Not only from a personal level – we also want to find empowerment in sharing our own experiences with others as they share their own personal insights and understandings with us. This requires each of us to act on faith in order to know the truth for ourselves. In order to accomplish this, we are challenged to establish the spiritual discipline of studying and meditating upon the scriptures. To seek out wise counsel, find encouragement, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and be encouraged to live a mindful Christian life.
Many New Testament passages teach on those principles that help encourage and guide our search for truth (Luke 11:9-13; John 5:39; 7:14-17; and 1 Corinthians 2:9-11). We are to invite the Spirit as we search the scriptures, meditating on the messages, and seeking the guidance in how to apply those truths and teachings into our hearts and lives. The best example is that which is recorded in Acts 17:10-12:
Now the brothers sent away both Paul and Silas at once, during the night, to Berea. ⌊They⌋ went into the synagogue of the Jews when they arrived. 11 Now these were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica. ⌊They⌋ accepted the message with all eagerness, examining the scriptures every day to see if these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and not a few of the prominent Greek women and men.
Therefore, developing a habit of scripture study may be challenging for many of us who feel we do not have the time, understanding, or skills. As Donald S. Whitney writes: Discipline without direction is drudgery. And the purpose of personal scripture study is to help each one of us to come unto Christ and be deeply converted to His Gospel. By this spiritual discipline we are able to understand the scriptures, find in them the spiritual strengths we are in need of, and share our own personal insights and experiences with others.
Deeply Rooted Conversion is our Spiritual Goal
The aim of living a mindful and crucified Christian life is to deepen our conversion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. To help us become more like Them. For this reason, the Savior prayed that our eternal life is based on knowing the Father, and Jesus Christ whom the Father has sent (John 17:3). And this requires that we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). It also means we rely on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to help us transform our hearts, our views, our attitudes and behaviors, and our very own nature.
Developing spiritual disciplines as part of our own personal conversion and spiritual goal does not occur all at once. It is a process that requires consistent and daily efforts to understand and apply to daily living. True gospel learning leads to true conversion as the Holy Spirit influences and guides us. It is the reason the Savior taught that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13) and teach us all things (John 14:26). It is through the companionship of the Holy Spirit where we find the empowerment and encouragement to learn, apply, and live out Gospel truths. This requires we seek those things that will be inviting the influence of the Spirit rather than those things that may drive such influence away.
Ways to Improve Personal Scripture Study
The simplistic way to establish scripture reading, meditation, and application is to designate a time for scripture reading. Have a pen and notebook handy write down any impressions, insights, questions, or concerns regarding what you are reading. Some of the things to look for are:
- Listen to the Spirit: Become aware of your own personal thoughts and feelings – whether they are relevant to what you are reading. Sometimes, spiritual insight, impressions, and personal revelations may come through our own thoughts and feelings. The more we tune into and listen to the Spirit, the more we are able to understand what our Heavenly Father is wanting us to learn.
- Truths about Jesus Christ: Scriptures point to and testify of Christ. Take note, mark passages, and reflect on those passages that reveal Christ to you.
- Focus on inspiring words or phrases: Certain words and phrases may impress you – as though they appear to be written for you specifically, or your present situation. Such passages may feel personally relevant, inspire, and motivate you. Consider marking them or writing down the passages and any impressions associated with those passages.
- Seek out Gospel Truths: Not only do scriptures testify of Christ – they also reveal gospel truths (doctrines or principles). Sometimes they are stated directly. Other times, one may need to dig a bit further to find those golden nuggets of truth. When we ask What eternal truths are taught in these scriptures” we are able to develop an understanding and strive to apply them in our own lives.
- Ask Questions as you study: It is not merely enough to read the scriptures. Write down those question that come to mind. Whether they relate to what you are reading, or to your own life in general – meditating and pondering on those questions helps focus on finding those answers one is seeking.
- Liken the Scriptures to your life: As you read, meditate, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, focusing on the truths and gospel principles; liken the scriptures to your own life. How do the stories relate to you? What experiences do you find yourself in that mirror what you are reading? What examples are established for you to apply to your own life and present circumstances.
Along with these guidelines – it is also recommended to follow proper means of interpretation. Utilizing scripture study helps like commentaries, looking up the Greek language of the text (or Hebrew language), and a concordance to assist in finding other scriptures to assist in better comprehension and understanding of a given passage. Along with this, consider the context of the scripture context:
- Who is writing – or speaking – in the passage?
- What is the subject or theme of the passage?
- Who is the audience being addressed?
- What is the historical/social context of the passage?
- What is the literary style of the passage (Prophecy, Parable, Poetry)?
- How is the message received?
- Where does the event take place?
Meaningful insights are found when we properly engage in Exegesis of a passage of scripture to better understand the background, beliefs, and message being presented.
Another helpful tool is to seek out sermons, messages, and content regarding particular messages of a given passage. Many times, a sermon, or series of different sermons, talks, devotionals, and other such content helps us gain insight. First, helps us understand the context and background of the scripture, gives us a different perspective based on how the passage of scripture is interpreted, and ways to apply the message of a given passage into our own life.
Live out What You Learn from Scripture
We are personally responsible for our own personal learning and spiritual conversion. No one else is. If our expectation is to rely on a pastor, teacher, or other minister of the Gospel of Christ to teach us, or tell us, everything we need to know: What we need to do to become true devoted disciples of Jesus Christ – then we are not valiantly enduring and living a true authentic and mindful crucified Christian life. It is this very reason the Savior said that if a person is to truly to come unto him and follow after Him as a true disciple – they must: Deny themselves and then take up their own cross (Matthew 16:24). No one else is capable of doing this for us. While Christ is the only person who died for each one of us – we are responsible to come unto him. We are responsible to seek the truths of the Gospel of Christ. It is our personal endeavor to put aside the natural man and to transform our lives by the renewing of our own minds (Romans 8:5-10; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16; Romans 12:1-3)
Our personal scripture study is not merely a spiritual discipline that is drudgery. It is a time of reflection, seeking, understanding, and receiving personal divine revelation pertaining to who our Heavenly Father is. Understand and come to know who Jesus Christ is. And how to apply the principle truths of the Gospel of Christ in our own lives so that we live a deeper, enriching, and authentic mindful crucified life through Jesus Christ. Our personal scripture study is a discipline whereby we are able to receive spiritual direction for our life.
Are you ready to take a journey through the New Testament? Ready to deepen your faith in Jesus Christ and experience true conversion to the principle truths of the Gospel? Ready to be transformed by the renewing of your mind and having personal experience in finding answers to your own questions? Ready to receive understanding, knowledge, and wisdom in what direction to take in your own personal life? Being empowered, enriched, and endowed with a renewed vigor and resilient faith? Ready to deny yourself and take up your own cross to truly become a mindful Christian living an authentic and crucified life?
If so, you are ready to be responsible for your own personal learning and conversion as you come unto Christ and follow Him.
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