The complete text of a message of April 18, 2021 presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
Now, more than ever, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will face the ongoing challenge of discerning truth. Many often ask the question as to what truth is. Pontius Pilate asked the very same question when speaking to Jesus before his crucifixion:
John 18:33-38a CSB
33 Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about me?”
35 “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Pilate replied. “Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”
36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked.
“You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
38 “What is truth?” said Pilate.
With Pilate’s question, the assumption can be made that he wanted to know more.
How about you? Do you want to know more?
Let me ask this another way: Do you desire to learn more about Jesus?
Without putting words or thoughts into your mind, it should be everyone’s desire to want to learn more about Jesus. It should be a desire for everyone to want to learn. Acquiring wisdom and knowledge has everything to do with the fulfillment of your purpose in life.
Do you desire to learn more about Jesus? If your answer is “yes,” we’ll explore how you can not only learn more about Him, but also develop characteristics that will lead to you desiring not just head knowledge, but also the ongoing growth and development of your relationship with Him through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It’s all about developing that heart knowledge…the godly wisdom that will strengthen you and your relationship with Jesus.
Why is this important? Well, I have observed, over a period of three decades of ministry, that there are many, many believers in Jesus Christ that have not reached the level of intimacy with Jesus Christ that can only come through a thoughtful, consistent approach to study. These are well-intentioned people that I am referring to, but it doesn’t change the reality where churches must reinforce the importance of teaching, and not just teaching from the pulpit and the classroom, but personal Bible studies.
The lack of a desire to study about Jesus creates a malaise within the believer. I deliberately used the word “malaise” because of what it represents here for a believer: A general sense of depression or unease.1 If you can’t put your finger as to why you’re feeling this way, it may be as simple as opening your Bible and reading what you’ve been missing. Perhaps there is a greater psychological effect on those who fail to push for more knowledge, but we can easily conclude that Satan has that person in a place where he wants him. A person who no longer tries to understand about God is less and less effective in the body and has a strained relationship with Jesus. The evidence is in the behavior of the person who is not grounded effectively in Christ. Paul saw this as a real problem in the church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 CSB
1 For my part, brothers and sisters, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, since you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, 3 because you are still worldly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not worldly and behaving like mere humans?
We have entirely too many immature believers who proclaim Jesus but don’t really know Him as they should.
Hebrews 5:11-14 NIV
11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Maturity in the faith is directly correlated to maturity in your study habits. Note again what is being stated in Hebrews: It requires consistent training to be able to distinguish what is good versus what is evil. You’re less likely to be blindsided by Satan if you know what’s coming around the corner.
We are not to study the Bible just because we are told to do so by the church. We are to study because there is a genuine, heartfelt desire to get to know the Savior more and more—and better and better. Your study time efforts, as you mature in your faith, should be the equivalent of satisfying hunger by eating a delicious meal.
Matthew 5:6 ESV
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Proverbs 2:1-5 CSB
1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 listening closely to wisdom
and directing your heart to understanding;
3 furthermore, if you call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and discover the knowledge of God.
God has conveyed to readers of His Word that there is a value associated with acquiring His wisdom and knowledge. It is a way for each of us to see that the time spent in study is well worth your time and effort. It has an eternal value.
We learn more about Jesus as we study His Word. There’s no better way to do it. Whether you study by reading His Word or listening to an audio Bible, it all counts.
We study to acquire wisdom and knowledge of Him.
Proverbs 9:10 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
As we learn more about Him, we can live in a manner that honors Him. In James 1, there is an appeal to live as not just hearers but doers of the Word (v. 22). This has everything to do with putting your faith in action. It is your acts of goodness and charity where God will honor and affirm you in your service for Him.
All of this information requires every believer to devote some quiet time for studying His Word. It is very important that you make this time of study and reflection as a priority.
If you don’t take your study as seriously as you should, or even make an effort to do it, your faith and your relationship with Jesus will be an ongoing struggle. Your true growth in Christ comes as you learn more about His commands, which are all a reflection of His wisdom. He knows what is best for us.
As you learn more about Jesus in your studies, you will also discover a very important element of your relationship with Him—His love for you. The more that you learn about Him, the more that you will love Him, as well.
Let’s summarize with the following points that promote the study of God’s Word:
We study God’s Word in order to experience Jesus with greater information and increasing familiarity.
We are to study in order to develop greater consistency in the faith, which leads to maturity in Christ.
We are to study in order to learn more about how we are to obey His commands.
We are to study about Jesus in order to fulfill His purpose in our lives. Our purpose is to glorify Him in all that we do.
So now that we have established the basic benefits of Bible study, we need to emphasize that the commitment to Bible study must be very consistent every day. A time or range of time—either in the morning, lunchtime or in the evening—will establish a routine that will keep the Word at the forefront of your daily living.
As we review this, please take a moment to consider your present daily routine for Bible study time. As a personal example, my study time is in the morning and my prayer time is at night at bedtime. It is a great way to review and reflect on the day and to acknowledge those people that we come across who need prayer. Of course, prayer is also a time for thanking the Lord for the day and for your ministry.
I also believe it is appropriate to be prayerful as you reflect on all of these points. There is no need, nor a benefit, to dwell upon what you haven’t done in this area or if you have struggled with it. It is beneficial to listen to what the Spirit has to say to you about how to move forward in this area. It’s all about your willingness to move forward:
Malachi 4:2 NKJV
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
Are you willing to move forward and develop better study habits?
Are you willing to take the next step in your pursuit of maturity in Christ?
Jesus loves your sincere effort, and He will affirm you as you take this on.
It begins with the realization that we are to walk in the light of His Word and to pursue it with fervor.
Psalm 119:103-106 NKJV
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and confirmed
That I will keep Your righteous judgments.
Developing a daily Bible study routine is our goal and our ongoing effort to not just do it because we are told to do so, but because we want to do so. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, it should become a passion of yours to do it and not be a burden or drudgery. If it is the latter, tell Satan to get behind you and to ask the Lord for strength and encouragement as you pursue this.
Matthew 16:21-24 NIV
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
To be effective in this study, you have to block out all of your personal areas of distraction and the world’s distractions and get after pursuing Jesus. It’s the only path to success. Pray for the passion that only Jesus can give to you as you read and study His Word.
Let’s look at this passion that I’m speaking of. It’s all about desire. I took the word “STUDY” and created an acronym of points of reference in this effort.
The S in study is to strive. The word “strive” represents making a great effort to the point of being tenacious.2 The way to keep your efforts as strong as possible is to approach your reading when you are wide awake and well rested. It also helps to follow a plan that will lead to success and not set you up for failure. (A two-year Bible reading plan is my recommendation.) Reading should take place each day with chunks of time that begin with following a good plan and spending 7 to 10 minutes of uninterrupted time. If you feel like reading more, you can. (There’s freedom in Christ!) You also need to consider prayer time that follows your reading to meditate on what you have read and what the Lord is teaching you about it in the Spirit. Ideally, you will spend a healthy 15 minutes of time in study and reflection each day. It is your efforts to strive for success that will prevail as you move forward. Please also keep in mind that you can always go back to the Word at different times of the day.
The T in study refers to the word think. Bible study requires thinking on the wisdom that come from above (John 3:31):
Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Who is more worthy of praise than the author and originator of wisdom, Jesus Christ? Use your study time to reflect on what Jesus has done in your life as you correlate your daily reading to your present experiences. This is a great way to learn more about Him each day.
The U in study is to understand. Your daily prayer is to have Jesus open your heart and your mind to greater understanding of Him, His Word and His commands.
2 Timothy 2:7 ESV
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
The recognition of God’s glory, His presence, His grace, His mercy and His sovereign nature gives you greater insight into God’s character as you understand Him more and more. We can relate to Jesus as He took on all of our burdens and was obedient to the Father when He died on the cross for our sins. To understand Jesus, in faith, is a great way to build upon our relationship with Him.
Hebrews 10:22 ESV
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The D in study is to discern. Discernment is a very important element that comes out of our study. The Holy Spirit, as our indwelling Teacher, provides wisdom and support that helps every believer to discern what is appropriate as we mature in our faith and live in a Christlike manner. Hebrews 5:14, as we read earlier, noted this, and it is supported by what we will find in Philippians:
Philippians 1:9-11 NASB
9 And this I pray, that your love may overflow still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may discover the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.
As we mature in our faith, there is much more for each of us to experience as we grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For this reason, we are on the adventure with Christ together within the body, and God is to be glorified for bringing us with Him now and for all eternity!
The Y in study represents the word yearn. To yearn is to be moved with tenderness or to have affection for someone. It’s to develop a very strong desire or longing, as well.3
As I was preparing this message, it occurred to me that women are often very emotionally engaged with Jesus as they pursue Him in their prayer life and personal studies, but men, in general, have traditionally been less emotionally attached or less enthused to show emotion or even a visible desire in their commitment to Jesus Christ. This is just my take, but we can look at church attendance and see clear evidence that women are more likely to be in the fellowship and have a tangible connection with Jesus. From this unscientific conclusion, I am inferring that women will do a better job of completing the spirit of all five letters in our acronym STUDY, while men will have no trouble with the first four letters and form the word STUD. It’s a macho thing. A man does not publicly want to show himself to be vulnerable—after all, he has an image to keep up! And isn’t that what men do?
It is indeed rare to see men reflect a yearning for God’s Word…a yearning for Jesus Christ. But guess what? We don’t need more studs in church. We need men who yearn to study God’s Word more and more. We need more and more gentlemen in the body of Christ who will readily humble themselves before Him, repent for operating in the flesh with pridefulness, and pray for the Lord to provide wisdom as they seek after Him.
1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
From time to time, we all need a reset and a fresh start. God will grant this to us and give us peace as we develop a greater emotional attachment to Him. It’s for everyone who chooses to pursue Him in this manner.
As a teacher, I want to see both men and women grow spiritually at the same pace, and with that, I want to see them yearn for a close, healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to see married couples on the same page with their studies. Jesus wants to see men step up in their roles in the church as potential leaders as they devote their lives of service for Christ in their professions and within the church fellowship. We can see how having a yearning and desire for Jesus will bring about the very characteristics that God wants us to have as we operate in the body…humility, care, concern and charity for others.
All believers, as they get to know the character of Jesus Christ, should develop a yearning for Him. It’s a deep desire to grow more and more as you consistently pray to Him and grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding. He loves you more than you can imagine, and it is His desire that you are to grow as He sanctifies you with the presence of His Holy Spirit in your life.
We see how our study of God’s Word is very important within our personal development as we live for Jesus Christ. Seek after Jesus in prayer as you do the following in your studies:
Strive for Him.
Think about Him.
Understand Him more and more.
Discern as you live in His righteousness.
Yearn for Him and His Word every day.
Pray that the Lord gives you the heartfelt desire to make the time to get before Him in prayer and to study His Word. It is your direct path to victory as you learn, grow and mature in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now, more than ever, it’s study time.
© 2021 Melvin Gaines
1 malaise. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved April 15 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/malaise
2 strive. (n.d.) Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014. (1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014). Retrieved April 15 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/strive
3 yearn. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved April 15 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/yearn