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Jen Wilkin tells us right off the bat, “This book intends to change the way you think about Bible study.”
So did it?
Yep. In many ways it did! And I’m not talking about her systematic Bible study method – which she lays out nicely by the way, complete with examples. I’m talking about two significant pre-conceived notions that I had a little backwards!
Backwards Thinking #1 – The Bible is a roadmap for life.
Backwards Thinking #2 – How to build desire for Bible study.
Let’s start with #2, because, frankly, if you don’t have the desire to study the Bible, then all the methods in the world aren’t going to help.
Now you may be thinking, I have the desire, I just don’t have the time!
May I lovingly remind us all (me included) that in most cases, we somehow find the time to do the things we want to do.
Did you watch Fixer Upper last night? Stop by the coffee shop this morning? Peruse Facebook over lunch?
When we have the desire to do those things, we find a way to squeeze them in.
If you or I don’t have time for Bible study, then we’re probably lacking desire.
Now don’t get mad at me just yet. I meant that in the nicest possible way. And there’s helpful advice on the way …
Jen Wilkin explains, “We think that learning the Bible should be as natural as breathing in and out; if knowing God’s Word is so good for us, surely He would not make it difficult for us to do so. But learning the Bible requires discipline, and discipline is something we don’t naturally embrace.”
I know, I know – that “d” word! But stick with me – I promise this is going to get good. And I can guarantee you are going to want to read this book.
Let me first back up a bit.
Jen describes her background this way: “If there were such a thing as a church pedigree, mine would read ‘mixed breed.’ I logged significant time in seven different denominations. But I carried a secret not uncommon to people with my background: I didn’t know my Bible. Sure, I knew parts of it – but looming in my peripheral vision was a mountain of biblical ignorance that was just beginning to cause me concern. Though I treasured what I knew, I was growing troubled by what I did not know.”
This was the turning point for her. Ever felt that way?
Jen, like many, believed that the Bible was a roadmap for life, that in any given circumstance, a passage could be found for comfort or guidance. She thought “the purpose of the Bible was to help me.”
Wait – it’s not?
Just about the time you’re shaking your head wondering if you’ve been thinking totally wrong all your life, she makes you feel better by explaining that this belief is not so different from Moses standing before the burning bush.
When charged by the vision of God to go to Pharaoh and demand release of the captives, Moses self-consciously replies …
Exodus 3:11: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
God responds by patiently making Himself the subject of the narrative …
Exodus 3:12: “But I will be with you.”
Rather than be reassured by this answer, Moses asks, “What should I do?” And again, rather than telling Moses what he should do, God tells him what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. The dialogue continues in this manner for an entire chapter and a half of Exodus.
Jen explains, “We are like Moses. The Bible is our burning bush – a faithful declaration of the presence and holiness of God. We ask it to tell us about ourselves, and all the while it is telling us about “I AM.” We think that if it would just tell us who we are and what we should do, then our insecurities, fears, and doubts would vanish. But our insecurities, fears, and doubts can never be banished by the knowledge of who we are. They can only be banished by the knowledge of “I AM.”
Is she saying that the Bible has nothing to say to us about who we are?
Not at all.
She continues, “We just go about trying to answer that question in a backwards way. The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is. … So when I read that God is longsuffering, I realize that I am not longsuffering. When I read that God is slow to anger, I realize that I am quick to anger. Seeing who He is shows me who I am in a true light. A vision of God high and lifted up reveals to me my sin and increases my love for Him. Grief and love lead to genuine repentance, and I begin to be conformed to the image of the One I behold.”
She also points out a New Testament example where Jesus addresses the same problem with Jewish leaders …
John 5:39-40: You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
The Bible is all about Him.
Jen says, “There are lots of good reasons to invest in learning God’s Word, but there is none better than this: We see Him for who He is, which is certainly a reward in itself, but it is a reward with the secondary benefit of being forever altered by the vision.”
Romans 12:2 (NIV): Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Most Christians really do want life transformation and the knowledge of the will of God. In this verse, Paul states how we can have them: by the renewing of our minds.
Interestingly, not our hearts.
Jen admits, “For years I tried to love God with my heart to the neglect of my mind, not recognizing my need to grow in the knowledge of ‘I AM.’ I was missing the important truth that the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”
I found it fascinating when Jen noted how the scientific community has discovered this mind-before-heart connection. Research has shown that pleasure results from gaining knowledge about the object of our pleasure, not, as we might assume, from experiencing it over and over. So finding pleasure in God will not result from pursuing more experiences with Him, but from knowing Him better – from studying Him.
I’ll give you an example. Say you are going on vacation to a place you’ve never been. Wouldn’t you enjoy it more if you read all about the sites and food and people before you go? Yep. You’d be like, “Ooo – there’s that statue I read about! Get my picture!” and “Hey – there’s that restaurant we can’t miss!” Now imagine if you hadn’t studied in advance. You would have walked right by the statue and the restaurant, missing out on that pleasure.
So which comes first? The discipline or the desire?
I always thought the desire brought about the discipline, but studies reveal that the discipline brings about the desire!
The more we study, the more we want to study. Read more here.
And we’ll become what we behold. Whether passively or actively, we’ll become conformed to the pattern we spend the most time studying.
Upon what are you beholding?
Psalm 27:8: You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is part inspiration and part application. I didn’t even touch on her practical “how-to-study” in this review – which is the whole second half of the book – but I highly recommend it! Highly. It will truly change your Bible study habits for the better.
*My prayer for you is … that this blog post will inspire you to open your Bible and dig deeper into God’s Word. How about right now?
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