Daily devotionals can be used to familiarize yourself with the content of Scripture - its narrative, themes, and so forth. They may be an easy way to focus the mind and heart on the things of God. These are perfectly good reasons to read Scripture! However, attentive and engaged readers will come across puzzling passages, new ideas, and unfamiliar territory. Deeper understanding is the fruit of deeper engagement.
Bible study differs from daily devotional reading in both depth and duration. It involves asking deeper questions and giving more time to understanding God's Word.
In Bible study, we look at a given verse or passage of Scripture and follow three basic steps:
This inductive process is designed to help us move beyond our preexisting ideas and biases. We often have to forget what we think the Bible says and let it speak to us in new ways.
The habit of engaging, understanding, and obeying God's Word facilitates spiritual growth, leading us to become mature disciples of Jesus. When we make the observation, interpretation, and application of Scripture a habit we develop a Biblical worldview, gaining the ability to see life with clarity and handle life with stability.
Put Bible Study time on your calendar each week. Start with an attainable time goal, perhaps 30 minutes.
While studying the Old Testament can be a richly rewarding exercise, we recommend beginning with the New Testament if Bible Study is a new habit for you.
Formal Equivalence translations like the NASB, NET, and ESV are preferred for inductive bible study because they translate words from the original languages more consistently..
Don't immediately consult interpretive resources like commentaries, podcasts, or the notes in your study Bible. Observe the text and draw your own interpretive conclusions before consulting someone else's. This will teach you to think for yourself and interact with Scripture without subjecting yourself to another interpreter's theological biases.
Keep a journal or otherwise record your conclusions. As you study books of the Bible, keep a collection of book summaries. Write out the theme of the book in one sentence, note key verses, and outline the story or the author's argument. As you apply what you learn, keep a journal of the results in your life.