Last night, in a message series I am doing for the youth group on how to study the Bible, I talked about a method that I learned from John MacArthur, Jr.’s book entitled (oddly enough) “How to Study the Bible.” In that book, MacArthur, talks about a method of reading the Bible that will allow us to gain a command of what the Bible says and where it says it. I will summarize that method here and invite you to join the Ground Zero youth and I on an initial 30 day journey into the book of 1 John. Five chapters, 105 verses, 30 days.
I don’t want anyone to neglect their daily reading plan to do this. Add to whatever reading plan you are on. The 5 chapters of the Book of 1 John can be read in 25 to 30 minutes. In his book, MacArthur encourages the reader to spend 20 minutes reading Old Testament text then read the book of 1 John in its entirety. Again, for 30 days. After day four or five, begin to keep a 3×5 Index card (or your journal, notebook, etc.) and for each chapter write down a short summary of the key point of the chapter — a sentence, a phrase, a word — whatever prompts you to think about what the main thrust of the chapter is. After you have written the summaries, the following days as you read through the book of 1 John, review the summaries as you read each chapter. MacArthur warns that one thing to be cautious of is around day 7 or 8 you will be saying “I have this. I have a good understanding of the text.”, but push through that and keep going the entire 30 days. At the end of 30 days, you will have a great command of those 5 chapters of the book of 1 John.
So what happens after that. MacArthur encourages us to do the same thing with the entire New Testament. Move from 1 John to a larger book like the Gospel of John. However, break it up into manageable chunks. The Gospel of John is 21 chapters long. Break it up into three seven chapter sections and spend 90 days going through the Gospel of John. Break it up in short book and longer book sections, go from the Gospel of John to Titus or Philemon. All the while, creating summaries of each chapter and review the summaries in your daily read.
You might be thinking that this method would take a long time to finish the New Testament and in our fast food culture it doesn’t produce results fast enough. Then I challenge you to think about your own knowledge about “where the Bible says what.” Personally, I want a better command of my knowledge of exactly where the Bible says something. I’ve read and studied the Bible for years, but if it weren’t for tools, study guides, and yes, electronic searches, I would be challenged with finding a passage I am looking for without these tools. I think I would even go as far as to say, these tools actually hinder my command of the scriptures rather than help. While they are helpful and bring immediate results (fast food culture), they become a crutch that I would rather not do without. So, I am willing to invest the time in this method to help me shed the crutches so that I will be able to “run” the race set before. And as Pastor Terry Jones, mentioned in the message yesterday… “If something is worth it, it will take time.” The 27 books (260 chapters, 7,959 verses — for you counters out there (Hannah)) of the New Testament will take about two and a half years to get through using this method. Think of the gain!
If the Bible is God’s love letter to me, then I want to know His Word in as intimate a way as I am able. I have spent time memorizing individual scripture passages, and I understand the merit, but through this exercise in developing scriptural endurance I want to know not only what His love letter says, but where it says it. I am excited about starting this with the youth and look forward to what it will do in our lives both as a group and personally. So again, I invite you to join us on this 30 day journey and see where it takes you!