How would you answer this question: "What did you learn from your grandparents?"
Some of us might be able to quote word-for-word a few things our grandparents said, and maybe report in detail a few things they did. Most of us remember a few key facts about their lives, the gist of their advice, and the issues that shaped their world. We might even know relatives or friends who could tell stories or share perspectives on their experiences.
We should have a similar answer when someone asks: "What have you learned from the Bible?" The memorization of facts and verses is not the only important factor when it comes to answering that question—it's not even the most important factor. What we really need to figure out is whether we have been influenced by God's Word. Has it changed us?
Below are five basic ways to assess your growing experience with the Bible. These steps reveal what you have learned, how you have grown, and what you hope to learn. If you are not able to answer one or more of these questions, you have found an area ready for personal growth.
Some historical facts should stick with you as you read God's Word. Perhaps you remember that the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, and Jesus spent 40 days tempted in the desert—a connection you found interesting. Perhaps you remember that crucifixion was a disgraceful death reserved for criminals and traitors. Whatever it may be, some facts and historical information should stick with you because you found them worth remembering.
It may help if you reflect on your recent reading of Scripture in the same way you think about the historical events that were significant in the lives of your grandparents. Every fact about where they lived, what they did, their relationships, and the events that shaped their lives could help you re-examine your own life. Even little details that seemed uninteresting at first, when linked with facts you knew previously, open new vistas of understanding. Answer these questions:
- What are the most intriguing new facts you learned from the Bible during our last study?
- How do these new facts connect with the information you knew previously?
- What historical questions would you like answered in the future?
Some perspectives are more enlightening than others. Some may be negative and others positive, but each one gives you a new slant on the truth. Perhaps the point of view of Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John reveals something fresh about the life and work of Jesus. Perhaps the attitudes and symbolic actions of Isaiah and Jeremiah captured your imagination more than other writers.
If you wanted to know your grandparents better, you might talk with other people who knew them, read letters about them, or look at pictures taken of them. What would an aunt, cousin, business partner, former neighbor, former teacher, family friend, or even personal enemy have thought about them? Whose opinion would you trust the most? Slowly but surely you can begin to understand the whole truth, for better or worse, about God’s people, too. Answer these questions:
- What fresh perspectives from biblical writers have illuminated your understanding of God’s purpose?
- How do these new perspectives question, correct, or reinforce those of other biblical personalities?
- What book of the Bible do you want to study more in the future?
Every situation in life is shaped by certain key issues, questions, or dilemmas. What matters is how people deal with those issues, answer those questions, and resolve those dilemmas. There’s a big idea—or several big ideas—behind every biblical story, poem, song, analogy, gospel, letter, and prophecy. Sometimes the issues, questions, and dilemmas of Bible times surprisingly resemble those of our lives. The responses, answers, and outcomes from the past profoundly inform our choices for the future.