Thirty-five years ago I began receiving love letters. I kept each of those love letters and have read and reread them again and again. Thirty years ago I married the writer of those letters. They have become my "treasured notes." Why is this so? Because those notes reveal the journey of our love relationship. For me, the Bible is God's love letter to help me develop and enhance a meaningful relationship with Him. As I read these letters daily, it should reaffirm my love for God in the same way as the letters from my wife help reaffirm my love for her. I have chosen to share with you ten ways to build a personal relationship with God through Bible Study.
1) Bible Study as Love for God
In the Bible, the book Song of Solomon passionately describes the love between a bride and bridegroom; "Thy love is better than wine" (1:2); "I am sick of love" (2:5); "My beloved is mine, and I am his" (2:16). We need to love God with a passion, a love even stronger than the love between lovers. This love is unconditional. No matter what problems or trials we may have to endure in life, nothing will affect this genuine love we have for God. The entire Bible should become a treasured love letter from God upon which to build a personal relationship with Him.
2) Bible Study as Food or Bread
Without food, no one can survive. The Bible uses many metaphors to describe God's Word as "food." Jesus declares Himself to be the "Bread of life" (John 3:35). "As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God.... We should take one verse, and concentrate the mind on the task of [ comprehending] the thought which God has put in that verse for us" -Desire Of Ages, p.390,391.
3) Bible Study as Water
The metaphor of water is used in the Bible for cleansing. Jesus says that we are "clean through the word" (John 15:3). Paul suggests that the word of God will "sanctify and cleanse His church" (Eph. 5:26).
4) Bible Study as Seed
In the parable of the Sower (Maft. 13:18-33; Luke 8:5-8), Jesus explains that, "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11).
The type and grade of soil each follower of Christ grows will determine the kind of relationship he or she will have with Christ. If our spiritual soil is fertile, then the seed of God's word will produce fruit in the life.
5) Bible Study as a Lamp or Light
Let no one doubt that this world is dark, not only with pollution and crime, but also with the darkness of sin. The word of God is the only lamp and light. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto mypath" (Psalm 119:105).That can dispel thedarkness in our world and lead us into the bright light of God's world (Psalm 119:105).
6) Bible Study as a Mirror
James shows us how to build a personal relationship with Jesus by using the word of God as a mirror to show us our true selves and the need to model the perfect image of Christ (James 1:23-25).
7) Bible Study as a Hammer
Some of us have hardened hearts because of our pride and therefore only the word of God as a hammer can break our hearts of rock (Jer 23:29).
8) Bible Study as Fire
This shows one of the beneficial effects of Bible study. It is "as a burning fire shut up in my bones" (Jer 20:9; Jer. 23:29). As this"fire" burns sin out of our lives, our experience with Christ will become purified.
9) Bible Study as a Sword
The word of God is "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb.4:12), that cuts away the impurities of sin from our conscience.
10) Bible Study as Buried Treasure
There is a story from ancient Greece of the rich farmer who on his deathbed told his sons that his treasure was buried in the field and that to be rich, they should dig for it. When the father died, the sons carefully and thoroughly dug up the field, yet they found no buried treasure. In the spring they abandoned their search. With the fields so thoroughly plowed, the sons decided to plant corn. Ah! The father's plan worked. Because of the rich harvest of corn the sons became wealthy.
As followers of Christ we, too, are encouraged to search for buried treasure in the word of God (Matt. 13:44). You may ask, "How do I start?" Start with the book of Mark, which deals with the earliest record of the inspiring life of Jesus Christ.
Matthew is ideal for the parables of Jesus. Luke is known as the church historian and therefore his two books, Luke and Acts are helpful to understand the development of the early church. The book of John shares insight on the divinity of Christ.
Other treasures can be found by reading Bible biographies, themes, promises, events and prophecies or systematically digging for treasures in each book of the Bible.
Whitford A. Shaw is pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lincoln, RI.