Listen: Study Controls the Volume Part 3

How to Study the Textbook

Sermon Summary
This message details 11 steps a person should take in order to study God’s Word. They are not complicated and simply highlight different aspects of a commitment to listen to God’s voice. These eleven steps are taken from 11 verses of Psalm 119 where the Psalmist speaks of his desire to know and to follow God’s Word.

Community Group Discussion Guide
1. What are some of the difficulties and road blocks you’ve faced when it comes to your personal study of God’s Word?

2. What are some of the steps you’ve taken to get overcome those difficulties and to get around those road blocks to Bible study?
Psa 119:10  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
Psa 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

3. What are some of the Bible Study tools you have found to be helpful to you in your study? Share these resources with the group. Example: YouVersion Bible App, Bible Gateway, Commentaries, Book studies, etc.
Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

4. It’s so important to read God’s word, but there should be times when you take it to a deeper level and study God’s word. Study means you consider what it’s saying, meditate on its meaning for you and then think about its application for your life. Discuss how figuring out the “Essence of the text in a sentence” and the “Object of the text in a sentence” might help you with the application for your life now!
Psalm 119:15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.


How to Study the Textbook
God is Holy and His Word tells us that we are to be holy as He is holy.  And I'm not talking about just a feel good religion! Eugene Peterson, an American-born clergyman, scholar, author, and poet who wrote "The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language" put it this way...

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

Today we're going to talk about listening to God by studying the textbook for life He so graciously gave us, The Holy Bible! Many have it and ignore it, many others desire it and are not allowed to have it, and then there are those who want nothing to do with it!
But there is a group of people who have discovered the treasures contained within and have an insatiable desire to understand it's wisdom! And then there is at least one other group, those who have tried to find answers out there in the world and have only found deception and disappointment and they are desperately searching for real, genuine, truthful, meaningful, direction for life!

I'll offer this challenge to everyone here this morning. Give this textbook for life a real chance by learning how to study it for all it's worth and you'll find yourself excited and hungry for God's Word!

Let's pray and ask God to give us some practical information today that we can use as we seek to listen to the voice of God! Father God, I thank You for Your amazing textbook for life that You so graciously have given to us. I thank you that you gave it to us in such a way that confirms it's authenticity and reliability. Instead of giving it to one person, in one experience, you gave Your Word to over forty authors over thousands of years and then allowed godly people to bring those writings together in the precious book we can now hold in our very hands! And how cool is it that we even have Bible apps on our phones, computers, and tablets! What a blessing! Thank You!
Teach us how to take full advantage of all that is available to us! Help my voice to hold out and speak through Your servant today and I'll give You the glory You so deserve! We are eager to hear Your voice, in Jesus sweet name I pray and believe! Amen!!

Today's message may be one of the most practical you've ever heard. We're going to look at a small portion of my favorite poem, or song in the book of Psalms. I know I've said this before, but when it comes to the songs recorded in the book of Psalms, Psalm 119 is a Jam session of epic proportions. It has 176 verses!! And no we're not going to read all of them this morning! If it were performed at a concert it would definitely be a rock opera with many different movements! Today we're going to turn up the volume by focusing on 11 of those 176 verses. Each of those 11 verses will teach us an aspect of studying the textbook for life, The Bible! Let's take them one at a time and find out the steps we need to take when studying the Bible! Psalm 119: 10...

Step #1...

Seek It

Psalm 119:10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

How do we study the Bible? The first way is by desiring its author and its content! If you have no desire to know God or His Word then you won't take the time to even pick up this book. But, if you have a heart and mind that understands the value of knowing and understanding God's wisdom you will set aside time because we make time to do the things we want to do!

If you can't ever seem to find time to read the Bible, the real issue is not time, but desire! I know you're busy! We all are, but how many of us go for days without eating food? We don't! Because it's a need and we desire food. We must get to the place where we desire spiritual nourishment because we realize it's a real and life essential need! Do you remember what Jesus said about this in the sermon on the mount?

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I recently wrote an article for the upcoming issue of Metro Fitness. Let me share it with you because it's got a very practical way for us to find time for the word...

Have you heard the concept of a dual workout or dual-toning exercises? Typically this refers to doing an exercise that works out more than one muscle group at the same time. Now I’m not an expert on this topic, but it did occur to me that most of us are really busy people and have limited time to commit to our workouts. If there is something we can do that accomplishes two goals at one time and is safe and efficient then I consider that a good thing! Just a little over a year ago I discovered the concept of dual workouts in relation to my physical fitness and my spiritual fitness.
I usually workout early in the morning before I begin my day of meetings, counseling appointments, speaking engagements, pastoral care visits, study sessions etc.  I found it hard to get my physical workouts in and still have time for my devotional. The answer was a dual workout. I turned to my Bible app (YouVersion) for help.
It has an audio feature so I dial in a passage of the Bible and listen as I am working out. When the physical exercise gets intense and I need to take the ear buds out, I spend that time in prayer. But you might ask if multi-tasking is okay when it comes to spiritual fitness and does God’s Word have anything to say about this subject? The answer to both questions is yes!

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

So its quite okay to multitask when it comes to listening to God's voice. It may not be the most effective means of studying the textbook, but some of it will get in there! And then sometimes it's just good to go a bit deeper in your search for the treasures of God! And what have people historically done when they find a really valuable treasure? Like pirates? They buried their treasure! They hide it! And this is step two in studying the textbook!

Hide It

The Psalmist put it like this in Psalm 119:11...

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Why hide it? With an earthly treasure, people hide those things so no one will take it from them! But it's different with God's spiritual treasures! It wasn't that the Psalmist didn't want anyone else to know the Word of God or the wisdom that could be theirs. He wanted to hide the Word of God in his heart so he didn't lose those words, or forget the wisdom!

To hide the word of God in your heart is to retain the word! To understand the word! To remember the word! To make the word a part of your thoughts and your philosophy of life! Here's some practical suggestions...


You say, "But my memory's just so bad! I can't memorize things!"

I'm not talking about whole chapters or even word for word! Take a short verse or a part of a verse and think about what it is saying to you and memorize that! How about Psalm 119:11 that we just read!

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

"Ok God, I'm going to hide what Your word says about the things I'm struggling with so I won't sin against You!" Here's one I have to remember all the time...

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to think about that verse and repeat it and memorize it. Because I know that constant worry and being anxious only serves to highlight my lack of trust that God will keep His promises! Not that we shouldn't be concerned about anything or take a nonchalant attitude about things, but our concern shouldn't translate into worry!

And the next step you must take when studying the textbook is to Ask for it!

Ask For It

Psalm 119:12 Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

Ask for what? Ask to be taught! Ask for understanding!! That's right, before you read the word of God ask God to help you to understand what He is going to communicate to you! Ask Him to teach You! The Psalmist put it this way in verses 119:33-

Psalm 119:33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

And how does God give us that understanding? He gives it through His precious Holy Spirit! Ask God to guide you in your study by His Holy Spirit! Listen to what Jesus said about this...

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Now did you notice what Jesus said? The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I have said to you! Oops! That assumes that you were listening in the first place! I had a professor once who prayed before we took a test. He asked God to help us remember the things we had studied! But wait, what about those who never cracked the book? Well that brings us to the next step we must take...

Read It

Psalm 119:13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.

Now I know some of you think that's a no brainer, but a lot of people say they just don't understand the Bible and when you press them on the subject you discover they've never read it! Some say they just can't understand all of the thees and the thous. To which I would reply, there's some really good modern translations! Like the New International Version, which I preach from, The Holman Bible, The Revised Standard,  The New American Standard, The New King James, and one of my favorites, The Good News Bible! These are translations were a team of scholars got together and took the oldest and best manuscripts available and worked very hard to preserve the original meanings, but in a modern language.  

There are also paraphrases, which I'm not against, but you just have to realize they are what they are. And what is that? One man, like the theologian I quoted at the beginning of the message, Dr. Eugene Peterson who wrote the paraphrase "The Message!" This is where one man sits down with one or more translations of the Bible and paraphrases or puts things in their own words.

I'm not against that, but you just have to realize that's very different from a team of scholars who painstakingly translate a passage from the original language and one man who puts things in his own words from a translation. But regardless, if you don't ever read the Bible, it will be of no use to you! So start by just a taking a small bite-sized portion of the Bible and just read it! Here's what I believe will happen. It will become fascinating to you! It will begin to teach you, and tug at your heart. And when it does hopefully you will take the next step and you will prioritize it!

Prioritize It

Psalm 119:14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.

When you begin to realize the great riches contained in the words of this book, you'll begin to make it a priority in your life. In other words, listening to God's voice through His word will move up on your priority list! It will become an important part of your daily agenda! Let me ask you all a question and it's okay to raise your hand.

How many of you have ever gotten half way to work and realized you've left your phone at home? How does that make you feel? Do you turn around and go get it even if it makes you late? Wow, how dependent we've become on our technology!! We feel lost without it! My prayer is that you will someday feel that strongly if you realize you've forgotten to consult with God's Word that day.

Not to guilt trip anyone and not because there is some kind of hard and fast rule about how much you should read the Bible on a daily basis, but just that we would have the word of God as such a cherished resource for guidance in our lives. And you won't have to fret about God being mad at you, because He won't be. He may just whisper to your heart and say something like...

"Don't worry about it, I'll catch you at your coffee break and you can read a few verses on your Bible App! And hey I've got your back! Love you my child!"

And now for the step you've all been waiting for! The step that goes with today's title...

Study It

Psalm 119:15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.

I know we talked about mediation a little bit a few weeks ago. But here's where it gets super practical. Reading is good, studying is better! When you study, you set aside specific time and have a specific place where you can really concentrate, really meditate, really consider what God is trying to communicate to you! It's in study of God's Word that the volume of His voice gets turned up the most!

Now what I want to do over the next few minutes is to give you some secrets of study. We're going to camp out here for a bit. This step deserves a little more time! I'm even going to give you the secrets of how God helps me understand and break down Scripture in bite size pieces.

The first thing I do is pray and ask God to help me as I study. Then I read selected verses. I think about the context of the verses. What book are they in, the Old or New Testament, what kind of writing is it, law, poem, gospel, letter, etc. Then I apply the then/now method of study. What did it mean to the people back then in their context and culture?

What were the underlying principles? And then I try to figure out how those same principles translate and relate in my context and culture today. Some scholars, like Dr. Gordon Fee, and Douglas Stuart, who co-wrote "How to Read the Bible for All its Worth" call the study of what it meant back then, exegesis, and then how that applies today, they call "herrmeneutics." Homiletics is the preparing and preaching sermons to help people understand the connections. Today, I'm preaching a homily.  When it comes to the then and now issue, I like to put it this way. That was then, this is now, that was them, this is me! Lord help me understand how the unchanging principles of Your word apply to me!!

And one of my professors, years ago, co-wrote a book that has helped me so much in this area and in building sermons. The title of the book was: "Building Sermons To Meet Peoples Needs!"
In this book Dr. Harold T. Bryson and James C. Taylor taught a unique formula for building sermons. I want to share this with you because it's what I use many times when I'm developing a message and I feel the principles could help anyone better understand the Bible and how it applies to their life today. You start with a text.

And I'll just use our text for today. Psalm 119:10-20.
The first thing you do is determine the ETS...

ETS: The Essence of the Text in a Sentence
The Psalmist talks about his desire to know the Word of God!

ESS: The Essence of the Sermon in a Sentence
Studying the Bible is the way we learn God’s Word.

OSS: The Object of the Sermon in a Sentence
I want my hearers to learn how to study God’s Word.

Probing Question

Probing Question
What steps must we take to study God’s Word?

Unifying Word

Transitional Sentence
Let’s look at the steps we must take when we study God’s Word!

Now let's apply this formula to your Bible Study of Psalm 119:10-20

Then (ETS)
The Essence of the Text Then
David desired God's Word!

Now (ESS)
The Essence of the Text Now
We should desire God's Word!

Object (OSS)
The Object of the Text for Me
I desire God's Word!

Probing Question
What steps do I need to take to learn God’s Word?

I need to seek it!
I need to hide it in my heart!
I need to ask God to teach it to me!
I need to read it!
I need to prioritize it!
I need to study it!
and I need to...

Care for It

Psalm 119:16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

When you care for something you don't neglect it! You pamper it, you cherish it, you protect it, you spend time with it! How many of us, me included have neglected to care for God's Word. And I'm not talking about polishing the cover of your Bible. I'm talking about finding it (you may have to dust it off a bit), and opening it up!

Neglect of God's Word is a tragedy because we make unnecessary blunders and mistakes when we neglect to consult with God and seek His advice, counsel, and direction. If you were to go back and read industrial accident reports you would be surprised at the number of times it can be attributed to not following the safety protocols outlined in the policy manuals or safety guidelines!

The same is true spiritually when we neglect Godly counsel! "Well, I just kind of got out of the habit!" "I didn't think it really mattered that much!" "I thought I had it figured out on my own and didn't think I needed any help."

A little advice from the book...

Proverbs 15:21 Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.
22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

The next step will be the theme for our next series...

Practice It

Psalm 119:17 Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word.

The best way to study the Word of God is to practice the Word of God! When you live it out it becomes alive to you. You can't just seek the word, read the word, and study the word, you've got to live it. The next series is titled, Follow Through! And here's a spoiler alert…You'll see this verse next week...

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

You'll have to come back to get the meat of that point. Although the next step in studying God's textbook for life is closely related to practice…See it!

See It

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

The more you read, study, and practice the Word of God the more you will see its beauty, its reality, its wisdom, its practicality, its power, its ability to change the course of a man or woman's life in this world and in the world to come!

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

And the reason David saw what he saw was because he had taken the step to find the treasures in God's Word!

Find It

Psalm 119:19 I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.

God has always been very clear in His word. If you seek Him you will find Him!

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

What was the key? Call upon Him, pray to Him, seek Him. And when these things happen, you will have taken the last step required for studying God's textbook for life...

Love It

Psalm 119:20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

The Psalmist loved God's Word so much that he was consumed with a longing for God's Word. His study of God's word had caused him to fall in love with God and with God's Word. You see, when you love someone, you love to talk to them. You love to hear their voice! My question for you today is what are you in love with? What consumes you? Do you long to hear God's voice, or are there other things crowding or drowning out His voice? A renewed commitment to study His Word would bring a renewed excitement in your relationship with Him. Why? Because, as I said last week,
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God!

And then in John 1:14...

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The more you get to know His Word, the more you will get to know Him!!
So when it comes to His Word of life...
Seek it - Hide It - Ask for It - Read It - Prioritize It - Study It - Care for It
Practice It - See It - Find It
Love It

Let's pray!!