Being a follower of Jesus is similar to being married. Both start with a first
date: awkward, excited, interested, hopeful. Fast forward to saying the “I do’s” at the
wedding ceremony and upon arriving at the reception someone will inevitably tell
you that communication is the key to a good marriage, at which point you will nod
your head and smile because you and your hour-old spouse obviously have already
mastered the art.
Until you soon realize, you haven’t. It turns out that learning to communicate and understand the other person is a continually evolving process that if pursued, makes the relationship rich beyond measure, but if neglected, turns the relationship stagnant and sour.
Our relationship with Jesus is rooted in continual communication. His
primary means of speaking to us is through His Word, and one of the ways we hear
from Him is by effectively studying the Bible. So this begs the question, “How can we
effectively understand and act on what Jesus is trying to communicate?”
We have found that these 3 simple questions, ‘What?’, ‘So What?’, ‘Now What?’ method has benefited many in taking the first steps of studying the Scriptures. To better help you understand this method for studying the Bible we will use a real-life text conversation that took place in our marriage.
1. “[What] does the (Bible) text say?”
When reading a text message or reading the Bible, the first step has to be that you actually read it. Sounds silly, right? But it is crucial. If you hear your phone ping, you have to purposefully take it out, open the message, and read the text. Maybe even read it twice for clarity. The Bible is the same way. There must be a purposeful process of opening the book, finding the desired text, and reading it.
Jesus tells His disciples that He has given them all the words that the Father gave Him 1. That is an incredible statement! The Father wanted Jesus to give us His words, and Jesus was faithful to that desire, and we now have those words at our fingertips. So it is up to us to open the text and read it. See the conversation below as an example.
Text Message Conversation from July 19th, 2018
Heather: Ben, it’s time.
Ben: Are you sure?
Heather: Yes, come home.
2. “[So what] does it mean?”
After reading the text message or the Bible passage, there is now the need to understand it. This requires context. The above text message conversation between Ben and Heather could mean millions of things if taken out of the context of the time and place in which it was sent.
The Bible is the same. If you read a verse without trying to understand how it fits with the words before and after it, you could make it mean anything you want. However, the above text message and the text of the Bible are written with the purpose of being understood. What’s more, for the Believer, understanding the Bible has a serious advantage because Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will help the believer understand the word of God 2.
So in this way, Ben uses context regarding Heather's above text message:
Heather is 38 and ½ weeks pregnant with her second child, is currently having serious painful contractions, and is at home alone with Levi, her almost two-year-old.
3.“[Now what] can we do about it?”
At this point, the text has been read and understood. The last step is: What will we do with the information? Ben has a choice, he could ignore the text and carry on with his day while Heather labors alone, or he could get in his car, rush home from work, and help her.
One of those choices might end in a serious marital conflict. In the same way, when we read and understand the text of the Bible, Jesus calls us to action. Either we can choose to be a fool who hears Jesus’ words and ignores them, or we can choose to be wise and build our whole lives on them 3.
Ben choses to race home to a screaming wife, screaming child, and a concerned friend who came to watch Levi. Ten minutes after arriving, he has packed the car, calmed Levi, briefed their (about to be very close) friend and goes to escort Heather to the car with the intent to take her to the hospital. Instead he ends up delivering his second child into the world on the hallway of their home.
When we choose to commit to Jesus, engage with Him in the scriptures, understand what He is saying, and act on it, He takes us on an adventures that we could never have predicted or imagined. After all, to have eternal life is to know the only true God 4.