My last post in this series was about how to do a 3-column Bible study, and why it’s such a good method for learning. Below is an actual 3-column study from my notebook:
1 John 3:16-24
Column 1 — Write the text word-for-word:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Column 2 — Rewrite the text in your own words:
We only know what love is because Jesus Christ gave his life for us. And we should do as he did, and give our lives for our fellow Christians. If we have material possessions and see an individual in need, but don’t feel compassion for him AND share with him, it’s proof that we don’t have God’s love in our own lives. Let’s don’t just say we love, but make it real love by doing something about it. Tangible love for others is how we know we are actually Christians; acts of love are also how we find peace with God when we feel in our hearts we’re not worthy. God is more powerful to give us peace than our own hearts are to condemn us; and he knows everything about us.
If our love brings the peace of God into our hearts, then we can be sure of ourselves when we ask God for things — and we can be certain that we’ll receive those things. This is because we do everything he asks of us out of love, which makes him happy. And the highest command he’s given us is to put our very own lives in the hands of his son, Jesus Christ, and then to love one another. If we trust in Jesus and love each other, it confirms that we’re living in him — and that he’s living in us. Actually, we will always have proof that he lives in us, because he gave us the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Column 3 — List what we learn about God and what our response should be:
- We can only properly define love because Jesus died for us.
- Love can only be learned from seeing and experiencing love.
- Is this much of why Jesus came to earth — so we would know what love is?
- We are expected to follow the example of Jesus in loving others, even if it means death.
- The love of God is not in people who don’t have compassion and pity on others.
- The love of God is not in people whose compassion for others doesn’t result in action.
- Saying you love someone is not love. True love requires action and service.
- If love can only be learned from experience, and I’ve experienced Jesus’ love, and I’m supposed to follow his example in loving others, then it must be one of my goals to show others what love looks like — so they can learn what it is and how to do it themselves.
- If I don’t have compassion that results in action, I am preventing others from knowing what love is, and from being able to perform it themselves.
- Truly loving others is proof that I am a Christian.
- God rewards my acts of love by giving me peace, even if inside I feel rotten and sinful.
- God is both smarter and more powerful than my heart.
- I can ask God for anything and receive it, if I have love and obey his commands.
- I shouldn’t be afraid to ask God for things, but should be confident in front of him.
- I make God happy when I obey him and do what he asks.
- God’s main command is to put our trust in Jesus, and to love one another.
- I am living in Jesus, and he is living in me, when I am obedient to the above commands.
- The Holy Spirit living inside me is proof that Jesus lives in me.
Specific “I will” Statements
EVERY TIME I am convicted this week to feel compassion for someone, I will stop and pray about how I can turn that conviction into actual love, by doing something about it. I will then do that thing. I fully expect, then, to help several homeless and poor Tanzanians this week with food, clothing, and/or money.
This week, I will not tell my wife I love her, EXCEPT when it is accompanied by an act of love, be it praying for her, getting her a glass of water, giving her a back rub, or even just a hug. And I will not let this limit how often I tell her I love her, rather I will grow my actions to be equal to my words.
If / when I feel unworthy of God’s love this week, I will stop and pray, asking him to give me peace about our relationship. Then I will ask him to help me to believe him more than I believe my own heart and mind.
So… that’s a sample 3-column study. Though it’s most effective when we 1) share what we learned with someone else, and 2) share our “I will” statements with them, so they can hold us accountable. I hope this is useful. I really do believe, if you’ll just give yourself a couple of weeks of studying the Bible this way, there will be a noticeable difference in your walk with God and in your times of study. It will no longer be about knowledge, but about obedience to God. At the same time, though, you will actually gain a great deal of knowledge as well — and practical knowledge at that.
Next post in the church planting series: church planting: the discovery bible study and dna