RANSOM: How To Have Better Devotions

For March I wanted to do a series of various evergreen topics of the faith. Today we will be beginning this series with one of the most evergreen topics possible; that being our devotions. Today we will look at the RANSOM Bible study method. As well as a brief Church history lesson.

But before that, we need to establish what it is that we\’re studying and why we study it.

First, what are we studying? The Bible.

In your own words, what is the Bible? The Bible is from God (literally God-breathed) to show and tell us the character, nature, requirements, and the actions of God and the proper response of man to that showing and telling of God.

(For a fuller understanding of the Bible and how it came to be please watch the Bible Project\’s video on the matter).

Let\’s see how the Bible defines itself. Turn to 2 Timothy 3:16-4:3.

Based on these verses, how does the Bible define itself? Paul says that all Scripture, both Old and New Testament, is breathed out by God. It is from God. If we want to know God we must know what He has said, or revealed, to us.

According to Paul, what is the purpose of scripture? Paul gives a list of how to apply the scripture to Timothy and how it is to be used for his ministry. He tells us that it is to make use wise (knowledge applied) to salvation, profitable (useful) for sound teaching, reproof, correction, rebuking, exhortation, training in righteousness (right living) that we, the people of God, would be complete and equipped for every good work.

Paul continues to teach Timothy in 4:3-5 that people will turn away from the truth (sound teaching) that is more suited to their passions. The implication for us in this lesson is that we must first know the truth and then we are able to properly apply or live, that truth out. Our devotion to God is determined and directed by our doctrine of God. We must rightly know in order to rightly live.

On the topic of scripture, let us briefly discuss why we\’re Protestant.

Why are you, personally, Protestant?  Do y\’all know how Protestantism came to be? In brief, the flashpoint of the Reformation was when Martin Luther, a German monk, was studying Romans 1:17 and came across a commentary of Saint Augustine in which Augustine wrote, \”This is not the righteousness of God but rather the righteousness that is given to man by God.\”

Luther was awestruck by this \”blink and you\’ll miss it\” comment of Augustine. Luther had never heard of such a God that makes men righteous by His work before. This caused Luther to further investigate the Scriptures to discover who God is and what our Religion is all about. At which point Luther penned, and supposedly nail, his 95 theses, to the church doors at Wittenburg, Germany. Nailing a document to the church doors was a fairly common occurrence in those days. It was a way of requesting a discussion, or debate, over various religious matters in those days. Despite what you may have been taught, it was never Luther\’s intent in writing his 95 theses to cause the Reformation. Indeed, quite the opposite.

He merely wanted to bring the catholic church back to the Scriptures. It was the church\’s response to Luther that would cause the Reformation. By the recent invention of the Printing Press word got around in Germany of the content to Luther\’s theses. The church called Luther in under the pretense of debate of his grieves. Luther gladly accepted. Upon arrival at Worms, Luther was immediately told by the catholic cardinals to recant, to withdraw, his grieves. At this request, it was evident that there would be no debate.

Despite Hollywood depictions of this historic event, Luther did not immediately stand his ground and launch his defense of the Gospel. Instead, Luther requested a day to withdraw to his study and consider their request. His request was granted.

The next 24 hours of Luther\’s life were unparalleled in intense consideration of the matter; according to his our testimony, late into the night, he even did battle with the Devil himself; even so much as throwing a ink-well at the Devil and proclaiming, \”Get behind me Satan, for I have been baptized!\” \”Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.\” (James 4:7). The Devil lost and let Luther be. Luther returned the next day with his decision and told the cardinals that, \”Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.\”

The council condemned Luther as a heretic and put a bounty on his head. Luther would go on to print the word of God in common German, and later English so that all the people may know that it is God who is \”just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus\” (Romans 3:26). Once the council pronounced condemnation upon the justified Martin Luther the Reformation began.

This Reformation is still ongoing. Moreover, many, including myself, have begun to read the signs of the time and strongly believe a second, and far more necessary, Reformation is on the rise. Count your blessings that you all will likely see the day of the second Protestant Reformation!

If you all will oblige me a bit longer in our history lesson; I must ask this question:  Do y\’all know why we\’re Protestant? Or what the dividing line is between ourselves and the Catholics and the Orthodox church? The dividing line between these sects is our starting line.  What I mean is this: We, as Protestants, begin and end with the scriptures. All doctrine and devotion are derived directly from all of what the scriptures say.

Rather than starting with that the church says, like the catholics, or starting with (oral) church tradition like the orthodox church. Our starting point is, simply, \”what does the Bible, the breathed-out, word of God say?\” and then we proceed to think and do whatever it says. This is the doctrine, and dividing line, of Sola Scriptura; Scripture alone. From that Sola, we derive the rest of the Solas.

Does anyone know what the 5 Solas of the Reformation are? Historically, they are:

Sola Scriptura-Scripture alone. The only foundation. The Bible is the only infallible and sufficient rule for governing issues and doctrine and life.

Solus Christus-Christ alone. The only mediator. Because Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, salvation is possible only by His death and resurrection.

Sola Gratia-Grace alone. The only method. Our justification and salvation are both solely by the sovereign grace of God and not dependent on any action of condition man provides.

Sola Fide-Faith alone. The only means. Our justification before God is by faith in Christ alone, and not by works.

Sola Deo Gloria– Glory to God alone. The only ambition. All glory and honor is due to God alone.

Answer honestly, do you agree and understand these historic doctrines? The Solas are a summation of what it means to be Protestant. Remove any one of these and you are, at the bare minimum, not of the Protestant sect.

Now, in good conscience, as your brother I can\’t allow this next question to go un-asked of you:  Do you all know why you\’re non-denominational? Optics off; and in total honesty with you all, non-denominationalism is defined by a series of nots. You are not Catholic, you are not Calvinist, you are not explicitly Arminianist (though it would seem you are in pulpit and doctrine).

I\’m alright with you all not agreeing with me; that\’s ok! But, if you do, I want you to know why. I want all of you to give a sound reason as to why we disagree.

Do I make myself perfectly clear?

Now that we have a grasp of what it is that we are studying, as well of the weight, we are studying let\’s look at one method, in my opinion, the best method for studying the Bible.

How have y\’all be doing your studies/devotions? If that method works for you then so be it; I just want to introduce you all to this method for your edification. This method is the RANSOM method.

The word \”ransom\” coming from Mark 10:45, \”For even the Son of Man come not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.\” Or, as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:5-6, \”For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…\”

The RANSOM method is \”a simple guide that can help the reader through the Scripture with the proper aim and helpful steps to take while reading. The aim in our reading of Scripture should be to know and glorify God, to better understand ourselves and our world, to see the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners, and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. [I] hope this method encourages you to read the Scripture thoughtfully, apply it personally and interpret it theologically.\”-(RANSOM pg. 2).

Theology is the knowledge of God personally known and publically proclaimed. Whatever your method of study please feel free to share whatever it is you\’re learning or ask for help in whatever you may be wrestling with. Can you guys do that for me?

So, here\’s the method:

R: READ A: ASK N: NOTE S: SUMMARIZE O: OBEY M: MEDITATE

Now, I will not only be teaching this method but we will be also doing this method as well. So grab your bibles, turn to where ever you are in your reading; or you can do this in one of your favorite passages as well, or I can assign a chapter to you.

The first letter of RANSOM is reading. So first determine how much you\’re going to read in one sitting then make the time to read that portion and commit to reading it attentively, or slowly. If you\’re only studying a verse to two, read the whole chapter for context. So let\’s all read our chosen text now before we move on to the next step.

Next, we\’re going to ask questions of our text at hand. What sort of questions should we be asking when studying a text?

Some questions we should be asking are:

  1. What does this passage say about God?

  2. What does this passage say about man?

  3. What commands of God does this passage contain?

  4. What sin does this passage tell me to forsake?

  5. What promise of God does this passage contain?

  6. Does this passage show the need for a Savior?

  7. How does this passage relate to Christ and His work (His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, etc)?

More questions can be asked of our text, but these are the main ones that should be asked.

So now we\’ll go through and ask those questions of our passage. Feel free to write your thoughts down or type them out on your phone; whatever works for you.

So what was your passage that you chose to look at today? And what were some of the answers you came up with to your questions?

Next in RANSOM is note. Now we will look at the main idea, repeated words and main doctrines that are shown in this passage. This will also help us answer our questions that we are asking of the text. I recommend using a pencil and paper for this one to write what you are seeing in the text. Your thoughts don\’t need to be perfect; what matters is that you\’re writing, and thinking. So take a moment or two now to write out what you think the main idea is for your passage.

What do you think the main idea of your passage is? Or do you have any other observations that you\’d like to share?

Next in RANSOM is summarize. Try to summarize, in your own words, the text in a sentence or two. This is to help us clarify the main point of the text as it intersects, or applies, with our own lives. The value of writing, or if you prefer journaling, cannot be overstated. Writing down what you are learning forces you to think through and articulate things in an understandable manner which will help you better know the Bible and also to better communicate the knowledge of God you have gained.

How did you summarize your passage?

Next in RANSOM is obey. Here is where we must be humble before God and honest with ourselves. This is where we ask ourselves, \”What does obedience to this passage look like in my life?\”

\”It is often said, “God has not given us his Word for our information, but for our transformation.” Part of the process of transformation is identifying what God is calling us to do in response to what we read in his Word. Where do you need to repent, and how do you need to obey? What does this passage call you to believe? Why do you tend to doubt?\”-JoFo.

Or more simply put, what sin needs to be forsaken? What command obeyed? What doctrine believed?

We\’ll take a moment or so to consider what does obedience looks like according to this passage in our lives and pray for obedience to that particular passage.

So, in your humble honesty, what does it look like for you to be obedient to the command, or teaching, of your passage?

And lastly, we come to mediate. To mediate, or to think wholeheartedly, on the passage is to revisit the text, your questions, answers, summary and main truths/point of the passage with you throughout the day. Some people will review that day\’s passage on their phones while on lunch break, others may write down a key verse or two on a notecard and review that throughout the day, few may try and remember a verse or so before their day even begins, or just take a picture of their passage with their phone. Whatever may be your method for mediation on the scripture and its truth maybe make sure you can have ongoing, deep thought throughout your day concerning the word of God.

What do you think is the best way for you to stay in the word throughout the day?

The RANSOM bible study method is not the easiest one to do, but it is one of the best methods available and is designed to build you up and grow you in the faith and to help others to so as well. In this, our Father is pleased and this method, though hard work, is work that leads to eternal life.

For more information of bible study methods, you may check out these links!

RANSOM Bible Study Method

5 Basic Bible Study Techniques

7 Step-by-Step Bible Study Methods

Bible Study Methods and Applications

#TopicalBibleStudies

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