How you can study the Bible as a teen

Seeking the Lord from the heart

September 25, 2019

As a kid growing up in church, surrounded by Christian culture, I knew the things that were important. Read your Bible. Pray. Go to church. Be kind to others.

Those were the rules I lived by.

Rules of religion

Somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea that the Christian life was a list of rules. If you’re a Christian, this is how you live. These are the rules you keep. If you kept the rules, you were loved by God. I didn’t just pick up this mindset; I absorbed it. I latched onto it with all the strength of a fish biting the hook, heedless that there was even a danger.

It wasn’t just that I was taught to think that way. Those rules were exactly what my sinful heart wanted. If a list could make me right with God—if following a set of prescriptions would make him love me more—then at some fundamental level I could be in control. If I could make God happy, I thought, he would give me what I wanted.

Sometimes we talk about faith as though it’s an easy thing, but it’s not. It’s easy to grasp for control. It’s harder to open your hands and give over that control, even to the Lord of the universe. Maybe especially to him.

It’s easy to earn your place. We do it every day in America, especially as young people. It’s harder to accept a place prepared for you, a position you don’t even deserve. It’s easy to base your identity on the rules you keep. It appeals to our pride and our individualism. It takes a lot more faith to allow yourself to be defined by what someone else has done.

Keep the rules, read the Bible

Read your Bible. That was one of those rules. So I read my Bible every day. I memorized and studied it, too. Sometimes it was for Bible memory competitions, and sometimes it was purely for my own purposes. Either way, it was to get something, make myself look better, or be a “good Christian.”

The Christian life begins with and depends on faith.

Bible reading and study can easily become just another ritual to perform in hopes of earning God’s favor. That’s how I treated it for years. Just like the Jews of John 5, I searched the Scriptures, but didn’t realize their whole purpose was to point to Christ (John 5:39).

True transformation

Maybe the reason we love the rules-based approach to life is because we don’t like the alternative. The Scriptures’ call isn’t for us to please God with our outward obedience. It’s for us to become like him.

Paul writes, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). We were created to reflect the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). And we do still, but it has been twisted and obscured in us by sin. 

But God has purposed that we should bear the image of his Son—of Jesus Christ, who is “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Day after day he is changing us at the level of our heart and soul. He is transforming us into his glorious image.

Learning to trust

That transformation isn’t just about doing more good works or keeping God’s law more fully. It’s about trust. God is not looking for teens who can look good on the outside or do enough outward good works (Rom. 4:2-3). He wants us to love and trust him.

The Christian life begins with and depends on faith.

Throughout Scripture, God calls his people again and again to trust in him. Abraham believed God’s covenant promise, and “it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, quoting Gen. 15:6). God called Israel to trust him in the wilderness, to worship him alone and not seek life or happiness in other gods (Deut. 6:4).

We receive our righteousness, our justification, our peace with God, and our position in Christ through faith (Rom. 5:1-2). We are to live our Christian life according to faith, and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

The entire structure of most of Paul’s epistles (Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, for instance) reflects this too. He spends the first section explaining and reminding his readers of the gospel—of the righteousness and blessings we have in Christ, of who God is, what we deserve in our sin, and what we have in him. Then, on the basis of that, he exhorts his readers to holy living. 

The holy living (or good works) don’t come first. That’s not to say they’re not important—but they’re not how we become right with God. Rather, they’re based on the fact that we already are.

You can’t obey God from the heart if you don’t trust him. And you can’t trust him if you don’t know him.

Bible study for the right reasons

That’s where I got mixed up about Bible study. I thought it was just another one of those outward good works. But it’s really a path to knowing him—a way to learn to love and trust and then obey our Savior. It’s a means toward that inward transformation that shows itself in how we live and how we treat others.

We don’t need to wonder about who God is—about this Being we’re supposed to follow and trust. He’s told us. He’s revealed himself in his Word. Reading, studying, and memorizing it is how we learn about him and come to know him more.

All this isn’t to say that we should only focus on the intellectual or emotional side of knowing God. We should work hard at obeying him—and it is hard work. However, we have to do it in the strength that he provides. Before anything else, we need to know him, to “seek his face continually” (Psalm 105:4).

Beginning with Bible study

So how can you begin to invest in God’s Word and study it more seriously, especially as a teen? Here are a few tips. I’d also encourage you to talk to a pastor or older Christian at your church for more wisdom and insight. 

Bible study is one of the most important things you can pursue as a Christian, and especially as a teen. Let God use his Word in your life to convict, comfort, and transform you.

Check out Katherine’s new book, Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself As a Teen.

Katherine Forster

Katherine Forster is a teenager who serves as lead writer and managing editor for TheRebelution.com, an online platform that reaches hundreds of thousands of Christian teens, parents, and youth workers. She is a spotlight member of the Young Writers Workshop and a National Bible Bee champion. She writes on the importance … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24