“We don’t read the Bible just to know it, but to be changed by it. It’s the mirror of God’s Word that transforms our lives,” says Dr. David Jeremiah. “But if we want to know the Word of God, if we want to grow in it, we have to make the input.”
Jeremiah’s life and library tell the story of that effort. The commentaries that line his office wall and fill his house are all resources for understanding one book: “The Bible is such a precious book, and you realize that as you go forward. It’s a guidebook for daily life.”
Born to a Baptist preacher, Jeremiah was given his first Bible when he was 12 years old: “I remember how proud I was when I held my first leather covered Scofield Bible. Even as a kid, when I’d come to something in the Bible that was curious to me, I’d look to see if there was a note.”
Feeling called to ministry, Jeremiah pursued an MA in theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. After graduating, he founded Blackhawk Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1969. The church grew from seven families to 1,300 members during the 12 years he taught there. Today, Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, which he took over from Tim LaHaye in 1981. He is also the author of numerous books, including the best-selling Captured by Grace.
“After doing this for four decades, one of the blessings is that I’ve preached about 70 percent of the Bible. When I’m studying a passage now—for instance, I’m going through the book of Hebrews—the text brings back to my memory things I’ve studied before.… I’m reaping some of the blessings from Him.”
Success through Scripture
In 1982, Jeremiah founded Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries, which broadcasts to more than 2,000 radio stations, including American Family Radio (AFR)., a monthly magazine based on the radio and television teachings, reaches more than 175,000 families.
Jeremiah doesn’t credit his success to his own talents or techniques. “People ask me, ‘Here you’ve been in this church for 30 years; how does it continue to grow?’ I don’t have anything to tell them except I just teach the Word every Sunday. There’s an incredible hunger, more so today, perhaps, than when I started being a pastor 40 years ago. The Bible meets people’s needs.”
“I teach the Word of God, and the result is a steady, growing awareness that it changes lives. When you do that as long as I have, you get a confidence in the Word that keeps you from thinking you would ever want to try anything else. Cultures come and go, methods come and go, people come and go, but the Word of God doesn’t ever change. It just keeps bearing fruit. It will do that in the congregation. It will do that on radio, television and through the Internet. As long as the Bible is the core of it, you can count on it. Stuff’s going to happen.”
Bringing the Bible to Unbelievers
While Jeremiah grew up with a heritage of Scripture reading, he knows the importance of sharing the Bible with those from different backgrounds.
“I try to get them into the Scripture,” he says. “Just as Christ is self-authenticating, the Scripture is a self-authenticating book. Even though people may start from 10 yards behind zero when they begin to read the Bible, God’s Word is going to make that change possible. If a person wants to know and grow, the Holy Spirit within will encourage them.”
Jeremiah has personally witnessed this transformation throughout his ministry, most recently with a man who started attending his church. “He came to see me one day because [he and his wife] were interested in joining our church, and he said we might have to have a discussion because he was Islamic and his wife was Lutheran. He’d read some passages in the Bible about the Trinity, and he didn’t understand that—it was a real issue for him. He wanted to know the truth.… He asked me this question, ‘Why should I become a Christian?’ ”
Jeremiah began to answer some of his questions and explained as much as he could about Jesus and Christianity, but the man wasn’t convinced. “We got to the end of a pretty long discussion, and I just said to him, ‘We can sit here and argue about all these things and discuss them for hours. But if you really want to know the truth, you can become a Christian right now. You’ll discover that along the way, your eyes will be opened to the truth. You’ll begin to see not only the reality of Christ, but a lot of the questions you had before will be answered.’ He actually asked me, ‘How would I go about doing that?’ … So we prayed together that day. He and his whole family have become more open to the truth of the gospel.”
The Word in the World
In the 30 years since Jeremiah founded Turning Point, he has been amazed at the response. “We get letters every week from people who have heard the Word of God being taught on the radio. Their letters say how their lives have been changed and transformed. Many letters are from prisoners who are incarcerated and have no outside window except the radio. They hear us and they begin to listen, and little by little we’ve had many of them come to Christ in prison.”
The Bible, says Jeremiah, is the best means that Christians have to change their world. “I am so confident in the Word of God. I know, in my heart, that it is sharper than a two-edged sword and that it can do what it says it will do. But you’ve got to set it loose. You’ve got to teach it and let people hear it. When you do that, the result is exactly the way the Bible says it will be: God’s Word will not return unto Him void. It will accomplish the thing that it was sent to do.”
Personal Study Habits
Jeremiah admits that being a pastor and a Bible teacher is one of the best accountability methods for staying in the Word. “It is a great discipline. I believe that one of the best things God ever did for me was put me in a place where every Sunday, I have to preach a new message. It forces you to study in a way you would not study. It forces you to stay focused and never, ever have a week where the Word of God has no part in your life.”
His routine always begins with a simple reading of the text. “I try to get an overall view of what it’s saying and where it’s going. Then I begin to dig into it. I’m an outliner, so I like to see how the pieces of the text fit together—how the structure of the text affects what’s being said. I do this until I feel like I’ve got a handle on where the text is going. After that, I read commentaries and sermons that have bearing on the text—not only to find supportive material to teach the text, but to make sure I have understood it clearly. There are so many tools and so many ways for you to pump God’s Word into your heart, visually and verbally.”
Building a Routine
Jeremiah says that in order to successfully study the Bible, we first need to be filled with the Spirit. “The Bible says that when you accept Christ, He gives you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides you into all truth.” And we also need to consistently make the time for Bible study—an obstacle for many Christians. “The old adage is we have just about as much of the Bible in our lives as we want. But you can’t have the product without the process.”
“I find that when I spend time in the Bible during the day or even in the nighttime before I go to bed, everything about my life is affected by it. Many times after I’ve studied a passage, I’ll run into a situation where that passage speaks to something that’s going on.”
For Jeremiah, simply reading the Bible brings a sense of peace to life. “It’s kind of like what Psalm 119 says: ‘Great peace have they that love Thy law.’ You have a sense of peace because you’ve spent time in the Word of God. You know that your life is being informed by its truth. He wants to direct our paths—by His Word.”
Listen to David Jeremiah’s radio program, Turning Point, at AFR.Net.