I feel a certain activity is alright for me to do, or to participate in, so I go to the Bible to show that it is indeed okay for me to do. Is this the right way or the wrong way to approach scripture?
God's word is the light of truth and can be interpreted in many ways, but there is only one accurate interpretation, so how do we know which one God intends? Jesus said, When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into all truth. (John 16:13) As Christians we have the benefit of God's Spirit dwelling inside us to lead us to the truths we need to govern our lives. He also provides us the power to live a life that is pleasing to God, through; strength to resist temptation, knowledge, wisdom, and tools to use for various things involved with a Christian life.
Approaching scripture with a preconceived idea of what it says, or what we want it to say, will never teach us what God is speaking to us. That is called "Isogesis". We must come with an open mind and no bias. We must pray and ask God to speak the truth to our hearts through His word, and be willing to hear the truth, especially when it makes us un-comfortable. We must align our thinking with God's truth. This is called "Exegesis", and is the right way to study God's word.
Doing word studies with a good Lexicon can be helpful. We must examine each word in the context of; the sentence it was written in, the paragraph, the chapter and the book. What is the writer's over-all intent for writing the book? Who is he writing it to? What were the customs like when he wrote it to them? What were the people like? What is the over-all meaning of each chapter? And most of all, "How can I apply these truths to my life in a way that will please God?"
Furthermore, no scripture will ever contradict another scripture. If this appears to be the case, then our understanding is not clear. Scripture supports scripture. Topical Bibles are useful for these situations, leading us to supporting scriptures for each topic of study.
Bible commentaries are very useful for certain situations. However, they can be a hindrance as well. There are many modern translations of the Bible today that make it easier to understand. If you don't understand something, ask God to help you understand, before asking what another person says it means. This is very important and it pleases God! But yes it is good to ask a mature Christian afterwards. The answer may take a while to come, but God will use many ways to reveal truth to you. Some of those ways include; through other people, other scriptures, and our circumstances or events in our lives. God has taught me through things my five year old son would say, and even from non-Christians.
It is very exciting when we begin to realize God is working with us individually, one on one! Study and conversation with God at the same time is powerful! Read His word back to Him and ask Him questions about it. Thank Him when something becomes clear or is special to you. Your love relationship with the Lord becomes supercharged, powerful and exciting through this sincere and wonderful two way communication. Jesus awaits with open arms to enrich your walk with Him through bible reading and prayer, examining your own heart in the light of His word.