When I was in second grade I got a brand new black NIV Bible with rainbow Bible tabs. I was so proud of it. I remember flipping through the tabs at church each Sunday, even if the only thing I learned was where the book of Isaiah was located. There was one day soon after I got my new Bible, when my best friend came over to play. I had remembered hearing at church that last Sunday that we should share the good news of the Bible with our friends so that they could go to heaven. I was anxious to do just that, and so when my sweet friend came over to play I saw my opportunity. I grabbed my black, rainbow-tabbed Bible, opened up to a random page and started reading to her. I have no idea what I read, probably something in the middle of 1 Chronicles, and then I looked at her, excited and expectant, to see whether her life was changed by my reading of the death of Saul. By the blank stare on her face I could tell that it was not.
I grew up in a Christian home where the Bible was read and respected. But even so, by the time I left for college, I still did not have a deep understanding of it, nor did I know how to read it or how my life was supposed to be changed by it. I had heard Bible stories and gospel truths proclaimed my whole life but I still struggled to want to read my Bible or to understand how it could affect my life. Like my younger self, I would still open to a random place in Scripture, start reading, and hope that it would help me know and love God.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to understand that connecting to God through the Scriptures required more than the scattered approach I had taken so far. Reading the Bible wasn’t about gaining knowledge or finding out how to live a “good life”. It was about encountering God Himself, which meant learning to read the Bible in a way that always revealed Jesus as the Son of God. “So that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31)
Make it a Habit
One of the best ways to make Bible reading a consistent part of your life is to make a plan. If you research how to build a new habit it all pretty much says the same thing: Commit to do it daily for 3-4 weeks, start simple, be consistent (same time and place), and have accountability.
So, specifically for the habit of Bible reading:
- Set aside a specific time and place where you will read each day
- Commit to stick with it for a month, even if you miss some days
- Follow a Bible reading plan
A Bible reading plan is a great way to work through Scripture in a systematic and accessible way. There are also an unlimited number of reading plans that you can find online to match the amount of Scripture you want to cover each day.
Understanding the Bible More
As you read the Bible on a consistent basis you begin to know God more. You see His story of redemption played out through all of Scripture and how it all points to Jesus. You grow in recognizing the voice of God and experiencing the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
Along with reading the Scriptures, there are two other tools that will help us grow from Bible reading: prayer and study.
Prayer: Remembering to pray before, during, and after I read my Bible continues to be one of the greatest factors in how much I am able to connect with God through my time in the Word.
- Before opening your Bible, pray for God to remove distractions, to open your mind to understand, and open your eyes to see (Ephesians 1:17-19)
- During your reading time, pray that God would illuminate the text and speak to you through His Word
- After you finish reading, pray for God to move what you read from your head into your heart and show you how to obey the text throughout the day
Study: Set aside separate time to study the Bible more in depth. There will be more detailed information on this next week so we won’t go into great detail here, but consider buying a study Bible if you don’t have one.
Experiencing Transformation Through the Word
Like myself, most of us at one point or another have read the Bible in the wrong way or at the very least with the wrong motives. We have read it to try to find out how to live a good life or to find out what rules we need to follow so we can get to heaven. John 5:38-40 speaks to this when Jesus says, “You do not have his (the Father’s) word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Jesus is speaking here to a group of religious leaders who had a reputation for knowing the Scriptures well, but had difficulty seeing and acknowledging the authority of Jesus. Their religious knowledge of the Scriptures wasn’t allowing them to recognize Jesus.
Jesus reveals their error here by contrasting two different ways that they (and we) may approach Scripture. One way is by searching the Scriptures, the other way is by coming to Jesus through the Scriptures. The word “searching” means “to look carefully for something that is missing or lost”. If you think about a time when you were looking for something that you valued and lost, you can probably remember the desperation or frantic nature that seems to accompany that. Jesus indicates that this is not the way He wants us to approach Scripture. He doesn’t want us to search with fear, trying to fix or save ourselves. Instead, He wants us to come to Him with all of our fears, failures, doubts, and struggles. The word come means “to move toward something or someone purposefully”. In the instance of “searching” the outcome is unknown, you don’t have a guarantee that you are going to find what you are looking for, regardless of desire. But, on the other hand, when you are responding to someone’s invitation, there is a guarantee that you will meet with that person.
When we read our Bible this way, with the mindset of encountering Jesus and learning how to follow Him, we know that He will meet us. As we look for God’s nature and character revealed throughout the Bible we begin to see His goodness, His kindness, and His mercy towards us in a way that humbles us and transforms our hearts.
So when you sit down to read the Bible:
Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and ears and help you to understand
Ask: What does this passage teach me about God? (His nature and character)
Obey: How do I respond to what I learned in the text? (confess, repent, praise, etc)
“-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God” –Ephesians 3:17-19