With the new year upon us, I am certain (ok, hopeful) that many people have included Bible reading as one of their goals and/or resolutions in 2017. But before you just start plowing through a book of the Bible, or the whole thing, you should consider what you are going to do with all of that knowledge. Here’s a post I wrote back in 2014 which can be helpful in asking your Bible the right questions so you get the most out of your daily reading.
As Christians, our need to read the Bible is imperative. I am sure (or would hope) that immediately after you became a Christian, the first thing you were told to do was read the Bible. Simple enough right? Not quite.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Bible is a complex book, bringing together one grand narrative in which Jesus Christ is the only hope for a lost world. There are many components to the Bible. Approaching the Bible can be very overwhelming and while jumping right into a book can be fruitful (like the oft recommended Gospel of John for new believers), a little bit of guidance can go a very long way. With that, I would like to share with you some wisdom that was passed on to me in regards to reading the Bible daily.
A good friend and fellow pastor shared some great tools with me a while back that have helped me to get so much more from my daily Bible readings. I have gained an expanded view of who God is, why I need him every single day, and how I can serve him in a greater way.
It is good to be in the word of God each and every day. I typically do so first thing in the morning before the distractions of my day get started (I’m currently reading through the book of Mark for Easter). I suggest that in lieu of a daily devotional, or in addition to one if you are an overachiever, you choose a book of the Bible to read all the way through so you can challenge yourself to think independent of a commentator or writer.
It is very helpful to have guidance through what you should be looking for and asking. When you get to a place where you feel the author’s thought is over, or maybe to the end of a marked section or chapter, ask yourself the following five questions:
- What does the Scripture say? (Scriptural question)
- This is your opportunity to say, in your own words, what you have just read. This may be a sentence, or a paragraph. Don’t try to use big words and don’t try to get creative, just right what you believe it says.
- If you are reading through the Gospel of John, and you read John 3:16 specifically, you may say “God the Father sent his Son down to earth to die so we wouldn’t have to.”
- What does it mean? (Theological question)
- Don’t wrestle too hard if you feel like you are just learning about God and/or the Bible. Take this question as a way to think through what you believe the passage to mean. Sometimes this answer and the answer to number 1 above may be similar.
- In John 3:16, you may say “God is a loving God who cares so much about us that instead of punishing us for our sins, he sent his Son to take the punishment in our place. That shows me real love that nobody else can give me.”
- Why don’t I believe it? Why do I struggle with it? (Apologetic/heart question)
- This becomes a very hard question, and one I have to think through quite often. Answering this question honestly doesn’t necessarily mean you doubt who God is or the fact that the Bible is God’s true word. It may mean that you are struggling to live out the truth of the passage in your own life. The goal here is to get to the root of doubt, unbelief, or even sin in our lives.
- In John 3:16, you may say “I don’t understand how God could love the whole world yet allow people to go to hell. It just doesn’t make sense.”
- How is Jesus the hero? (Christological question)
- We want to see why each and every passage of scripture points to Christ as the hero of the story. Everything, and I mean everything, points to him in some way. It is not always implicit, but it is there. Maybe it shows the need for a better king, or more humble servant, or even a calm word in a tough situation. All those point to Jesus.
- In John 3:16, you may say “Jesus came to do what I never could.”
- Why does this matter for my mission? (Missional question)
- Every Christian is on mission for God. We were saved so we could glorify Him, and lead more people to Jesus. How does reading the specific passage inspire this for you personally?
- In John 3:16, you may say “Because God sacrificed his Son for me, I am willing to sacrifice myself and all my possessions in order that others may see Jesus in me.”
In order to do this well, you need the right tools. I suggest you get a good Bible (I recommend the ESV) and a journal for writing down your questions and answers. You then need to set aside some time in your day. Thirty minutes is a good chunk to start with (though fifteen is a great start), and it will allow you to read and journal. Make it a priority and if you have to, get rid of a bit of social media in the morning or tv at night.
If you approach the word of God with an open mind and a humble heart, I guarantee God will speak to you in ways you never thought possible, whether you just came to Christ or you’ve been following Him for fifty years.