Church isn’t enough. You can only become the Christian that God intends you to be once you get serious about daily Bible reading.
If you’re like me, though, you’ve had your fair share of times that you’ve tried to read the Bible but never seemed to “get anything out of it”. Trust me, I’ve been there. For several years, I approached reading the Bible like every other book, but I rarely understood what God was saying to me.
Here’s what I’ve finally learned: I can’t read the Bible like every other book because the Bible isn’t like every other book! The Bible has to be read differently because it is a book written thousands of years ago that God has preserved for the sake of speaking truth to every subsequent generation. Since the Bible was written in a different original language, to a different cultural context, allow me to give you 4 steps to get more out of your Bible reading. When you consistently apply these 4 steps, your time in God’s Word is going to turn from a dry ritual to an exciting time of learning what God wants to say to you!
- ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE
God promised that His Word would be “of no private interpretation”, but He never promised that it would be easy. Anytime that we have difficulty understanding God’s Word, we have to accept the fact that none of those times are because God purposely made His Word impossible to understand. Whether it be sin in our life that hinders the Work of the Holy Spirit, or a lack of understanding that can be overcome by disciplined study, we must accept the challenge and responsibility to get more out of our Bible reading!
- UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD SAID
Before you can understand what God is saying to you, you must understand what God said to whom the passage was originally written. Allow me to give you some short, helpful tips that will equip you to understand what God said in the passage you are reading:
Eliminate distractions! You can’t mentally wrestle with the meaning of a passage if loud music is playing or if you allow yourself to check messages, email or surf the internet while reading.
Use a Bible dictionary to define words that don’t make sense. Even my Merriam-Webster app will occasionally do the trick!
Read the passage more than once and consider its meaning. The Bible refers to this as meditation, and it helps prevent my nasty habit of “scanning” through God’s Word.
Purchase a devotional commentary to accompany the book you are reading through. $10 every month is a worthy investment to better grasp God’s Word! Here are some that I’ve found to be user-friendly for a devotional setting: Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Tyndale Old/New Testament Commentary Series, and the John MacArthur New Testament Commentary Set. WARNING: the authors of each of these commentaries may have differing theological views, but each of us can learn something from them. Always seek out your pastor for help if you are wrestling with the doctrinal stance of your church.
Summarize each section of scripture you’ve read with a sentence or two. Your summary statement will essentially be the answer to this question: “What was God (or the human author) originally trying to say through this passage?” I use Microsoft OneNote as a virtual journal that keeps track of what I write down for each passage. Completing this step is essential to being able to work through step
- DETERMINE WHAT GOD IS SAYING TO YOU
Bible reading is not just an academic exercise! If you read the Bible without an understanding of something God wants you to do, then you have missed the point.
Once you’ve done your best to summarize the main idea of the passage in a sentence or two, ask yourself these questions based on the summary statement you wrote in Step 2. This will help you apply the principle from the Bible to your life.
Is there a warning to heed? Ex. Beware of false teachers that will spoil me through philosophy and vain deceit (Colossians 2:8).
An example to follow? Ex. Humbly serving others like Jesus (John 13)
A sin to avoid? Ex. Searching for satisfaction in money (Ecclesiastes 2)
A promise to claim? Ex. Jesus will never leave nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5)
A mindset you need to change? Ex. I need to put Jesus first and trust him to take care of my physical needs (Matthew 6:19-34).
A blessing for which God deserves praise and thanks? Ex. I need to give thanks for my victory over death through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
There’s no blessing in just hearing God’s Word. Blessing comes when hearing God’s Word moves us to obey His Word (James 1:22). If God has done something in your life through what you’ve read, be sure to take some time to pray about it or confess any sin that has been revealed!
I challenge you to watch how exciting Bible reading can be when you apply these 4 steps.
What tips do you have for getting more out of your Bible reading?