It’s true, you can have a PhD in Old and New Testament studies and be what Jesus called, “a blind guide” because like Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Knowing your Bible doesn’t mean you know the one it speaks of (John 5:39). Nevertheles, you shouldn’t throw Bible reading out with the bathwater of pride. Just throw the pride out and look for Jesus.
For you, the practice of reading your Bible may be hard, uninteresting, confusing, overwhelming, intimidating, etc. Over the years I’ve been blessed to have good pastors and Bible teachers in my life help me learn how to read my Bible. There are many great resources out there from expert Bible teachers and pastors: Look at the Book, The Bible Project, and online study tools like BibleGateway.com. And here are 10 practices I’ve grown from over the years.
1. Before you start reading, ask God to give you eyes to see beautiful things in the Bible and ears to hear his message as lived out perfectly in Jesus. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalms 119:18) This prayer of the Psalm-writer has become my prayer. God is faithful and happy to open our eyes to “wondrous things” in the message he has preserved for us.
2. Don’t JUST read your Bible- meditate on it. That’s a full blogpost, but in short meditating on the Bible is what the Bible tells us to do with the Bible. And that involves chewing on what you read over time. Psalm 1 contrasts the habit of chewing on God’s message in the Bible to passively going along with the ways of the world. One results in a fruitful life, the other is a waste.
3. Write down words you don’t understand, and questions you have. Look up the meanings of the words. Ask a Christian you trust your questions. Many times there won’t be answers that you find practical or helpful. That’s ok. Let the question be part of your prayers. Over time you may see answers, or not. It’s a deep well, the Bible. We’ll never drain it dry.
4. Discuss what you’re reading with other Christians. This is so important! The church is a body! People who follow Jesus need each other to grow into maturity and Christlikness. We don’t grow alone.
5. Ask questions of the text? While you’re reading ask, “What does this tell me about God? What does this tell me about the situation? How does this apply to me? How does Jesus model/demonstrate/fulfill this?”
6. Do 1-5 habitually. Starting a new habit is hard. Another reason why we need a community of believers to meditate on scripture well. Use others to help you start the habit. Schedule it in your routine in the morning or evening (or both!).
7. Pray what you know so far from the Bible. If all you know is John 3:16 (which is the whole message of the Bible in one sentence so that’s pretty good) pray and make it personal. Pray the verse for yourself. “For God so loved Sheila, that he gave his only begotten son…” Pray it for a friend/family member.
8. Do what you know. Don’t walk away from your reading and do nothing (James 1:22). Do what you know God’s word is telling you. And repent when you fail to do what you know.
9. Tell your kids, other people’s kids, your friends, your neighbors… anyone who’ll listen, what God is teaching you while you read. Psalm 78 is a comissioning of adults who have put their faith in Christ to pass on what God has done to the next generation. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to teach our kids the word of God that is on our hearts! Jesus tells us to tell anyone and everyone what we have learned from him, teaching them to obey everything he says (Matthew 28:20).
10. If you can’t read, listen. Listen to the Bible online for free in many different versions.
There ya go. Practicing these 10 habits that, by the grace of God the church has helped me form over time, has rooted and grounded me in the love of Christ. And has helped me through bouts of depression, guided me through hard times and good times and has given me a nose to sniff out something not right when I hear the Bible taught.
You may not think of it this way, but when you loved and followed Jesus, a whole new you started growing. Psalm 1 describes this new you as a tree nourished and healthy, growing by meditating on God’s word day and night. You are a tree God is growing. Let your roots go down deep into the grace that saved you.