How You Read The Bible Matters

For Christians, the Bible is the final authority and contains everything that is essential for life and practice. The Bible is held in the highest regard as the very Word of God. It is revered by more people than any other work. It has been translated into more languages than any other book. It has sold more copies than any best seller.

The Bible is the only source we have for truly knowing God, but even though this is the case, most people do not have a very thoughtful method for reading the Bible.

There are people who have read through the Bible from cover to cover. They’ve drudged through Leviticus and barely made it through the Chronicles. Rushed to complete it in a year, they’ve forgotten more than they’ve retained. Even after spending all of that time in the Scriptures, they probably wouldn’t be able to provide anything more than Sunday school answers to doctrinal questions. Parents send their children to Awana or some other equivalent youth focused ministry, with the hopes that through Scripture memory and flannel graph boards, God’s word would take root in the life of their children.

But doing a daily quite time and memorizing select passages is not enough to develop a deep faith. The Bible could be studied over two lifetimes and there still wouldn’t be enough time to fully grasp everything there is to learn in the depth of God’s Word. It is no wonder, then, why we are losing the next generation, when their faith is barely even superficial.

There is a rather interesting situation taking place in our culture: most Christians could not adequately defend their faith against opposition. This is partly due to the fact that most Christians rely too heavily on their teachers to do their seeking for them and because they haven’t been fed much meat. But the most common reason I have noticed is that while people spend a lot of time in Church, Bible studies, and Scripture reading, there is not a purposeful method for getting more out of the text.

The average Christian probably feels that they have learned enough of a working knowledge about God, and that is all they need. Like a seminary student with Greek or an elderly person with computers, once they learn enough to get by, they don’t want to go any deeper. They will often make excuses for what they don’t know about God, (see last weeks article) or they will play the ignorant card and say, “Theology is too hard,” “I’m not that smart,” or “I’m just not built for Scripture memory.”

Most of the time, we are satisfied with the simple truths we get out of our quite time. When we’re reminded of God’s mercies and reflect on Jesus sacrifice, we get just the right amount of encouragement to get us through the work day and sustain us until the next morning. But I’d wager that most people aren’t even doing that. For many, the primary source of spiritual nutrition depends on their weekly check-up at their local church. Even then, they’re roused out of bed early on the weekend and forced to sit in a hard seat as a guy who spent a week studying a passage tries to cram everything he’s learned into a 45 minute discourse with time for entertaining analogies to keep our attention.

Let’s face it, we’re not very good students of theology. If most of us were to take a comprehensive test on Bible knowledge, we’d fail big time. We’re pretty good at making excuses for why our faith isn’t very deep. But I haven’t met a single theologian who has said, “You know what? I think I spent too much time in Bible study today.”

What if your passion for God, your understanding of Scripture, and your working knowledge of theology could grow exponentially without you having to put in a whole lot of effort? This sort of sounds like one of those weight loss scams which tells you that you’ll lose weight without exercising or changing your diet. But you really can get more out of the Bible by taking baby steps. While it will take a bit of exercise and we could certainly cut out a few non-essentials from our life, if we simply committed to getting more out of the time we were already spending in God’s Word, we would be better off.

The chances are, you’re already going to a Church on a regular basis. Instead of being a passive attendant, try being an active participant in the sermon. Open your Bible and follow along. Think critically and question the pastor’s premises. Take notes and underline passages. Get engaged in the process of discovering truth as it is taught. Image that some day you’re going to be given a test on what you’ve learned in the time you’ve had, and start preparing. You will be held accountable some day when you stand before God.

If you’re not already in a small group Bible study, find one or start one. Not only will this help challenge you in your commitment to understanding the Bible more, but the sense of community will help you see different angles and fresh observations. You’ll be able to grow close with others as you grow closer to Christ and the community you share will give you opportunities to practice the lessons you are learning.

Instead of just reading a passage of Scripture in order to scribble something down in your journal, consider taking your time, little by little, to really understand the text. Try reading it aloud, writing it down, outlining it, or rewording it. Wrestle with the text and fully understand it before you move on. Read commentaries, different translations, and the notes in your study Bible. You’re not going to get through the whole Bible in a year at this pace, but removing the benchmarks may just allow you to get a better grasp of the text. After spending a month in the book of Jude, you should be able to give a pretty good outline and overview of the text.

In the end, whenever you’re spending time studying God’s Word, whether it is in Church, Bible study, or devotions, be sure to ask yourself what you’ve learned and spend some time reflecting on truth. The Bible tells us to meditate on God’s Word, not simply read it and move on. When we internalize the truth, we will learn how to live that truth out.

Whatever you do, get into the Word and be sure to get something out of it. It’s not enough to simply read words on a page, we need to comprehend it. If you’re not already taking the time to get a deeper grasp of theology, then there is no way that you can say you are truly seeking after God. And no one can please God unless the seek Him in faith. (Hebrews 11:6)

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5 Responses to How You Read The Bible Matters

  1. Nate says:

    “Bah! Why don’t you understand biophysics? You must not have studied enough? It’s just the most time consuming, mundane, boorishly repetitive task on the planet to learn. Bah! Everyone should be doing it!”

    There’s something missing in all that. Love is important. If one doesn’t love something, they aren’t going to devote themselves to it. If love is discovered, devotion is inevitable. People aren’t walking away from God because they aren’t studying His Word enough, they’re walking away because they aren’t experiencing God (Kierkegaard ring a bell?).

    Once you’ve tasted God, felt Him, wholly trusted in Him, like a lover wants to know everything there is about his wife, you can’t get enough of Scripture. You seek out every verse, every nook and cranny, to know God more. Discipline Schmiscipline. You gotta inspire folks. Remind them of their Love. Don’t appeal to baser and alternative ends for church. That’s making church out to be something other than a community in worship of God.

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