As a church leader, I am begging the people I serve to read the Bible daily.
There’s a red flag if church people only lean on the pastor of the church they are a part of to feed them Scripture when they attend worship once a week.
I get grumpy when I skip one meal during the day, I can’t imagine only getting fed once a week but that’s what a lot of church people do. They don’t open their Bible at all and expect the pastor to feed them (no wonder there’s so many grumpy church people if they’re only getting fed once a week). They should learn how to study their Bible.
I get why church leaders are imploring their people to know the Bible themselves.
But it’s also a red flag when the church leaders beg people to read the Bible but don’t teach them how to read the Bible. Here’s my attempt for Christians who love God and want some introductory steps to read their Bible.
Step 1: Know to study the Bible for love, not facts.
The point of reading the Bible is not to become a Bible scholar. The point of reading the Bible is to grow more in love with God Himself.
1 Corinthians 8:1 tells us that knowledge puffs up a person but love builds a person. Bible-reading should not puff you up to where you feel more like a Christian just because you know more of the Bible. Scripture is for the mind, yes, but it is so much more for the heart.
Yes, the Bible needs to renew our mind but it also in the same breath must transform our heart (Romans 12:1-2).
We do not want to know some things about God, we want to intimately know God. He has graciously given us timeless and timely truth showcased in 66 books to love him.
Step 2: Ask God to reveal His Word to you.
Calming down your heart and your thoughts before opening the Holy Scriptures is vital.
How often are Christians rushing to open their Bible, reading chapters and verses quickly in order to check it off and say they did it? What does that change? If we’re thanking God for food before we eat, we should pray before reading the Bible.
Simply asking God, Lord, this is Your time. Thank You for meeting with me, for speaking to me and for hearing me. You have my focus.
Let’s not just “fit God in” during our day as we read a couple sentences in the Bible and then move on with our day. Let’s not schedule God around other things. We cannot feel rushed while reading the Bible because when we feel rushed, we won’t reflect.
Choose to ask God to reveal His Word to you (because He will!).
Step 3: Choose a Bible translation
I take two values into consideration when choosing a Bible translation.
First, what biblical translation is most accurate to the original manuscripts? The Bible has three languages it was originally written in (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek). Finding an English translation that stays close to those original languages is very important, otherwise, we’re approaching very scary ground adding to and taking away from God’s Word (Revelation 22:18-19).
Second, after researching for a translation that is close to the original manuscripts I want to be able to digest and understand the truth I’m reading.
The King James Version is close to the original manuscripts but how relevant is it (not relevant). It’s got some beautiful language but no one talks like King Henry VIII anymore.
The Message paraphrase of the Bible is very relevant but how accurate is it to the original text? Not that close.
For me, I study out of the English Standard Version (ESV) because of how close it is to the original texts and I preach out of the New Living Translation because of how conversational it is for skeptics, new believers and growing Christians to understand.
After finding a translation, I HIGHLY recommend buying a Life Application Bible in the version of your choice. I know you love that Bible your grandmother gave you or the Bible your church gave you when you got baptized, but if you want to study the Bible you need help and the Life Application Bibles (easily searched on amazon.com) have overviews at the beginning of each book, commentary notes at the bottom of every page and a glossary of biblical values to learn more.
Step 4: GJJ-P
For new believers who have such a craving to read the Bible, they ask for a starting point.
I recommend GJJ-P and I stress that they go slowly through these books.
G is Genesis.
J is John.
J is James.
P is Proverbs.
Start with the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, to find out Who God is and what His character is like and what His plan He has for the world and how He continues to steadfastly love messy people to further His mission of love for others.
Then, after slowly studying Genesis, move on to the Gospel of John to find out Who Jesus is and how to emulate what Jesus did.
Then, after slowly studying John, study the letter of James to learn how to apply the knowledge you have of God and the love you have for Jesus into your daily life.
Alongside reading Genesis, John and James (in that order), read a chapter out of Proverbs a day for daily wisdom. Whatever day of the month it is, choose that chapter in Proverbs to read through (so if the day is November 3rd, read Proverbs chapter 3). There are 31 chapters in Proverbs and roughly 31 days in a month so you can read through God’s book of wisdom for you 12 times a year while you’re studying other books of the Bible.
I strongly encourage Christians to read through books of the Bible. Do not “flip and dip” where you feel like you need a word from God and you just open the Bible to a random spot and put your finger on a verse to tell you want to do with your day.
You need depth. You need context. You need narrative. You need full-scoped wisdom.
Please go slowly through a book of the Bible. I’m not against reading the Bible in one year and they have those plans out there but that’s like drinking water from a fire hydrant for people new to studying the Bible. Go slowly through a book. For me, one year I only read the book of Exodus. This year, I’m slowly studying the book of Joshua. Take your time and enjoy it. Don’t feel like you have to finish fast.
Bible-reading is not a race, it’s a relationship.
Step 5: Apply what you read, daily.
When someone sees a movie they love they will have excitement and say, That movie was SO GOOD!
When you ask them why it was so good, they respond with, I’m not sure why, but it was SO GOOD!
When we read the Bible, it will come to life. When you study Scripture and ask God to speak to you through Scripture, it will happen. And that experience will bring excitement. The Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).
As that excitement happens of God speaking to you and giving you what you need, and as your love for Him grows, remember that implementation is so important. We can’t say, I’m studying the book of Ephesians and it’s SO GOOD!
Why specifically is it good? How is your reading comprehension helping you become more like Jesus in your daily actions? What exactly are you learning about God’s character?
We should be talking about what we’re learning in the Bible with others and we should be living out each day what we’re reading. If we’re not growing to be more like Jesus each day are we growing?
Journaling helps me while I read the Bible. I like to write down what God is teaching me and what He is asking me to do with the truth I’m reading. I love the note-takers in the church I get to serve in because those people are taking learning seriously. When we hear something, wisdom might stick. When we write it down, it has a double chance of sticking with us. When we live it out it becomes habitual, placed into our long-term memory bank.
James 1:22-25 calls the Christian to not just listen to the Word but to do what it says (and when we do what God’s Word says, we will be blessed).
Read it. Write it down. Live it out.
Bonus Step: Don’t ignore things you don’t understand.
I don’t just love reading the Bible everyday, I love reading itself. While reading a book, if there is a word I read that I don’t know the definition of, I circle the word and go to Google to look up the definition of the word so I can have a better understanding of what the author was aiming to communicate.
When we read something in Scripture that we don’t understand (the name of a region, an ancient practice, or even the word meekness a word we don’t utilize in our daily conversations), let’s not just act like it’s not there and move on. There is significance in every single syllable of the Bible and since we’re going through a book of the Bible slowly, let’s get to know the things we don’t understand. Buy commentaries of the book you’re studying to go alongside your Life Application Bible notes.
Happy studying! Thanks for reading. You are loved.