Every year thousands, perhaps millions, of Christians resolve to read their Bibles through in the coming year. And if you are like me, you do okay until you get to around Leviticus or Numbers. At that point you get bogged down in all the seemingly endless rules and regulations (I mean, who needs to know that!), and before you know it, you’ve quit altogether!
Now, please understand I’m not saying you should avoid reading your Bible, or even avoid reading it from cover to cover. You should certainly do that from time to time. But I am saying that if you are new to the Bible, perhaps you would do well to set yourself a more realistic goal!
Before we get to that, here’s what a few Christian scholars have said about the Bible:
- Charles C. Ryrie – “If we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible.”
- John R.W. Stott – “The Bible isn’t about people trying to discover God, but about God reaching out to find us…. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it even occurs to men and women to turn to him, while they are still lost in darkness and sunk in sin, takes the initiative, rises from his throne, lays aside his glory, and stoops to seek until he finds them.”
- Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord – “The Bible is intended to be a revelation of the being, works, and program of God. That an infinite God would seek to reveal Himself to His creatures is reasonable and is essential to God’s fulfilling His purpose in creation.”
- The writer of Hebrews – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
- The apostle Paul – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Fair enough. So how can you set yourself up for success in getting to know this revelation of God? First, ideas to help you stick with a reading plan:
- Start with a plan that takes you through just the New Testament in a year. That usually breaks down to just one chapter a day, so it’s doable even for busy moms.
- Go ahead and start a through the Bible-in-a-year plan, but give yourself a break and maybe stretch it to two or even three years. If your Bible does not have an introductory section to each book (many study Bibles do), it may also be helpful to have a Bible handbook (such as Henrietta Mears, What the Bible is All About, or Halley’s Bible Handbook) available. Reading an “intro” to the book before you get started will help you understand why that book is an important part of the Bible.
Of course, just reading your Bible isn’t going to really get you where you need to be in your Christian growth, so here are some ideas for delving it, getting a little deeper into God’s Word, giving it a chance to change you into the person God wants you to be:
- Pick a theme—something you are curious about—then consult an online concordance to find all the verses that talk about that theme. Then do a study using just those verses.
- Pick a character in the Bible and learn all you can about him or her. Some good people to start your study are Abraham, David, Moses, Esther,…
- Just spend time reading and meditating on one single book of the Bible for a month or so. Start with a short book to give yourself the best chance of success. Read it, reread it, make notes of anything that stands out to you. Write down your questions (Why did he do that? Why did God allow/cause that to happen? Is there some cultural thing here that I’m not understanding…?). Then do some research to find your answers. Don’t just read the book once and consider yourself done. Read and reread slowly. Write out key verses. Think about it. Pray about it. Memorize verses that speak to you.
Those are just a few ideas that I hope will help you develop a regular habit of getting into your Bible on a consistent basis. But there’s something else I want to mention here.
Again, just reading your Bible, or reading it for the sake of saying you’ve read it, is not enough. What you read should affect your life. It should start to change your behavior and the way you think in certain areas. We read in James 1:22-25:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
And the psalmist declares:
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You…. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” (Psalm 119:9-11, 15-16)Set yourself up for spiritual growth by spending quality time in God’s Word. As you open your Bible, may your prayer be, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).
- Well, to be honest, some of those rules and regulations cast a whole lot of light on what Jesus did for us on the cross, but that’s a topic for another article series! ↑
- Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition), p. 17. ↑
- John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity (IVP Classics) (InterVarsity Press, Kindle Edition), p. 17. ↑
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Themes (Zondervan, Kindle Edition), p. 31.↑
- A concordance, depending on the particular one you look at, lists all the verses in the Bible where a certain word occurs. These can be a blessing and a curse, so pick your first topic carefully. See, for example, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance online at biblestudytools.com ↑
- Warning: This kind of study can be a bit dangerous, because it’s easy to reach conclusions that are not right when you take a verse out of its context, meaning you don’t get the full picture of what the Scripture writer was trying to convey. So read “around,” not just “at,” the verse. One good source for this type of study is Nave’s Topical Bible (available online at studylight.org). ↑
- There are some good books that can help you do this kind of study. One of them is Rick Warren, Dynamic Bible Study Methods. Some Bible handbooks (e.g., Dr. Henrietta C. Mears, What the Bible is All About) can prove very helpful for this type of study as well. ↑