A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the Bible
One of the most important but often overlooked aspects of the Christian life is daily Bible reading. Millions of Americans attend church each week, many of them participate in small group Bible studies and some even serve during service a few times per month. These are all great things!
Church Is Not Enough
When our faith depends solely on our participation in church related activities, however, they can end up doing more harm than good. Should we attend service, participate in community and serve on Sundays? Absolutely, but we should do so out of the overflow of our own personal relationship with Jesus, not as a replacement for our personal relationship with Jesus.
The important thing is that a person must spend time with Christ in order to grow in Christ. My marriage would turn out pretty poor if the only time I spent with my wife was in groups of people. I’d learn a little bit about her, but I wouldn’t actually know her. I have to spend some one-to-one time with her for that.
Make it Personal
Similarly, it’s not enough to know about Jesus from other people, we need to actually know Jesus for ourselves. We can get to know a little about him when we spend time with others in community and service (and we should), but we really get to know him by spending personal time in his Word, the Bible. I know that reading the Bible can be overwhelming for a beginner, so here are 5 tips to get you started.
1. Start small. Most people try to tackle the whole Bible at once. It’s more helpful, however, to view the Bible as a library of 66 books, rather than one big book. You can start anywhere. I suggest a small, New Testament book such as 1 John. Then, take it slow. Read one section per day until you finish the book. This will give you small milestones to celebrate as you work toward larger books.
2. Pray. 1 Corinthians 2 tells us that the things of God are revealed through the Spirit of God. You don’t have the ability to understand God’s Word without God’s help, so ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of what you read before you start.
3. Look for the Big Idea. As you read, ask yourself “what is the one thing that stands out most right now?” Spend your time thinking about that topic. Don’t worry about the details until you’ve understood the big ideas. You can visit them later.
4. Connect what you read to Jesus. In Luke 24:27 the Lord interpreted to his disciples “in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Rightly understood all of Scripture is about Jesus. If you’re going to correctly understand the Bible’s teaching you must learn to see how all of its ideas, stories, commands and details connect to him. It’s as simple as asking the question, “what does the topic I just read reveal about who Jesus is and what he has done?”
5. Respond appropriately. The Word of God is “living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) Through the Spirit, the Scriptures interpret us as much as we interpret them. We must come to the Word for transformation, not just for information. As you read, identify what the Scripture teaches about the person and work of Jesus Christ, identify how you need to respond in repentance, faith and obedience, then ask the Holy Spirit to change you as you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Ask for help. Reading the Bible can feel like reading Egyptian hieroglyphics at first. Don’t try to power through it yourself. Ask someone who is an experienced Bible reader to help you understand it so that you might enjoy the fullness of God’s Word as God reveals to you the Christ.