All of us want to be a happy and mature Christian. Yet we all grow in God’s grace in many ways through many different circumstances in our life story.
Most mature Christians I have meet that are generally happy in life have developed a regular habit of reading scripture, repentance, and prayer. There is no denying that to intentionally read scripture and pray is difficult. Our fallen secular world throws many distractions in our way and most of them are intentional. If we are looking at TV, playing games or going to the movie we are probably not in fellowship with God in any meaningful way.
We must be intentional, being in fellowship with God, reading scripture, repenting daily is a way of life. Our first love is Christ. Christians the world over now and throughout history, have been word people, people who love words. God gave us a Book he was the creator of language and words. Some people naturally love reading and others do not. Maybe you’ve been reading the Bible for decades. In either case we all can benefit from rehearsing some of the basics of reading — not simply the natural reading of any book, but especially the supernatural reading of God’s Book.
The Book of Books is extraordinary, it is supernatural. To just read it reduces it to words on paper. If indeed these are the words of God, and they are without doubt, then we need the wisdom and discernment of God to read them, to understand his words rightly, feel his words rightly, and apply his words faithfully. God’s word being supernatural, and requiring supernatural help, doesn’t mean the natural aspects of reading are unimportant. In fact, they are even more important, since so much is at stake. Those most convinced of the supernatural power of God’s word will want to master what natural basics of reading they can.
So begin your Bible reading with a short but important moment of prayer, asking God to meet us in this encounter with him in his word and soak our reading with his gift of illumination.
Fundamental to the person of the Holy Spirit being active in your human spirit to help you understand God’s Holy Word is confessing your sins. Now none of us can remember every sin that crosses our mind during a typical day. God’s grace found in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he will be faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” covers that aspect of our sin nature, “all unrighteousness would include the sin’s you don’t remember. God knows everything about us, including the details of all our sins and what we have done. When we confess our sins to Him, we are not actually telling Him anything He does not already know.
As we talk with God alone in private prayer our communications should be detailed and intimate as possible. In prayer we are sharing ourselves with Someone who cares more about us than anyone else. As we confess and name our sins, in detail, we are acknowledging our appreciation for the breadth of His forgiveness and the sacrifice of the Cross. We then are conversing with the only Person who knows our life struggles, failings, and intents, but who has the divine power to transform us into becoming more like Him.
Repent. Repentance is not a type works we do to earn salvation. True repentance comes in conjunction with God pulling that person to Himself (John 6:44). Repentance is something God gives and is only possible because of His grace (Acts 5:31; 11:18). God grants repentance. Repentance then is changing your mind about your sin; sin becomes something to be forsaken as we “flee from the coming wrath” (Matthew 3:7).
Good reading requires effort to get into the author’s head, not through speculation, but through his own words. In Bible reading biblical texts argue, they make cases, they give rationale. We start by trying to follow the human author’s train of thought from one sentence to the next, not isolating preferred phrases out of context, but working to understand the whole.
Be an attentive reader. Attentiveness in reading asks questions and seeks to answer them from the immediate and wider connections of context. Active minds ask questions. Reading and study is hard mental labor. The problem for most of us is not that we don’t know Greek and Hebrew it’s because we lack the patience to look, read and look some more. Find time, make time to read and pray, to linger, go deep, consult parallel passages, ask good questions, study to find answers, and see the connections to Christ. Buy what you can afford as far as commentary etc. Be aware that attentive study is often unpleasant and painful, but endlessly rewarding.
Read and study but also meditate. God’s word was originally oral, and it was not given to theologians but shepherds and farmers, ordinary folk. Therefore it is not his intention that we seek it from a high and lofty understanding. God means for his words to go down deep into the depths of our souls not just inform our minds but change our hearts. If you choose to go much deeper, which I recommend if possible then the more cerebral, intellectual level of discerning meaning in the text through informed, patient, attentive reading and study is extremely rewarding as well.
I have touched here on individual Bible reading, study, and meditation. God also means for us to receive and welcome his words together in his body called the church. My wife and I read scripture every morning in bed before we start the day, pray, confess our sins to god. Don’t turn down to opportunity to pray and study with someone else.
Like everything in our human life we learn by repetition, reading the Bible is no different. Read scripture every day. So start now to form the daily habit that can genuinely endure for decades. What we do every day, for years and years, will drastically change your life. God intends that we engage his word, day after day, for a lifetime of enjoyment and discovery.
Keep reading the Bible, read it daily, and for a lifetime. The best way to learn to read the Bible is to keep reading the Bible.