When I became an insurance advisor I quickly realized I lacked a lot when it came to the subject of insurance. Let me just tell you, it’s hard to sell insurance when you really don’t know how it works or what it does. I was licensed by the state but there is a big disconnect between what NC says you need to know to be licensed and what it takes to be successful in business. I wanted to do what I set out to do well and wasn’t quite sure how to do just that. I asked others and they thought I was trying to steal all their success secrets so they were no help. I tried Google and it helped but not very much. I was very frustrated and confused and thought more than once about quitting. I think so many of us treat reading the Bible the same.
We get frustrated at our efforts to read the Bible and put it down in discouragement. When you read the Bible you can understand it and it should not be a source of frustration and confusion in your life. The Bible is how God communicates to us. I want to give you some practical tips to help you read the Bible well.
#1 We must start with the right goals. Your motivations and what your heart really wants, matters. When God is directing Samual to anoint the next king after Saul, God gives him a clear reason why He is choosing the next king in the manner he does. God says to Samual; But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)
So what are our goals when we read the Bible? Is it to get smarter or have the right answers, are we trying to have a spiritual experience or are we trying to repeat some of the stories we heard long ago, or are we trying to memorize scripture for a contest? Our Goal must be rooted in the kind of book the Bible is. There are none like it anywhere else in the world. The Bible is a living WORD (an act of communication) from God to his people, through his people. Our goal is to hear God’s voice by discovering the author’s intended meaning.
#2 Read with Humility. We must have the readiness to obey. Psalms 119:60 says: I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. I am ready to do this now. I want to jump right in God when you tell me something. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalms 25:9 ESV) Attitude is very important if not the most important. When my son looks like he is not going to hear me I stop talking. If you do not plan on listening to what God is saying don’t plan on Him saying much at all. You cannot fool God. You can trick the world but He knows our game. He sees right through us! Humility starts by:
1- Praying before during and after reading
2- Check your assumptions at the door
Recognize Become aware of what we think without thinking.
Evaluate How do our assumptions hold up against the Bible?
Submit Allow our assumptions to be confirmed or corrected.
If we are going to be good stewards of scripture we must always let scripture tell us what it means versus us trying to make it fit in our assumptions. We do not determine meaning, the author does. We determine the application!
#3 Pay attention to the details. Getting good at reading the Bible is not necessary for your salvation. However, if we want to help others know God and better equip ourselves then we will need to open the Bible and learn what’s inside. What I mean by this is best illustrated by Jesus himself when he calls his disciples. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 ESV) The Follow me is important. If we want to do as Jesus says then we need to know all the details. The how, what, when, where.
#4 Context Matters. Whenever we study or read The Bible you should not just pull out a verse but more so read well before it or and well after it. We have the benefit of Chapters and verses but the original letter or scroll did not. We have to remember these verses were not intended to be taken as independent units of thought.
#5 Study the world behind the text. The Bible was God’s Word to them before it was God’s word to us. We must close the gap between them and us to help us understand what the author is saying. When it comes to the Bible we have to keep in mind that this book was written by people from a different period of time, by people very different than us, and from a community very different than ours. If we want to have a better understanding of the Bible we need to know something about the historical context. You don’t need to become a world-renowned historian but you should have a basic understanding of what was going on. This goes back to honoring how God chose to communicate to us.
#6 Live what you learn. The Bible is clear that we need to put into practice what we learn. James puts it this way: 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 who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25 ESV).
Living what you learn means your life changes and conforms to what Christ’s life looked like. We must live a life of loving God and showing love to others. And to be clear about what love is, Jesus says in John 15:12-14, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7-11 ESV)
If you devote yourself to reading The Bible well you will find yourself saying the very same things.