For as long as I can remember church people have been told to read God’s Word (The Bible) but I cannot remember anyone completely explaining what that means or how to read it. From a schoolboy onwards I have been an avid reader, I must have read 1000”s of books over my lifetime, most books were for pleasure, and some were teaching books about various subjects. What I have learned from the Holy Spirit over the years is that you cannot approach reading the bible like how you would read other books. The bible is unique because it is God-breathed and while we can learn a lot of information from it that is not the reason for its existence. As I have observed the bible over the years I become to realise how little specific information is recorded. The Apostle John gives a clue about the content of the bible in John 20:30-31 which says: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name”. The basic reason for reading the bible is that we can have a meaningful relationship with the Lord. It is so important to understand and be convinced that constant reading of the Bible is essential to our spiritual growth. For many years I struggled to read the Bible regularly and as I look back over my life for a long time I knew it was a good habit to have but never was convinced it was so important for my spiritual growth. For many years I have used a ‘One Year’ Bible with a pencil to highlight anything that spoke to me that day. Today there is no shortage of bits of help to remind us to read the Bible regularly. Psalm 119:105 gives us a very clear picture of why we should read the Bible for it says: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. This verse highlights two things, firstly, reading God’s word daily helps us see what step we need to take, and secondly, it says that God’s word also points us in the right direction we should take for our life so that we do not go astray.
Before we look at what the Bible says about itself I want to address the issue of how to start reading the Bible? Firstly, I would suggest that you start with one of the Gospels, preferably Luke or John then Mark and then Matthew, read them a couple of times before going on to the next book. Also, I would suggest that at the same time you read a chapter of the book Proverbs each day. When you have the first books a couple of times then read the book of Acts. Also can start reading Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, etc, it is also important that you have a friend to talk to about what the Bible is saying to you. Before I read I always ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to me and if there is something you don’t understand talk to one of the leaders you know for advice. Getting to know God is not a one-off experience but a lifetime of an ever-new experience with the Lord. It is also very important not to try to read too much at a time when you start but learn to allow the Spirit of God to speak to you through what you have just read.
Now as we look at what the Bible says about itself the starting point is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God (AMP God-breathed), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”, NLT “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and realize what is wrong with our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right, it is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do”. The Bible is not a collection of stories, fables, myths or human ideas about God. Through the Holy Spirit, God revealed His person and plan to certain believers, who wrote down His message for His people. This is known as inspiration. Scripture is completely trustworthy because God is the author. The Bible is God’s word to you, it is so important that you believe this is true and that you need to apply the truth of the Bible to your life. One of the main reasons to read God’s word is so that we learn to take notice of our spirit as it comes alive and directs us in the way in which we should live. It is so important that we as Christians are now dominated by our spirit and not our intellect. This happens when we obey the voice of our spirit. God’s word fully equips us to do every good thing that God wants us to do, this is why reading the Bible is a spiritual experience helping us to live God’s way. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner thoughts and desires of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. NLT “For the word of God is full of living power, it is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are”. This verse explains how it does not matter how many times we read any part of the Bible it always speaks to us because it is the living word of God. It also explains to us why what it is saying is new because it always challenges the thoughts and desires of our hearts.
Now, this verse explains one of the main reasons for us to read God’s word and its effect on us when we read it the correct way and that verse is: Psalm 119:11 which says: “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you”. This verse gives the reason why we read the Bible, it is not to gain information but that the word we read has a resting place in us where we make our decisions. The truth of God’s word keeps our conscience soft and effective to warn us of pending dangers and as we obey it, it remains soft and effective. It is so important to guard our hearts, Proverbs 4:23 says: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” and we do this by applying the truth of God’s word to how we live. It cannot be overemphasized the importance of being changed by the word of God, I look back over 68 years and see how my life is so much better through the application of God’s word to how I live and experience the Lord’s presence.
The bible uses the word ‘Meditate’ over 10 times to describe how we are to apply the word of God to the way that we live. The word meditate means to ponder, to think about, and by implication to talk to oneself. It is important to realise although a reward is promised it only happens when we obey. A good example of this is found in Joshua 1:8 where God says to Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart from you, you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will have your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”. God spoke to Joshua when he was about to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. You would think that with such a great promise he would have obeyed it completely, sadly Joshua did not have good success – he only had some success. He was defeated at Ai, he made a treaty with the Gibeonites which was forbidden by God. When the land was divided among the tribes there were still many enemies to be defeated. When he was about to die in Joshua 24:14 He challenged the Children of Israel to serve the Lord in sincerity and truth and to put away the gods their fathers had served. I write this to warn everyone to obey God’s word for if I was to write about parts of my life they would be similar to what Joshua experienced. I desire to fulfill the promise of Psalm 1:2 which says when I meditate on God’s word I will be like a tree planted by rivers of water which brings forth its fruit in its season, I desire to be such a person.
2 Timothy 2:15 AMP says: “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial ), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analysing and accurately dividing – rightly handling and successfully teaching – the word of truth “ NLT “Working hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth “. NKJV “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. It is important to understand the word ‘Study’ does not mean ‘to acquire knowledge as you do to be successful at exam time but it means ‘To be diligent and eager’, this verse lays a strong foundation for reading the Bible (God’s word) it is our attitude to be diligent and eager to allow the truth of God’s word to become part of how we live. The moral standard we have and live by is based on the truth of God’s word. It is not a matter of memorising some Bible verses and being able to recite them, it is allowing the truth of God’s word to be part of who we are and the Holy Spirit will cause us to remember how to live when special occasions arise. This means that we cannot spend too much time thinking about the truth of God’s word so that we automatically live the right way without being aware of it. This describes the true reason for reading the Bible because we are a new creation when we are born again, we have a different desire and that is to live like Jesus in the way that we live. As I have been writing about understanding what we read I have wondered how did I know so much about Christian living and being responsive to the voice of the Spirit. As I have looked back over my life there is a habit that had helped me and impacted my life. I always had a piece of paper in my Bible and a pen available so that I took notes on what the Spirit was saying to me through the sermon – when I was doing this I was not aware of the significance of what I was doing. It is only as I have reflected on my life I realise that I was learning to be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit. It is interesting to note that I rarely reread my notes but what happened was that every time I responded to the voice of the Spirit it became clearer to me. Because of that softness to the voice of the Holy Spirit, I am continually refreshed by reading God’s word.
In Matthew 7: 24-29 Jesus taught about the importance of living by the word of God, He describes people who live by His word as wise people and people who do not live by them as foolish people. Another word for ‘foolish’ is ‘stupid’ (unwise) so this is a very powerful statement by Jesus. This reinforces the significance of not only reading God’s word but applying the truth of it to the way that we live. Being impacted by the word of God is not an option but it also highlights whether a person is born again because if a person has no desire to read and apply God’s word to their life then they are not born again they have an emotional experience, and should be encouraged to choose to live God’s way. We cannot skip over the significance of what Jesus taught and we need to challenge ourselves whether we are born again.
The Apostle James also highlights the importance of living by the Word of God in James 1:22-25 verse 22 says that if we do not live by the Word of God we deceive ourselves. We need to be very careful about this because Satan uses deception to trick people into not loving God. The sad truth about deception is if we are deceived then we believe what we are doing is right. This is why e need a close relationship with Jesus all the time so that we will feel uncomfortable when we are being tempted to live the wrong way. Verse 25 says that when we are a doer of God’s Word then we are blessed by God in everything that we do and to me that alone is a good enough reason to be convinced of the importance of reading and putting into practice by the way that we live.
One final truth is found in John 10 where Jesus teaches that He is the good shepherd and His sheep hears His voice. One of the most consistent ways I have found over the years is Jesus speaking to me is through His Word. May you grow in the Lord as you consistently read His word and live by it.