Read A Best-Selling Book
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
Perhaps one of the most common New Year’s resolutions among Christians is to read our Bible’s more. For some of us, that means finding our Bible from a long-forgotten shelf and actually opening it. For others of us, that means picking a book or topic and studying it in depth. Perhaps it means reading fewer books about God and spending more time reading God’s actual book. And, of course, there are those for whom this new year’s resolution means reading through the entire Bible in one year.
All of those are great ways to follow through on a resolution to read the Bible more often. I think that’s one of the great things about this week’s topic: more is more. It can be customized to each and every person. If you read your Bible just once the year before, reading it twice is reading it more!
So why do we talk about reading our Bibles? Why is it such a common New Year’s resolution as well as a common goal for the season of Lent we are nearing the end of this week? The primary reason reading Scripture is such a big deal in most Christian circles is because it is the Word of God. It is God, the creator of the universe, who is speaking to us when we take the time to read our Bibles. Let’s be honest, we each can think of someone important and powerful with whom we would love to have an hour of one on one time. Maybe it’s the President of the United States. Or the a well-known expert in your field of work. Or someone who has the resources to fund a dream. Just imagine how excited you would be to find out you were going to get to go out to lunch with them tomorrow. Or meet for coffee this weekend.
Spending time reading Scripture is spending time with God, who is so much more awesome than anyone on this earth could ever hope to try and be. It is reading and studying the story of who we are and God’s plan for all of creation. Taking the time to become familiar with all of Scripture allows us to see the entire story of humanity, from the beginning in the garden of Eden to the end in the book of Revelations. Its easy to skip over confusing and tedious Old Testament lineages and laws but to do so all the time leaves us with a limited understanding of who Jesus is what his ministry, and ultimately his death on the cross, is really all about.
When getting ready to tackle more scripture reading, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. First of all, be sure you approach reading the Scriptures with a humble and open spirit. Too often we look to the Bible to find the one verse which justifies what we want to hear from God or validates our ideas and opinions. Perhaps one of the most eye-opening classes I have ever taken was History of Biblical Interpretation. For each class session, we were assigned a specific passage from Scripture and then each person in the class was responsible for researching what different theologians from different eras of Christian tradition had taught about that particular passage. It was amazing how differently well-known, highly educated, well respected theologians throughout history interpreted and applied the same verses from Scripture. Why? Because they all had, to some varying extent, their own personal and cultural bias when translating and interpreting the text. It is scary how easy it is to make God’s word say what we want it to say instead of truly embracing it for what it actually is trying to teach us. Beware of this danger and be sure you are seeking out help from multiple points of view.
Additionally, don’t speed through a large chunk of Bible reading just to get through a reading plan or meet a specific goal you have. There is a time and place for reading large parts of Scripture in a single setting but it is not generally something you should be doing on a regular basis. Its great to want to read the entire Bible in one year but if some verse or chapter is speaking to your heart, focus more on what God is trying to say to you than the assigned reading. If it takes an extra month, or two, or twelve to read through the entire Bible, that’s OK!
Finally, be sure you aren’t spending all of your time just reading your favorite books or passages in Scripture. I personally like to write in my Bible. I underline and make notes in the margins and have greatly valued being able to go back and look at those notes to catch a glimpse at what God was speaking to me at one time. However, I do have a Bible I don’t let myself write in because there are times I don’t want to be influenced or distracted by what I have studied in the past. In today’s world, having this option is easier than ever with all the electronic and web-based options for reading the Bible.
So with those dangers noted to avoid, what are some tips for making the most of a commitment to read the Bible more? Great question!
1. Pick a good translation. The language of the King James Version, while it can be beautiful, is often unnecessarily confusing for many. There are so many different options to choose from now. Choose a translation which works for you. (Psst…this is where resources such as the Bible App or BibleGateway.com are helpful because you can try out lots of different translations for free!)
2. Pick an approach that works for you. Maybe you are ready to read through the entire Bible in a year. Maybe you are wanting to study a specific topic or book of the Bible. Perhaps you need a real-life application focus to what you are studying or perhaps you wanting to have multiple commentaries on hand to dig into nitty-gritty of academic interpretation. The approach that God is calling you to do for this moment is the right one.
3. Consider using a plan or Bible study resource as your guide. These can help you stay focused and give you some set parameters to keep you from wandering too far off topic as well as give you a goal to help keep you motivated.
4. Find helpful resources. From trusted, learned friends and pastors to commentaries available in print and online, there are tons of resources out there. Find ones which are helpful to you. The people you connect with should be able to give examples you can relate to and explain things in a way which helps you both understand and think deeper. The print resources you use should use words you can define without the use of a dictionary or a Google search. (Check out the end of THIS article for some great resources!)
Remember, the primary purpose to spending time reading the Bible isn’t so you can sound more holy or put on a good show for God (or your pastor!). The primary purpose to spending time reading the Bible is to spend time listening to what God is trying to speak into your life.
Check out the last video of our Lenten Experience series.
Consider the readings Eric references in the video for this week:
- Monday – Luke 19:28-48
- Tuesday – Luke 20
- Wednesday – Luke 21
- Thursday – Luke 22
- Friday – Luke 23
- Saturday – Luke 24
Check out our Pinterest page for ideas on how to get the most out of the upcoming Holy Week and Easter Season.