Reading the Bible can be a daunting task. With 66 books, 1189 chapters, and over 31,000 verses, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. However, with the right approach and mindset, anyone can read the Bible successfully.
As Christians, reading the Bible is essential for spiritual growth and knowing God more intimately. The Bible contains God’s love letters to us – it is His primary way of communicating to us. Through reading and studying Scripture, we can have a transformational encounter with the living God.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore practical tips and strategies for reading the Bible successfully as an Evangelical or Charismatic Christian.
The Bible is no ordinary book. Written over a span of 1500 years, with over 40 authors from diverse backgrounds, it is remarkably unified in its message. The Bible claims divine inspiration – that although written by men, its ultimate Author is God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16).
As such, reading the Bible is very different from reading any other book. We must approach it with humility, prayer, and dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Bible reads us even as we read it – it is living and active, piercing the depths of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). Our posture is not to master the text, but to let the text master us.
The goal of Bible reading is not just information, but transformation. We want the Word to shape our thinking, convict our hearts, inspire worship, and compel us to action. With the right strategies, we can read the Bible in life-changing ways.
Here are key takeaways on how to read the Bible successfully:
- Read with prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit
- Read the Bible thematically, not just from start to finish
- Strive to understand the context and original meaning
- Meditate and apply the Word to your life
- Read with a community, not just by yourself
- Seek to encounter God through His Word
Let’s explore each of these principles in-depth. Apply them, and your Bible reading will be revolutionized.
Read with Prayer and Dependence on the Holy Spirit
Before you open your Bible, it’s crucial to pray and acknowledge your dependence on the Holy Spirit. Bible reading is a spiritual activity with life-changing potency. We need God’s help to understand, apply, and be transformed by His Word.
Pray sincerely: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). Ask God to speak to you, teach you, correct you, and inhabit His Word as you read.
It is the Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture and illumines our darkened minds to grasp its meaning (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:14). We cannot comprehend the deep truths of God’s Word using only our natural intellect. We need the Spirit’s supernatural aid.
Reading the Bible prayerfully also safeguards us from misinterpreting it. Our own biases can distort God’s intended meaning. As we submit to the Spirit’s guidance, we gain insight into the heart and mind of God.
So before reading Scripture, take time to still your heart before God. Ask Him to instruct, lead, and transform you through His Word, with an openness to hear whatever He wants to say. This posture of humility and prayer is the key that unlocks revelation.
Read Thematically, Not Just from Start to Finish
Many people start reading the Bible from Genesis 1 and go straight through to Revelation 22. While this allows you to read through the entire Bible, it may not be the most effective approach.
The Bible is actually a collection of 66 different books, written in various literary styles by over 40 authors. Each book has a distinct message in its specific context. To really understand the richness of Scripture, it helps to read thematically.
For example, you could read all the Psalms together to soak in their passion and intimacy with God. Or you could focus just on the Gospel of John to behold the beauty of Jesus.
You could also do a book-by-book read-through, which allows you to absorb the sole message of each book. Or combine book-by-book reading with thematic reading for maximum variety.
With so many books, chapters and verses, reading thematically helps avoid fatigue and confusion. You can dive deep into topics you’re most interested in, instead of trying to speed-read the entire Bible. Pursue breadth and depth in your reading.
Some common thematic approaches are:
- Read by book type e.g. History, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles
- Focus on a particular topic e.g. Faith, Hope, Love, Holiness
- Read about the life of a particular person e.g. Abraham, David, Peter
- Do a literary style study e.g. Wisdom, Psalms, Apocalyptic
Mix it up to prevent your Bible reading from becoming dull. Let the Holy Spirit guide which themes to focus on each season.
Strive to Understand Context and Original Meaning
Since the Bible was written thousands of years ago, in different languages and cultures, we need some background knowledge to properly interpret it. Before drawing conclusions, strive to understand the historical, literary and cultural context of each passage.
Get clear on who the author was, who they were writing to, why they wrote it, and how the original audience would have understood it. Encyclopedia-style study Bibles like the NKJV MacArthur Study Bible have detailed introductions for each book that provide excellent context.
For example, realizing that Genesis was written by Moses to the Israelites after the Exodus helps explain why he focused on God’s creation of the world – to encourage the Israelites with God’s power as the One who brought them out of Egypt.
Likewise, Paul’s letters were addressing specific issues in each church community. The more background you have, the clearer his instructions become.
Also leverage study tools like Bible dictionaries and commentaries to gain insight into context. Remember – a text without a context is a pretext for whatever you want it to mean. Good interpretation requires understanding the author’s intended meaning to their original audience.
Meditate and Apply the Word to Your Life
Merely accumulating information from the Bible is not the goal – we want transformation. Once you understand what a passage means, take time to meditate on how to apply it personally.
Make it practical: How does this truth convict, correct or encourage me today? How do I live this out in speech, action and attitude? What changes do I need to make?
For example, after reading Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 on not being anxious, we can ponder ways we personally worry and how to entrust those burdens to God. Studying should lead to action.
Regularly ask: How does this Scripture lead me to praise God? What sin must I repent of? What specific act of obedience is being called for? Internalize the Word by acting on it.
The Bible is powerful and living – meant to shape us into Christ’s image (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Meditation helps move truth from our heads to hearts, resulting in transformation. It turns information into application.
Read with a Community, Not Just by Yourself
Although personal Bible study is crucial, God also intends for us to read His Word in community. We gain important perspectives from studying the Bible with other believers.
Join a small group Bible study, listen to sermons, discuss passages with mature Christians, take an online course – there are many formats.
For example, a verse that confuses you may be clarified by a teacher. Fellow believers will feel conviction from passages you skim over. Their insights can profoundly deepen your understanding.
The Bible is best interpreted in community because multiple believers have the Spirit’s guidance (Ephesians 4:1-16). Discussing Scripture with humility keeps us from drifting into theological error and encourages application. Community reading provides accountability.
Make Bible study a regular habit with your church, family, spouse and Christian friends. Read together, discuss insights, ask questions. Share how God’s Word is changing you.
The Bible reading experience is enriched exponentially when done in relationship with other Spirit-filled believers. You gain perspectives and insights you would never have alone.
Seek to Encounter God Through His Word
The Bible is not merely a book about God, but a means of personally encountering Him. It is “living and active” – an avenue for the Lord to reveal Himself to us (Hebrews 4:12). Reading Scripture is a conversation with Almighty God!
Come to the Word expectantly: Lord, speak. I am listening. Read slowly, listening for the Spirit’s voice. Pause when a verse touches you, praying over its significance. Allow God’s presence and love to wash over you.
With this mindset, Bible reading becomes thrilling. Instead of dutifully checking off chapters, we eagerly anticipate God revealing more of His glory, nature, truth and will for our lives. Encountering Christ in Scripture ignites our affections for Him.
Meditate on passages picturing Jesus: the Good Shepherd, Bread of Life, Light of the World, Resurrection and the Life. Let these revelations explode your heart with love for who Christ is. He wants to meet with you!
The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture to draw us closer to Christ. May the Word light our path and lead us ever-deeper into the embrace of our Savior and King.
The Bible is God’s love letter to humanity. Through it, He powerfully communicates and transforms us into Christ’s image. But for this to happen, we must approach the Word prayerfully and humbly, seeking the Spirit’s illumination.
Cultivate a posture of listening, openness and obedience. Read with variety – thematically and in community. Meditate on immediate personal application. Most importantly, ask the Living Word to encounter you with His presence through the written Word.
If we steward it well, the Bible will guide us into awe-inspiring communion with the Almighty. His Word is sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103). May our passion for reading Scripture explode as we behold fresh revelations of our Savior on each page. Our unquenchable thirst for God will only be satisfied through drinking deep of His Word.
The Bible reads us even as we read it. Allow God’s voice to pierce your heart. Be transformed. Immerse yourself in Scripture – and watch how fulfilling and adventurous a life with Christ can be.