Reading the Bible can be a transformative experience, bringing you closer to God and helping you apply His wisdom to your life. As an Evangelical or Charismatic Christian, you likely view the Bible as the inspired Word of God and your authoritative guide for doctrine and living. With 66 books and over 1,000 pages to cover, reading the Bible can seem like an intimidating task. However, with some practical tips and helpful methods, you can become a more engaged and effective reader of God’s Word.
As you begin your journey into deeper Bible reading, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- Read with purpose: Set specific goals for your Bible reading, such as building your relationship with God, learning biblical truths, or gaining wisdom for daily living. This will help focus and motivate your study.
- Use a reading plan: Following a plan or schedule helps ensure you read the entire Bible over time in an organized way. Plans vary from reading the Bible in a year to going through the Bible chronologically.
- Read prayerfully: Begin with prayer, asking God to open your heart and mind to understand His word. Expect God to speak to you as you read.
- Read carefully: Go slow and take time to meditate on what you read. Don’t just rush through. Ask questions of the text and look for deeper meaning.
- Apply it personally: Ask yourself how you can specifically apply what you read to your attitudes and actions. The Bible is meant to transform our lives.
- Study with others: Join a small group Bible study or discuss what you’re reading with Christian friends. This provides insight you may miss on your own.
With these principles in mind, let’s explore practical methods and tips to help you get the most out of reading God’s Word, the Bible.
Read Entire Books of the Bible
One of the most effective ways to read the Bible is to read entire books at once instead of just disconnected verses or passages. Reading whole books allows you to see the bigger picture and fuller message that the human writers and Divine Author intended to communicate. Here are some tips:
- Start by reading shorter, easier-to-understand books first, like the Gospel of John or Philippians. This builds confidence before tackling more complex books.
- Before reading a book, learn about the background, author, and context. Bible introductions or commentaries can provide this.
- Read through the whole book in several sittings to grasp the overall messages and purpose of the book. Don’t get bogged down in the details on your first reading.
- Use a good study Bible or online commentary to help explain difficult passages you may not understand right away.
- On your second reading, dig deeper into key passages and write down insights and reflections.
- Take your time! Don’t try to rush through reading large books like Genesis or Romans in just a day or two.
Reading books of the Bible as the cohesive units they were intended to be prevents misunderstanding isolated verses out of context. As the psalmist wrote, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18 NKJV). Ask God for eyes to see the wonderful truths He has preserved for us in His Word.
Alternate Between Old and New Testaments
The Old Testament and New Testament together form a unified story of God’s redemptive plan for the world through Jesus. But they are also distinct, with different writing styles, themes, and purposes. Going back and forth between an Old Testament and New Testament book allows you to see connections between them that you may miss by reading one section on its own. Here are some suggestions:
- Read a NT Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) along with the OT Prophetic books like Isaiah that originally foretold the coming Messiah. Notice how Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies.
- Pair the OT Historical books like 1 and 2 Kings with NT books like Acts that record the early history of the church. See how God continues to work through history.
- Read OT Wisdom literature like Proverbs alongside NT books like James that echo and expand on similar wise teachings.
- Contrast Old Testament Law books like Leviticus with New Testament books like Galatians that discuss how Christ freed us from trying to earn salvation by legalistic rule-following.
By connecting the Old and New Testaments through your reading, you’ll gain a more unified understanding of the Bible as a whole. Listen to Jesus pray to the Father: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17 NKJV). Let alternating between the Old and New Testaments shed light on the consistent truth God reveals through both sections.
Follow a Reading Plan
Using a reading plan is one of the best ways to structure your Bible reading so you systematically read through the entire Bible over a period of time. Reading plans provide an organized approach for beginners as well asConsistency is key. Here are different types of reading plans to consider:
- Chronological plans take you through the entire Bible in the order the events actually happened. This helps you gain an understanding of the historical context of each book and God’s unfolding plan through history.
- Canonical plans take you through the Bible in the order the books are arranged. This allows you to see how the structure of the Bible points to Christ as the center.
- One-year plans are very common. They break up the Bible into daily reading portions so you read the entire Bible over a year. This approach helps you cultivate a daily Bible reading habit.
- Topical or devotional plans focus on specific topics, doctrines, or devotional styles of reading over a period of time like 90 days or a year.
The key is choosing a plan you will stick with – one that fits with the reading goal you set for yourself. Being consistent is better than trying to rush through. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV) Let a reading plan help you treasure God’s word in your heart over time.
Meditate and Memorize
In addition to your normal Bible reading, set aside time to slowly meditate on and memorize key verses or passages. Meditation and memorization complement your overall Bible study by helping you focus in on the most essential truths and Scriptures. Here are some suggestions:
- Use devotionals or study notes to identify particularly meaningful or important verses to meditate on.
- Take a verse or short passage and read it aloud several times, thinking carefully about what each word and phrase means. Pray through any application to your life.
- Pick a verse or passage that relates to what you’re currently facing in life. Meditate on how God’s truth speaks into your circumstances.
- Choose verses that emphasize core doctrines like the Gospel, the nature of God, or salvation by grace. Meditate on these foundational truths.
- Memorize verses word for word. Review frequently until they stick. Verses like Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:6-7, and Jeremiah 29:11 are good starters.
- Recite memorized verses while going about your daily tasks or write them down and post them around your home.
Internalizing Scripture through meditation and memorization equips you to apply God’s Word in your moment of need. As Psalm 1:2-3 declares, blessed is the one who meditates on God’s law day and night – he is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit! Carve out time to meditate and memorize as part of your Bible study.
Study with Other Believers
While personal Bible study is crucial, God also intends us to learn from fellow Christians. Attending a Bible-teaching church is a must. For deeper study, join a small group Bible study or regularly meet with Christian friends to discuss what you’re reading. Here’s how studying together benefits you:
- Hearing different perspectives and insights that you miss on your own stretches your thinking.
- More mature believers can guide you in areas where your understanding is limited.
- Questioning and discussing together leads to deeper discernment of truth vs. error.
- Seeing how others apply God’s Word provides examples to follow in your own life.
- Fellowship and accountability help you be consistent rather than falling off the wagon in private study.
Proverbs 27:17 notes, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NKJV). God uses the Body of Christ to sharpen you into a more discerning student of the Bible. Make small group study a vital part of your Bible reading habits. Study the Bible in community.
Read with a Teachable Attitude
As you implement these practical methods – reading whole books, following a plan, meditating on verses, and studying with others – do so with a teachable attitude. Come to the Scripture ready to be taught, corrected and trained by God:
- Be humble, recognizing that you don’t have all the answers and are prone to misinterpret or twist the Bible to fit your preconceptions.
- Have a willingness to obey what you read, not just accumulate new information. Knowledge isn’t worth much unless applied.
- Be open to the Holy Spirit revealing new truths you haven’t noticed before in passages you’ve read. There’s always fresh light to gain from God’s Word.
- Reflect on how your beliefs and practices line up with Scripture. Are there areas that need to change?
- Don’t downgrade the authority of passages that confront your sin or make you uncomfortable. Scripture is God’s Word – let it change you.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NKJV) As you explore the riches of God’s Word through these various reading methods, do so with an open and teachable heart willing to apply all that He teaches you.
The Bible is a transformational gift, meant to draw you closer to the heart of God and equip you for a righteous life of good works. But simply owning a Bible isn’t enough – it must be read, studied and applied. Using methods like reading entire books, following a plan, meditating on key verses, studying with others, and maintaining a teachable attitude will enrich your Bible reading and help you experience the Bible’s life-changing power. God promises that His Word will not return void but will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11). Approach your Bible reading with expectancy for what God will do in and through you by the power of His eternal Word.