By Joshua Earman
Reading the Bible is central to the believer because knowing Christ in Scripture is the means to magnifying Christ in life. Paul says, “Him we proclaim…that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Christ is the substance and goal of our growth, as well as the substance and goal of the whole counsel of God.
Jesus said hearing and reading the Bible is like eating food. God fed his people with manna from heaven in order that they might know that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” and believing this is how Jesus persevered in temptation before the start of his public ministry (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). In the same way that we plan for what, when, and how we eat food in a given day, it is wise to plan for what, when, and how we will read the Bible.
- Have a Plan
Developing a habit requires a plan. The best ways I have found to read the Bible are either making it the FIRST thing you do in the day or the LAST thing before you sleep. Otherwise we get distracted or interrupted and forget. There are many Bible reading plans to help keep you on track. Or pick two books of the Bible – an Old Testament book and a New Testament book. Read a chapter from them each day. Reading them at the same time can help us see passages in a new way. I’ve been reading 2 Chronicles and the Gospel of Luke and have seen how Jesus is the faithful One in contrast to the unfaithful kings described in Chronicles.
- Pray, Read, Respond
Start off by asking God in prayer to help you understand and be alert. As you read, think consciously about what you read. Otherwise, we quickly forget it and it fails to change us. It is effective to ask questions as you read and then answer them. What does this passage tell me about God, the world and Jesus as its fulfillment? Does this passage call me to repent of some sin, or to believe a truth I haven’t believed? Getting a notebook and writing a few notes can be helpful. Can I summarize the main point? Sometimes my writing turns into a short prayer.
- Knowing the Whole Story
A hindrance to Bible reading is not understanding how a specific passage fits into the whole story. Here is a helpful summary to understanding the big story of Scripture: http://davemiers.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/gods_big_picture_summary.pdf.
Often we just fail to see how essential Bible reading is for us to know Jesus and live for him. We are content to go our own way and lack the motivation. But as you start the habit, you will see fruit in your life as you respond in faith to what God has revealed.