A Different Approach to Bible Reading
During the first of the year many Christians often resolve to be more purposeful in their spiritual growth. The Bible dedicates a significant amount of scripture to the importance of reading and meditating on God’s Word daily and spending quality time with God through prayer and praise. Because we know this, one of the main spiritual goals or resolutions at the start of a new year is to start a regular bible reading habit. Often people get off to a good start. Then, like many New Year’s Resolutions, what started off as a good intention gently fades, and it never quite becomes a habit or routine.
Two years ago I wrote a post on Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis. This might be a good time to go back and revisit that post for some great tips and a story about how and why I started my bible reading practice. This week I’d like to resume and expand on that discussion because I recently gained some more insight on a better way to approach bible reading.
Typical approaches: Duty & Application
My pastor, Whit George, just shared a different approach with our church. Pastor Whit said that many of us approach bible reading in a couple of different ways. First, many of us approach our quiet times and reading like a duty, out of obligation or out of guilt. This approach is not as meaningful. It is not really “delighting” in God’s Word as Psalms teaches.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 (NKJV)
Secondly, others of us approach scripture like reading a self-help book or instruction manual. We read it only for application. Reading for application is not bad—it’s actually a good thing. However, this approach doesn’t work when you read something that you can’t apply or when you don’t get anything out of what you read that day. To be perfectly honest, I have been guilty of both the “duty” approach and the “application-only” approach.
A better approach: Read for relationship
Pastor Whit says the problem with these approaches is that they put us at the center—it’s all about “me”. These approaches are also not very sustainable. He suggests that a deeper and better way to read scripture is to read for relationship. This means reading to learn more about God, to get to know Him better.
I would almost liken it to reading posts, articles, etc. from or about people we don’t know personally…”friends” on social media, celebrities, bloggers/speakers, etc. We feel like we really KNOW them just by reading about them. Do you know what I mean? It’s kind of like we feel like we know them really well or are good friends of theirs even though we’ve never personally met them. Just by reading about them and looking at what they post, we can learn about their family, personality, activities, likes and dislikes, dreams and desires, and so on. Some of you might already know a lot about me and feel a sense of relationship just from reading my blogs! 🙂
We can do this same thing with God. When we have a regular habit of bible reading, we can learn a lot about God…Who He is–His personality and character, likes and dislikes, desires, how He does things, how He relates to people, etc. The more we learn about Him, the closer we’ll feel to Him. This builds our relationship with Him.
Learn > Know > Love
The Greatest Commandment is to love God according to Mark 12:29-30, Matthew 22:37-38 and Luke 10:27. In order to love someone, you have to know them. In order to know them you have to spend time with them and learn about them. We learn about God by spending time with Him—by reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer and praise and worship.
When we approach our bible reading like a relationship it’s easier to maintain a daily habit, to feel desire instead of obligation, and to be okay with not getting anything of out our reading every single time we read. Reading for relationship will help us to pursue God and delight in Him and in scripture.
This also reminded me of a video clip (below) from Dave Adamson that I watched recently. Dave said, “If you want to be LIKE Jesus, then you have to spend time WITH Jesus.” He gave some great advice for learning about Jesus and spending time with Jesus (it was quite convicting I might add!). Dave challenges his readers and viewers to read all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) every month for the next 12 months. He guarantees that if we do this, we will be more like Jesus and closer to God than we’ve ever been! Click to watch Dave’s short video about this—I think you’ll love it!
Take Some Practical Steps to Use a Different Approach to Bible Reading:
- Approach bible reading like a relationship. Read to spend time with and learn more about God and who He is. Definitely still read for application, but seek MORE than just application only. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get something out of your bible reading every time you read. Read to learn, know and love God more.
- Use these other resources and tips for your bible reading:
- Take Dave Adamson’s challenge: Read all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) every month for the next 12 months. Here is a YouVersion (Bible app) plan for reading through all four Gospels in 30 days. Here are a couple of other good reading plans on the four Gospels: BibleX: The Gospels and The Bible Project: Gospels.
What helpful approaches do you have for bible reading? Do you read for relationship? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.
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If you know anyone that could benefit from this, please pay it forward! Share this post via the sharing links below. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
- George, Whit. “New Year, New You–Part 3.” 21 Jan. 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma. ↑