It’s a New Year and perhaps you, like many, have set a Bible reading goal. And maybe, I’m not alone in finding this to be a daunting task. Or maybe, you’ve never even thought about the fact that there may be more than one way to go about this.
It sometimes seems like every “really spiritual” Christian sets a goal to read through the whole Bible in a year, and that anything less than that is a failure.
There are so many ways to approach your Bible reading goals, and yet we so often focus on just this one: reading the whole Bible in a year.
However, I’ve had several years of Bible reading where I haven’t come even close to reading the whole Bible, and yet, I have grown in profound ways in my understanding of and love for God and His Word.
This, I believe, is the fundamental shift that needs to take place in our approach to our Bible reading goals. The purpose of reading our Bible is not to consume as much as possible as quickly as possible, or even to achieve the “gold-standard” of reading the whole Bible in one year.
The purpose of Bible reading is to better understand who God is, and to know His Son, Jesus.
Jesus Himself said, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me."
Ultimately, when we learn more about Jesus, when we better understand who He is and how much He loves us, we begin to love Him more. And when we fall more in love with God, when we stand in greater awe and gratitude for what He has done for us and for who He is, then we will desire and begin to become more like Him our daily living.
Goals and plans can surely help us, but we will ultimately fail at Bible reading if we fail to love God more as a result of it.
Knowing this, that the goal of our studying God's word is to first fall more in love with Jesus and then to become more like Him, it should be with great eagerness that we take on the lifelong journey of growing in our knowledge and understanding of Him and His Word. Granted, we are human and any growth will often feel difficult and painful, but it is so worth the work.
So instead of feeling overwhelmed by New Years resolutions to "read the Bible more", let's set our hearts to fall more in love with Jesus and plan a path of studying and growing in God's Word that will help us to do just that.
To help you as desire to grow in your understanding of God’s Word, I want to share a few of my favorite approaches to reading God’s Word:
1. Set a goal to become more familiar with the Bible as a whole.
Become comfortable with the layout and sections and flow of it as a whole. Usually the best way to approach this is to read the Bible through rather quickly, in a year or so.
My favorite way to do this is by using a reading plan. I like plans like this one, where you read a little bit from the Old Testament, a little bit from the New Testament, and a little bit from the book of Psalms each day. However, other good approaches are chronological reading plans or taking the Bible one book at a time, in any order you choose, and checking each book off until you have read the whole thing.
However you do it, reading the Bible all the way through (in a year or two) is one of my favorite ways to approach God’s Word. You will gain such an appreciation for the consistency shown by God through His Word, and will develop a broader understanding of the biblical timeline as you do.
2. Set a goal to dig deep into a specific book of the Bible.
This is a great way to use your inductive bible study skills, which Pastor Travis taught in a previous blog series: Part 1 - Part 2. Additionally, this is a wonderful way to study along with the Sunday morning sermons series or our 3-minute message series.
Pull out a notebook or journal and some study helps, and take it really slow, a chapter, or just a section of a chapter, at a time. Maybe even copy the entire section into your journal to help you slow down and really listen to every phrase.
3. Set a goal to study a specific Biblical topic.
There are so many reading plans available to help you with this and you can easily find lists of scripture by topic online. Or you can purchase a more traditional Bible study book on the topic you want to study, and use that to guide you. As always, you can find hundreds of sermons online to supplement your Bible reading and help you gain even more insight into a particular topic. Here a few good preachers to start with, when looking for sermons on specific passages or topics.
4. Set a goal to memorize and meditate on key sections of scripture so that you can quickly call to mind encouragement and wisdom and reminders of grace.
This kind of goal works really well in conjunction with the topical Bible study or even study of a specific book, discussed above. Pick a key verse(s) or section and spend a little time every day memorizing and pondering that passage. This way, you will always have that section to remind you of the things you learned during your study.
Whether you are memorizing a passage or not, going slowly and prayerfully through the same section over and over again is a wonderful way to help the truths of God’s Word sink deep into your heart and begin to transform your mind.
There are so many ways to study God’s Word, and none is better or more spiritual than the other. In fact, applying a wide variety of bible study techniques throughout your life will actually help you grow in your understanding of God’s Word.
Plans and systems and goals are wonderful things, but if we loose sight of their purpose, helping us to know and love Jesus more, then they become worthless pursuits. So as we seek to know and love Jesus more fully, let’s remember that this is something He has called us to and has given us the ability to do through Jesus.
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”
2 Peter 1:3
He has given us everything we need to fulfill what He has called us to do for His glory in this life, and He has given it to us through knowing Him. Yet how do we learn to know Him more? Though His Word and His Spirit.
I pray that this year would be one of growth and maturity for you in the area of knowing God through His Word.