Why and How to Read the Bible — Part 1

Following is an English transcript of the message from yesterday morning.

Today I want to consider the Bible. You likely know that the Bible is called God’s Word. It is a history of God’s interaction with man from the Creation up to prophecies of the End of Time. It is God’s story. His voice can be heard throughout.

But what should the Bible’s place or importance be in your life? What is your relationship to the Bible? Many people would consider it to be a good book with many good values and teachings, but they leave it at that. I want to explain why the Bible is a vital part of the Christian’s daily life by answering some questions.

The questions are: Why should I read the Bible? How should I read the Bible? When should I read the Bible? And where should I read the Bible? I have seven answers for each of these questions. There are more considerations that could be made, but I am convinced that if you take these answers to heart, your life will be completely changed for the better.

Why should you read the Bible?

1. Read the Bible to know God.

This is a critical reason for reading the Bible. God reveals His character to us very clearly in the story of all the books of the Bible. By reading the whole story, you learn to know who He is. This culminates in the person of Jesus. As Hebrews 1:1-3 says, and as the gospels clearly show, Jesus perfectly represents the character of God.

“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

2. Read the Bible to know God’s desires.

Beyond learning who God is, we discover what His purposes are for mankind. God wants a relationship with you. God is holy and expects us to be holy, just as He is. God is love and calls us to love as He does.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

3. Read the Bible to understand yourself.

Why do you feel the way you do? Why are you here? What is your purpose? Why do you act in unkind ways when you wish you could be kind? The Bible holds all the answers to the questions of our hearts and who we are. You can discover tremendously much about who you are by reading God’s Word.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

4. Read the Bible to understand others.

Just as the Bible can help you see yourself more clearly, it also can help you understand others. Beyond helping you understand others, you will learn what your relationship to others should be and how you can improve your relationships. The Bible is an extremely practical book on interpersonal relationships, and that should be no surprise because God knows us inside and out.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.””

‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NLT‬‬

5. Read the Bible to understand history.

The Bible does not have a complete record of secular history, obviously, but the Bible does contain an accurate account of God’s working with His people. One sad thing we read is the many times that God’s people chose their own ways and disobeyed. Consequently, they were punished for their sins, but we also see God’s heart in how He repeatedly drew them back into fellowship and holiness with Him. From that history, we can learn much about man in general, but we also learn how God chooses to work with nations and other big-picture issues.

6. Read the Bible to be saved.

The Word of God is how we learn of our sin and of the judgment for sin. But it is the Bible that opens the way to God. We have a remedy for sin and the freedom from death in the Bible.

“So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

7. Read the Bible to know the next right thing to do.

The Bible does not clearly spell out exactly what we must be doing each day, but the Bible is a guide for us. With careful and continual reading of God’s Word, we can know what the Lord expects of us. And when we have a situation that is difficult or confusing or unclear, we can search the Bible to find direction for our lives.

“I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments. I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to your word. I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well. How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:100-105‬ ‭NLT‬‬

That answers why you should read the Bible. But then we ask, how should we read the Bible. There are numerous ways to read the Bible. It is not merely some ancient text with good ideas; the Bible is alive and inspired with God’s own Word. His Spirit continues to speak through the Bible today.

1. Read the Bible in devotion.

This is the primary reason we read the Bible. It is a way for our hearts to connect with the heart of God. We read in worship, in gratefulness, in searching, in relationship, in conversation with God. Reading God’s Word is a way to meet with Him. Some have described it as reading a letter from a friend, but in this case, the friend meets us there when we open the letter.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

2. Read the Bible to have something to share.

One of the joys of being a believer is being saved from sin to be in a right relationship with God. This life moves us to gratitude and devotion to the Lord. But then the realization comes that so many people are not free from sin and are headed to eternity without Jesus as their Savior. This moves us to compassion. We want to take the truth to others. But first, we must know the truth, and that takes time to study the Bible. I could not talk to others about God very well at all if I did not spend much time studying His Word first for myself.

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

3. Read the Bible to get a deeper understanding of the meaning of teachings, of principles, even of prophecy.

Scholars have devoted decades and decades of their lives to studying the Bible, yet they never reach the end of what there is to learn. There are so many different directions you can go into study, and they can all lead you toward a deeper connection with God. You can study in connection to the natural world, to history, to psychology, to relationships, to prophecy, and so much more.

The Bible does warn us not to waste time pursuing empty discussion or debate. There are some things that are mysteries and will remain mysteries in this life. We should not put a lot of effort into understanding these things academically; rather, we should pursue the key thing, which is love.

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

4. Read the Bible to memorize it.

The more of the Bible you know by heart, the greater its impact on your daily life can be. Jesus told the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind the words they knew of Him in times of distress, but the key to that is the fact that they knew those words first of all. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts helps keep us from sin. If your mind is full of God’s truth, there is no room for wrong. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He was victorious by quoting scripture by heart.

“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

5. Read the Bible a whole book at a time.

As I said before, the Bible is a collection of books from different times written by different authors inspired by God. Each book within the Bible has its own purpose. Much good can be had by reading a verse or a chapter on its own, but you will gain so much more by getting the whole context. This is no different from the way we would read other books.

Depending on how quickly you read, some books can take a longer time to work through than others, but I still encourage this method. The Psalms are not a connected story, but a collection of poetry; however, even that collection can become more powerful when read in succession.

6. Read the Bible chronologically.

The books of the Bible are not in time order as many people mistakenly believe. There are resources, including free applications on your smartphone, that have the Bible laid out in the order things occurred in history. I enjoy reading the Bible this way because it helps me put things in their proper place so I can better follow the narrative. You will gain a new perspective that ties everything together with this method.

7. Read the Bible consistently.

Some people may say that your Bible reading should not be robotic and thus should not be dictated by a program or schedule. I agree that your Bible reading should not be empty or lifeless, but I strongly know that your Bible reading must be disciplined. If you do not determine to study the Word, the devil will snatch it away from you by filling your time with other things.

I recommend a minimum reading program of getting through the entire Bible in one year’s time. That is not hard to do. We read so much more than that in a year. But no other reading can change your life like the Bible can, so discipline yourself to do it. There are many excellent and free resources that help you track your Bible reading, or you can do it yourself.

There are nearly twelve hundred chapters in the Bible, so you will need to read three to four chapters a day to get through the Bible in a year. There is so much more that can be gained from more and deeper reading, but at least start with that much. Surely, you can spare those few minutes each day for learning to know God better.

Due to the time, I plan to finish this message next week, Lord willing. Then we will answer the questions of when to read the Bible and where to read it.

Until then, now you know why and how to read the Bible. I pray that you will take this message seriously and take time each day to seek the Lord by studying His Word. God bless you.