I consider myself no expert on the Bible, rather the contrary – I still think I’m ill-disciplined on how much and how methodically I read it. But I see improvement, and I’m starting to see consistency in my own life as far as my devotion to reading the Bible goes. I was having a few thoughts this morning as I was praying and reading the Bible…
First, it’s so easy to get distracted from a pattern of reading the Bible. Have you, reader, ever found yourself getting more and more consistent, and then one thing comes up and you “excuse” yourself from reading it for a day? I worked long hours this past week, and Friday was the last big work day, so when Saturday rolled around, I decided it was okay to take a break from the normal routine and I spent my morning and afternoon watching soccer. Now, I’m not bashing the idea of resting, but I do think it’s funny how little desire I had later in the day to read the Bible, after I’d experienced a new hunger for it earlier in the week. Usually to get back in the pattern of reading, one has to take on a Nike-like approach: just do it!
Second, I think the dichotomy of reading the Bible as a slave or as a son is so fascinating. I’ve documented this over and over in my own blogs, and I know I’m not the only Christian to struggle with this idea, but when I first was saved, I was in the Bible constantly because I believed I had to be, because it’s what a “proper” Christian does. But my motivation was less to learn and more to fulfill a quota, which again is ironic, because how do you decide how much is enough? But when I first heard about grace (I was a Christian for about three or four years before I really began to understand that God was gracious and loved me irrespective of what I did or didn’t do) I started to see that the pressure to read the Bible was off, and I subsequently disregarded such an important discipline.
But my own personal approach is beginning to change with one word: study.
This word popped in my head this morning and I remembered how, in college, I studied ad nauseum for exams, and I was a great student. I knew my best study tactics and created healthy habits, the chief of which was repetition. I would read material over and over, do flash cards over and over, until it was just in my head. Now, from a worldview that believes that the Bible is relevant and important to every part of life, taking a studious approach to the Bible becomes more and more important. What I mean by that is first, coming to the Bible on its terms, not yours. What I mean by that is that a lot of times, people come to the Bible looking for a prescription. Maybe I’m struggling with lust and I want a verse to help combat that, so I look up Job 31:1, which says “I have a made a covenant with my eyes, why then should I look upon a young woman?” (roughly translated from my head.) So I tell myself over and over that I’ve made a covenant with my eyes. But have I?
Maybe a better approach is to take a book of the Bible (and I say maybe with all frankness, because this is my own approach and I’m not going to claim to have the universally superior approach) and read it repeatedly. Say, Galatians. In chapter 5, verse 1, I read that it is for freedom that Jesus set me free. So I find first of all that Jesus did indeed set me free (from sin and requirements of the law, contextually) and He did so because He wants me to be free! Best to see that, I opine, in the midst of Gospel context than a bunch of stand-alone verses, trying to combat lust prescriptively. The only real prescription, friends, is the Gospel. All things – money management, fighting sin, relationships, freedom, growth, encouragement – are to be encompassed by the Gospel. That is, the Gospel dictates how all of those happen and how they all look.
I think I got off my train of thought just a little (I’m mostly off the cuff this morning) but the jist of what I’m trying to say is that Bible reading and even Bible studying is not a bad thing, nor is it a burden (!) when it’s done in the context of sonship, realizing that you approach the Bible to better understand the heart of God, and realizing that you do it to familiarize yourself (!) with the truth of the Gospel, and in so doing, you prepare yourself for a life of godliness, as scripture helps train us for righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16.)
As are the nature of musings, this is a little unstructured and off the cuff, so I’m trying to wrap this up, and I’ll try to do it in a few short points.
1. Sons spend time with their Father and learn from Him. So it is with the Bible – studying is not a burden or an obligation, but a tool to familiarize ourselves with the Gospel.
2. Sometimes repetition is key. I usually take a short book (like an epistle) and read it daily. At first I may not understand it and I may find myself getting hung up and repeating passages several times, but after it becomes familiar, I understand it more and notice more patterns and themes in the book.
3. The Bible is revelation, and if you put it in perspective – that God wrote a book, that the book tells us about Him, and the book is how we opine about Him – it becomes less scary and more of a help to us.
4. Speaking of help, the Holy Spirit stands to testify of Jesus, and helps us understand the Bible.