I spent the first two years of my Christian walk following the modern tactics of Bible reading I had observed in church. Instead of daily reading through the Scriptures, I pulled out a verse here and there asking, “What does this mean to me?” I claimed every promise I could find in the text for my life, searching for my own treasures to declare. Rather than searching the Bible to test the claims being made behind the pulpit, I took what every preacher said at face value. This resulted in great hindrance to my spiritual growth as a Christian. Looking back, I wish someone would have come alongside me when I was first saved and taught me biblical hermeneutics and stressed the importance of daily Bible reading. However, ultimately I was responsible for a lack of discernment because of an ignorance of the Scriptures.
Why talk about Bible reading first? I think this section is one of the most important areas of discussion regarding our spiritual disciplines. I also believe it will affect the other disciplines discussed later as we will always look to what Scripture teaches on each subject.
God’s Word should be the foundation we start with when determining what is right and true. We must always remember: He is all knowing, we are not. Everything we do should be based off of God’s Word, not on our emotions or experiences or opinions. God has given us a clear outline for our lives – it only makes sense for us to utilize it. Why would we seek wisdom anywhere else when the Creator of the universe has been so kind as to offer us all the answers that we need?
Reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible is essential to any Christian. It equips us and teaches us all we need to know regarding how to live. Because of Scripture’s complete knowledge, it should always be the final authority in the Christian woman’s life whether she wants to know how to pray or what kind of spouse she should be seeking, or what career choice she should make.
There are so many benefits to reading God’s Word, if we make the effort to study it. It teaches us to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15), increases our knowledge of God, shows us His commands for righteous living, strengthens our faith, helps us identify false teachings, convicts us of sin and encourages us. It is how we hear from God! Because there is so much to be gained from reading God’s Word, it is vital that we know how to read the Bible properly.
Interpreting the Scriptures correctly is imperative. The first mistake Christians can make when approaching the Bible is to make the text say what they want it to say. R.A. Torrey stated in his book, How to Study the Bible, “If a man comes to the Bible just to find his notions taught there, he will find them. But if he comes, recognizing his own ignorance, just as a little child seeks to be taught, he will find something infinitely better than his own notions, even the mind of God.” (Torrey 16). This is not the way to benefit the most from our Bible reading.
We should also be careful when applying the text. So often Christians (and I myself was once guilty of this) can look at a verse or a passage and try to relate it to their situation when it was never intended to be used for that purpose. Do not claim promises that were not meant for you! For example:
“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
This was never intended to be a promise that Christians can claim for themselves and their nation. While I believe there is a way for Christians to accurately apply this verse to their lives, it is not a promise to be clung to because God never promised this to us. On a side note, it seems to me that we only cling to the good promises from the Scriptures and never the bad ones, like the judgment God promises on sin. We should never come to God’s Word picking and choosing which verses to accept and claim for ourselves and which verses to lay aside.
Context is imperative when reading the Bible. Make sure the verse you are interpreting, you are not merely interpreting the verse alone but in the context of the verses surrounding it, and the book it is written in, and the Bible as a whole. Scripture needs to interpret Scripture. You are less likely to misinterpret a Bible verse if you look at Scripture as a whole and make sure your interpretation ties in with what the rest of Scripture says on the topic.
Unless otherwise told, Scripture should be taken literally. Why, do you ask? If we leave every sentence uttered in Scripture open to interpreting as symbolism, then we open the door for Scripture to be mangled and for man to apply Scripture in a way that was never intended. This broad view of scriptural interpretation leaves many people asking themselves, “Did God actually say?” (Genesis 3:1) The repercussions of this style of interpretation are dangerous.
We need to be in His Word daily. I heard Ray Comfort (founder of Living Waters) say something once that I found really convicting. He said that we all do not forget to eat when we are hungry, with regard to the lack of discipline concerning daily reading.
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
When Paul went to visit the Bereans, they read the Scriptures daily and intensely. How low a view we have of Scripture if we can be so flippant about reading it! We can remember to eat, shower, or catch our favorite television show and yet we somehow manage to “forget” to read our Bible or “run out of time”. We need to abandon all these excuses and start reading the Bible every day, no matter what.
I simply cannot close on Bible reading without addressing the two important M’s, memorization and meditation. Both are important to our spiritual walks.
Memorization helps us to recall the Scriptures when we need to. My husband likes to memorize verses relating to defending the faith as it helps him often in his evangelism ministry. He will often excitingly tell me how the Holy Spirit brought a specific verse to his mind that he had memorized that he was able to use in a witnessing encounter. Memorizing verses also helps us when temptation comes. Whether the temptation is lust, anger, fear, drinking, we can find verses for our specific struggle in Scripture and then use them to help fight that temptation.
Meditation is also important. It, as my pastor once put it in a message, takes the Scriptures from our minds to our hearts. Meditating on Scripture is taking a verse or group of verses and really pondering on them. It is digging in and thinking about the text’s meaning as well as what that means about us and about God. It is digesting the truth that we have just read and letting it transform our thinking and our actions. Meditation should be done often.
It is not enough to merely read the Word, but we must apply it. We must yield our lives to its teachings, obeying the text that we read and are convicted by.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:22
Many excuse their own disobedience to the commands of Scripture by throwing out the term legalism. Legalism is when man tries to earn his favor with God. However, obedience to God’s Word, when done rightly, is evidence of a love for God and an outpouring of the regeneration that has taken place in the sinner.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” – John 14:21
If we desire to know God and to obey Him, we must be in the Word and we must do it daily. We must do it with a humble, learning spirit and we must act on what we read. The benefits to this are eternal.
On a final note, I would like to say that commentaries are a good help for studying the Scriptures, but should never be deemed as authoritative as Scripture. We also must beware not to become dependent on a commentary.
*Here is a link to a bible reading plan to get you started on digging into God's Word on a daily basis:
1 Year Reading Plan