[This is a part of The Most Important Book Ever Written Series.]
Obviously if you’re a Christian then you have a Bible. And if you’re in pursuit of the way then reading the Bible is probably high in your list of priorities.
But have you ever thought about the best way to approach your Bible reading? It seems to me that there are three ways people read their Bible;
1) The “Flick and Pick” Method
With this method you more or less open the book and start reading. The hope is that God will direct your flicking and picking.
Pro’s – The good thing about this method is that it really relies on God to direct your reading. This can result in some great times of encouragement, should you land on a passage that’s relevant and easily understood.
Con’s – There’s a classic joke that demonstrates the downside of this approach. It goes like this;
A man was looking for direction in life so he closed his eyes, opened the bible and poked his finger at a page at random. He read: Matthew 27:5, (Judas) “Then he went away and hanged himself.” Not impressed, he tried again and read Luke 10:37, “Go, and do likewise.” He tried one last time and read: John 13:27, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
To be honest, we’ve probably all approached the bible this way but the reality is that it’s quite a lazy approach to God’s word.
You’d never walk into a movie half way through and think you know exactly what’s going on and where the story line is at. You can pick it up as you go, you can presume a lot, but if you don’t watch the whole thing you simply wont get it.
God’s word is powerful and His Holy Spirit will use whatever way we approach the scriptures, but let’s dig a little deeper, and approach God’s word with some reverence.
2) The “Just The Good Bits” Method
I had a friend who would search the Bible to find to “just the good bits”. In other words the parts that would be encouraging, or uplifting. She used it like a self-help, or a pick me up kind of book. It seems that this is not an totally uncommon method.
Pro - There is no doubt that the bible does contain many encouraging verses and passages. This method of reading will obviously encourage the reader.
Con’s - When we approach scripture this way we end up leaving out a lot of it. We can see the problem with this when we turn to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says;
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The bible itself doesn’t allow us to just take the parts we like as encouragement and forget the rest. It tells us that it’s ALL important, it’s ALL useful and therefore we should approach it ALL.
It’s a little like only reading the verses people send on twitter and expecting to grow and mature as a Christian… it’s just not going to happen.
3) A Consistent Systematic Approach
This method involves systematically working though the bible, book by book, on a day by day basis. Over a period of time the reader has read, meditated on and applied the entire bible.
Pro’s - Over time this method will give the reader the best overall knowledge of the whole bible. The nature of this systematic approach will mean that a more accurate understanding also. This in turn will mean that the reader will tend not to take verses completely out of context.
Con’s - This method can be hard work and does take a dedicated commitment on the readers part. It’s not easy to knuckle down and keep reading through some of the more difficult sections of scripture. This method can easily just turn into an exercise in reading a book. Without any effort at all the living word of God turns into just knowledge and facts.
There’s no doubt that God will use His word in the lives of those who read it. But as we see in Hebrews 11:6, He rewards those who diligently seek Him. It’s from this perspective that we all should approach the word of God, which ever method we use.
Question: How do you read the bible? Do you use one of the above methods?