In the Bible, God gives us revelations of Himself which lead us to worship, promises of salvation which stimulate our faith, and commandments expressing His will which demand our obedience. This is the meaning of Christian discipleship. — John Stott
Throughout history, we find many men and women who were passionate about reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture, and their stories remain a source of inspiration for those of us on a journey of faith. Consider the following: Fanny Crosby, a renowned hymn writer who was blind, learned to memorize the Bible as a child. By the time she was ten years old, she had committed the first four books of the Old Testament to memory, as well as the four Gospels. This may be one reason she was able to pen more than eight thousand hymns during the course of her lifetime.
William Wilberforce, famous for his role in abolishing slavery in England, was also known for his memorization of Scripture. Wilberforce would recite psalms while on walks — especially Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible.
Corrie ten Boom, imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II, noted that though they took away her Bible, they could not take away all the Scripture she had stored in her heart.
Each of these individuals discovered the incredible power of the Bible — the inspired Word of God. They knew and understood that the Bible is more than a collection of teachings or a recording of history; it is one of the primary tools through which God communicates with us and changes us.
Jesus tells us, And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. As we study God’s Word, we’re exposed to the truth of who God is and the work He longs to do in our lives. Reflecting on the truth of God’s love, faithfulness, goodness, and justness, as well as His purposes for our lives, is one of the ways He works through us and begins changing our hearts to be more like His.
Regularly reading, studying, and obeying Scripture will transform us, because through the Bible we find encouragement and correction and are challenged to become more Christlike in every area of our lives. And when we use Scripture as the filter and the foundation through which we navigate opportunities and decisions in our lives, then God’s Word becomes the standard for how we live.
The apostle Paul writes:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
God uses the Bible to instruct, correct, and grow us. We don’t study the Bible so we can win trivia quizzes, but so that we can become the kind of people through whom the love and goodness of God freely flows.
Regularly reading, studying, and obeying Scripture will transform us.
The way we approach reading the Bible matters. Before we ever open the great, big Book, we need to take a moment to ask God to meet us and reveal Himself in Scripture. It’s as simple as asking God to speak to us through His Word. And as we read, we need to do so with a humble heart.
This isn’t about reading to simply gain more knowledge or to prove a point, but to encounter God and experience transformation.
As we read and study the Bible, we can know with confidence that God wants to speak to us, transform us, and make us more like His Son, Jesus.
While rewarding, reading the Bible can also be challenging, especially for those who are new to it. If you’re struggling to read the Bible, it may be because of the translation that you’re reading. Consider looking for a new translation — one that’s much easier to digest, such as the New International Version or the New King James Version.
If reading in general is challenging for you, one idea is to consider listening to the Bible. We’re blessed to live in a time when even if you can’t read the Bible, you can still enjoy listening to an audio Bible. Listening to the Bible allows you to dive into the big story of God wherever you are. It’s also important to remember that some parts of the Bible are much more difficult to read than others. That’s where a study Bible can come in handy and help unlock some of the history and context of the time in which the book was written. With a little background, passages that seemed strange and hard to read can become clear and accessible and applicable to your life.
Like any new spiritual practice, studying Scripture may seem hard at first, but know that with practice it will get easier, more enjoyable, and more exciting.
1. What role does studying Scripture currently play in your spiritual life? What’s the greatest struggle you face when it comes to engaging in the spiritual practice of reading and studying the Bible?
2. Describe what it looks like for you to read or study Scripture in an average week.
3. Read Philippians 4:8. How does your perspective on life, others, and God change when you read the Bible frequently? How is your perspective on life, others, and God affected when you don’t read the Bible for a while?
Even in Jesus’ time, reading and studying Scripture was an esteemed practice. Each week, people traveled to their local synagogue to read the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and some of the prophetic books out loud.
At the start of His ministry, Jesus traveled to the synagogue on Sabbath and stood to read from the book of Isaiah. The passage He read was a specific prophecy of the people’s long-awaited Messiah.
4. Read Luke 4:16-20. How did Jesus fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah and bring good news?
Scripture is one way God chooses to reveal Himself to us. Through Scripture, we catch a glimpse of God’s character, unrelenting love, and faithfulness.
5. How did you first become aware of the good news of Christ? Did you first hear the good news through someone else or through reading Scripture?
Not only does Scripture give us a peek at God’s heart, it transforms our hearts into Christ’s likeness.
6. What do the following passages reveal about how the spiritual practice of reading and studying the Bible will affect your life? Take note of ones that you’ve found to be particularly true in your own life.
Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:9, Psalm 119:11, Matthew 4:4, Matthew 7:24–27, James 1:25
Immersing ourselves in God’s Word also filters our thoughts and purifies our hearts. We are faced with a daily, ongoing battle for our hearts and minds. The things of this world tell us to live one way, but Scripture encourages us to become more and more like Jesus each and every day.
In Ephesians, Paul describes Christ’s love for the church, which he compares to a relationship between a husband and wife. As the husband, Christ so loves His church that He sanctifies, cleanses, and presents her as pure. Through Jesus, we have been made perfect in God’s sight, and like soap bubbling over dirty clothes, Scripture washes and renews our minds, drawing us back to God.
7. Read Ephesians 5:25–27. Why is it important for you to be washed by the cleansing of God’s Word?
8. What steps can you take to make your time of personal Bible study more meaningful and impactful?
Four Ways to Practice Scripture Reading This Week
1. Consider reading a large chunk of the Bible this week. Read an entire gospel, such as Matthew or John. As you read, mark sections that you’d like to return to later and study in more depth.
2. Choose one chapter of the Bible to read this week, such as John 17 or James 1, and study the passage in depth. Use online tools, such as Bible word searches on biblegateway.com and commentaries, to learn as much as you possibly can about the chapter.
3. Commit to memorizing at least one verse of the Bible this week. You may want to choose a selection of Bible promises, such as Isaiah 40:29-31, or you may want to select a longer passage to commit to memory, like Psalm 139.
4. If you’ve never read the Bible all the way through, consider committing to reading the entire Bible in a year. Lots of free reading plans are available online, and with a commitment of only about four chapters per day, you can read the entire Bible in one year.
Read Proverbs 30:5 and Isaiah 40:8. How much of an impact does the Bible play in your everyday decision making. How does knowing that the Bible contains eternal truth affect the way you make decisions?
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