How to Read the Bible Part V: Change!

So far, we’ve learned that regular Bible study is critical to understanding God’s nature and His desires, spiritual growth, and salvation – rescue from judgment at Christ’s future appearing. We’ve also learned techniques and tools to help us. This week, I’ll share a few approaches to reading and applying what we read to become like Christ as God intends.

First, approaches to Bible reading. Here are three ways to read or study the Bible. All three can be done at the same time.

  1. By Genre. Stuff in the Bible usually falls into one of several categories: history (e.g., the Chronicles or Kings); wisdom and poetry (e.g., Job or the Proverbs or Ecclesiastes); prophetic (e.g., Isaiah); apocalyptic (e.g., Revelation); epistles (e.g., Paul’s letters to specific churches); gospel accounts (e.g., the book of Mark, the first gospel written).
  • By Topic. We’re real people with real issues. Jesus knew this, so He addressed what his hearers needed and referred to specific scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) to accomplish His purposes. Apostles James, John, Peter, and Paul did the same. If you look for scriptures that address a specific topic or need, just make sure that you keep the original meaning using what we’ve learned (i.e., context, concordances, and commentaries).
  • By Book. Studying a single book, like the gospel according to John, can be rewarding! Again, use your tools to stay focused on the writer’s intended meanings.
  • Sequentially. Starting at Genesis and reading the entire Bible (even if it takes a year or more) can be rewarding. Begin reading sequentially and never stop! Do you know that the Israelites were required to experience the Law of God repeatedly? Why? Because we tend to forget stuff, and what’s important to us changes over time.

Second, Making it Stick! Reading for pleasure and head knowledge is one thing; living it is another! Knowledge that doesn’t move us to action is worthless to God and our fellow humans (cf., James 1:22-27; 2:14-26)! To truly be transformed as Christ-followers, we can use this process when we read or study the Bible:

  1. Read the text, perhaps a few related verses at a time.
  2. Consider what it means in its context (not what it means to us!).
  3. Assimilate the text by thinking about it (meditate) while pausing to pray for guidance in applying what you learn.

In summary, start reading and studying the Bible and don’t stop! Use your tools and don’t be afraid to seek guidance about specific life needs. To make it stick, Read, Consider, and Assimilate! Next week, we’ll begin exploring faith, hope, and love and their relationship to each other and our relationship with people and God in a new three-part series.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

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