If you’re like most Christians I know, your top New Year Resolution is probably to read the Bible often in 2017. I believe this is an excellent goal because it will help you know who and why you believe.
But have you ever asked yourself why you really want to read the Bible frequently and regularly in 2017?
You probably know that the goal in reading the Bible isn’t for you to become a Bible trivia genius. Or that you obtain more points so that you can win any Bible argument. But did you know you do not read the Bible so that you can have eternal life either?
Why should you read the Bible in 2017? You should read the Bible so that you may obtain and appreciate the witness of Christ. Because the witness of Jesus Christ draws you into his presence where you can experience, explore and express the life of Christ (John 5:39-40).
I would like us to learn how to read the Bible effectively by observing, interpreting and applying the passages we read because this will help us avoid the error of Jannes and Jambres. Jannes and Jambres were ever learning, yet they failed to come to the knowledge of truth.
How to read the Bible effectively
How should you read the Bible in 2017? The best way to read the Bible is by observing what the passage says, interpreting what the passage means and applying what the passage teaches. And you can only do this using a good Bible reading plan, prayer and importantly, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Here are the three steps you should follow when you read the Bible.
Step 1: Observe the Bible passage
Observing the passage involves looking at:
- Context – storyline, cultural and historical background. What is the story? And what are the surrounding events? Also, what was it like then?
- Content – facts, characters, places, and timeline. What happened? Who did what? Where and when did this happen?
- Connection – terms used, structure, comparisons, repetitions, and atmosphere. Why did the event happen? Why did the character do what they did?
Step 2: Interpret the passage
You can only know what a Bible passage means after you understood what it says. After reading a passage you should not rush to close the Bible. Instead, you should ask yourself these simple questions.
- What was the author’s original intent? And you need to remember the Bible passage was written by a human author and God.
- What did the original audience hear? Every Bible passage was written in a particular culture and place.
- What is the background story of the passage? A good interpretation should corroborate to the context of the passage.
Step 3: Apply the passage
You observe and interpret a Bible passage do that you can adequately apply it. Theology is incomplete if it is not experienced, explored and expressed. Here are some key questions you should answer and put into practice.
- How does what the passage said and meant affect your relationship with God? After all, you read the Bible to meet Christ.
- How does what you read affect your relationship with others? A good reading should influence how you relate to others.
- How does the Bible passage affect me? When you read the Bible you should either be provoked to repentance or praise.
Is there a way you can read the Bible by observing, interpreting and applying the passage daily? Yes, you can use a good Bible reading plan.
How to choose a good Bible reading plan
In 2017, I will be using the Read Scripture Bible reading plan. It is a mobile app developed by the guys behind The Bible Project. The Read Scripture Plan is a great resource because it comprises of a semi-chronological Bible reading plan, a daily Psalm of prayer, a video, and the ESV Bible.
1. A good Bible reading plan focuses on Christ
I failed my goal to read the Bible last year because I didn’t have a good plan. A good Bible reading plan should be realistic, engaging and Christ-centered. Unfortunately, most plans make reading through the Bible the goal rather than Christ.
2. A good Bible reading plan focuses on large chunks
I love the Read Scripture Plan because it involves reading at least two chapters a day. And the Bible app doesn’t have verses to avoid the danger of snacking. Above all, reading large chunks of Scripture makes it easier to look for connections, understand the content and grasp the context through.
3. A good Bible reading plan incorporates prayer
You should not separate the time for prayer and the time for Bible reading because one feeds on the other. Therefore, a good Bible reading habit often results in a good prayer lifestyle. Hence, the Read Scripture Plan offers daily prayers from the book of Psalms.
4. A good Bible reading plan offers an overview and background
The Read Scripture Plan includes a cute animated video summarizing the Book of the Bible you will be reading. This feature is important since it will help you understand the context of the passage. As a result, I noticed after watching the video, I made connections, understood the context and grasped the content better.
5. A good Bible reading plan is communal
You can best do theology in a community. Therefore, a good Bible reading plan should focus on experiencing Scripture together. The Read Scripture Plan is part of the Year of Biblical Literacy and offers free small group material.
If you think the Bible is boring you probably should revisit how you read the Bible. Because if you read the Bible like tarot cards, you will find it disjointed. If you read it like a novel, you will find it too graphic and confusing. And if you read it like a history or science textbook, you will find it irrelevant and inconsistent.