With a new calendar year upon us, I’m sure a number of us have started a new Bible reading plan. Whether you’re reading straight through, using the M’Cheyne method, or trying something something else entirely. (There are no shortage of approaches.) But whatever one we use, we should all read with the same goal in mind. We want to grow in our love for and obedience to the God we meet in the Bible’s pages.
That’s the whole point. It’s not to gain mere knowledge or, worse, check a box off on your Christian to-do list. Bible reading should be an act of worship. But sometimes our experience of it feels more like the former than the latter. So how can we change that? Here are four questions that can help.
1. What does what I’ve read tell me about God?
Through Scripture, we discover the nature and character of God. It’s where he reveals who he is, what he is like, and what his plans are for the world he made. So whenever we’re reading the Bible, no matter where we’re reading, we should be asking what the passage tells us about him. If you’re reading in the early chapters of Genesis right now, you may be reminded of God’s creativity, or that he defines what is good. Or maybe we see that because God made everything, he has authority over it all (that is, after all, a key point of the creation account). So what does the passage you read this morning tell you about him?
2. What does it tell me about humanity and myself?
Similarly, the Bible reveals a great deal about what we’re like—and too often, it ain’t pretty. We see the amazingness and awfulness of humanity all throughout. In Genesis, for example, we might read the creation account and see the uniqueness of humanity. We are special, different than anything else in the entire universe. Perhaps we see the beauty of the intended partnership between man and woman; that fully bearing God’s image requires us to walk side-by-side together. But we might also in those early chapters be shocked by how quickly that partnership was destroyed by sin, and instead we’re left to deal with the mess we struggle with to this day. As you read, you’ll even find times where what Scripture shows goes deeper than a general picture of humanity. It will point a finger directly at you, sometimes to encourage, and others to chasten. So as you read, what does your passage reveal about humanity—and about you specifically?
3. How does it point me to Jesus?
All of Scripture testifies to Jesus. As the complete revelation of God—and as God himself—it’s all about him. He is the point of Scripture. So whenever we read, we should be asking how this draws our attention to him. Maybe there’s an overt prophecy, or an event that reminds us of something Jesus would later do in the Old Testament. Perhaps it’s the direct words and actions of Jesus in the Gospels. Maybe it’s one of the great truths about the gospel that we read in the epistles. In reading Genesis 1, for example, you might remember the prologue to John’s gospel that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” You might recall that all things were created by, through, and for him. As you read further, you may recognize how Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise embedded in the curse of Genesis 3, the descendant of Eve who would crush the head of the serpent. And then there’s all the examples of humanity’s failure to obey God’s commands; our consistent doing what is right in our own eyes. The person and work of Christ—and our need for him—can be seen everywhere.
So as you read today, how does this passage points you to Jesus and the hope you have in the gospel?
4. How do I respond to what I’ve read today?
This final question isn’t necessarily a call to make some kind of action-oriented application point for yourself. You’re not going to find something you need to do specifically in every passage. But there is always an intended response: Maybe it changes how you feel about God or how you think about yourself. Perhaps it does offer a specific command to follow. Maybe it inspires you to pray, to repent, or to simply rejoice. Again, thinking about the early chapters of Genesis, there’s a mix of all of these that can be found: to see God’s good authority and creativity in the world and rejoice in that. To see his intended purpose for human relationships and repent of our behaviors that fall short. Wherever you are in Scripture today, what kind of response is it inspiring?
Simple questions that improve your Bible reading experience
None of these questions are particularly complex. In fact, they’re probably ones you’ve read and seen before. But that’s the beauty of Bible reading and study: it doesn’t require complexity. It just requires a willingness to ask good ones—and to act on them. So as you read today, take the time to slow down and ask questions like these. Over time, your time reading the Bible will be more fruitful because of it.