Do you ever feel like you ‘should’ read the Bible more, but you’re not quite sure how? Maybe you feel like you need to find the perfect Bible study guide or devotional to walk you through because it’s hard to understand sometimes? Perhaps the idea of opening your Bible feels so daunting, and you can’t get past the question: where do I start? I want to suggest to you today that you can read and understand the Bible on your own.
I recently read through 1 John, and a section of chapter 2 popped out to me:
But you have been anointed by the Holy One and you have all knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth…. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything , and is true, and is no lie …. abide in him.” (20-21, 26-27)
Did you see it in there? You can read and understand the Bible. John is old by the time he’s writing this, and he’s writing to relatively new Christians. And his message is: you have no need that anyone should teach you. You do not need fancy degrees, theological training, Bible study blogs and apps and devotionals.
Those things are fine, good even. They’re helpful! I love to nerd out over a good greek word definition (I use this online tool). And I love me a Beth Moore Bible teaching as much as the next girl. But, hear this today, friend – you can open your Bible, read it, and understand it. And so can I.
I’VE HEARD PEOPLE SAY ALL KINDS OF THINGS ABOUT BIBLE STUDY:
- It’s daunting.
- It’s intimidating.
- I don’t know where to start.
- I don’t get it.
- I don’t have time
- I wanted to take this how-to-read-the-Bible class first.
I get that.
All of that.
I really do… In fact, I used to feel that way. I used to think the BEST way for me to learn the Bible would be to attend as many classes as possible, listen to as many sermons as possible, etc… And that mentality made me think it was okay – perhaps even better – to skip out on reading the Bible myself because what good would it do me anyway? I wouldn’t understand it, right?
But, over time, God’s Word has gone from daunting to life-giving, from confusing to refreshing. And lately, every time I pick it up, I just want to tell all the people READ IT FOR YOURSELF!!! (Hence this blog post.) No more excuses. Oh well if it’s nerve-wrecking. Oh well if you feel confused at first. Oh well if there are a thousand things in it that make you go – huh!?
DISCIPLINE – DESIRE – DELIGHT
I heard this a long time ago and I have no idea who originally coined this idea, but the concept is this. At first, reading the Bible feels more like a discipline. Perhaps akin to starting a workout regimen. You do it because you believe it’s good for you even though it takes work. Eventually, like physical exercise, reading the Bible will become a desire if you stick with it. You will find your mind and heart desiring to read more. You’ll find yourself asking – I wonder what the Bible says about that?
As you continue in the habit, God’s Word will become a delight to you. And this is the sweetest spot.
[she] whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it day and night,
That person is like a tree planted by steams of water which yields its fruit in season-
whose leaf does not wither. Whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)
IT TAKES FAITH TO START
According to Hebrews 12, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Faith is believing something will happen eventually (regardless of your current feelings), even though you don’t see the result right now.
And it takes faith to start reading your Bible. Especially if it’s totally new to you.
I’m going to say something wildly unpopular: If you are a Christian, you have an enemy (Satan) who does not want you to read the Bible. And the more I study God’s Word, the more I am convinced that Satan would do anything to get you to not read it. Any number of distractions or excuses or to-do lists might bombard your mind as you start to open it.
Our high tech culture is already so distracted. When you add the spiritual component of Satan not wanting you to read your Bible – the struggle is real, y’all. And that’s not just a nod to the hashtag. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
DON’T IGNORE THE URGE TO READ IT
A couple weeks ago in church, the pastor shared about his conversion to Christianity in college. He had been to church a few times, but he hadn’t ever heard the gospel – that he was born a sinner in need of a Savior, and God had made a way. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). When a friend shared it with him, he suddenly “got it” for the first time, and things started to change.
He said he started to feel like he wanted to read his Bible. He couldn’t explain this urge because he had never previously cared at all about the Bible. But he just wanted to read it. He later understood that people who believe in Jesus have a desire to read God’s Word that God himself puts there (through the Holy Spirit).
Like I said before, often the habit of studying the Bible starts as a discipline. But, Psalm 95 says, “Today if you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” If you have any sort of instinct that’s urging you to read the Bible, that’s a gift! Don’t ignore it. Pick it up and start.
I’ve shared this story more in depth before, but I made a series of bad relationship choices that culminated in a lot of deception and heartbreak the summer after my freshmen year in college.
I was a hot mess and my mom gave me Beth Moore’s book, “Get Out of That Pit.”
The book’s introduction quoted Psalm 40:1-3 which says
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the muck and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”
She wrote that Jesus isn’t at the top of the pit cheering us on – climb faster, push harder, you can do it. No. When he went to the cross, he dove into the deepest pit of our darkest sin, and He comes up underneath us and pushes us to the top victoriously. We believe in His power to overcome and He is the one who lifts us out.
As I read Psalm 40, the truth of scripture hit me harder than ever before. The Spirit spoke to my heart in a new way. I can still remember the physical change.
I felt free.
As if a physical burden was lifted off my shoulders.
Free from the sin, free from the guilt.
IT WAS AS IF GOD HIMSELF WAS AUDIBLY SPEAKING THOSE VERSES DIRECTLY TO ME.
I hear your cries, Renee.
I am lifting you out of this mess.
Stand on this rock, stand on me.
You are forgiven. Time to sing a new song.
That’s when I really fell in love with Jesus, and glimpsed His power to transform. Sure, my heart had been broken, but Jesus came to restore the broken-hearted. I had a new hope that Jesus could heal me… and he did. He radically changed my heart.
God intervened in my life with His grace and used that experience to restore, redeem and transform me. He ignited my heart with a passion for His Word.
I will never forget the way God’s Word jumped off the pages as if it was written just for me. I suddenly understood that Jesus had come to seek and save the lost and that reading the Bible wasn’t just some religious duty I should try to check off my to-do list each day. But, that it was His primary means for communicating His love and grace to me.
Day after day, I’d wake up and read something in the Bible, anything. Even if I didn’t really understand it all. And I began to trade in the lies for the Truth – Jesus loves me this I know – and it set me free.
OK, BUT WHERE THE HECK DO I START?
I’m so glad you asked.
Many Bible teachers suggest starting with the gospel of John. I agree. I like this wide margin Bible, so that you can jot down questions and observations in the margins.
“…the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie …. abide in him.” (1 John 2:26-27)
Open it and start today, friend! You have nothing to lose!