I live in a small rural community where people often burn brush, trash, and other debris that they do not want to take the time to dispose of. It is common in the summer and fall to drive past houses where dark clouds of smoke are billowing from the back...
“Hey, Sis, I have a question. Where does it say in the Bible….?” This question came one night from my younger brother who had just gone through a traumatic experience, which left him broken and bleeding, emotionally and spiritually. And in that place of brokenness, he had attempted to read the Bible. He tried searching for answers, tried to find hope–but he didn’t know where to begin. Or how to begin.
For many like my brother, reading the Bible can seem daunting, confusing, down-right overwhelming. There’s no denying that it is big, being made up of 66 books, letters, and narratives. Where should I begin when I read the Bible?
Before we can answer that question, we must answer the why:
Why Read the Bible
1. To know God and his plan of redemption
Beginning in Genesis, you are immediately catapulted into the great love-story of a sovereign, merciful, loving Creator God who makes himself known. The Bible contains the very words of God, which means they are real, they are true, they are trustworthy (2 Timothy 3:16).
The Bible also exposes us, showing us who we are in light of a holy God: sinful and broken, separated from God. But the great news the Bible tells us is this: redemption and restoration is possible through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. To know Jesus and freedom from sin
God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for those sins that separated us from God. Through Jesus’s sacrificial death and on the cross, and his resurrection, our sins were forgiven and our lives restored back into harmony with God.
The Bible was given to us so that we would “believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). And in knowing Jesus through the Bible, we would be set free from sin and death (John 8:31-32).
How to Read the Bible
1. Start with a Gospel, an epistle, or Genesis
The Gospels: Tor any first-timer, one of the Gospels (which means “good news”): Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are the best place to start because they introduce you to the incarnate God, Jesus Christ. These Gospels narrates his earthly ministry, his death, his burial, and his resurrection. But which one should you read?
For a quick read, go with Mark. This 16-chapter Gospel is fast-paced and fact-based concerning the most significant events in Jesus’s life. While not as detailed as the other three Gospels, Mark will give you a quick overview of the life and work of Jesus.
If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the life and work of Jesus, read the Gospel of John. This Gospel was written by John, who undeniably presents Jesus as the true Messiah, the Savior of mankind, and the Author of our salvation.
The Epistles: You may also consider starting with an epistle like Ephesians or Colossians. Paul, an Apostle, wrote most of these letters. He writes them to specific audiences throughout the Mediterranean world. Paul wrote his epistles to encourage, warn, and exhort new believers in the Christian faith. They give practical instructions on how a Christ-follower should live and conduct themselves.
Genesis: If you’d like to start at the beginning, then read Genesis. As its name implies, it tells about the beginning of time and history. In the first three chapters alone, you will be introduced to God as Sovereign Creator of the world and humankind. Those chapters also explain how sin entered the world, how it marred mankind and separated us from God, and how God graciously put in place the way of redemption. Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the amazing story.
2. Start with a plan
Pick a time: Pick a time of day when you would like to spend time reading the Bible. It could be early morning, before your spouse or kids get up when the house is yours and all is quiet. It could be during your lunch break at work. Or even at night before you go to bed. Try to read every day to get into the discipline of regularly feasting on God’s Word.
Pick a place: Find a comfortable spot (but not too comfortable!) in which to read: a favorite armchair, the couch, your desk, the kitchen table. If you often read in the same place at the same time, you will find this will become your favorite (and most sacred) space.
Pick some tools: Set up your chosen place so you have everything you may want at-hand: a pen, highlighters, your journal, and your coffee (of course). But remember: you do not need anything but an open Bible.
3. Start slow
Start by reading small portions of the Bible at first: a long passage or one chapter a day. Read for about 10-15 minutes. Don’t overwhelm yourself by reading an entire book in one sitting (at least not just yet). Savor each word, each phrase. Take time to think about what you read. Meditate on it. Even write about it. Journaling is a wonderful way to express your thoughts, feelings, prayers, and praises.
And don’t forget to find the application in what you read: whether it is a promise to claim, a warning to heed, a command to follow. Spirit-led application is what transforms your sinfulness to one of sanctification, and ultimately conforms you into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28).
4. Start with prayer
Invite the Holy Spirit—whom you received when you accepted Jesus—into your sacred time when you read the Bible. As your “helper” (John 14:26), one of his ministries is to teach you “all things” (John 14:26) and to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). You would be wise to seek out his help when it comes to understanding and interpreting the Bible.
More Than A Good Book
The Bible is more than just a good book, it is the Book of Life, which leads to life in Jesus Christ. It enables us to know God in all his majesty and glory, to know ourselves in all our sinfulness and brokenness, and the way of redemption and restoration.
How will you, today, read the Bible and begin to mine its riches, finding God and Jesus, redemption and restoration, for your weary, sin-sick soul?