Why owning a Bible is not enough

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16, ESV).

It’s not enough to own a Bible. Or hold it. Or carry it. Or even respect it.

You have to ingest it. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” The Bible is soul food.

So what does that mean? How does God’s Word function as the bread of life and spiritual meat? A good meal of Bible feasting includes at least five basic “courses” to ensure healthy, satisfying, spiritual nourishment:

1. Read it.
Read it silently or out loud, or listen to an audio version. Try a mix of all three. Be attentive, alert, and thoughtful. Savor the unexpected “flavors” from the Book.

The Bible is like a textbook, in the sense that you have to start in the right places. Unlike a textbook, though, it’s not arranged with the easiest material at the beginning and the hardest at the end. There’s a lot in the Bible that’s straightforward: 2 + 2 = 4. But there’s a lot that’s more like algebra with some complex equations. You have to brush up on basic math facts before you begin algebra. Bible reading is a skill every one of us can continually improve.

You can find some simple yet profound “equations” in the Bible, such as the Gospel of John and 1 John. These are easily understood portions of Scripture, accessible to anyone. Because they’re readable, that doesn’t mean they’re one-time reads. While you’ll readily comprehend John’s Gospel, you’ll also find yourself returning to its depths throughout your life. Familiar passages have an uncanny way of appearing new to us when the Holy Spirit applies them to our lives in unexpected ways.

In the early days of intentional Bible reading, you don’t want to begin with Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, or the major prophets. That’s the deep end of the pool. The book of Hebrews will become much more lucid to you once you know the story and flow of the Old Testament. You can get there. Growth in biblical literacy is attainable for everyone.

Aim for a chapter a day—not three verses or three hundred. No guilt about reading the whole Bible in three months or even a year. We just want more people on board the Bible train.

Open with a brief prayer, and ask God to teach you. I sit in a chair and lean forward. If I read anything lying down, I’m out cold. I have an open journal and ready pen to record thoughts.

2. Question it.
When you question the Bible, that doesn’t mean you object to it. It means you read with an inquisitive attitude. Direct some questions toward the text: Who’s involved in this story? What’s the big picture? Where else does Scripture address this issue?

Ask personal questions too: Is there an example here for me to follow? Is Jesus doing something I should be doing? Is Herod doing something I shouldn’t be doing? Questioning the Bible should lead to application insights for you.

Be open to the Bible’s convicting work: Is there a sin for me to confess? Is there something here I need to acknowledge or repent of? Lord, I’m like that. I’m wrong. Please forgive me.

Be teachable. Sometimes God just wants to expand our thinking. I didn’t realize God is so tender. I see Him pursuing the lost so insistently.

Receive the Bible’s comfort. Is there a comfort for me to experience? Is God’s Word assuring me about something? When I feel anxious, fearful, or uncertain, is there an encouraging word I need?All these questions should be scrolling through our minds as we read.

3. Plan it.
As you read and question, create a plan of action. Record discoveries and decisions in your journal. Date them. If you read “wrath stirs up strife” (Proverbs 29:22), then what changes does that truth require of you? When God’s Word convicts you, you have to make a plan to do something in response—not just agree with it. What action does God want in response to the truths He shows you?

4. Pray it.
Weave prayer time into your Bible reading. When God speaks to you, your first response needs to be to Him. “Thank You, Father, for teaching me from Your Word today. Thank You for challenging me about this. I agree with Your Word when it says . . . ” And then pray about your plan of action.

5. Share it.
When we articulate to others what we’re learning, we internalize and apply what God’s teaching us. “I got this out of the Word today. I’ve been studying this passage, and this is what I’m learning. I found this amazing idea in the Bible. What do you think about this?” Because God’s Word is alive, we can always learn fresh lessons from it, and processing those with other close believers can deepen our learning.

God’s Word is a feast spread before you today. May you eat His words, and may they become a joy and delight to you.

This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission. 


James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.


 

 

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