There is a very close connection between God and His Word.
Jesus Himself is called the Word of God (John 1:1, John 1:14; Revelation 19:13). To know God, you must know His Word; to honor God, you must honor His Word; to be in touch with God, you must be in touch with His Word.
- Mighty promises are given to those who master the Bible so well that the Bible masters them.
We are promised spiritual stability, fruitfulness, and true prosperity as we meditate on His Word day and night (Psalm 1:1-3).
When the words of Jesus abide in us, our desires will be given to us, according to God’s will (John 15:7).
Meditating on God’s Word leads to prosperity and success in our endeavors (Joshua 1:8).
We will have more wisdom than our enemies, more insight than our teachers, and more understanding than the aged (Psalm 119:97-100).
We will have greater power over sin (Psalm 119:11).
We will have comfort in affliction (Psalm 119:50).
By drawing near to God, we have His promise that He will draw near to us (James 4:8).
These astonishing observations, these magnificent claims, these profound promises — they help us to realize how important the Bible is, and what remarkable potential we bring to our lives when we become serious students of Scripture. That’s why it’s so important that we commit ourselves to mastering the Bible so well that the Bible masters us.
There are four steps to mastering the Bible so well that the Bible masters you:
- Read the Bible
- Study the Bible
- Memorize the Bible
- Meditate on the Bible
Seems simple. Obvious, even, for those who have been Christians for a while. Yet very few people take all four steps. Many take one step. Some take two steps. A few take three steps. Very few take all four steps. As a result, very few people ever experience the full life transformation, the fellowship with God, the spiritual stability and strength, the power in ministry, the joy in worship, and the spiritual prosperity that the Bible promises to those who master it so well that it masters them.
READ THE BIBLE FOR BREADTH OF KNOWLEDGE.
To begin a mastery of the Bible, you must read the Bible. This may seem self-evident to some, but to others who have never developed the habit, it is groundbreaking. Some Christians do not read the Bible, or they only read snippets that are attached to daily devotionals. This will not get you where you want to go. You must begin to read the Bible widely.
It is only by covering a lot of territory in Scripture that you gain a breadth of knowledge. If you never read the Old Testament, you will never have a general knowledge of it. If you only read the Gospels, or the Epistles, you will never have a basic grasp of the other sections of the Bible. As a result, your life will be untouched by important truth, plus your ability to connect the dots from various different Scripture passages — a critical component of a mature Christian experience — will be limited.
The New Testament tells us that many stories in the Old Testament were “written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). If we never read those Old Testament stories, we will never gain the insight, the power, or the freedom that become ours when we do.
The good news is that there is a simple way to read for breadth of knowledge. If you read the Bible for five minutes a day, you will read the Bible over thirty hours a year! (5 minutes × 365 days = 1,825 minutes divided by 60 minutes per hour = 30.4 hours!)
Think of it!! Thirty hours a year! Perhaps no other discipline will provide a breadth of Bible knowledge more easily. If you want to master the Word so well that the Word masters you, begin by reading it.
Very early in my Christian experience, I was challenged to read the Bible at least five minutes a day. I took that challenge, and have not missed my daily time in God’s Word in over forty years. As a result, I have read the Bible for a couple thousand hours! And it was all done at the manageable pace of five minutes a day. There is no easier way I could have gained and maintained the breadth of knowledge of Scripture than by taking this simple step. I urge you to take this first step, too.
Pick a readable translation.
To begin with, pick a translation that is easy for you to read. Many Christians have a New International Version of the Bible, which is a fairly readable translation. I study out of the New American Standard Bible, which is a good study Bible because the translation is very literal. However, for those times of just reading for the story and flow, and breadth of knowledge, I have found that more conversational translations sometimes allow the Bible to come alive in a way that the NASB does not. I experimented for years with more conversational Bibles and, frankly, was disappointed with them for two reasons. First, they often interpret unclear passages for you to make it more readable, and I didn’t always agree with the translators’ interpretation. Second, in their attempt to be conversational, they often dumb down the language so that it is unsatisfying to read.
However, I have found The New Living Translation to be an effective reading Bible. This version began as a paraphrase that author and publisher Ken Taylor wrote to help his young children understand the Bible better. In a paraphrase, you start with an English Bible and reword it to make it easier to understand. But in 1995, Taylor commissioned a team of translation experts to go back to the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and change whatever needed to be changed in order to bring the version up to the level of a translation. In my opinion, they did a commendable job.
All Bible versions have strengths and weaknesses. More literal translations have the strength of being closer to the original languages but the weakness of sometimes being more difficult to understand. More conversational translations are often easier to understand, but sometimes that clarity comes at the expense of accuracy, especially when a difficult passage may have two possible meanings in the original language.
For those reasons, I prefer having both a more literal translation for studying and a more conversational translation for reading. This way, I can compare both translations to gain a fuller understanding.
Pick a time to read.
I read before I go to sleep. By experimentation, I learned that I could always carve out five minutes before I go to sleep. But when I tried to read in the morning, sometimes I would get too busy and forget, and I would end up having to read in the evening, so I just switched to reading in the evening.
I found that I can always stay up an extra five minutes to read. No matter how late it is, another five minutes is not going to make or break my evening’s rest. There have been times I have been so tired I had to read standing up so I wouldn’t fall asleep, but I did it. I have been accused of being legalistic. I’m not. I’m being realistic and disciplined. I’ve learned that if I give myself an excuse one day, I am likely to give myself an excuse another day and another day. So, I have just not given myself an excuse. And more than two thousand hours of reading the Bible later, with a breadth of knowledge of Scripture I could never have gained or maintained any other way, I am glad I haven’t.
Others find that they must read first thing in the morning. It really doesn’t matter when you read. The bottom line is: read when it is best for you.
Read for understanding.
This was a recommendation given to me by the man who led me to the Lord. He said, “When you read, don’t get bogged down by anything you don’t understand. Just skip over it, and read for the things you do understand… and underline everything that seems especially important.” This counsel was extremely valuable to me, and it set me on a course of Bible-knowledge acquisition I’m not sure I would have taken any other way. Without that advice, whenever I would come to something in the text I didn’t understand, I would grind to a halt, or be forced to stop reading and start studying, both of which destroyed the original intent.
Read with a plan.
Many people are motivated by the goal of reading through the Bible in a year. I think it is something that everyone might want to do at least once, just to know that one has read the entire Bible. However, it is not an easy task, and many who start the project do not complete it. You might set a goal of reading through the Bible without committing to having to do it in a year. Just read five minutes a day, and let it take however long it takes to get through the entire Bible. Other reading plans can be found online.
If the Bible is new to you, I recommend what my mentor recommended to me when I first became a Christian. Read the Gospel of John six times in a row, not worrying about what you don’t understand but underlining everything that seems especially important. Then you might read the rest of the Gospels and then the New Testament. After that, you might read the first seventeen books of the Old Testament, known as the historical books. Or, there are eleven primary historical books that you might start with: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Those are the eleven books that tell the story of the Old Testament. The other Old Testament books give additional information, but do not advance the Old Testament story significantly. Then, reading Psalms and Proverbs is always a profitable experience.
On the other hand, if you are a more seasoned Christian and are generally familiar with the Bible, read what is interesting to you in your current circumstances… but be open to stretching yourself into other territory from time to time, remembering the importance of reading for breadth of knowledge.
STUDY THE BIBLE FOR DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE.
Few of us can gain a depth of knowledge without sitting under skilled teachers. So, for most people, they must sit under effective preaching from the Bible and be involved in a Bible study taught by an effective teacher. For maximum benefit, Bible study must have assignments that get you studying and interacting with the Bible on your own. To gain a depth of knowledge, you cannot be passive. You must become active in the process of deepening your knowledge. Crawl before you walk, and walk before you run, but this should be your goal. That is the only way you will progress to a depth of knowledge.
If this is new to you, begin by attending a church that is committed to teaching the Bible, not only from the pulpit during sermons, but also in small groups or Sunday school classes. You might also find helpful information in Christian bookstores or online. More seasoned Christians might be able to give you helpful suggestions as well. If you are an avid reader, there is a wealth of knowledge available to you as well through good books available online or at Christian bookstores.
Excerpted with permission from 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders, copyright Max Anders.
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There’s no better time than right now to start or re-start reading and learning the Bible! Let’s get going today!