One of the first lessons I learned as a new Christian was to study the Bible like God was trying to teach me something. During my first week of college, God saved me. That Friday night, an old preacher talked about young people who grew up in church but were living a lie. The Lord used that message to convict me of my own sinfulness and need to be saved. After that, I began reading my Bible and seeking God on a daily basis. In one of my Bible classes (it was a Christian college), I was taught to read a chapter and then record my thoughts in a notebook by asking three questions: What does it say? What does it mean? How does it apply? This made my daily Bible reading more meaningful.
How many times have you sat down to read your Bible and finished without it making a difference in your life? If that has happened to you, it may be that you are not investing the time and effort to find what God has for you. Why not try a week of what helped me? Purchase a spiral bound notebook and begin answering those three questions. Try it for a bit asking God to help and you will see the benefits.
Here is an example of what that could look like based on Genesis 20.
- What does it say? (Gen. 20)
Instructions: As you read through the chapter, note what the Bible is talking about.
a. Abraham’s half-truth about Sarah led to her being taken by the king of Gerar (Gen. 20:1-2).
b. God spoke to Abimelech in a dream about taking another man’s wife (Gen. 20:3-7).
c. Abimelech told his servants and Abraham about the dream (Gen. 20:8-10).
d. Abraham explained why he told the half-truth (Gen. 20:11-13).
e. Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham with lots of gifts (Gen. 20:14-16).
f. Abraham prayed for Abimelech and God healed his family (Gen. 20:17-18).
Sometimes, as you read through a chapter in the Bible, the main ideas are very clear. In a narrative section, it is easy to write down what happened (as above). In a doctrinal section, it may be good to read fewer verses as there is more to think about. But in every situation, read carefully and note what it is saying (not what you want it to say).
- What does it mean?
Instructions: As you note what the Bible says, look for what God is teaching through it.
a. Not telling the truth can lead to serious problems.
b. God takes care of His children despite their foolishness.
c. God cares about people we may think are beyond his reach.
d. Our plans often seem foolish after the fact.
e. The Lord listens to the prayers of His children.
As you read through this chapter, you see both positive and negative lessons. You should be asking why God included what He did in the chapter. Why did God have this written? What lesson is He trying to teach? What lessons are being taught by the statements or actions taken? When you have answered these questions, you are ready to make application to yourself.
- How does it apply to me?
Instructions: As you find what God is teaching, note how that teaching applies to you.
a. I need to tell the truth and trust God to take care of me.
b. I need to look at all people as objects of God’s mercy.
c. I need to think through and pray about my decisions before acting.
d. I need to pray for others expecting God to help them.
As you can see, there were a number of applications in this chapter. Some may apply directly to you or to other people. But as you look over the chapter, it is most beneficial to find what applies directly to yourself. The more you see applying to you, the more you will enjoy the Bible.
If someone were to ask you how your Bible reading is going, what would you say? Sometimes you may find your Bible reading to be “dry” or uninteresting. There are several things that affect how much we get out of reading the Bible.
How much time is invested – I would recommend at least 15 minutes to begin with and more if possible. If you put little time into your Bible study, you will probably get little out of it.
Your relationship with God – Begin your Bible study by praying to God. Confess any sins that are hindering your relationship. It is hard to get anything out of the Bible when you are actively resisting what you know is wrong.
When you read – The time for your personal Bible study will be affected by your schedule and your body makeup. Some people prefer the morning as it starts their day off with a spiritual focus. Others prefer reading just before bed. Some of this depends on you. Just be sure to be consistent.
Distractions – If you are by yourself, this is less of a problem. But it is probably best to turn off the television, radio, etc. If there are others at home, go somewhere where you can be alone and not distracted.
What you are reading – While all of the Bible was put there for us to learn from, there are certain parts of the Bible that are easier to read. Would you rather read the Gospel of Luke or Zephaniah? Both are equally inspired by God but Luke is probably easier for us to learn from. Zephaniah may not be the place to start until you are ready to really dig in and learn.
Whether you understand it – Over the years, I have learned that I don’t always understand things correctly. When I have questions about a Bible passage, I will seek help first from the Lord and then from a good Bible commentary. Sometimes, other Christians can help to make the truths of the Bible more clear. Having a one-volume commentary on the whole Bible can be helpful. I personally like The Bible Knowledge Commentary.
If you will commit to studying the Bible, God will teach you many things. As you learn what God is saying, what he meant, and how it applies to you, you will grow in your relationship with God. If you are not currently studying your Bible, will you consider trying this method?