One of the most important habits to develop as a disciple of Jesus is how to read and live in God’s Word, the Bible. The Word of God is the path we must stay on as we journey towards becoming like Christ and living for God’s glory. Listen to these two statements Jesus made about the importance of His Word.
John 8:31, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”
John 15:7 He said, If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
We need HIs Word. Growing as disciples of Jesus is impossible without it. Being able to understand and explain the Bible does not mean that you have to learn Greek and Hebrew, but it does mean that we need to grow in our ability to learn to listen for what God is trying to say. Several years ago I made a shift in how I approached and read the Bible. I used to approach it in a manner that was more of a “Gain as much knowledge as I can, and master all of the nuances” strategy. There is definitely nothing wrong with gaining a ton of Bible knowledge to use but that should not be our main goal. As disciples of Jesus, we are in a relationship with Him so we should approach the Bible in a way that strengthens that relationship. This really hit me several years ago when I was reading Isaiah 50:4, a prophecy of Jesus, “He awakens me each morning; He awakens my ear to listen like those being instructed.”
Jesus listened to the Father so that He could live out what the Father had for Him. So our position should also be submitting ourselves to the Father as listeners, not people who go to the Bible just to find quick fixes for our lives. As Eugene Peterson wrote in Eat this Book, “We do violence to the biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color or spices to our otherwise bland lives…When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s.” Listening carefully puts us in a position to submit and hear what He has to say.
Here are a few key questions I like to use that help me listen well to what God is saying when I read the BIble
- What do you hear?
- What does this say about God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)?
This is always the right first question. The Bible is first, the revelation of God and everything else we learn from the Bible must be viewed through God first.
Determine what He is saying about Himself with these types of questions:
What is God doing? What does it say God can do? What does it say about His character/heart? What does it say about His ability?
- What does it say about people? (not application but still listening).
Remember that the greater context of the Bible is God revealing Himself to man so that man can have a right relationship with God and live the way God intends for them to live.
Determine what God is saying about people by asking these kinds of questions
What are the people doing? What does it say people can do? What does it say people should/shouldn’t do? What does it say about the character/heart of man?
- What do you see? NOT “what do you think?” Not opinion. What are the obvious things going on in the passage? How do they impact the meaning of the passage?
- Who. What. Where. When.
- Repeated words.
- Small, easy to overlook words. (but, the, it, and, since, therefore)
- Conditional statements (if…then)
- What do you do? How does my heart need to change because of this passage? How does my life need to change?
- Is there a sin I need to confess?
- Is there an action I need to take?
- Is there something to thank God for?
- Is there someone I need to talk with?
As you read, there will often be things that you simply do not understand. That is ok. The Bible was written in a specific time and culture. That can make things challenging at times when reading. If you come across something like that, just make note of it as something to dig deeper into later.
Here is my challenge: Go to John 15 and put the three questions into practice.
Start with Prayer, asking God to clear your mind and to help you listen.
Read the chapter slowly all the way through.
Then go back and begin to work through the three questions above. Don’t be in a hurry. Take time to listen well.