I want to start by saying that there are many things to look for when reading the Bible. We can read the Bible to teach us about God, we can read it to get an understanding of redemptive history, we can read it to see its interconnections, we can read it to trace a particular them across the canon, to appreciate the beauty of its poetry, and so on and so on.
The type of reading I want to address is reading the Bible for practical application. If you want the Bible to change the way that you live, how should you read it?
It Starts Simple…You Have to Read It
It might seem like this point doesn’t need to be said…but it does. The Bible will not do much to change your life if you are not regularly encountering it. You cannot grow in faithfulness in Christian living without regular, unhurried times of meaningful intake of God’s word.
Evaluate Your Life Based on the Bible
This is not as easy as it first appears. It takes time, intentional thought, and uncomfortable honesty. When you come across a command in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, stop and ask yourself, “Am I doing that? What would it look like if I were to take that command seriously?” When you come across a promise or a statement, ask yourself, “Do I believe that? Do I believe that God created the world out of nothing? Do I believe that anger is the same as murder? Do I believe that God sends the Spirit to help me live my life for him? If I believed all those things, how would that belief show in my life?”
Take It a Step Further…Ask God to Evaluate Your Life
One prayer we should pray is Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” Ask God to reveal to you areas of your life that are not pleasing to him. Let the Spirit work through your reading of the Bible to bring to your attention the hopes that you have that are not centered on Jesus, the practices in your life that are not pleasing to him. Invite the Spirit of God to make known to you the hidden depths of your own heart and have the courage to look at what you find square in the face. The Word of God is a sword that bares open everything in our souls but most people brush it to the side and say, “It ain’t that bad.” Let God reveal and humbly accept what he does.
Don’t Leave the Bible until You Resolve to Act
One of the greatest hindrances to living a biblical life is when God makes so clear to us what we need to do and what we need to change and we do nothing about it. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I have been in the Word and it is clear as day what I need to do and yet I listen instead to the excuses and false reasoning that leaps into my mind that tells me that action can wait.
How many times have you been in God’s word and it is so plain and obvious what God wants us to do but as soon as you leave that place of clarity you start to rationalize why you don’t have to do anything? Evaluation and prayer and reading won’t do us any good if it is not followed by a resolve to act on what God has shown us.
Trust the Holy Spirit
Often times the things the Bible reveals and commands us to do is intimidating. And if we had the power to act on what God commands, we wouldn’t need the gospel. But if you trust in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit at work in you both to will and to do according to what God shows you in his word. Trust that God is at work in you and you CAN do what he has called you to do.